Digitisation vs Digitalisation: What is the difference and how does it affect Digital Transformation?

In the grand scheme of Digital Transformation – what are the differences between digitisation vs digitalisation?

Prepared by Lau Zuen Hoe

The world is being digitally transformed from the inside out. Why should the social sector be left behind? TQ’s mission is to ‘Help the Helpers’ by providing organisations within the non-profit and social service sectors with the digital solutions and capabilities that they need to successfully navigate their ways through the sea of digital transformation, and by extension, multiply their ability to impact the societies in which they serve and change lives.
Table of Contents

Digital Transformation is defined as the cultural and operational change brought about by the integration of digital technologies across all areas of an organisation. It allows non-profit organisations (NPOs) and social service agencies (SSAs) to have more flexibility within their operations by allowing them to use the time that was previously spent on time-consuming manual tasks to respond quickly and effectively to the needs of their clients, beneficiaries, and communities in which they serve.  

Digital Transformation is a framework upon which the foundation of digital change is established. A successful transformation necessitates either a wider use of digital technologies and/or the replacement of support systems with their digital equivalents. It is the process of fundamentally changing the way that NPOs and SSAs operate through the digitisation of data, digitalisation of current processes, and integration of new digital technologies. 

However, such large-scale technological changes will inevitably lead to paradigm shifts and changes in work cultures which must be backed by strong leadership, the endorsement of external stakeholders, as well as the support of an NPO or SSA’s entire team in coping with the changes to the organisation’s internal structure as a result of these transformations. This systematic approach of dealing with the transformation of an organisation’s processes or technologies is known as change management.

It is therefore crucial for NPOs and SSAs to make use of proper tools and frameworks to lay the foundations upon which digital change is to be built. Examples of such tools include the TQ Digital Compass 3.0, TQ Charity Digital Navigator and the Digital Infrastructure Roadmap for Non-Profits and Social Service Agencies that we have created to help them plan out and implement their journeys of digital transformation. 

Read Also: 
ThunderQuote Digital Toolkits


To understand the concept of Digital Transformation and what it entails, we first need to define and identify the differences between Digitisation and Digitalisation.

Digitisation vs Digitalisation: What’s the Difference?

The terms Digitisation and Digitalisation are separated by only two letters, but how much do their meanings actually differ?

Digitisation vs. digitalisation

Digitisation is the act of converting information from a physical format into a digital one. It deals primarily with data and information on a foundational level, and may essentially be thought of as the act of converting physical information into bits and bytes, 1s and 0s.  

Digitalisation on the other hand is the conversion of manual processes or interactions into their digital equivalents, which are then used to change or enhance the work processes upon which NPOs and SSAs operate. Digitalisation is the process of utilising digital technologies and digitised data to streamline an organisation’s day-to-day operations, transform how they interact with their communities, and optimise how information is disseminated.

Digitisation is simply a subset of the broader concept of Digitalisation. While digitisation aims to improve an organisation’s accessibility to information, it does not seek to optimise its processes, which is where Digitalisation comes in. Figure 1.0 provides a summary of both these terms or concepts and offers several examples of each:

Digitisation Digitalisation
Converting analogue information into a digital form
Incorporating digital technologies into processes and interactions
What It Involves
Processes & Interactions
  • Scanning a paper document into a PDF

  • Scanning a photograph into a digital image file e.g jpg, png

  • Converting typed or handwritten reports into usable data
  • Meeting up with someone via video conferencing instead of face-to-face


  • Sending messages via email instead of by post


  • Chatting to someone in real-time via instant messaging instead of by phone

Figure 1.0: Summary of Digitisation vs Digitalisation

What is Digitisation?

Digitisation may be more specifically defined as the conversion of text, pictures, sound, or any other source of information from an analogue into a digital form, which may then be viewed on or processed by computers, mobile phones and digital devices such as Apple’s iPad, Amazon’s Kindle, and Samsung’s Galaxy Tab (among other types or brands of digital tablets and Smart Watches). The goal of digitisation is to allow information to be stored, accessed, analysed and shared easily amongst an organisation’s staff members, stakeholders, and communities. 


Converting information through the process of digitisation increases an organisation’s staff members’ and beneficiaries’ accessibility to those pieces of information. NPOs and SSAs may also use this opportunity to improve their workplace priorities by streamlining their manual processes and identifying which of those processes or areas within those processes will have the highest impact on their organisational missions (and should therefore be given greater emphasis later on during the digitalisation process).


The most common form of digitisation in a digitally compatible organisation involves the conversion of paper documents into their digital forms, which are then stored locally (within storage hard drives or individual digital devices) or online (via cloud-based services). The digitisation process itself is usually labour-intensive and requires manual human effort (but it is nevertheless an important first step to take during the journey of digital transformation). This is because the recording and extraction of information from analogue form is expensive and time-consuming as these handwritten records on paper documents will need to be sorted, labelled, recorded and filed before they are ready to be digitised. This reliance on manual human labour also increases the chances of mistakes occurring during each step of the documentation process. 


However, the good news is that these manual human interventions are only required once during the digitisation process. Once digitised, the storage and retrieval of these vital pieces of information becomes more secure and efficient, and they may be more easily accessed by staff members, stakeholders, and other beneficiaries throughout the organisation.

Examples of Digitisation

Examples of digitisation processes include:

  • The conversion of handwritten or typewritten text into digital form.
  • The conversion of music from a cassette or LP record into an mp3 format or an online database (like Spotify)
  • The conversation of visual media from a VHS tape into an online video (like those found on YouTube)
  • The conversion of analogue VHS tapes to digital, data-containing CDs, DVDs, or Blu-Ray discs.
  • Using a digital signature or e-signature instead of a wet signature.
  • The conversion of paper maps to digitally scanned ones, which includes automatic data capture: The process of collecting information from a document and converting it into information that may be understood by computers.


More comprehensive examples of items or objects to digitise may be found in Figure 2.0 below, which was extracted from the Digital Transitions Heritage website. It may be helpful for organisations to sort their physical items or objects into the categories provided here in order to establish the scope of the items or objects to be digitised, their order of prioritisation, as well as to properly select the hardware and workflows that should be used for each of these digitisation processes. 

Works on Paper

Drawings, Sketches, Paintings, Diaries, Field Notes, Scrapbooks, Ledgers, Maps, Blueprints, Posters

Works on Other Substrates

Engravings, Etchings, Multimedia

Reflective Photomechanical

Silver Prints, Cyanotypes, Tintypes, Calotypes, Moon Print

Transmissive Photomechanical

Lantern Slides, X Rays, Cyanotypes, Glass Plates

3D Items

Sculptures, Fossils


Anything smaller than A8, including 35mm film, Microfilm, Stamps, Coins


Anything larger than A8 and smaller than A3


Anything A3 or larger


Loose (unbound), T-Binding, Bound, Stapled


Stable, Rapidly Deteriorating

Handling Risk

Robust, Fragile, Very fragile, Consumption

Figure 2.0: A list showing the various categories (which includes types, sizes, and states) of potential items or objects that could potentially be digitised

Examples of Digitisation in NPOs or SSAs

Here are several applications of digitisation that are typically found within different sectors or departments of NPOs and SSAs: 



Service Delivery Tools

  1. Scanning of handwritten invoices to be stored as digital documents in databases
  2. Scanning and uploading of donation receipts
  3. Scanning and uploading of volunteer applications and resumes
  4. Scanning and uploading of grant forms
  1. Scanning and uploading of consultation notes
  2. Scanning and uploading of photos/banners/flyers from events into a consolidated server for better access


  1. Scanning and uploading of visitor forms
  2. Scanning and uploading of inventory/stock-keeping receipts
  3. Scanning and uploading of delivery receipts for better tracking of undelivered parcels

Benefits of Digitisation for NPOs and SSAs

Advancements in the digitisation process have allowed organisations to access information much more easily. The volume of information that may be stored and accessed is only limited by the data storage capabilities of each NPO or SSA. Some of the benefits of digitisation include:

1. Faster access to information: Social workers or staff members in NPOs will no longer have to manually comb through paperback files as data may be retrieved easily from digital devices with a single tap of their phone or click of their mouse/laptop pad.

2. Reduced storage costs: Larger and more-established NPOs or SSAs typically find that papers and documents in their physical form take up a lot of precious storage space. Digitising these documents allows them to store information within hard disks, pen drives, data servers or even on the cloud which allows them to save on physical space.

3. Improved preservation and archiving of paper documents: Digitising paper documents reduces the potential of them being damaged since staff members will have much less need to access them after they have been converted. The archiving of these documents may also be carried out automatically using documentation tools (a type of digitalisation process) which allows staff members to retrieve the data more efficiently.

4. Searchability: Digitisation of documents improves an organisation’s research capabilities since it is much simpler to capture and locate the right descriptive data or relevant content from digitised documents compared to physical ones.

5. Increased productivity: It is possible, with the help of modern techniques and a strong system, to search for documents based on their metadata and the information contained within them, which allows employees to easily search for and retrieve their desired documents when they are digitised and organised appropriately. 


6. Better interaction with stakeholders and communities: Digitised content may be used in a variety of ways and may therefore be used by NPOs and SSAs to communicate with their stakeholders and communities across a wide range of channels. Utilising proper digitalisation techniques will further enable these digitised pieces of content to be developed (or sourced from SaaS providers) and posted on various social media channels to encourage communication between organisations and members of their communities. They may also be used to further encourage activities such as crowdsourcing and fundraising.


Still can’t understand the core concept behind digitisation? Here’s a scenario to help explain the idea further:

Let’s say, for instance, that we would like to capture a photo of a flower using a digital camera.


Does the act of taking the photo of the flower (with the ‘flower’ itself as the information) cause it to become digitised? Is this an example of digitisation?


No, the flower is not digitised as it still exists in its natural, physical state (with its original form, size, shape, and colour).

However, the act of printing out the captured photo of the flower, scanning it and storing it in a pen drive does count as an act of digitisation, since the physical form of that photo now exists in a digital form as well (within the pen drive).


There is a subtle distinction between capturing information from the real world and storing it in a  digital form and converting something that has been captured and/or stored in a non-digital form (sometimes referred to as its analogue form) into a digital version of itself. The former is not considered digitisation while the latter is.

What is Digitalisation?

Digitalisation is the conversion of processes or interactions into their digital equivalents. It goes beyond the simple conversion of existing data/information into their digital forms and involves the reorganisation of processes around digital technologies to collect data, establish trends and make informed decisions based on the information that has been converted, collected and stored within an organisation’s database. In some cases, this may not mean a total transformation of all processes and interactions digitally but a conscious choice by organisations to rely more heavily on digital tools and technologies instead. 

NPOs and SSAs that are starting out on their processes of digitalisation generally contain a mix of manual and digital processes. Digitalisation does not aim to replace these existing processes but aims instead to convert manual processes among them into their digital equivalents and further upgrade or enhance any current digital systems, with the ultimate aim of improving internal work efficiencies and increasing the response times of NPOs and SSAs to the needs of the communities they serve.

An example of how digitalisation can help NPOs and SSAs is by making customer records easily and quickly retrievable through computer systems and other digital platforms. This is especially helpful in the area of customer service since the process of fielding inquiries, looking up data on customers, and offering solutions to them becomes much more efficient with a proper digitalised process in place. 

In essence, the methodology of customer service has not changed, but it has been enhanced with the help of digital and software tools to help NPOs and SSAs improve their efficiency of service delivery since the former process of having to manually search paper ledgers for customer information has now been replaced by just a few clicks on a mouse/laptop pad or a mobile device. 

Examples of Digitalisation

Some examples of digitalisation include:

  • Usage of cloud storage space to store and distribute documents
  • Creation of an automated workflow such that orders/requests placed by customers are recognised by an organisation’s website and causes the following processes to occur (in the order listed):
    • A label is created 
    • An order invoice is produced
    • A shipping order to the corresponding warehouse is issued
  • Usage of e-signatures to allow customers to sign contracts electronically instead of relying on traditional wet signatures which requires documents to be printed, mailed, received by the signatory, signed, and reposted back to the sender


Read more about e-signatures in this article: Diving into E-Signatures

Examples of Digitalisation in NPOs and SSAs

Digitalisation enables NPOs and SSAs to build digital ecosystems within their organisations to improve their levels of efficiency and productivity. The tools or platforms that may be found within these ecosystems can be divided generally into 3 main categories: Governance Tools, Productivity Tools, and Service Delivery Tools.


As mentioned earlier in the section of the article on digitisation, proper tools and software systems are needed to extract, analyse, and make sense of the data contained within an organisation’s systems and platforms (e.g., scanning and uploading data from important physical documents and storing them digitally). More specific, targeted actions may then be taken based on the information that has been extracted from the digitised data within these documents.

1. Digitalisation in Governance Tools

  • Donations & Funds: Examples of such processes include wealth screening processes, prospect research and referral process, as well as board fundraising processes. These processes help with fundraising and donor management in order to discourage staff members from managing those processes manually.


  • Events, Community, Governance & Management Processes: Examples of tools or processes in this category include volunteer, visitor, and event management platforms, service user databases, as well as board management and grant management processes. These processes make use of digitised data to help analyse, identify, and summarise any gaps or deficiencies in current organisational processes in order to encourage NPOs and SSAs to take action.

2. Digitalisation in Productivity Tools

  • Marketing Tools such as data analytics tools, social media management tools (for managing social media platforms), email marketing tools (to drive marketing campaigns), and in-house design tools (to help with the design of promotional materials) all aim to improve the productivity of NPOs and SSOs with the help of digital systems and platforms.


  • Customer Support Tools such as CRM software systems that contain helpdesk and support ticket functions may be used to automate response to common queries by clients. Live chat/chatbot/IVR hotlines may also be used to manage and respond to customers’ inquiries quickly and efficiently instead of making use of manual labour from staff members to go through handwritten ledgers or written complaint forms.

3. Digitalisation in Service Delivery Tools

  • Education Departments can use tools such as presentation software, along with video conferencing, classroom, and learning management systems to deliver knowledge and information downstream quickly and efficiently.


  • Events & Activity management tools such as visitor management systems can help NPOs and SSOs manage online forms and ticketing processes for their events more efficiently.

How does Digitisation and Digitalisation Affect Digital Transformation?

The terms Digitisation, Digitalisation, and Digital Transformation are related in such a way that each of these processes cannot occur if the one before it does not take place first. Figure 3.0 illustrates this and provides a quick recap of the definition of each of these terms.

Figure 3.0 – The digital transformation pyramid

The terms Digitisation, Digitalisation and finally Digital Transformation are intertwined in such a way that one cannot exist without the other. Now that we have reached this point of the article, let’s do a recap on what we have previously covered.

  • Digitisation, located at the foundation of the pyramid, is the conversion of information or data from analogue to digital form and it may be considered as a subset or a precursor of the digitalisation process. Digitalisation cannot start if an organisation does not first digitise the data or information that it has.
  • Digitalisation is the conversion of processes or interactions into their digital equivalents. The goal of digitalisation is to leverage digital technologies to enhance existing processes or create new ones. However, it may only be performed when an organisation’s data has already been digitised.
  • Finally, Digital Transformation is the leveraging of emerging digital technologies to build systems by integrating existing or creating new workflows to improve an organisation’s business models, and improve their customer and employee experiences.
Digitisation Digitalisation Digital Transformation

Converting analogue information into a digital form where computers and digital devices can process them

Incorporating digital technologies into human-based processes and document-bound processes to improve efficiency and the speed of delivery

Changing best practices and business strategies by leveraging emerging digital technologies to create new systems. 


Data or Information Conversion

Process Creation and Data Processing

Knowledge leveraging and integration of working systems


Convert paper documents, photos, microfilms, LPs, films, and VHS tapes to digital format

Enhancement of existing processes by utilising digital technology

Creation of a digital transformation roadmap


Scanners, conversion/encoding equipment, server or storage databases

IT systems and software

TQ Digital Compass 3.0, TQ Charity Digital Navigator and the Digital Infrastructure Roadmap


Digitisation of documents

Digitalisation of processes

Creation and transformation of an organisation digitally as a whole via systems.

Change Management

Figure 4.0 – Summary of Digitisation, Digitalisation and Digital Transformation


Digital transformation is built upon the processes of digitisation and digitalisation. Digitisation focuses on an organisation’s information while digitalisation focuses on an organisation’s processes. Without them, the journey of Digital Transformation cannot begin. 

A successful Digital Transformation, however, also requires NPOs and SSOs to fundamentally change the way they operate through the development of a digitally capable work culture that implements and integrates digital technologies to transform the way that their employees think and operate. It also requires paradigm shifts at the managerial level so that upper management will be motivated to steer NPOs and SSAs in the right direction.

Want more information on how digitisation, digitalisation and digital transformation can assist you? We are here to help!

Get in touch with us below:

Email: [email protected]

Phone: +65 9189 6933

Web: https://thunderquote.org

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