Digitization & Automation: What Are They & How Do They Relate?

Digitization and automation may seem like typical corporate buzzwords, but they’re more than just jargon. The reality is that they’re both critical for gaining a competitive advantage.

According to McKinsey, only 31% of businesses have fully automated at least one function. To stay competitive, organizations need to accelerate their digitization and automation efforts.

But what does digitization mean, and how is it different from automation? Read on to learn how low-code solutions help companies gain a competitive edge as they digitize and automate.

Digitization versus automation: What’s the difference?

The terms “digitization” and “automation” are similar in theory, but quite different in practice.


Digitization is the process of converting anything that’s in a hard copy to a digital format. For example, converting paper copies of patient records into a digital format that a computer can process.

Digitization is the first step toward automation. Before we can automate information, it must be available and digestible to any automation technology.


Automation improves processes that existing technology already offers. It leverages devices or software. It accomplishes tasks without any human intervention by relying on rules written by business subject matter experts.

By performing tasks — such as automatically sending clients reminders and personalized discount codes — automation helps organizations stay competitive in the marketplace. Automation also frees up workers to focus on value-add activities.

What does it mean to digitize a business process?

Digitizing a business process converts a non-digital process into a digital format. Digitization shifts from a paper storage model to cloud-based data warehouses. It also reduces physical locations in favor of increasing online presence.

Take banks, for instance. Not long ago, customers had to go to a physical branch, stand in line, and interact with a teller to deposit a paper check. Digitizing these transactions has made banks far more efficient and customer-centric. Consumers prefer the convenience of serving themselves on their bank’s website or app.

Besides making business processes faster, digitization can also make them more precise. Pharmaceutical companies are a prime example. In pharma, digitization has:

  • Dramatically decreased time to market
  • Increased compliance
  • Digitized research and development processes have lessened human error

On top of that, digitizing drug development processes has prepared life science companies for future automation.

What does it mean to automate a business process?

Automating a business process involves using technology to carry out repetitive tasks systematically. Automation also replaces manual processes. When it’s done right, automation frees employees to focus on more impactful business and creative projects.

Generating reports is a business process that a business can automate. Leaders need reports to remain informed, but middle management may spend an inordinate amount of time presenting the data. Rather than typing and emailing status reports manually, why not enter the data into a centralized database? From there, a business can consolidate information automatically.

With automation, middle managers can assess data more critically and present the insights they uncover more effectively. With better and more frequent submissions of business-critical information, leadership can take more meaningful action.

Digitization and automation: The combination every organization needs

In general, companies that embrace digitization find it easier to process and store critical data. Their systems are easier to maintain, and they meet customer needs more effectively. Automation shifts operational focus away from repetitive tasks and toward more complex tasks that add value to the business.

Companies that digitize their operations can use emerging technologies like artificial intelligence to discover new ways of optimizing and personalizing automated processes. As a result, digitization may present opportunities for additional revenue streams or increased customer loyalty.

How low-code development enables digitization and automation

Low-code enables people without coding backgrounds to engage in automation, bringing the technology to anyone needing a solution. Unlike orchestrating a process with a business process management system or automating a single step in a process with robotic process automation, low-code tools don’t require complex, line-by-line scripts for every switch or load balancer.

When users are looking to automate a process, they can:

  • Identify the data that the process will consume
  • Add business logic
  • Assign performers to each task in the workflow

Many low-code platforms integrate with other enterprise software so that users can seamlessly connect one process to another.

Because low-code tools are so visual — similar to a flow diagram —they’re easy for non-technical stakeholders to use. Once a workflow is live, each step in the process will automatically occur as users have defined it. When a business process inevitably changes, users simply adjust their workflow and deploy.

Start your low-code journey

To exceed customer expectations, companies need to be agile, responsive, and efficient. Automation and digitization are essential to the future of any company. The barrier to entry for automation and digitization seems high, but a low-code platform can provide a simple access point that turns into a competitive advantage.

Don’t fall behind—invest in a low-code solution today.