What is the difference between digitisation, digitalisation, digital transformation?

Written by:

Demi-Jo Smith, July 21, 2022

Sending your supervisor to the construction site with a notepad? Passé! Drawing with a pencil and ruler? Old-fashioned! Using mailboxes to communicate with each other? Those days are over. The construction industry has become much more digital over the years. Yet digitisation is a hot topic for construction companies right now. Every self-respecting builder is working on digitalisation or on the way to digital transformation. And they have to, because without digitisation, they will lose out to their competitors. But what is the difference between these concepts?

The terms digitisation, digitalisation and digital transformation are very similar and therefore have a lot in common. In fact, there is a lot of overlap between the three concepts. Yet, there are differences, especially concerning the phase you use them in.

digitalisation on the construction site
What is the difference between digitalisation and digitisation?

Digitisation: information from paper to digital

Converting information into a digital form, that is digitisation. So digital blueprints instead of old-fashioned blueprints on paper, a quotation by email instead of by letter, a completion list in an app instead of on your clipboard and the time registration on your phone instead of on a note. These are things that most companies, especially in the construction industry, have been doing for years. A big advantage of digitisation? You can store a lot more data and you need a lot less physical space. What’s more, you can access all your data anytime, anywhere; when on the road, on the building site or comfortably from home. Extensive archives are no longer necessary; a good – and, of course, safe and reliable – software package suffices.

Digitalisation: improving processes with technology

The term digitisation is about the process. What you do to deploy digital technologies, in order to make your business operations more modern, better, less error-prone and more efficient. The use of quality assurance software, software to record checks in the field or on the building site, apps to share all project information conveniently with all parties involved, and so on. Digitalisation includes all automation that you use to work more flexibly, quickly and effectively. In the construction industry, the buzz words in this area are: CDE and DMS. CDE stands for common data environment; in other words, a cloud solution in which you store and manage your data properly and safely. DMS stands for document management system: a collaboration platform on which you manage information and data and in which you can collaborate effectively with all parties involved in your project. 

Construction companies that have gone through a digital transformation, have a streamlined process in which parties cooperate optimally, information is retrieved quickly and easily, and errors are minimised.

Digital transformation: the way to maximum efficiency

With digital transformation, we are talking about the development. The road towards the end result. And that end result is a business in which automation is used to achieve maximum flexibility, efficiency and cost benefits. Construction companies that have gone through a digital transformation have a streamlined process in which parties cooperate optimally, information can be found quickly and easily and errors are reduced to a minimum. No more delays or extra costs due to working with an old construction drawing, how ideal is that? And, not unimportantly, when you work digitally to the maximum extent, you can do more work with fewer people. In a time when good people are hard to find, this is a great advantage.

Why is digitisation important?

Whatever stage your organisation is at and whatever term you use, there is no doubt that digitising is important. Certainly for builders. Digitalisation makes your processes easier, faster, better and cheaper. If you want to count as a construction company in the future, you will have to digitise. Digitalisation is an important part of society as a whole, in all branches and in all areas. It’s no different in the construction industry. A lot is already happening, just think of the success of BIM (Building Information Modelling) and the rise of digital printing. By using the right digital tools, all parties always work, and if necessary simultaneously, with the same up-to-date documents. This prevents miscommunication and misunderstandings. The result: fewer errors, a faster process and a higher yield.

The benefits of digitisation at a glance: 

  • Always up-to-date documents directly available to everyone.
  • Quick and easy communication with involved parties.
  • All documents safely stored.
  • All information accessible at all times and from anywhere.
  • More insight through data analysis.
  • No archive space required, no more searching for documents.
  • More efficient processes, faster work with less people.
  • Lower error probability, lower failure costs.

By going along with the developments now, you improve your competitive position.

Not a necessary evil, but an indispensable tool for success

As a modern builder, you are more or less forced to go along with the digital transformation. This sounds negative, but it is a blessing in disguise. Because it is precisely by digitising that you can achieve enormous benefits. By going along with the developments now, you improve your competitive position. Digitisation, digitalisation or digital transformation, whichever term you want to use, they have one thing in common: it benefits you.