What is the difference between digitalization and automation?

June 2020
What is the difference between digitalization and automation?

The term digitalisation is omnipresent and for many has already become an empty term that has been discussed, implemented and demanded for years and decades. Not least because it is mentioned in so many different contexts, the term has become diluted and not really tangible. This has been joined in recent years by the term automation. Another trend that promises a lot, is much discussed and is often mentioned in connection with digitalisation. But where exactly is the difference between digitalisation and automation? And how are the two terms related? A brief explanation and differentiation of both terms should provide clarity.  

Digitalisation = supporting processes and tasks digitally

Automation = running processes and tasks autonomously and automatically

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The industry association Bitkom, for example, has found that companies understand completely different things under the guise of digitalisation: Both the digitisation of paper files, the general support of operational business processes, electronic bookkeeping and document entry as well as the automation of operational business processes were mentioned in the survey.

The latter in particular, as the name suggests, is more automation than digitisation.  

What does digitalisation mean?

The term digitalisation has several meanings and cannot be clearly defined.

Both the digital transformation of analogue documents and processes (quite classically: scanning a personnel file to make it digitally retrievable or scanning a supplier's invoice) and the entire megatrend, by which the change towards a more digital economy is meant, can be understood here.

We refer to the former in the following.

More generally, it can be said that processes that used to be analogue, for example on paper, and are now computerised, i.e. digital, have been successfully digitised.  

An example from our practice as a digitisation agency: We digitised the previously paper-based survey of training participants for our client and converted it into an online form. This means that the forms are no longer filled out on paper using a pen, then typed up and digitally processed, but are filled out directly online and used for further processing.

This saves the time-consuming step of digitally recording the questionnaires.  

What does automation mean?

The term automation refers to the transfer of process functions and entire process sequences from humans to technical systems. In most cases, it is not sufficient for the necessary documents to be available digitally (although this is the basic prerequisite for automation).

Through appropriate technologies and tools, such as ZAPIER or MAKE, the processes and data must be read out and transferred.

If a process was previously handled manually by the team (both analogue and digital) and is now handled independently by the PC without further human intervention, it has been successfully automated.

An example from our practice as an automation provider: We were able to automate the output of weekly project reports for our client.

The employees working on the project only have to book their respective times for the respective project in the project management tool via a comment.

The prepared weekly report is then generated automatically and provides everyone with an optimal overview of the progress and status of the project.

The project managers no longer have to deal with the time-consuming preparation.


Automation not without digitalisation

In conclusion, automation can only take place on the basis of digitalisation. It can be seen as the next step in the technological and digital transformation of our time.

While digitisation mostly aims to support work digitally, automation can make it possible to carry out this very work independently.  

Both digitalisation and automation can be supported by external experts. No matter where companies are in their journey, professional help can lead to faster and, above all, more sustainable solutions.

While the digitalisation of one's own processes and work steps is usually irreversible and quickly establishes itself in companies, it can happen with automation that the solution does not become established due to a lack of efficient implementation.

Thus, projects are initiated but never completed or not followed up after completion.  

Clarification: difference between digitalisation and automation

A targeted automation of processes is individually tailored to the company, has an eye on the long-term development of these processes and can be modularly expanded with further process steps and tools.

A screenshot of a process in Make shows how something like this can look.

Make is an automation software that provides an interface where digital tools are connected to automate processes. The data is passed from application to application and enables an automated data flow.

Unterschied zwischen Digitalisierung und Automatisierung


In this example, invoices received by e-mail are automatically transferred to the Lexoffice accounting software.

As soon as an e-mail arrives in a defined mailbox, it is first checked for attachments. If the invoice is available as a file attachment, for example as a PDF, it is transferred to OneDrive and uploaded from there to Lexoffice (upper path).

If the invoice is not available as an e-mail attachment, but only in text form, a PDF file is first generated from the e-mail.

Then the same steps follow as before: The invoice is transferred to OneDrive and finally uploaded to Lexoffice, where it is available for posting (lower path).


This example illustrates how important the exact definition of a process is. Only then can both digitisation and automation be implemented successfully and in the long term. A project should therefore always begin with an inventory and process definition and only then address the implementation.  

As an automation agency, it is indispensable for us to include prior digitalisation and process definition in our service. The respective automation solution is as individual as any business process.  

Feel free to contact us for a free consultation to find out where you stand and how we can shape your path to digitalisation and automation together.

Together we find individual solutions that are flexible and scalable.

What is the difference between digitalization and automation?

What is the difference between digitalization and automation?

Cloud Integration, iPaaS, SaaS, BPA… Ough, hard to keep track of all these terms. They are currently used frequently (and increasingly) in the context of automation, and it is sometimes difficult to make a clear distinction and distinction. We have already written blog posts on the terms iPaaS, SaaS and BPA, but we’ll take them up again here to make the difference.

But let’s start with cloud integration, because that’s the central umbrella term in which we embed all the other technologies in this blog post.

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What does Cloud Integration mean?

What does Cloud Integration mean?


  • Is available in real time
  • Can be accessed from almost anywhere
  • Reduce potential sources of error by entering the same data multiple times
  • Require less installation and maintenance
  • Can optimize business processes

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To illustrate these advantages, an example is suitable that we know well from our everyday work as an automation agency:

The central data to be used here is the data of a major customer. This can be the simplest information, such as the address. This address is required in numerous but completely different processes in the company: on the one hand, for correct invoicing in accounting. On the other hand, in the CRM system, where all the data of the large customer is also stored. But the address is also important in sales, for example, when employees go to the sales meeting on site.

Now the customer announces that the address of the company has changed after a move. This information will reach you by e-mail. There are now two options:

01. The e-mail is forwarded to all affected departments, accounting, sales, customer service, marketing… All persons open their corresponding program, CRM, accounting software, marketing tools (such as newsletter marketing) and change the data already stored there of the customer. This means that in multiple applications, different people do exactly the same thing: change one address.

02. But there is also an alternative: By connecting your applications, thus by integrizing them, the customer’s e-mail, or rather the information it contains about the address change, is automatically passed on to all affected applications: CRM, accounting, marketing, ERP. This does not require any clicks, because the cloud integration detects a trigger, i.e. address change, and thus automatically starts the process.

What sounds unimpressive in a single process becomes more effective when such a process occurs several times a day or weekly. Because there is a lot of data that is available in different applications and should always be correct. If these applications are cloud applications they are suitable for cloud integration.

But cloud integration doesn’t just happen. There are now a variety of applications that enable and implement this. Such tools usually allow us to link the relevant cloud applications on a central platform and define clear rules on when, how, where, how much data should be passed on and what happens to them.

IPaaS, SaaS, BPA, ABC – who can still see through it?

To realize cloud integration, there are various applications and technologies that are sometimes used interchangeably.

We have made a first distinction between iPaaS and BPA here.

We explain the term SaaS in more detail here.

Here the short version, again:
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Cloud integration cannot be done without SaaS, iPaaS and BPA

Cloud integration is rather an umbrella term that includes numerous technologies, such as SaaS, iPaaS and BPA, and this is also absolutely necessary. Cloud integration is a concept that is made possible by appropriate technologies.

However, all terms share the commonality that they are cloud-based and thus offer enormous potential for growth and scaling. In addition, they are often cheaper to implement and maintain because changed requirements are easy to implement.

As an independent automation agency, we implement cloud integration according to your requirements. We use a variety of SaaS tools and iPaas (strictly speaking BPA) software. Together we find individual solutions that are flexible and scalable.

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We advise you independently and offer our expertise.
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Automation consulting. Automate. Improve. Succeed.

We advise you independently and offer our expertise.