What is the difference between digitization and automation?

February 2021

The term of digitization is omnipresent and for many has already become a meaningless term that has been discussed, implemented and demanded for years and decades. Not least because of the mention in so many different contexts, the term is watered down and not really tangible. In addition, the concept of automation has joined for several years now. Another trend that promises a lot, is much discussed and is often mentioned in connection with digitization. But what exactly is the difference between digitization and automation? And how are the two terms related? A brief explanation and demarcation of both terms should provide clarity.

Digitization = To digitally support processes and tasks

Automation = Let processes and tasks run independently and automatically

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The trade association Bitkom, for example, has foundthat completely different things are understood in companies under the guise of digitalization: Both the digitization of paper files, the general support of operational business processes, electronic accounting and document recording as well as the automation of operational business processes were mentioned in the survey. The latter, in particular, counts, as the name suggests, more to automation than to digitization.

What does digitalization mean?

The term digitization has several meanings and cannot be defined clearly. Both the digital transformation of analogue documents and processes (quite classic: scanning a personnel file in order to make it digitally available or scanning a supplier invoice) as well as the entire megatrend, which means the change towards a more digital economy, can be understood here. We refer to the former in the following.

In a more general way, it can be said that processes that used to be analog, for example on paper, and are now computer-aided, digital, have been successfully digitized.

An example from our practice as a digitization agency: We digitized the previously paper-based survey of training participants for our customer and transferred it to an online form. The forms are no longer filled in by pen on paper, then typed and digitally processed, but are filled in directly online and used for further use. This saves the time-consuming step of digitally capturing 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. For this, it is usually not sufficient that the necessary documents are available digitally (but this is the basic requirement for automation). The processes and data must be read out and transferred by appropriate technologies and tools, such as Zapier or Make.

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

An example from our practice as an automation provider: For our customer, we were able to automate the output of weekly project reports. The employees, who work on the project, only book their corresponding times on the respective project in the project management tool via a comment. The prepared weekly report is then automatically generated and provides all people with an optimal overview of the progress and status of the project. The project managers no longer have to deal with the time-consuming creation.

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Automation not without digitization

Finally, it should be noted that automation can only take place on the basis of digitization. It can be seen as the next step in the technological and digital transformation of our time. While digitization usually aims to support work digitally, automation can enable these works to be carried out independently.

Both, digitization and automation, can be accompanied by external experts. No matter where companies are at, professional help can lead to faster and, above all, more sustainable solutions. While the digitization 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 catch on due to a lack of efficient implementation. In this way, projects are initiated, but never completed or not followed up after completion.

Clarification: Difference between digitization and automation

A targeted process automation is individually tailored to the company, has the long-term development of these in mind and can be expanded modularly by further process steps and tools. A screenshot of a process in Makeshows what this can look like.

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

Difference between digitization and automation
Transfer invoices from e-mail to accounting


In this example, invoices received by e-mail are automatically transferred to the accounting software. As soon as an e-mail arrives in a defined mailbox, it is checked for attachments. If the invoice is available as a file attachment, such as PDF, it is transferred to OneDrive and uploaded from there to Accounting (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 follow the same steps as before: The invoice is transferred to OneDrive and finally uploaded to Accounting, where it is available for booking (lower path).

This example illustrates the importance of defining a process accurately. Only then can both digitization and automation be implemented successfully and in the long term. A project should therefore always start with an analysis and process definition and only then address the implementation.

As an automation agency, it is essential for us to integrate the previous digitization and process definition into our service. The respective automation solution is as individual as any business process.

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Feel free to contact us and find out in a free consultation where you stand and how we can work together to shape your path to digitization and automation. We are happy to provide support in the analysis and subsequent automation of business processes, explain possibilities and address your company's processes individually.

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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Automation consulting. Automate. Improve. Succeed.

We advise you independently and offer our expertise.