Digitalisation: everyone has heard, but knowledge is lacking

Digitisation received generous attention during the coronavirus pandemic. Digital tools have become a means for many businesses and the public sector to maintain at least a modicum of normality. Everyone has said so much about digitisation that the understanding of its benefits in business and the public sector seems obvious.

However, the partners of the European Digital Innovation Centre’s DI4 Lithuanian ID project say that awareness still needs to be raised, while at the same time moving towards specific, individual problems and targeted training, practical testing of technologies and support for digitisation pilot projects.

A deeper understanding is needed

Although some digital tools were adapted during the coronavirus pandemic, such as remote meetings and digitisation of documents, that was mostly the end of the story. As experts say, it is just a change of form – from analogue, physical to digital.

From the fact that information is transferred from paper to digital form and sent by email, but then it is up to a human being to process it – to read it and take action, the process itself has not changed in the slightest and the real benefits of digitisation have not been felt by the organisation.

Digitisation is therefore a necessary but not a sufficient condition for digitisation, where digital technologies are applied to change certain processes. For example, by automating production, information reception, processing and response, where this does not require human decisions.

“Companies and organisations often do not have specific knowledge, although they have heard of digitisation and digitalisation, but do not know what it would mean for them and their processes”, says Mindaugas Bulota, Head of the National Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship of Kaunas University of Technology (KTU), the coordinator of the “DI4 Lithuanian ID” project.

According to him, a significant obstacle is also the natural resistance of employees, because in order for an organisation to use digital technologies to change certain processes, it has to learn, and additional activities arise. “In the beginning, you have to spend more time, more effort, but in the long term it helps to reduce costs,” he notes.

Benefits – and exchange of experience

The EU-funded DI4 Lithuanian ID project, which started a year ago and will continue for the next couple of years, aims to help businesses and organisations take those initial steps towards digital transformation.

The core competencies of the project consortium, which consists of 14 partners, are focused on artificial intelligence and cyber security, big data, automated BMS and WMS, smart sensors, robotics, IoT/IoIT, automation, VR/AR, and automated reporting.

The consortium operates in 5 sectors: manufacturing, public sector, healthcare and biotechnology, ICT and financial technology.

It starts with an introduction to the technologies, then goes deeper, exploring how specific problems can be solved with them.

“The interest is there. Around 150 companies have already participated in our training. They range from one person to large companies with 500 or more employees, as well as public sector bodies,” says the head of KTU’s National Centre for Innovation and Business.

“One of the most important benefits of these initial events and trainings is the opportunity to network with each other. Representatives of organisations come with a certain vision of digitalisation, and at the event they talk to their colleagues, share that vision, their practice and experience”, says M.Bulota.

He said that clients have very individual questions, which is why targeted meetings are organised in the later stages for companies to examine their specific cases.

Digitalisation in its various aspects

According to M.Bulota, the great value of the consortium is that its members cover the whole spectrum and clients can get not only the technological knowledge, but also the legal knowledge that is necessary for digitisation, and can look at potential investments from different angles.

“System integrators who are among the partners and who implement technological solutions on a daily basis can point out from their own experience what works, what to look out for, and what might not be valuable,” explains the head of the KTU’s National Centre for Innovation and Business.

The training and the development of certain solutions for testing are free of charge. “The aim is to give our clients the opportunity to test solutions and technologies before investing in them, to gain the necessary knowledge,” says Dovydas Zinkevičius, Director of Columbus Lietuva, one of the partners of “DI4 Lithuanian ID”.

According to him, the project programme provides an opportunity to clarify one’s need, helps to form a reasoned investment decision after trying one or another tool.

Some of the project’s clients have already matured into concrete implementations. “We hope to share good examples in the near future”, says D.Zinkevičius.

M.Bulota noted that it would be useful to provide support to companies in the later stages of digitisation, when pilot deployment projects are carried out on a limited scale. “This would further encourage digitisation in our industry, public sector and other organisations,” he noted.