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Futurist: Thinking About the Digitization of Information

I am a long-time Futurist, and technologist. In my career, I have spanned the birth of personal computers, to the rise of Cloud Computing.

Scanning napkins is not an easy job!

Scanning napkins is not an easy job!

There are four key questions to consider in a Digital Transformation Project

As a futurist, I often look to new and interesting technologies. One of the areas that interest me is the digitization of information. First, let's talk about what digital assets are versus analog assets. Effectively the definition of the driver is making something searchable. A great old Knowledge Management set of questions fits this age of digital transformation.

  1. What is in my head?
  2. What exists in written form?
  3. What is on my computer?
  4. What has been pushed to a server so that others can see it?

Those four questions often determine the success of a move along the digital transformation path. My goal today is to discuss the tools organizations can use to solve the four questions.


Question one is what is in my head. That is pretty straightforward. The things inside our heads are what we know. What we know can be shared in two ways. One is speaking, and the other is writing. Let's talk about speaking first; two distinct and interesting technologies are improving.


1. Voice to Text

2. One language to a second language


One of the barriers is the language the information creator uses. Translating one language into another on the fly makes the production and reuse of information easier. The other side is the conversion of speech into text in an automated fashion. These technologies continue to improve and provide greater value. Both technology areas help reduce the overall impact of digital transformation projects by automating converting what is in your head into what is now searchable!

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Please send me a locked PDF file so I can't reuse the information I need!

Please send me a locked PDF file so I can't reuse the information I need!

Please always send critical information in a locked PDF file!

The second question is, what exists in written form? Now written down has two distinct flavors. The first is written down via a typewriter or printed on paper. This technology is called Optical Character Recognition OCR. OCR engines are improving, and most operate above 97% efficiency. That allows you to scan many printed materials into a computer quickly. The second flavor is handwritten notes and requires a different approach. Many OCR packages can translate some handwriting, but the results are not as effective. Luckily several packages handle handwriting recognition. The issue, of course, with handwritten notes is, honestly, what type of paper did the person use to write the notes? It is really hard to scan a napkin or a post-it note!


Part of question two slides into question three, what is on my computer? I have to be honest; what is on my laptop is the one that most organizations ignore. Why do they ignore it? Well, it is already digitized. But, this one is a cultural question rather than the technology question. Do you encourage people to put information into shared systems? Many organizations find that they don't have good rules for the creation and sharing of data within their organization. That means they find a lot of information on hard drives that aren't known about, reused, or shared. One of the things that we should share here is that the end of question three starts moving into the reality of organizational issues. Sometimes sharing isn't empowered in the organization or is hard to do. Sometimes sharing or not-sharing is how the person shows their overall value to the company. You have to ask Jim how to fix the printer. He is the only one that knows the answer.


The last question is, what is already digitized, and is it in a place people can use? Our last question also has two distinct flavors. The first is the person who sends you a locked PDF file. You can't copy and paste the information in a locked PDF file, so effectively, you can use the notification.

  1. You can try cracking the pdf file by guessing the password
  2. You can print the PDF file and scan it using OCR software without the password
  3. You can retype the PDF file into a word document

But that locked PDF file creates an artificial barrier since you can get around the password-protected PDF file. But, it does send the message the person doesn't trust you. The second part of this is what is called Meta Data. It becomes hard to find when information is submitted but doesn't have the right Meta Tages. When launching a digital transformation project, remember the goal is to make more things searchable. If the answer to the question you are seeking is in the system, but you can't find it, it might as well not be in the system.

Technology continues to help organizations as they move toward digital transformation. I want to point out that the last two issues are the biggest barriers once you start your digital transformation project. First, it is really hard to change the culture of your organization. It is also hard to fix MetaData issues after the information is submitted. Digital transformation is a long road. It is a road that many companies have been on for more than ten years. In the end, they are likely to still be on that journey in ten years. The good news is that the tools focused on the four questions are improving.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2022 DocAndersen

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