Digitalisation as an element of competitive advantage

Digitalisation as an element of competitive advantage

Jacek Włodarczyk, Senior Consultant at Crowe
Digitalisation as an element of competitive advantage
The digital economy is a widespread trend, and the coronavirus pandemic has made it even more so. What exactly is digitalisation and how can it improve the efficiency of companies and increase their competitiveness?

The business environment has recently been increasingly using terms such as digitisation, digitalisation or digital economy. They refer to many areas of company activity, but usually they are connected with technology, IT, communication or the Internet. An evident effect of digitalisation is undoubtedly abandoning the paper form of documents' use and storage, but in this case, we rather refer to digitisation, i.e., transferring the paper form to a digital record.

Before we discuss the practical side of digitalisation and show how it allows to improve the efficiency of a company's operations and gain a competitive advantage, let's take a look at an attempt to describe this phenomenon from a scientific point of view.

What is digitalisation?

Digitalisation is a concept closely related to technological progress in the field of IT and ICT (Information and Communication Technology). It should be remembered, however, that it is a much broader concept than the technology itself. Digital transformation is also a way of functioning and a direction of development, as it influences the strategy and organizational culture of companies. 

The digitalisation expansion is actively supported by the European Union, which runs numerous subsidy programmes for innovative projects. The level of digital advancement of the EU countries is also monitored. Every year the European Commission publishes the Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI), which allows to identify priority areas of the digital economy in the Member States, requiring specific actions and investments.

The DESI report describes 34 indicators relating to 5 main categories:

  • Communication;
  • Human capital;
  • Use of online services;
  • Digital technology integration;
  • Digital public services.

In the 2020 DESI report, Poland was ranked 23rd - in comparison to last year, this is a progression from the 25th place. However, it is worth reminding that Poland was on the 23rd place already in 2017. These data signal that there is still a lot to be done in our country in the area of digitalisation, both on the part of the State (infrastructure, regulations, e-State) and entrepreneurs. The development of this sphere is necessary to strengthen the competitiveness of the Polish economy across Europe.

How can you benefit from digitalisation of your business?

Below we present several issues which bring closer the approach towards digitisation in enterprises.  The use of these suggestions in conducting business operations may result in a measurable improvement in the efficiency and competitiveness of companies, e.g., by streamlining the circulation of documents, easier access to data or enhancing the decision-making process. It can also ensure a significant reduction of costs and a quick return on investment (on average within 3 -12 months), e.g., in the case of business process robotisation (RPA).

Streamlining the document circulation

According to research, employees waste up to 30% of their working time[1] searching for, preparing and securing documents. Meanwhile, many documents are already delivered to the company in electronic form, and those that are in paper form can be easily digitised (scanned). After describing all e-documents with metadata, the problem of finding a document in an electronic repository is eliminated and the document can be properly catalogued – case, clients, contracts, orders files.


E-business is spreading across new markets and sectors, and e-commerce is experiencing successive record growth. This effect has been further reinforced during the COVID-19 pandemic. Online shopping is proving to be safer and more cost-effective. There is no need to rent a shop space, employ sales staff or have a stocked warehouse. Therefore, more and more companies, including those previously operating only offline, are choosing this model of operation. To start operations in the e-commerce sector, an appropriate ICT (Information and Communication Technology) infrastructure is sufficient - a telecommunications connection and an online shop "in the cloud".

RPA – Robotic Process Automation

Robotisation of business processes is one example of automation and it involves introducing software robots into the process. Their task is to perform repetitive operations with limited or no human involvement. Robotisation is therefore the replacement of human work by robot work, with the robot being a software that does not require any changes to be made to the systems already used in a company. The robot itself has no intelligence, but simulates the work of an office worker, downloading data, processing the data or inputting them into the system. To do this, the robot uses various programmes and makes use of already existing applications such as: MS Excel, ERP systems or databases and console applications.

IoT - Internet of Things

More and more devices used in enterprises, but also in households, can be connected to the Internet. This gives great opportunities in terms of monitoring their work, avoiding failures, but also gives the chance to discover the business processes carried out with the use of these devices. At the same time, they collect huge amounts of data, which can be used in IT systems with Data Mining.

Data Driven Company

Companies acquire huge amounts of data as part of their business activities. These data are stored in IT systems such as ERP - Enterprise Resource Planning, CRM - Customer Relationship Management, MRP - Material Requirements Planning or Data Warehouses. However, very often they are not used in decision-making processes in organisations. It often happens that each organisational unit of a company has its own reports and results, which differ significantly from the data presented in financial and accounting systems. Therefore, it is a great challenge to manage the existing data and information and to standardise them appropriately. Only then the organisation is managed on the basis of reliable data, thus making it possible to take quick and accurate business decisions, and thus giving the company a competitive advantage.

[1] IDC The State of Data Discovery and Cataloging, 2018

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Jacek Włodarczyk
Jacek Włodarczyk
Senior Manager