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Mini-series Part 1: Definition of digitization and digitalization
In the next three posts on this blog, I would like to introduce the topic of digitization/digitilization, and the effects on accounting and accountants. If one does a Google or Twitter search about this topic, one finds a variety of articles that indicate its rising importance. In this post, I would like to summarize a few definitions for the terms “digitization” and “digitalization”, largely following the distinctions made in this blog post:
Digitization is the process of creating digital versions of analogue and/or physically represented data. This has per se no business or accounting meaning, but is a necessary part of the digitalization process (see below). The output of digitization can then be used by computers and software for further processing. Archives, for instance, digitize their records to preserve them, make them searchable, and distributable if needed (you can find an example for the US National Archive digitization project here).
Digitalization in turn is the leveraging of digital technologies and digitized information to enable, improve, transform and support businesses, business operations, business processes, decision-making, big data usage, etc.. Digitization is a necessary step in the digitalization process, especially if companies want to reduce (or even eliminate) the dependency and use of physical records (typically on paper). This does not only help improve the business, but also save a considerable amount of costs in paper usage, waste, and archival storage. Where the purpose of digitization is the conversion of records into a digital format, digitalization is geared towards actionable business needs.
Very often, these terms are used synonymous, but in fact, they are not! The difference (or rather complement) between them can be likened to cost and management accounting. There, cost accounting denotes the tools and actions to record, process and output costing data, whereas management accounting adds the purpose of decision-making to the cost accounting toolbox. This entails important implications for accounting information systems, which I will cover in the second part of this mini-series.
A big hack
As you may know, hacking is always a threat in information systems. Every few months we hear of one. The latest reported by Reuters is a hack of millions of mail accounts – mainly mail.ru, but some Google and Yahoo accounts.
So what is the one simple step to protect your mail account – change the password regularly 🙂
Security threats for 2016
In Chapter 2, we outline some of the security issues in any information system. These threats are many and we do not cover them in great detail. Recently, Kim Zettner from wired.com provided a great summary of the security threats faced by information systems in the coming year. It is worth a read.
Mind the digital gap!
A recent study of Go.On UK has found that in the UK around 12 million people and 1 million small businesses are lacking the five basic digital skills of managing information, communicating, making payments, solving problems, and creating material online. Accordingly, these digitally excluded individuals and businesses are at great risk to miss out on vital job skills as well as crucial profit-making abilities. This article published on the BBC Technology website illustrates why missing the digital train is not an option in 2015!
A basic security tip
Very often there are media reports on security breaches and identity theft. And quite often companies get the blame. Mostly however it is the user that is the weak link. Take for example this article where many U.S. taxpayers online details were compromised. The article notes how details were hacked from other websites and these same details were used to gain access to the IRS online tools. So how can such breaches be prevented. Simply have different passwords for each site. But that’s tricky! Well not really, use a password manager like Dashlane which randomly generates passwords. It will also auto fill them in your browser and remind you to change them at regular intervals. Simple, and more secure than reusing the same password.
Cloud terminology handbook – Databarracks
The cloud security provider Databarracks has published a Cloud terminology handbook that is available after registering for it (it is free!). It provides a very brief but comprehensive explanation of various cloud terms (old and new), such as BaaS, hypervisor or a fourth cloud deployment model after public, private and hybrid cloud – the community cloud. This white paper is a good resource to have.
Y2K and 2038
An article in the Economist a while ago reminds us that not matter how complicated computers are, all they really know is 0 and 1- the binary system. Using the binary system, it is easy to represent these two numbers as on or off on various media.
Back in 2000, the date field on many systems could only hold two digit years, so the year could be 1900 or 2000. As the article explains, the Gangnam Style video on YouTube broke the counter for similar reasons – the counter field had a limited length. In 2038, the date field for many operating systems will also run out. It’s unlikely to be an issue – the Y2K problem wasn’t either – but it does remind us of what underlies all computing devices.
Types of cyber attack
We have all heard of cyber attacks on business and they are increasingly a security issue for businesses. Some attacks can be a nuisance, while others can actually hit business revenues or costs. This article from CGMA magazine give a useful summary of the various types of attacks out there.