Do you sometimes think that if Juliet had a phone, she would have texted Romeo and told him she was going to fake her death, stopping Romeo from taking real poison in an attempt to join her in death? Or that if people during the 1830s cholera epidemic had the internet, they would have been able to simply work from home? With digitization today, almost everything is swift, but it hasn’t always been that way.
According to the Oxford dictionary, digitization is a process where text, images, or sound are converted into a digital format that a computer can process. The introduction of computers in the 1950s essentially started this era. Since then, the continuous march of digitization has completely changed the way we work, bank, communicate, shop, travel, finance, and even relax and entertain ourselves by converting practically everything into a binary system of 1s and 0s. And though this might seem like a smooth process from a client or user perspective, it has generated a lot of resistance to the transformation from employees in the workplace in various fields. Thus pushing technology companies to look for the human side of digitization and how both ends of the spectrum could work hand-in-hand.
The History of Digitization
In 1679, Gottfried Willhelm Leibniz invented the binary system. Some centuries later, Alec Reeves carried on his investigation into the digitalization of this binary language, which is how he learned about Pulse Code Modulation (PCM), a voice call technique used in the telecommunications sector. However, the commercial industry didn’t start using this until later in the 1950s. A bit before that, in 1943, the SIGSALY, the very first digital voice transmission technique, was found. Yeah, people! Thanks to this invention, you can send people you don’t like straight to voicemail. In 1954, General Electric officially introduced the first UNIVAC 1 computer, making it yet another phenomenal year for the digital industry. Later in 1963, Charles Bachmanand created one of the earliest digitally integrated management systems when he created an integrated data storage.
This revolution changed the game and the late 20th century – the early 2000s opened the way to digital watches, cameras, and personal computers. The first-ever virtual community was created in 1984: Whole Earth’s Lectronic Link, and most importantly, in 1994, the first online transaction was made; a pizza ordered from Pizza Hut. Let’s be honest: what would we do today without online food delivery? The revolution continued with the digitization of voting systems, and the introduction of cashless currencies like bitcoin, social media, and so on.
The banking sector didn’t stay behind. Before 1900, handwritten ledger cards were provided to bank customers to keep track of their accounts and make withdrawals or deposits until the early 1990s when technology in the banking industry reached a peak. People started transferring money into a digital format thanks to technological innovation. As a result, more and more people started opening bank accounts and accessing them from various corners of the world. And with the increase in their customer base, banks started digitizing all their services and bringing them together into core banking systems.
Given all the miracles accomplished by digitization, one could assume that it was received with open arms by employees in the different economic sectors. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Resistance to Digitization
Out of fear of losing their jobs, most workers resisted and continue to resist any digital transformation initiated by their employers. These technologies are considered to be so quick and efficient that workers won’t be needed in the workspace anytime soon. To make matters worse employees don’t often know how to work these new technologies. They resist out of fear of failure – many companies will tell their employees that the digital revolution is underway: either you hop on the train or you will be left behind – especially when work schedules are tight and employees do not have enough time to learn.
Moreover, when workers don’t see the immediate benefit the innovation has for them, they tend to disregard it. For instance, a receptionist recording customer data on a notebook might not see the benefit of recording it in a digital database until the same client comes twice – and he realizes that he does not need to go through all 200 pages of his notebook to find out when the last visit was.
Part of the resistance is also due to employees feeling excluded from the digital transformation. Digitization strategies are often decided at the higher levels of hierarchy as part of a bigger vision for the company. Understanding the bigger picture and how their daily work contributes to the overall vision and success of the whole organization is essential at every level of the company.
Embracing the Change
Financial institutions are no different: employees need to adhere to their company’s vision and to be included in the digital transformation process; they need to be convinced of the benefit of digitization, not only for the company but also for them individually, and they need to be trained and supported through this change. We at Q-Lana, aim to do precisely that and like to call it the human side of digital lending. This roots in the belief that investing in people pays off in several ways. When managements understand that welcoming new technologies is not about cutting costs but bettering their service delivery, they leverage their employees’ time, and knowledge, which allows them to expand in other areas as the efficiency created by new technologies provides them with more time. But just as all the progress in the history of digitization, it needs to be done one step at a time.
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