The Evolution of Digital Certificates: Is Your Organization Keeping Up?

What is a digital certificate and why is it highly relevant to reassess its meaning and definition of today? As a former digital advisor with more than 10 years of experience in digitalization and digital transformation, I find it relevant to address the definition of digital certificates and how the current practices may vary across organizations today.

In this context it is particularly important to consider the context in which the certificate is being used, as well as what outcomes we as an organization seek.

There are three levels of digital that we can consider within certificate management- digitized, digitalized, and digitally transformed.

1. Digitized – Digital certificate

On a digitized level, the certificate is simply a digital file format where the main objective tends to be creating transparency and ease distribution.

An example here would be scanning a paper certificate and turning it into a digital pdf which becomes easier to access as well as share.

Digitizing information does not consider the process or workflow in which it is managed in the daily. This level leaves room for great inconsistency in areas such as validating how the certificate was created, where and how it is stored and how it is distributed during its lifetime. In this form certificate management tends to be very unreliable and inefficient.


2. Digitalize - Digitalized certificate management

On a digitalized level the certificate is considered as part of a process or workflow. This approach is emphasizing the use of digital tools with the primary outcome of increasing efficiency, productivity, and transparency.

Here an example of digitalizing certificate handling would be considering how a pdf is sent to a specified mailbox in a pdf format and with the relevant meta tagging. This meta data is then used in business logics to automatically store the pdf document in a file storage so that it can be accessed when needed, and automatically sent together with customer shipments.

The limitation within this format of certificate management is that it often tends to focus on a “good enough” level and cover the common use case of managing certificate documentation. Additional investment simply does not make it as a business priority. This level tends to address the most critical aspects of efficient handling but does not necessary address unreliable handling.


3. Digital transformation - Digital certificate management

At the digitally transformed level, the focus is on optimizing the entire certificate management capability using digital tooling. This level goes beyond internal process optimization and touch on the opportunity of transforming operations and the actual value output. Here we look beyond operational efficiency and productivity and can potentially seek outcomes like increased revenue, risk mitigation and market differentiation.

Consider for example the scenario where all incoming certificates are validated on attribute level by machine, so that any deviations within tests, mechanical property and material composition are flagged and can raise attention. What would be the value for quality engineers when we free up time validating every incoming shipment to put focus on what is driving the quality deviations? What is the brand value if we on a more detailed level can prove quality? What operational improvements can be done areas such as supply chain resilience if we empower the supplier collaboration to provide us with reliable and traceable data?

In this format we have moved beyond the scope of optimizing internal processes and workflows and here organizations tend to implement more agile ways of adopting new technology by seeking biggest impact for least effort.

Which level of certificate management is best suited for your needs?

It is important to consider which level of certificate management is best suited for your needs. If you are unsure, that in itself may be a reason for reassessing your current approach. In conclusion, while digital PDF certificates may have been sufficient in the past, it is now necessary to consider the level of certificate management that is appropriate for your current and future market state. As market forces continue to drive change in practices of information and data sharing, businesses must remain vigilant and stay up to date with the latest trends and technologies in certificate management to remain competitive and meet the evolving needs of both customers, regulators, and other key stakeholders.


In the upcoming article we will look at some of the market forces that are pushing information and data sharing to change and there by challenging how certificates are managed and shared. Meanwhile if you want to learn more and find more inspiration you can find more information on our solution page for Quality.

ChainTraced for Quality

Daniel Eriksson Pitt

Chief Commercial Officer
Daniel has extensive experience from the B2B Business Application space as Strategy & Business development lead as well as Digital Advisor. He is passionate about desirable and viable digital business solutions that realizes value.