Document Imaging and Digital Conversion

The Records Guru®

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Have you started to think about “going paperless” with the help of document imaging? Maybe you have a new electronic document management system, it’s storage provider contract review time or you’ve simply run out of filing cabinets. While going paperless is an admirable goal, making the move to digital going forward is one thing. Digitizing legacy document stores is another. The stakes involved with the decision to digitize legacy documents are high because of the policy, usage and budgetary considerations involved.

Start with policy considerations. The foundation of any program is its record and retention schedule. Understanding how much time each document has left in its lifecycle and making a cost/benefit determination for digital conversion based on retention is critical. It’s also the easiest of the determining factors. If a document is within a few years of final disposition, it may not be worth the expense.

Next, usage is one of the most difficult considerations. This is because you must understand how often your organization needs access to a given piece of information to determine if it warrants digital conversion. There’s little reason to move a document from physical storage if nobody needs to retrieve it again. But it’s critical for regularly referenced documents be readily accessible.

Finally, the budgetary considerations. It always comes down to money. Storing physical documents is fairly inexpensive — but it doesn’t take long for any organization to generate a lot of paper. Eventually, storage costs mount to the point where a review becomes necessary. Of course, digital conversion has its own costs, and you need to understand these before determining a plan forward.

After you’ve weighed the policy, usage and budgetary factors, there’s actually one more: legal. It’s important to involve your organization’s legal counsel in the process to ensure that the documents being considered for digital conversion are acceptable in digital form. Never do anything without the approval of legal counsel.

After document review, decide on a year to begin the digital conversion process. The rest can be left to reach final disposition in paper form. Once the begin date is identified, have professionals do the actual digital conversion. Document imaging requires high-resolution scanning to ensure the best image quality possible. Remember, once the paper version is gone, it’s gone.

One of the most important things you can do to help with the process is gather examples of every document type you need to preserve, so that the contractor understands what to look for as they’re processing the boxes. These examples are key to ensuring that you preserve what you need.

Going paperless is a journey. This plan will get you there over time with minimum disruption. When it comes to legacy conversion, slow and steady is the way to go!

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