Scanning documents? Do it strategically

When faced with managing large volumes of paper documents, it’s only natural to think about scanning as a solution. Scanning offers a number of benefits, such as saving physical space, increasing search options (and success of finding something), and being able to share, or access, the documents more easily.

While scanning can be a good solution, the key is to scan strategically. Scanning a mess of physical documents only results in the same mess being converted to an electronic format. Before jumping into scanning, or thinking that scanning is the only solution, take some time to plan out a scanning project to ensure the results are something better than what existed with the paper documents.

Tips for setting up a scanning solution

  • Develop criteria about what to scan. Not everything is worth the effort (i.e., time and cost) of scanning. For example, documents that do not need to be kept for long periods of time are usually not worth the resources to scan.
  • Research legislative requirements. In most jurisdictions, in order for the scanned version to maintain evidentiary value, it is important to follow a procedure with controls and quality assurance steps.
  • Consider how you will search for scanned documents. All documents should be scanned with OCR to enable users to search for documents with keywords. Additionally, think about which terms you might search to find those documents in the future. Make sure this information is available (e.g., document title, metadata fields).
  • Rework existing business processes to keep everything electronic. Many existing business processes require users to print documents for processing. Think about how to adapt business processes to be completely electronic. For example, utilizing software to acquire digital signatures is one way to eliminate documents from being printed, signed, and then scanned back into the system.