Every week, I talk to companies that are looking to start scanning documents. Some of them just want to have a backup in case something happens to the paper copy, while others want digital copies to be able to quickly access documents when needed. Whatever your reason for scanning documents might be, when a company embarks on such a large project, there are a few key steps for ensuring a successful scanning project.
1: Think about organization before you start scanning
The two most common ways of storing and sorting your scanned documents in such a way that you can easily find them when you need them are using a folder structure or using enterprise content management software.
Using a folder structure means that on your server or on your pc, you create different folders for different types of content. For example, you could have different folders for different kinds of documents, and then within those folders, you would have different folders for different time periods. You could then give the files a logical name, like "Electricity invoice 12 Mar 12" or "Transaction 12". This often works well if you don't have many documents, but breaks down when you have large volumes of documents, because the structure becomes very complicated, and hard to manage.
Using enterprise content management software means purchasing a special software package to be able to store scanned files, and to be able to find them quickly and easily. Often they will allow you to "tag" documents with certain metadata, to be able to find them more easily. For example, in the case of an invoice, you could record date, counterparty, invoice number, amount, and currency. Most of these packages also have advanced auditing and permissions features. They can be costly, but unavoidable if you are management a large number of scanned files. Examples of enterprise content management software are M-Files, Microsoft Sharepoint, and Alfresco.
2: Employ the proper people and tools
While we could write a book about how to properly scan documents, it is key to remember that there are two aspects to every scanning project: people and tools.
While technology plays a large role in any scanning project, people are still key: most of the scanning work is done by people. Think hard about who need to scan your documents. Your current staff might get demotivated when you assign them to a scanning project: scanning can be monotonous work, and it takes a certain kind of person to be able to get fulfillment from a scanning project. In a standard scanning project, people will need to:
- sort and classify documents
- unstaple and unassemble the papers
- scan every page
- perform quality control
- enter metadata regarding the documents
Make sure you have people who are extremely detail-oriented, and who don't mind doing the same kind of work for long periods of time.
Tools are the second part of the puzzle: you need to give your people the right tools to work with. Surprisingly, in most scanning projects, the mosst important tools are not high-speed scanners. In fact, depending on the setup of your project, it is probably the people that are the bottleneck, and not the speed of the scanner. A 30 page-per-minute scanner should be enough for most of your projects. Instead, make sure that you have great software that will allow you to edit scanned documents if needed, and to enter metadata more easily. Some software suites will have OCR capabilities that will allow you to automatically capture certain metadata fields. While OCR for Georgian is still in its infancy, it is relatively simple to capture numeric fields. Two packages that you could consider are SimpleIndex and Chronoscan.
3: Put a quality control process in place
Finding a way to organize your scanned documents, and figuring out how to scan is only one part of the puzzle. How do you make sure that all documents are scanned properly, and that the metadata is actually correct? After all, a document with incorrectly-entered metadata might be lost forever. The key here is to have a quality-control process in place that ensure the quality of the scanned images and the entered metadata. Depending on your risk tolerance and the depth of your pockets, you can implement a process by which every document is checked, or a sampling process, in which you only check a sample of scanned documents. When you design the scanning process, make sure that there are proper incentives for quality control staff to find mistakes, and that the quality control is not performed by the same people who do the scanning.
Scanning projects are often harder than they look at first sight. If you would like help with your scanning needs, please feel free to reach out. Dasta has scanned more than a million pages and is the only specialized scanning company in Georgia. We'd love to help you out.