To Scan Or Not To Scan: Should You Digitise Your Documents?

When you’re faced with a filing cabinet of documents or a room filled with archived boxes, deciding what to do with them can be tricky. Do you have to keep the documents? Is there a better place to store them? Or should you scan them? If your organisation doesn’t have a dedicated archivist, there are some key questions you can ask to make an informed decision.

The first step is going on a ‘rediscovery session’. By investigating the original purpose and future potential of each document, you can determine whether it not it should be retained and digitised. Here are five key questions you can ask yourself to decide whether or not to scan your documents.

1. How Active is the document?

Every document falls somewhere on the scale of active to inactive. A red-hot active document is that million dollar contract your client just signed. An inactive document might be a twenty-year old paid invoice you’ll never need to look at again.

An active document is one that is still required for your day-to-day organisational activity. It needs to be referenced, shared, published or utilised to ensure the flow of information or the continuity of business.

We retain inactive documents for all types of reasons – legal and tax compliance, IP, resources and reference, evidence, historical purposes and even nostalgia. Some documents that seem inactive could be critically important, not to mention irreplaceable. Sometimes we don’t think we need them, until we do!

Depending on your space, onsite storage possibilities and the age and condition of the documents, sometimes it is fine to just retain paper copies of your inactive documents. There is however the added risk of loss if no digital copy exists. Get to know your inactive and active documents, ask yourself if they must be retained, and how integral they are to current business activities.

2. How Popular is the Document?

So, you have a range of active documents, but how often are they being accessed? Does the document need to be shared, accessed remotely, used by different departments or published for access by a wider audience?

By looking at the key users of the document and assessing their needs, you can better determine whether a digital copy of a document would be a valuable asset. Would it be easier and faster to transfer this file electronically? Do you want to publish it with different permissions for different users? If the documents need to be integrated into your current systems, talk to your digitisation provider about a system integration solution.

3. How Important is the Document?

Your documents will also have differing levels of importance and priority. What if the document disappeared and you didn’t have a back-up copy? Would this missing information be problematic for your accounts? Paper documents can be lost, destroyed through fire and water damage or simply misfiled, never to be found again.  

Consider the true cost of document loss. There are potential legal or tax implications if you are unable to access documents that you or the tax office may need. Could you afford to lose important intellectual property, client details or key reference material that could result in excessive costs to recreate and recover this information. Ask yourself if the document can be easily replaced or recreated.

4. How Valuable is the document?

Now you’ve thought about the cost of losing your documents, ask yourself about the cost of keeping them.

Long term storage of physical paper records is expensive. Even if it is a spare room in your organisation, the space being taken up by files could be utilised for something more productive. Offsite and outsourced document storage is a cheaper option but can be inconvenient and possibly unreliable.

If you have determined that your documents are worth retaining, they might also be worth digitising. Digitising physical records not only protects them from loss and degradation but enables sharing and remote access. It also guarantees that documents can be centrally organised, properly indexed and fully searchable so you can find the document you want, whenever you want it.

Creating a digital surrogate or back-up copy of your document is just part of the value of a digitised record. Depending on your document type, digitising your information can actually generate additional value for your organisation.

5. Can the digital document deliver extra value?

A digital archive of documents is an information treasure trove. The information and data of a document, once digitised, can be easily captured and utilised to contribute to more sophisticated outcomes.

This is how digital documents help to optimise different organisations:

  • Patient care is enhanced by having medical records available instantly
  • Digitising documents supports a distributed workforce with information made centrally accessible through local devices
  • Digital archives of historic documents can build a community and fulfill social obligations
  • Capturing and validating data from an invoice can ensure it is approved and paid on time
  • Records can be used for data analysis to provide business insights
  • Create and leverage an intelligence bank of intellectual property such as past work, case files, plans and drawings
  • Immediate access across multiple offices of single copies of documents saves time and reduces errors

 If you have determined that some or all of your paper records should be digitised, you will need to assess the potential cost of digitisation. There are two options for a digitisation project – in-house or outsourced:

In-house digitising for large amounts of records often requires specialist scanning equipment, software and a trained staff member. It can be hard to justify this option, as staff are moved away from core business tasks and the equipment costs can be prohibitive.

Outsourcing can be a more cost-effective option, particularly for large projects as the scanning equipment is generally faster, offering scanning speeds of up to 120 pages per minute. The operators are also trained in quality control to ensure that every single page is scanned and indexed properly.

A scanning specialist will also help you scope your project, ensure your file naming system is determined prior to the job commencing, provide advice on a document management system and cloud or network storage options. A good digitising specialist will even provide you with the information you need to support your business case for the project, so that you can secure funding to have your digitisation done quickly and accurately.

Digitise with Micro Image

Micro Image follows best practice principles in document processing and complies with all State and Federal record keeping and digitisation guidelines, for the highest possible protection of documents. If you’d like a custom quote for your document scanning, data capture or automation solution, please email Micro Image or call us on (03) 9427 7958.

Let us create a custom solution to suit your exact needs.

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