Suppose you have decided to take the step towards digitization or increase the scope of your digitization efforts. You will be collecting lots of paper documents, scanning them with Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology, and maybe (hopefully) indexing them. These expenses can add up, so it is necessary to justify the value they add with the help of an M&A advisor.
Determine the extent of scanning
In the 21st century, we view documents as digital files and scanning as a superior solution, but is it always that simple? For some organizations, it may not make sense to go digital, at least not entirely. Here are some key points to consider determining the scope of your digitization project.
Can you effectively control digital documents after they are created?
Given the proliferation of obscure datasets, it is evident that people do not control the data being created. In many cases, organizations digitize documents without giving adequate thought to how to preserve them after they are created. These have no indexes or metadata, only hundreds of thousands of images with obscure serial numbers, making them both impossible to identify and control.
Does anyone in your company require simultaneous and remote access?
This is an inner concern that fluctuates from organization to organization. If a single person working in a remote office needs access to documents, they may well be content to retrieve them from a shelf.
What is the consultation rate for your documents?
If you have documents with long retention periods, but very low consultation rates, the digital format may not be the most cost-effective solution. In this case, the acid-free paper might suffice.
Three steps to the digitization
If you fail to align your processes and procedures from the start, digitization alone is not the solution to your problems. On the contrary, it can lengthen the list. That’s why you need to address three specific questions.
1. Do we understand our data? What don’t we need?
Have you ever worked for an organization with a large, shared drive filled with a multitude of files categorized into folders that are themselves placed in even more folders? It can be difficult to discover something if you do not understand where to look. No one is responsible. There is no structure, metadata, or process for entering new data. It is real chaos where users save all the files they want, whether they are needed or not.
That’s why you need to make sure you understand your data. Ask yourself these questions:
- Do we know what data we have and where it is stored?
- Do we have a metadata or indexing system in place?
- What is the value of the documents for the company?
- What regulatory compliance burden applies to data?
- How long do we need to keep the information?
Do we need to do complete digitization of all our documents, or will partial digitization better meet our needs?
2. What effect might migration have?
Another element must be considered before even migrating your data for the first time. In ten years, or maybe even in five years, you will have to migrate this data again to the next version of the repository you have chosen.
This might leave you between a hard place and a rock. Data migration is expensive, and you might not be ready to pay that cost. But your business may be part of a regulated industry that requires you to retain certain types of information for a specified period. In many cases, organizations have two systems: a state-of-the-art solution and an older solution that needs to be maintained because the data still has value or is subject to a regulatory requirement.
You must be prepared to think of two systems in advance.
3. Can a specific solution meet our needs?
The answer to this question depends on the two previous points.
If you do not know what your needs are, how can you choose a technology that meets them? All technology has advantages and disadvantages and comes with constant risks and challenges. Finding a balance between risk and need is an essential exercise, and it is not easy. Most people hope that the next generation of technology (whether it’s an imaging system, cloud computing, or the next popular tech) will be easy to use. Unfortunately, there is no easy solution.
What people end up doing is buying first and then implementing. They then discover that their very expensive technological installation has failed.
Plan first, implement later
Technology is not the solution. Your planning process is. Technologies are designed to solve a particular set of problems, which may not be the ones you face.
Don’t spend money until you fully understand your own needs and have done proper planning. An information governance advisor can educate you on regulatory requirements and help you eliminate redundant, outdated, or trivial information through M&A advisory.
Technology spending should happen at the very end of the digitization process, not at the beginning. Once you have done your due diligence, you’ll be able to tell whether technology is right for you or not. To determine if digitization is the solution, you must:
- think about your metadata.
- perform full indexing of the data you want to back up.
- digitize your data correctly.
Complete these three steps before choosing a scanning solution. If you don’t, you will find you have created a costly mess that not only has no value but also exposes your organization to greater danger than it faced before you started down the path. of digitization.