All documentation and business information has a lifecycle. Grace can offer assistance and provide a range of services to assist at any point of this lifecycle.
Business Information Lifecycle
Q. Why should we convert paper documents into electronic images?
A. Organizations may experience many benefits from document conversions these can include: faster retrieval of documents, simultaneous access to a single document and elimination of misfiled and misplaced paperwork, reduction in physical storage requirements. In addition to these benefits clients may utilize converted images to include in their web content, or realize competitive advantages in their industry due to quicker access of information and thus better servicing their client base.
Q. What should I do to get started converting documents?
A. Prior to any hardware or software purchases we recommend that you conduct an internal survey and assessment of your current records and any workflow process where these same records are accessed. Without this effort, implementing an automated solution to an ill-defined process and set of records only serves to automate the “mess”. The benefits of any new automated solution will not be realized.
Q. Should I tackle the internal assessment and survey myself?
A. If your organization has qualified records managers then it certainly is possible to assess the current state of records and business process they are used in. Otherwise, you should consider a consultant. This can be someone that only does records and technology solutions consulting or many conversion service companies also provide document consulting as well.
Q. What is the advantage of using a conversion service company to provide consulting?
A. A conversion service company with the appropriate expertise is capable of assessing the document characteristics and working with you determines which if any of the existing records should be considered for conversion. In addition, they can map the documents through the business process and plan any actual conversion that may need to occur. Conversion companies that do not provide hardware/software solutions can be more objective in helping you to establish the correct solution and many typically partner with a variety of technology providers representing the industries best software.
Q. Where should the actual conversion project take place?
A. Your choices may include on-site, off-site, or a combination of both depending on your physical space, business requirements, and legal dictates.
Q. What type of material (paper, forms, maps) will be imaged?
A. You must take into consideration various sizes, colours and general conditions of documents. These factors will affect the speed of conversion and the type of scanners and software required to capture the images. Some special considerations may be necessary for older, brittle documents, or documents considered confidential. Few organizations have records that are consistently the same type of material and quality. Therefore, more than one type of document scanner may be required to provide the best image quality. Conversion service companies run their operations with a variety of document scanners and capture software thus supporting the varied needs of an organizations business records.
Q. What type of indexing utility will you use and why? (i.e. OCR, ICR, barcode separator sheets, text separator sheets)
A. Each of the above options has pros and cons. Some methods are faster but less reliable. Others are necessary but slower. Back-file conversion, dealing with large volumes of paper, may require one set of indexing rules, while day forward efforts may utilize a different solution.
Q. How is your organization going to track the documents and images throughout the process?
A. From the time the document or file leaves its “home location” you must have a way to retrieve it instantly if necessary. A barcode scanning system is the most practical way to insure converted, and yet to be converted documents and files are retrievable regardless of location or status.
Q. How are you going to plan for and incorporate multiple document types, are indexes going to be handled differently for different types of documents? (i.e. a loan document may have a loan number, however a correspondence file associated to the loan may have no reference to the loan number but you still need to marry the two in an image file)
A. Many predetermined conditions may affect what you can, and cannot do during your conversion. The way documents have been assembled in folders may have a great impact on your approach to imaging. Unfortunately, file folder assembly techniques may not have been optimized for your imaging project. Are the documents generally in good condition, in good order and grouped together? Is paperwork filed in chronological order, are they well organized? Over time contents of files may have been duplicated, cross-referenced to other files, combined or interfiled with related folders. All of the above conditions must be addressed prior to starting your project.
Q. How will document conversion affect the business and workflow process?
A. Document conversion projects deal with real assets of the organization, information. It is critical that the employees of the organization are considered when the project is planned. Creation of procedures should be established to insure operations and workflow is not negatively affected.
Q. Should we do a back-file conversion or just “day forward documents”?
A. This decision will vary based on several factors. In general back-file conversions procedures will be quite different from day forward procedures. Retention periods of documents and records must be examined. Older documents may be ready for destruction and scanning may be unnecessary. Obsolete documents should not be imaged. Day forward imaging decisions should be based on current and future retrieval patterns. These should be reviewed to see how frequently documents are accessed, why they are accessed and how many users require them for viewing to complete their tasks.
Q. How long will it take before the project is done?
A. Usually this is the most difficult question to answer. Many variables will determine what you consider fully functional. Conversions are much more labour intensive then organizations realize. Labour availability and training, system complexity and the sheer volume and complexity of information to convert will greatly effect the time to complete your project.
Q. Who and how will documents be staged, prepped, scanned and stored?
A. The majority of expenses associated with imaging conversions are in employee labour. Labour intensive activities may include, document and file staging, organizing the files, removing staples and paperclips, scanning the documents, performing quality control on the images, performing data entry for indexing if required, rebuilding the file, packing the files into boxes for storage, storing or destroying the files. The activity of actually scanning the document into a scanner is only a small aspect of the project.
Q. What is the best imaging hardware and software to use?
A. As mentioned above, On-Site and Off-Site conversions choices will greatly affect your purchasing decisions. It is strongly recommended that you design your project on paper prior to purchasing any equipment. Outsourcing the back-file conversion may be an option. This allows your organization to experience the benefit of extremely high-speed conversion without the associated investment. This may also allow you to start day forward, on-site scanning with more economical scanners. There are many image capture software companies and a number of image compression formats. It is very important to select a vendor who will complement your imaging needs.
Q. What should we do with the documents after they are scanned?
A. Often this is a neglected issue in conversion projects. Assuming all files should be destroyed, may have litigious ramifications. Retaining the documents or images too long may also be unnecessary and costly. Storing the document in an off-site storage centre may be a good solution, however you must have a method to effectively locate, retrieve and destroy the documents in a timely manner. A record storage facility can provide the ability to locate and send key documents as they are needed in a variety of delivery modes. These include scanning and sending via email, delivering the original documents through a courier or FedEx type service, or faxing the documents. Through tracking and retention software they can remind you when record destruction dates occur and then even provide document destruction and verification.
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