When Digitizing Paper Archives Goes Wrong

Delphine Wilson| January 8, 2020

As we ring in the new decade, the paperless office has proven elusive for most companies. But it’s not for lack of trying: 80% of organizations are “making an effort” to reduce their paper use.

Many organizations start their paper-reducing initiatives with their archives. For most companies, the cost savings of reducing physical storage outweigh the costs of converting paper-based archives to digital ones, so starting with archives makes a lot of sense.

But that’s assuming the conversion is both well-planned and well-executed, which is usually not the case. In this post, we’ll outline the three ways digital conversions usually go wrong, and how to make it right, so your conversion from paper to digital is as seamless as possible.  

 

3 Problematic Approaches to Archive Digitization

We’ll use three imaginary companies—Company A, Company B, and Company C—to illustrate where digitizing goes wrong. 

Let’s assume each company has bought into the idea of converting their records from paper form to digital to reduce their storage costs. At this stage, the logical next step for these companies is to get a few competitive quotes to scan the paper.

But when these companies receive their quotes, they’re shocked at the cost. At this point, they have three choices:

  1. Bite the bullet and scan everything.
  2. Continue doing what they were doing.
  3. Just scan the most critical information, and leave the rest where it is.

This is where each company diverges in its approach (and they all go wrong).

1- Company A Bites the Bullet

Company A chose the most affordable scanning vendor they could find. The vendor did a great job scanning their paper and returned it back to them on CDs.

From there, it didn’t take long for Company A to discover they had a bigger problem. 

They couldn’t find the documents they needed. Their files had been organized in folders by file cabinet, but there was no plan in place to organize their now-digital information. Searching the CDs and PDF files to find what they needed was taking much longer than it had in the past. 

As a result, their labor costs went up and they lost business. Without quick access to the information when, where, and how they needed it, their operation suffered. 

2- Company B Maintains the Status Quo

Company B continued to do what they had always done. The mountains of paper the business produced continued to pile up in both on-site and off-site storage, growing in size by 5 to 10 percent each year. Along with the increasing size of their paper collection, Company B’s storage costs continued to go up.

To make matters worse, the cost of managing and searching their information increased as well. Predictably, the business suffered as a result of growing costs and inefficiencies. 

As the business suffered, Company B began to lose out on business that was going to more streamlined digital competitors.

3- Company C Does a Partial Conversion

Company C decided the smart way to tackle the problem would be to scan the information that they needed most often and leave the rest in paper format. However, beyond that, they didn’t have a plan for how the information would be separated. 

Once a portion of paper documents was digitized, they quickly realized that things had actually gotten worse. Since they didn’t define how to prioritize their most-needed information versus their less-needed information, they had to look in multiple places to find what they needed. 

No one had a good plan for what to do with the new paper documents that they were making every day, and the whole system devolved into chaos.

Where it Went Wrong And How to Make it Better

As you might imagine, there are many ways digitization can go wrong beyond what we’ve covered here.

But there is a better way… and your streamlined digital competitors have figured it out. These companies work with scanning partners who extract findability information as documents are being digitized. These scanning partners store and index this information on an easily accessible, cloud-based system, so everything’s accessible at any time, anywhere they are.

When you engage these kinds of scanning partners, the cost of the solution can be amortized over several years to eliminate the high cost of conversion.

To see what it’s like to work with a scanning partner as described above, learn more about our Archiving services.