Document Management

How to Prepare Your Paper Files for Electronic Document Management

How to Prepare Your Paper Files for Electronic Document Management

by Pat Pharr - February 23, 2017

Sometime in the future, when paper documents have disappeared and gone the way of cuneiform written on clay tablets, paper may be relegated to museums alongside papyrus and parchment.

But for now, mountains of paper documents still occupy many offices, and must be converted to digital form in order to reap the many benefits of a document management solution (DMS).

Often, implementing a DMS involves preparing large amounts of paper documents for subsequent scanning and indexing. Of these three steps — document preparation, scanning and indexing — the most labor intensive is the prep.

And, because it can save an enterprise significant time and money, proper planning and careful pre-scanning document preparation deserves its own blog post. Scanning and indexing will be discussed in a future post.

Keep reading for more info about the 3 key steps for successfully preparing paper documents to be loaded into your electronic content management system.

Scanning: An arduous yet vital task

Back file scanning begins with the often mundane, yet critical first step of preparing large amounts of disparate documents for scanning, either manually, or through an automatic document feeder (ADF).

Unfortunately, there's no way to avoid these critical components of the document management implementation process, unless your company is brand new or has no use or future need for historical documents and data. However, a systematic and disciplined approach to doc prep will go a long way toward fast and accurate scanning and indexing.

Here are just a few simple tips to make the scanning process easier. On the surface, they may sound like common sense, but they are essential to the successful implementation of any DMS project.

1. Separate the Documents

It sounds obvious, but it is amazing how sneaky those staples, paper clips and tape strips can be. This task may be boring, but it is a very important part of the conversion process. It should be done a reasonable distance from the scanner.

collection of various pushpins on white background. each one is shot separately.jpegRouge staples and paper clips can damage a scanner or MFP if they are inadvertently run through the device. In addition, their impressions, left after scanning or copying of the original file, are often times an unwanted leftover seal on the output file.

If documents must be taped, make sure it is even and flat. If necessary, encase old or brittle documents in clear plastic sleeves. Be especially vigilant for stick on Post-it-Notes.

Straighten out any folds in the documents to ensure that information in the folded section will be scanned. And don’t forget those bent corners.

2. Organize and Categorize the Documents

At the same time that the documents are being separated, their characteristics should be noted. Are they black and white? Color? One sided or double-sided? Are they all 8.5 x 11, or are some legal sized? Are there any index cards, cancelled checks, drawings, blueprints, invoices, etc.?

Document differences will vary depending on the nature of your enterprise. They may be medical records, legal files, employee records, or any variety of documents. This is an opportunity to determine how to classify documents for later scanning and indexing. 

Documents of the same type can often be scanned in batches with the appropriate categorization. Mixed types can be prepared for digital folder level categories using document capture software.

3. Quality Assurance

As you handle these documents manually, try to think digitally. Once they are stored digitally their text will most likely need to be searched at some time. What is their print quality? They may be laser printed, dot matrix or fax printed.

Searching text in scanned documents requires optical character recognition (OCR), which is dependent on image and document quality. OCR should be combined with a good document indexing scheme to ensure accuracy.

Time and effort in this phase of a document management solution will go a long way toward determining your scanning volume, the amount of man-hours that will be needed and what type of scanning hardware and/or software will be required. 

Related: [ FREE WORKBOOK ] Is Document Management Right for You?

These steps might seem tedious, but rest assured that following these simple rules will make your backfile scanning project and DMS implementation much smoother. Separating, organizing and scanning takes a lot of prep but it's worth it when you consider the time, money and energy it saves you in the long run.

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