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 - August 30, 2022

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 to harness the advantages of a document management system (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 preparation is the most labor-intensive.

Implementing a systematic document preparation process can save an enterprise significant time and money. To ensure smooth implementation, let’s review three key steps for successfully preparing paper documents for your electronic document management system.

Scanning: A Taxing Yet Vital Task

Backfile 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of the document management implementation process, unless your company is brand new or has no use or future need for historical documents and data.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 document preparation will go a long way toward fast and accurate scanning and indexing.

>> Are you transitioning to a digital document management system? Discover the  advantages of an Enterprise Content Management (ECM) solution.

3 Tips for Successful Electronic Document Management System Implementation

Here are a few simple tips to make the scanning process more manageable. They may sound like common sense, but they are essential to the successful implementation of any document management system.

1. Separate the Documents

It’s impressive how sneaky those staples, paper clips, and tape strips can be. This task may be tedious, but it is an integral part of the conversion process. Separating the documents should be done at a reasonable distance from the scanner.

Rouge staples and paper clips can damage a scanner or multi-function printer (MFP) if they are inadvertently run through the device. In addition, their impressions, left after scanning or copying the original file, are often 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 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, there are a few questions to use to help organize your documents:

  • Are they black and white?
  • Are they in color?
  • Are they one-sided or double-sided?
  • What size are the documents? Are they all 8.5 x 11, or are some legal-sized?
  • What type of documents are they? Are there index cards, canceled 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 a variety of documents. This is an opportunity to determine how to classify documents for later scanning and indexing.

Similar documents can be scanned in batches with the appropriate categorization. Mixed-type can be prepared for digital folder-level categories using document capture software.

3. Ensure 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 depends 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 labor needed, and what type of scanning hardware and/or software will be required.

Streamline DMS Implementation with Intelligent Information Management Services

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 your organization in the long run.

Businesses interested in DMS implementation should consult a qualified information management specialist. Highly-trained technicians will design an end-to-end solution for information capture, including emails, PDFs, or paper documents.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on February 23, 2017, and has been updated for accuracy and current best practices.

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