Turn Your Paper Docs into Business Data, Part 1

Save Space.  Sounds simple enough, but have you stopped to think about the value of your office space?  What about your mental space?

David Allen, productivity guru and author of “Getting Things Done” points out that mental clarity or “space” is invaluable for creativity. One of the best (arguably the only) way to foster a creative environment is to have clear, open space in your work area to operate. Frequently, the reason we have papers all over our desk is to keep the information “right at hand.” If we can use our desktop computer to accomplish this instead, we are ahead of the game, and able to achieve clarity and focus.

We keep records in business because:

  • We are legally required to
  • We recognize there is good information contained there
  • Our business reporting processes need to refer to the information

Because these records are a necessity, we are stuck with them.  But a smart business leader will find a way to manage these records so they are:

  • Reliable: accurate, complete, and relevant.
  • Available: easy to use, where a user can quickly and easily find the information they are looking for.
  • Durable: The use of the records should not impair its quality going forward.

We have all heard that scanning your paper is a good idea, but its hard to just get started. Here’s the good news: you don’t have to address all these things all at once.  You can step in gradually.  The first step is to pick a date. Many organizations, especially ones that have a significant volume of paper coming in, will set a date to “digitize” their records from that time going forward. Day-forward scanning is an easy way to get started. Whenever new agreements, invoices, anything on paper comes into the office, just scan it right then.

Most people will scan paper into PDF, which is Adobe’s Portable Document Format.  There’s a lot of benefits to this that I won’t go into here. (Another blog, perhaps?) The only thing you have to worry about initially is how to name your files, and where to put them.  You can be as creative with names as you like, but try to use the KISS principle: short and simple is easier to remember, after all.  If you have a fileserver, just set up a space there for incoming documents. You may even want to change a few things initially, and this is the best time to do it.

All the paper that you already have is called backfile, and that’s where a scanning vendor can help you out.  Now that you’ve been scanning your own stuff for a while, you can tell the vendor what to scan, how to name it, and how you want the images delivered.

Once your documents are scanned, you can send them away to a storage facility, or just have the paper recycled.  Then you’re ready for Part 2: Indexing

Tim Peregoy, Client Engagement Manager for Axiom, has worked in the digital imaging sector for two decades. He welcomes your comments

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