One of the most common questions I have gotten over the past decade working in document management is “What is the best approach to scanning our old files?” There are three different approaches you can try that will help you stay organized while converting your documents and going paperless.
1. Scan three to five years’ worth of your files.
Depending on your industry, you will want to look at the document retention period that applies to you – typically three, five, or seven years. That will tell you how far back to scan. Once you have determined how many years’ of files to scan, you’re all set and ready to go. It is just a matter of taking the files out and scanning.
Another thing that you will want to determine is how fast you want to scan the files in. This will determine what kind of workforce and equipment you will need for scanning documents. My next blog article will actually discuss how to determine what equipment you need to scan, as well as how to determine how long it will take.
Just remember the old saying of how to eat an elephant, one bite at a time. The same thing applies here. If you have been in business awhile, then you shouldn’t expect to see this project completed overnight. You may want to first decide to pick a part of your business to take paperless and then take the next bite later.
2. Hire a scanning bureau or scanning service to scan for you.
Having a scanning bureau scan your files is another option, even if a more expensive option in most cases. Some bureaus will come and scan your files onsite, but most of them take your files offsite and scan. Some of these bureaus have scanners that scan ridiculously fast and their methods can complete a job quickly for you. If you are under some kind of a deadline, this could be a viable option for you. Scanning bureaus usually charge anywhere from $.04 – .10 a page, and they may determine that by the volume, along with the prep time it will take them. To find a bureau, you can either ask local businesses for referrals or perform a simple search engine search and look for reviews.
3. Pick a date and move forward from there.
Some companies I have worked with have decided that they weren’t going to go backwards to scan their archived documents. This is a viable option if you rarely need to pull up old documents. To implement this option, select the date you are going to start scanning everything that is critical to your business that comes in the door and scan religiously from that date forward.
There are two things that I would add to this option though. The first is that you will need to look at how long you should keep your physical documents. Do you need to keep them forever? Are there regulations in place that require you to hold onto them for a specific number of years? If so, how many?
This leads me to the second suggestion. When applying this suggestion, you might also consider adding the following: When you grab an archived file out of the file cabinet to look at, do not put it back. Get that file scanned. Chances are, if you’re reviewing that file, you will look at it again in the future and will save time scanning it now.
Scanning – Accelerated and Simplified
Whether you do the scanning yourself or hire it out to a scanning bureau, you’ll want to implement the fastest, most efficient scanning practices possible for all of your ongoing scanning. Slow, cumbersome scanners and poorly-designed software will almost guarantee that you’ll fall behind in your scanning and end up in the same paper mire that’s slowing you down now.
In upcoming blog posts, we’ll address the hardware, software and practices that will help ensure your success going forward. In the meantime, explore the paperless office software offerings of FileCenter DMS and begin to plan for your effective transformation to a paperless office.