What Is Document Indexing

What is Document Indexing?

Since COVID-19 began to change the face of the average workplace, a huge spotlight has shone on converting paper documents to digital files.

Document Indexing provides the means to search for and retrieve documents in a digital format. In this process, you can tag search terms or phrases to facilitate faster search and retrieval.

Document scanning and indexing are two separate processes, but you really can’t have one without the other. No digital conversion is complete without an index, and an index isn’t possible without electronically converted documents.

Once you begin converting physical copies to digital, indexing is the next step towards a comprehensive document management solution.

Person searching through documents for indexing purposes.

What Is the Purpose of Indexing?

The primary purpose of indexing is to have the ability to quickly search for and retrieve information contained within your scanned documents. It can also help improve your office efficiencies by allowing your employees to search for info without having to manually comb through boxes of files.

What Are the Qualities of Good Indexing?

The end goal of an indexing project is to create a system where users can efficiently retrieve information. This is accomplished through:

  • Collaboration with end users (managers, department heads, employees) to get their opinions.
  • A simple system that is easy to use.
  • Inclusion of an option to search for specific fields on a document as well as full text.
  • The involvement of experienced indexing professionals, such as ILM, to help advise and guide you through the process.

Data used to Index Documents

One of the critical decisions for getting the most out of your new digital files is to choose what indexing criteria to use.

Some examples of data used for indexing includes:

  • Phone numbers
  • Customer numbers
  • Addresses
  • Dates
  • First and last names
  • Account numbers
  • Invoice number
  • Order number
  • Keyword descriptors

How Does It Differ from Industry to Industry?

One of the most essential factors in choosing indexing terms is how documents will be searched. For example, in a series of personnel files, first and last names and employment dates would be common means of searching.

Conversely, medical records could reference insurance policy numbers or patient birth date. The inclusion of commonly used search terms during document indexing will provide better results when your team searches for files.

How Does Document Indexing Function?

Document indexing works by attributing specific information to scanned documents that will allow for fast and efficient information retrieval. There are several methods for document indexing, each with its own unique advantages.

Methods for document indexing

There are plenty of methods available for indexing, which can make it challenging to determine the best way to organize data and information. Here are a few common options:

Full-Text Indexes

It’s easy to create full-text indexes. In this process, the system reads every word of the document and creates an index of each term and its location. While they are easier to process, full-text indexes will require a generous amount of storage space.

Field-Based Indexes

Field-based indexes provide a convenient way of locating information within a database. This type of indexing option allows the user to search for unique details to each document. For example, the field could be a date, time, or any other specified area.

Indexing Metadata

In this example, the index references pre-populated data, also known as metadata, to identify a document when searching. This is data that describes the document contents and is usually in the form of a summary. Metadata typically supplements and enhances the original data.

Why is Indexing So Important for Businesses?

There are several financial and legal reasons why companies should index their documents:

Save Time

Having to manually comb through hundreds or even thousands of files to find information takes a lot of time. Indexing allows for instantaneous information retrieval.

Save Money

Many larger companies have a dedicated room or warehouse to store their documents. Operating costs add up over time as more space and employees must manage the growing number of files and paperwork.

Legal Compliance

In many industries, such as medical, there are various rules and regulations that govern sensitive information protection. For example, paper records do not adequately protect sensitive patient information, nor do they comply with the strict HIPAA laws.

What’s Your Best Document Indexing Option?

Document indexing makes the search and retrieval of large volumes of documents seamless when applied correctly. However, the right indexing method is not one-size-fits-all. Whether documents are indexed by their full text, organized by fields, or supplemented with rich metadata, this choice drives the success of the entire system.

An experienced partner can help your team choose the proper indexing methods that fit your team’s unique practices. ILM’s team helps clients pick the best indexing methods and terms to use for the most effective searches possible.

Learn more about our document indexing services.

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