No matter what their task is, federal agencies tend to generate a lot of paperwork. Unfortunately, all this paperwork can be cumbersome. Paper documents are plagued with problems that can make them difficult and costly to deal with. Consider these potential difficulties surrounding paper documents.
Paper documents take up a lot of space; the paper generated by even a small office can quickly grow to fill multiple file cabinets. In addition, different types of documents have different retention requirements. Some records you may have to keep for only a few months, while you must retain other documents for much longer or even permanently.
To be truly useful, your documents must be accessible. Finding a particular document quickly can be difficult or impossible, and there is no simple way to search the contents of paper documents.
Federal Guidelines may require special security precautions for documents containing personal or confidential information.
When it comes to these issues, electronic documents are clearly better than paper documents.
Converting paper documents to electronic is not a terribly complex process. There are three steps.
Scanning is the process of making an electronic copy of a paper document. In essence, it is simply taking a high-resolution picture of the document.
This is the process of converting the text of the paper document into an electronic text format that a computer can search.
3. Destruction or Storage of Originals
Certain types of sensitive documents must be securely destroyed once they have been copied to maintain security. Legal guidelines may require that you retain physical copies of other types of documents.
These three steps must be completed to a high standard of quality if electronic documents are to be truly useful.
Can You Manage It?
The process of converting paper documents may not be complex, but it does require particular equipment, experience and expertise. Consumer grade equipment for scanning and indexing documents is not particularly expensive, but to convert hundreds or thousands of pages of paper documents using this type of hardware would be a daunting project; enterprise grade scanning and indexing hardware and software is a better choice. Most organizations do not have the personnel or the technology required to accomplish this task. For many agencies, outsourcing the conversion process is a better option. In this case, you must be certain to find a contractor that meets Federal Contractor Requirements for security and diversity, or you could find your organization out of compliance.
In most respects, electronic documents are much more desirable than paper documents. They are easier to store, search and secure. If your organization maintains a large collection of paper documents, converting them to electronic format may be appropriate and cost effective.