Document Scanning: Is It Right for Me? 3 Deciding Factors

People often want to work more efficiently and a great start is to have instant access to their critical digital documents. But many companies are still swamped with paper and not sure how to get the ball rolling toward a paperless environment. Still yet, many decision makers are unsure about what factors are most important to consider before diving head first into a scanning project.

At ILM, we pride ourselves on being able to help clients make better business decisions. Having been in business now for 42 years, we have found that better decision-making starts with accessible, accurate data.

After all, that’s why we convert your paper and micrographic documents into electronic formats that can be retrieved at the click of a button. Before we get there, we also help our clients make sure a document scanning project is not only the right technical solution but also provides strong return on investment (ROI). Below are three critical factors  that will help you determine whether or not a document scanning project is the right solution for your organization.

1. What’s the Purpose?

This is the first question we will always ask prospective clients.

While many of ILM’s clients are referred by other happy customers when they are on the cusp of a scanning project, many potential clients find themselves on Google typing in “document scanning service provider” or something similar as a first step.

After curating a list of possible vendors, they will reach out and simply ask for a quote. Here at ILM, we encourage clients to first determine the necessity of such a project before finding potential vendors and soliciting quotes. Successful clients find that there are at least one of the following three reasons behind needing to have documents scanned:

Lots of people in lots of places – Need to share critical data with stakeholders in multiple locations

If documents or records are locked in a central file room, in an office across the state, or in an off-site warehouse, it is virtually impossible to share these static paper or microfilm documents.The best organizations can instantaneously and securely share information with just a few clicks of a mouse.

I need it NOW! – Instant access to information

An electronic file, when  properly indexed, should take no more than a few seconds to retrieve. Decisions need to happen quickly and access to this accurate information is vital to a successful outcome.  Many of our clients are accessing information such as call centers or need to approve credit applications.

They tell me I have to save it – Need to meet a regulatory requirement

When records have retention schedules beyond a few years, it is oftentimes the most cost-effective option to digitize them. This frees up office space and provides a secure way to maintain information for an indefinite time period since there is minimal risk of loss, damage, or misplacement.  Having a secure digital file ensures that multiple backups can be created and reduce the loss of information through destruction or mis-filing.

Perhaps your organization has another reason for wanting to digitize documents or records. Whatever your unique situation, we will work with you to ensure that it is in your long-term operational and financial interest to scan documents rather than store them.

2. What’s the cost?

In almost every case, the option to physically store documents is about six times cheaper than scanning them.

Why? Depending on the volume of boxes or filing cabinets you have, it will typically cost around $5 per box (Bankers Box size) per year to store.  Alternatively, scanning a box of documents ranges between $150 and $200 depending on how many boxes you have, how full the boxes are, and how many “extras” you are looking for.

Purely from a short-term cost perspective, it is much cheaper to store your documents whether on- or off-site.

You will also want to consider additional factors outside of cost, including:  

  • Security
  • Accessibility
  • Regulatory requirements
  • Ease of use
  • Risk of loss or damage

When these issues are carefully weighed, you can gain a much more comprehensive understanding of why the cost is just one of many important factors in your decision to scan documents vs. store documents. Many of our clients or prospects who choose to physically store the only copy of their documents understand the risk that those documents may be lost, stolen, or destroyed.

At ILM, we will work with you to help you determine the goals of your organization when it comes to managing paper and information.

3. How would digitized documents be used?

Start with the end in mind. How will end users actually use the documents? Will they be electronically stored permanently and never touched except in rare cases? Or will they be accessed and used every day by multiple users?

The frequency with which your documents will be used helps determine several factors, like:

  • File format
  • Indexing methodology
  • OCR/search capability

The level of indexing, such as folder, or document-level, can drastically affect overall outcomes as well. For example, if users in your office look up physical files by their ID number but only last name and first name are used to name the electronic file, it would be difficult to access.

If you find that most of your documents will rarely be accessedd or needed electronically, it will typically make more sense to simply store the materials and pull the physical documents as needed. On the other hand, if many employees or staff members are constantly going to the file room to pull and use documents, digitizing them can prove to be a substantial time saver.

Using OCR for Document Scanning Projects

The use of optical character recognition (OCR) can also have a notable impact on your project’s success. OCR turns a picture of your document into an editable document that you can now search, edit and manipulate. OCR accuracy will vary greatly depending on the quality of your documents, so performing a test prior to live production is advisable.

Every Time Guarantee for Document Scanning Projects

As you conduct research to determine the feasibility of a document scanning project for your office or organization, sometimes the most effective step is making a phone call. At ILM, we’ll help you determine how to get started on your project.

It is our priority to provide expert document scanning services – and help you determine if it is right for you. ILM’s Every Time Guarantee was established to ensure your document scanning project is completed in the right way, on time or you don’t pay.

If you are interested in learning more, give us a call at 540-898-1406.