One major decision facing every organization after it decides to convert its paper documents to digital is where along the historical continuum of file and records should they start the process. Long-standing companies might have decades of customer files to consider. Healthcare providers may be legally required to maintain records for a period of time. What’s the right option for your organization?

Let’s first define the file conversion options that are available:

Backfile Conversion

Backfile Conversion – digitizing legacy documents associated with previous year’s activities. Backfile conversions can be done in bulk to all existing files or for select years.

Day Forward Scanning

Day Forward Scanning – documents that are currently active are converted as they come into the workflow system. All new data and documents are automatically converted from a set point in time onward.

Scan On Demand

Scan On Demand – as the need for certain files or types of documents, which currently exist in paper format, is realized the documents are converted to digital format.

In many cases, all three types of conversions are used when implementing an Electronic Document Management (ECM) system. Day forward conversion is always utilized because it is critical to increasing the efficiency of any ECM. The time it takes to scan new documents is equivalent to old paper filing methods. Backfile conversion and scan on demand requires a more concerted effort of reviewing existing paper files and preparing them for conversion.

Gaining a better understanding of how different files and records are used can help businesses determine which conversion option or combination will work best. Asking questions about document use will help in assessing what conversion is required.

Determining Document Conversion Needs

  1. Are the documents accessed frequently?
  2. Do they require distribution or simultaneous access by different employees?
  3. Must the documents be retained for a long period of time?
  4. Are the documents vital to the organization and require backup copies for disaster recovery?
  5. What are the regulatory requirements for certain types of documents?
  6. How many users might need access to inactive files and how often would they be accessed?

Keep in mind that decisions made about document conversion at the start of the process can always be augmented with scan on demand, if additional documents need to be added to the ECM workflow. Scan on demand can also be done at a later time to help eliminate the need for file storage space. Scan on demand can be handled in-house staff or outsourced to professional document conversion providers. Many document conversion companies offer file storage at secure facilities. Then, as files are needed, they are converted to digital formats and made available for use. Once converted, the original paper files can then be destroyed and no longer stored.