Years of experience with complex backfile conversion projects have helped top outsourced document scanning services establish tried and true procedures for completing the process.
A proper paper-to-digital backfile conversion begins with the presentation of the business case, proceeds into planning, testing and ramp-up phases, and concludes with final production, quality control checks and digital archiving of the scanned documents.
Business case for backfile conversion
The business case for a typical backfile conversion revolves around the creation of efficiencies in the work environment. A well-indexed archive stored on your servers or in the cloud eliminates the need for bulky, space-wasting file cabinets, and facilitates instant electronic access to documents and information.
Likewise, a proper backfile conversion allows a business to store its entire document collection – past, present and future – in a single system. All documents and information can then be accessed the same way, instantly, by any authorized employee and multiple employees can review the same document at the same time without making expensive and wasteful copies.
Traditional paper isn’t the only medium that can be converted into a digital archive. Top imaging vendors can also scan microfilm and microfiche, aperture cards and oversized engineering drawings, as well as image to image conversions.
Designing the backfile conversion process
Once the business case has been presented and accepted, the structure of the specific job must be designed. This process essentially defines the “who, what, where, when and how” of a business’ backfile conversion.
The business must first decide whether to attempt the conversion itself, or hire an outside expert. Assuming the outsourced approach is chosen, the business must then choose between on-site, off-site and hybrid approaches (see Chapter 1: Types of Backfile Conversion). These decisions should be made after thorough consideration of the pros and cons of each approach, and with consultation from an experienced imaging expert.
At this point, it must be determined which documents and sets of documents should be included in the backfile conversion project. Top candidates include high-value documents that, on average, are retrieved quarterly or more, workflow-dependent documents, documents with legal requirements for retention and indispensable documents that are necessary infrequently, but must be retrieved quickly when needed. In addition any document that is considered Vital to the business should be digitized and backed up for disaster contingency planning purposes.
Specific document security concerns and the individual business’ indexing needs should be addressed at this stage in the backfile conversion process. Top outsourced imaging services are capable of meeting nearly any request, no matter how unusual.
Process development and testing
After a project plan is developed in conjunction with the client, the imaging vendor begins development on the individualized backfile conversion blueprint. Parameters for the job – on-site, off-site or hybrid – are established, internal responsibility is assigned and review procedures begin.
At this stage, small-scale trials are performed to test the efficacy of the process plan and source materials. Sample documents are scanned and viewed in the system to confirm quality, and final preparations and adjustments are made before the backfile conversion is actually performed.
Ramp-up, performance and production
Once testing has confirmed the specific backfile conversion procedure will function as required, the actual scanning work is completed.
Documents to be digitally captured are pulled from their shelves or file cabinets (“dead” document collections can be purged at this point). Once the documents are pulled, labeled and a manifest is created, they’re boxed and transported to the ultimate scanning location, checked in and prepped.
Top outsourced imaging services log every step and change for every document – arrival time, removal of a staple and departure time, for instance – from pulling to final archiving.
Classification and indexing
A business’ backfile is anything but an undifferentiated lump of paper. To make a backfile conversion an effective long-term tool, the proper classification and indexing of documents is absolutely key.
Classification, essentially, is labeling a document as a particular “type” – an invoice, for example, a purchase order or a contract. This can be done manually, but top outsourced imaging services offer auto-classification – complex sets of business rules that automatically classify documents based on the information they contain. Elite vendors create unique document classification manuals for every backfile conversion job, then certify employees separately for each project.
Indexing turns the massive image archive that results from a backfile conversion into a wealth of usable business information. Documents can be indexed before or after the scanning process, automatically or by manually.
Indexing before the scan is called pre-indexing. In this process, barcodes are affixed to documents or inserted between them, “telling” the imaging service’s software what taxonomies and metadata to attach to each image.
Indexing after the scan, or post-indexing, can take either manual or automatic form. Manual indexing involves the physical keying of information from each document or image. Auto indexing utilizes intelligent capture technology to extract information, apply business rules and auto-create taxonomies and metadata.
What if I need a document while it is being scanned?
Top outsourced imaging services offer customers easy access via email to any project file during any stage of the backfile conversion process via “checkout” procedures.
Top outsourced imaging services use state-of-the-art scanning production equipment to capture pages extremely quickly. Scans are typically done in color or black and white at either 200 or 300 DPI. Grayscale image capture is rare, but possible.
Quality control checks are, perhaps, the most important part of the entire backfile conversion process. Leading document scanning vendors employ a dedicated quality control team, which checks each scanned version against the original page for resolution, density, skew, dog-ears, folds and other imperfections. Unacceptable or missing images are flagged with electronic notes, indicating why the image was rejected, and rejected images are staged for reprocessing, rescanning and reinspection.
Before choosing an outsourced imaging service, check their quality control procedures. What is their accuracy rate? How satisfied are their past customers? Do they utilize Continuous Improvement and lean Six Sigma protocols to improve upon previous performance?
Once the prep, classification, indexing, scanning and quality control procedures are completed, the digital backfile is delivered to the customer. The new digital information can be uploaded to any system of the client’s choosing, including internal file management systems and third-party content management systems. Top outsourced imaging services offer their own cloud-based digital document repositories.
Physical documents are then returned, stored at a third-party facility or shredded.
Specialized backfile conversions
Top outsourced imaging services offer several types of specialized backfile conversion solutions, in addition to the traditional method of scanning, indexing and archiving the entire physical paper archive. These include scanning oversize documents, microfilm, microfiche or aperature cards, image-to-image conversion, and image on demand scanning.
Image-to-image conversion involves the transfer of images from a legacy imaging or document management systems to a new one. This could be because the legacy system is obsolete, or no longer serves the business’ needs. Top outsourced imaging services can even convert outdated or proprietary image file formats to contemporary formats, like .JPG, .TIFF and .EPS.
Image on demand℠
Image on demand conversions, also called “scan by request,” involve digitizing documents (or files) individually as needed, rather than all at once. This option is useful for companies with large numbers of rarely accessed, but extremely important, legacy documents.