Information Management, Going Paperless All Wrong

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There is this huge fad out there to have a paperless office. Some people are blindsided by the obvious benefits of going paperless (hey I have this entire room-full of boxes of paper, if I just scan them in, imagine all the money I can save on storage!!) that they don’t pause to consider the future ramifications of their ‘going paperless’ decisions. At this point, someone (usually a manager) decides that they NEED to go paperless, it’s the wave of the future, we will save so much money and time etc… at this point the only part of the ‘going paperless project’ they are focusing on is the scanning! It’s easy they decide, I’ll just go to the local stuffmart and buy me a $300 all-in-one scanner faxer, do-a-whatsit and start scanning away! I’m a genius! Red alerts should be going off in your mind about now! Never mind that having random people, buying random IT resources is never a good idea. But my manager friend, at this point you have successfully created the worst paperless system possible. There are numerous factors that you have not taken into account.

Lets start of with the easy ones. Chances are you didn’t get a multi sheet feed scanner. Chances are you didn’t get a multiside scanner. You will be single sheet feeding ’till the cows come home. Lets say your scanner doesn’t suck, do you know what DPI to scan at? You don’t want too high or you will have unmanageably large files, you don’t want too small or you will lose necessary detail. Are you going to run any sort of OCR (optical character recognition)? what your not? how do you plan to search and find these scanned documents? are you going to implement some sort of manual data entry, or tagging? Are you going to use any image pre-processing like Kofax-VRS that can make “difficult-to-read or damaged documents legible, auto-rotate documents” etc…

How do you expect to use the documents that you have scanned in? how do they fit into your workflow? what about searching for files. You just converted an entire room full of paper into PDF’s and they are named things like 01212007123A.pdf what are you going to do with them? did you individually rename them all and then place them into neat little folders? so you are going to use windows search to find the documents? have you ever seriously tried to use windows search to find one document among 20,000 PDF’s? It does not work well.

Going paperless is an expensive and lengthy process that can easily fail. You need real hardware in order to scan well. You need people who know what they are doing to do the scanning. You need some method of organizing the output, be it a content management system, a web portal etc.. you need some way of actually finding the document you want, you need some way of knowing what information the document contains, tagging, ORC etc… and on top of all of this you need to know the legal policies regarding the documents that you are storing. What are your data retention policies? Oh yeah and how are you backing up this paperless monstrosity?

A stuffmart scanner and hiring a mcWorker to scan is not the way to go paperless. Otherwise you will have 20,000 PDF’s that no one can find anything inside of. How’s that for improving your processes.