In recent years, document imaging projects – in which existing paper records are scanned and converted into electronic formats – have had a failure rate of around 50 percent. While that ratio is getting better, there are still too many imaging projects that fall short of the mark.
Why? Most often, it comes down to poor planning. There are many aspects to consider when planning a document conversion, and without the benefit of past experience, many organizations often overlook critical elements.
6 steps to planning a successful imaging program
If your organization is bogged down in a failing imaging project or hesitating to start one owing to the perceived risks, the good news is that there are clear steps to follow to ensure success.
- Obtain Executive Support. Even when they are planned well, imaging programs can be a challenge for organizations in terms of the costs, time, and resources required. Senior backing for the program is absolutely essential to ensure that the process is seen through to a successful finish. To obtain that support, the business benefits have to be clearly articulated. These include: increased staff productivity, reduced or eliminated space or staffing requirements, improved customer service, guaranteed legislative compliance, and improved disaster recovery. It’s a long list!
- Define Your Storage, Retrieval and Usage Requirements. This is about understanding how documents are used and how imaging can enable these processes. Every change introduced by the document imaging project must improve or simplify existing workflows. It’s that simple. Determining which storage method you will use (from physical media to networked shared drives to information management systems) is also essential at this point because it will influence how the conversion is completed. This includes everything from the required image format, to the data that needs to accompany them.
- Perform an Assessment of Existing Documents. This is a very important step, and one that can save a great deal of time and expense during the conversion process. By examining your current documents and retention requirements, you can purge out of date, duplicate and non-record materials. As an example, one organization learned during this process that 40% of its stored records were past their retention periods and didn’t require scanning. Clearly, auditing what you have today can save a great deal on your conversion project.
- Design the Project. The biggest determinant of how the project will unfold is the decision of whether to do the conversion on your own or to enlist the help of a partner. In-house conversions require many more decisions to be made, including the choice of imaging system and conversion software, production planning, staffing, training and support. Outsourcing the project to a partner eliminates the need for many of these decisions and often reduced the overall time required.
- Design the Scanning Process. It goes without saying that image quality and accuracy are vitally important to the successful retrieval and use of imaged documents. So in keeping with the overall theme, no detail should be left to chance when it comes to the scanning process. Specific tasks that should be addressed include: document preparation, the actual scanning, the quality checking process, attaching any meta data to the images, OCR requirements, release or import into the storage environment, and lastly, file reassembly or destruction as required.
- Manage Change: Before, During, After. This aspect is probably as important as the others put together. Without the participation and support of the staff who will use the imaged documents, the promised business benefits are at risk of not being realized. At all stages it is essential to communicate project details and status, and to gather input from stakeholders and end users. A timely and well-constructed training program for end users is also important. To minimize the impact of the project it also helps to ensure that active documents are accessible throughout the process.
While each organization will have different circumstances, these steps offer a proven framework that can be applied to any situation, helping you avoid the pitfalls of a poorly planned conversion project.