Physical File Scanning: Where to Start and Tips for Success

For many organizations, off site physical file storage was a means to quickly address a need for space limitations or costs savings during times of high corporate rent. For others, file rooms have been growing for quite some time and may still be managed in-house or outsourced. Boxes that were being sent off or files being created and dropped off in file rooms addressed short terms pains when the upfront investment of conversion through scanning proved less than as attractive. Shipping a few boxes off or adding a couple of shelves to file rooms is easy, but it quickly becomes an organizational habit.

In the case of many offsite storage providers, every time a box or file is sent offsite it becomes subject to permanent withdrawal fees. While centralized records management teams can help organizations stay on top of destruction and ensure that only true records are being retained… the overall increase in paper continues.

So what should you do? With tightening budgets and resource constraints the promise of a truly electronic approach touted by endless articles and experts seems farther out of reach. In this blog we explore key strategies of how to approach this issue and what to look for in a partner to ensure success.

Consider High Use and Business Critical Collections First to Prove ROI

Many collections, arguably all collections, in an organization could benefit from conversion to electronic, but where do you start? Being by assessing high use or business critical collections, this is a great way to make the scope of a project more palatable. It also allows for returns from smaller projects to be reinvested in to future collections. Large projects require higher levels of approval and compete with other highly visible ventures so consider assessing which collections or file rooms would benefit most from conversion.

Scan with Destruction in Mind

Scanning for convenience is...well…convenient, but scanning with destruction in mind offers a higher return on your investment and typically higher quality, which helps to increase adoption across the organization. Why incur the costs of repeatedly scanning documents and increase the difficulty of tracking the latest version? Yes, some documents must be retained in physical form, but these are by far the minority. The key to a safe conversion project with successful destruction is to understand the compliance requirements. In Canada one of the key standards is CAN CGSB. Partnering with a service bureau who can adhere to the highest standards allows you to safely work with the experts to ensure your program meets the standards for safe destruction.

Consider a Hybrid Model—Scan Files as Used

Traditionally, conversion projects have been completed as one large project, where all of the upfront costs are absorbed by the organization at one time. To limit this, a hybrid model can be introduced where files are scanned at the time they are pulled. This helps to better align the scanning costs with existing operational budgets.

Partner Accountability: Physical vs Electronic Requests

When scanning with destruction, the costs of pulling physical file are replaced by the cost of a one-time scan. A good partner will support you by not charging permanent withdrawal fees and will not charge you for pulling a physical file if one is needed. This approach is not supported by service providers who are physical file focused. It is important to seek out a partner that has some ‘skin in the game’ and will support the change management requirements of encouraging adoption of the scan over the physical file. This is key for organizations that want to avoid falling back in to bad habits.

Nice to Have

Other things you may want to considerations when choosing a partner:  Can they support you across multiple countries and continents? Is there an option for onsite support or a ‘store front’? Can they assist in negotiating out of existing contracts with hefty permanent withdrawal fees? These questions are especially good to ask if you are transitioning away from an onsite file room.

Could you see some of these strategies making an impact on your organization?

With the right partner these strategies can help your organization move away from reliance on paper with a return in as quick as 12 months or less. It is time to take a stand in not only helping our organizations be more efficient, but also moving away from models and fees that encourage the hostage approach. 

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