Chicken or the egg - Day forward or back file conversion in FileHold?

One of the most common questions we hear at FileHold is, "Should we scan in our old files first or start with a day forward approach?"  While there is no right or wrong answer, I do have a few points to share with you on these two different paths.

Back file Conversion

The back file conversion is an approach that often starts the conversation of document management software. For many, it is the primary reason for putting a system like FileHold in place. Organizations have storage rooms full of boxes, expensive offsite warehouses, large file cabinets that are overflowing, shared network drives that are unstructured and chaotic, and so on. These files can be many years old but must be kept indefinitely or for an extended period of time. Some of these files could be purged entirely but it would be time consuming and tedious to sort them all out. It only makes sense that some of these legacy files would make their way in to FileHold. Once the back log of files have been entered in to FileHold, the users will have a vast array of search options they have not had before. Valuable physical floor space (cost per square foot) will become available offering a measurable return on investment. Retention and disposition rules can now be automated to ensure that documents are not kept longer than necessary. Now you can finally fit that billiard table in the old file room.

Day Forward

The day forward approach is as simple as it sounds. It is the idea of implementing FileHold for the purpose of making current methods of filing more efficient, compliant, structured, and controlled. A strategy will need to be designed and implemented prior to bring live documents in to the system. Careful planning and best practices advice allows the organization to incorporate all aspects of modern filing requirements. With this approach, legacy files are temporarily ignored in favor of choosing a hard cutoff date from the old way of filing to the new. Typically, these types of implementations are driven by business case and the benefits of freeing up of physical storage aspect is an added bonus. 

But which one should be first?

Here are just a few reasons to consider:

Pros of the day forward approach:

  • The day forward system design can be shaped to meet the business climate of today. Business processes may have evolved and changed from the earlier days of an organization.  It is much easier to adapt legacy documents in to the day forward  filing schemas then the reverse.
  • Starting with a day forward approach allows the organization to learn the system organically as new files are introduced in to the system. This is a means that progress will increase as the users get used to the system and begin to rely on it over time.
  • The day forward approach ensures that records are complete. A new client or patient file will have started its life electronically and will benefit from a standardized filing convention from the beginning.

Cons of the back file first approach:

  • Back file conversion can be very time consuming in terms of metadata entry and the designing of classification systems.
  • Legacy documents may not be conducive to the filing methods used today.
  • Organizing and purging legacy, expired, or non -essential documents from a back file can add weeks or months of delay to the document management software rollout.  This is how warehouses are born.

I will tell you that in most cases when asked, I recommend the Day forward approach as the first phase in implementing FileHold. Again, there is no right or wrong choice and very often you will end up doing both anyway.  I find that planning for a day forward approach allows an organization to get very clear about the goals of the system based how the business is run today. I often recommend that legacy files be added to FileHold into a legacy directory en masse but are not indexed or classified until the day forward design is complete and the system is live. This way you will have more search capabilities than ever before without the need to tackle the backlog right away. 

FileHold professional services can assist in your migration of legacy documents from a shared drive or existing document management system. There are many solutions for dealing with a legacy repository before or after you start using FileHold. Contact me today to discuss your document management project.

Kevin McArthur

Kevin McArthur serves as the VP of Sales for FileHold for the US. Kevin is a Certified Document Imaging Architect (CDIA+) and brings over 15 years of document management experience in helping customers make important purchase decisions on complex document management software. Contact him at [email protected].