So you want to go paperless?

This is a common question we get at FileHold and for good reason. Deciding what approach you should take when starting a document management project can be daunting.

On one hand you have boxes and boxes of documents overflowing in your file cabinets, storage room, or warehouse. These documents are taking up valuable real estate and can be an absolute nightmare to deal with if you should ever need to find something or if disaster strikes.

On the other hand you have the new day-to-day incoming documents coming through the front door. These daily documents are likely related to current projects or clients and need to be handled efficiently and quickly. These files have not been filtered yet and so there is a fair amount of work in determining what to keep and what to throw out.

So what do I tell people who ask me what they should scan first? I typically recommend the Day Forward approach to starting a new scanning project. Here are some reasons why I lean towards this approach:

  • It is less overwhelming to start.

    The simple truth is that you are more likely to be able to handle the daily load of incoming documents as opposed to the thousands of files that have accumulated over the years. This approach also gives you time to adapt to the culture change associated with implementing a document management system.

  • New documents are easier to classify.

    Over the years, your business or organization has undergone a natural evolution brought on by time and experience. You have adapted to policy changes, compliance regulations, retention policies, filing hierarchies, classification structure, etc. Translating that earned knowledge in to a modern document management system is easier with those lessons learned. Getting your old documents into an electronic software system is much easier if your current system reflects how things are done today.

  • New documents are usually in better shape.

    Let's face it, paper documents do not tend to get better over time. In fact, the longer your old paper files are alive, the more likely they are to be exposed the damaging effects of moisture, dust, UV light, and mistreatment. Since implementing a document management system already introduces some degree of culture change in an organization, it is often best to train your staff with newer documents that are in good condition. This makes for a shorter learning curve and is sure to teach you some scanning techniques to help you tackle the backlog down the road.

So how do you tackle the backlog of paper based documents? Since we can’t just ignore the legacy documents that have been piling up over the years. Here are a few tips to get your file room under control:

  • Hire an intern, college student, or volunteer.

    This is a great way to get the back log of paper documents converted to electronic quickly and with little or no expense. Scanning in old documents is a great way for an intern, college student, or a volunteer to learn about the inner workings of a back office. They will learn about business processes, document classification, filing methodologies and retention / disposition practices. They will gain valuable experience for their future - all while helping you clear out your file room to make room for the new company pool table.

  • Scan in old documents as needed.

    Sometimes it is best to scan in old documents as they become relative to a project or client you are currently dealing with. If you have created an electronic file in the document management software for a long time client, it might make sense to scan in their old folders on a day when you have already pulled their file for another reason. Over time, you will be amazed how fast the old files get entered in to the document management system. Slow and steady wins every time.

  • Purge the documents you don't need.

    This suggestion is not going to be popular, but sometimes we just need to roll up our sleeves and start pulling dusty boxes off the shelf. Many organizations are keeping documents stored unnecessarily. By purging the documents that you no longer need, or are no longer required by retention policies you will have a great deal less to scan and store in the document management software. This exercise will not only lighten the load of documents to be scanned but it could even help you avoid a potential liability.

I hope this helps you get off the fence as to which way to go with your document management software project. Again, there is no right or wrong way to go here. The worst thing you can is to take no action at all!

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].