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3 Steps to Digitize Records – on a Budget

records management on a budget concept

Why Digitize Documents?

As government agencies modernize operations, you likely face the challenge of converting large physical archives into digital records. The move to paperless government comes with a host of advantages — including significantly better document accessibility through a Content Services Platform (CSP) such as Laserfiche.

But we’ve found that the average government agency stores thousands of boxes of paper, and digitizing all your records isn’t usually the best use of your time – or your taxpayers’ money.

In this post, we will explore cost-effective strategies for transitioning paper files to digital records. All you need to do is make strategic choices about what to scan and when, and you can reduce the cost of scanning your state or local government records by up to 50%.

How to Digitize Records on a Budget

1. Stop the Flow of Incoming Paper
Before embarking on a scanning process, it’s important to consider how your organization ended up with so many documents. If you don't fix the processes that created the paper, scanning will just convert a physical problem into a digital one.

External documents: When paper documents are sent to you externally, the best practice is to scan the document into your CSP immediately. We’ve studied processes where a client interacted with a given record five or six times, maybe even scanning it multiple times. The final scan is just for long-term storage. Instead, if you scan incoming documents on the front end, you get the efficiency of using your CSP software to interact with it.

Internal documents: What departments are generating the most paperwork recently? Chances are these departments are not utilizing your CSP to its fullest capacity. Scanning is only a band-aid process if they aren't on board with your digitization efforts. (Check out one client’s advice on a people-first approach to department buy-in.
2. Index and Organize Your Records
One thing that makes records scanning so intimidating is knowing where to begin... Because if you’re like many of our clients, you may have a dirty little secret: You don’t actually know what records you have. Perhaps you have a closet of poorly sorted boxes you hope no auditor ever asks to see. Maybe this has been going on far longer than you’ve been in your job! If you're in this situation, know that you aren’t alone.

That’s why before beginning a scanning job, we recommend undergoing an indexing process that provides insight into the current state of your documents. This allows you to find incorrectly filed documents and helps you see the scope of your scanning project.

You'll create a database with multiple indexes for each file. For example, for a Department of Health medical record, the entry may include its name, medical record number, or date of birth. One thing that needs to be on every entry is the document’s retention policy (how long you need to maintain the record based on legal or internal policies).

Let’s look at an example from one hospital authority we worked with to understand the importance of sorting your documents by retention date.

This organization had 250,000 medical records they asked us to scan. In our on-site review of the project scope, we discovered hard copy files commingled pediatric and adult records, which have vastly different retention requirements. We suggested step one - sort the pediatric records into their own boxes and the adult records into boxes of like retention. We found that 90% of their records were eligible for destruction. This resulted in savings of $800,000 just by being strategic at the front end of the project.

If you partner with MCCi on this process, it usually takes us only a few weeks. This is a timesaving step you don’t want to skip.
3. Scan in Priority Order
After indexing your records, create a spreadsheet detailing what to scan first based on retention and frequency of access.

On average, 30% of records our newer clients held no longer need to be retained – and so don’t need to be scanned. Other documents may be near their disposal date, so it doesn’t make much sense to spend time scanning those, either.

In addition, it’s best practice to prioritize scanning document types that are most frequently accessed. This gives you the highest ROI (Return on Investment), as clerks can immediately save time by digitally accessing those records. From there, you can work backward through less-urgent documents while spreading the cost of your project over time.

A Content Services Platform (CSP) is a set of technologies that enable efficient document management and workflow automation. It supports the digitization of documents by allowing organizations to capture, store, access, and manage digital files securely. CSPs facilitate the transition from paper-based to digital records, streamline document retrieval processes, and enhance collaboration through centralized access. They also provide tools for indexing, searching, and integrating with other digital systems, making it easier for organizations to manage their digital content efficiently.

Physical records can usually be destroyed after digitization, but organizations should consult their retention policies and legal requirements to decide on the next steps. It's essential to ensure all digital records are accurately captured and backed up before disposing of any physical copies. Secure shredding services are often used for disposal to protect sensitive information from potential breaches. Always follow your organization's guidelines and compliance requirements when handling the original physical documents.

Yes, MCCi can provide staff training and support on managing digital records in Laserfiche. Our services include guidance on best practices for digital record management, ensuring your team is well-equipped to handle, access, and secure digital documents effectively. Training can cover a range of topics, from basic document management to advanced data security protocols, tailored to meet your organization's specific needs.