Let’s say you’ve decided to take the step towards digitizing or increasing the scale of your digitization efforts. You’re going to take a lot of paper records, scan them with OCR, and maybe (hopefully) do some indexing. These expenses can add up, so it’s necessary to justify them against the value they provide.
In the 21st century we think of records as being digital and digitization as a superior solution, but is it really always that simple? For some organizations, it may not make sense to go digital – at least not completely. Here are some key areas you should assess in order to determine the extent of your digitization project.
If you don’t get your process and procedures aligned right from the start, digitization alone is not the solution—it will just add to your list of problems. That’s why you must address three specific issues.
Have you ever worked for an organization that had a big shared drive stuffed with files in folders nested within folders, within even more folders? It can be impossible to find something if you don’t know where to look. Nobody is responsible. There is no structure, no metadata, no process for entering new data. In effect, it’s a free-for-all where people save whatever they want, necessary or not.
That’s why you need to be sure that you truly understand your data. Ask yourself these questions:
There’s another consideration before you’ve even migrated your data for the first time. The fact of the matter is, in ten years, or maybe even five, you’re going to have to move that data again, to the next version of your chosen repository.
This can leave you between a rock and a hard place. Migrating data is expensive and may not be a cost you’re willing to pay. But you may be in a regulated industry that requires you to keep certain types of information for a mandated period of time. In many cases, organizations end up having two systems: a forward solution plus an older legacy one that must be maintained because the data still has value or is subject to a regulatory requirement.
You must have the willingness to think two systems ahead.
Answering this question depends upon the two previous points.
If you don’t know what your needs are, how can you select a technology that supports them? Every technology has upsides and downsides, with constant risks and challenges. Balancing risk against need is an exercise that you absolutely must go through, and it is not an easy one. Most people hope for an “easy button” in the next generation of technology, whether an imaging system, cloud-based computing or whatever the next big thing is. Unfortunately, though, no solution comes with an easy button.
What people end up doing is buying first and implementing later. Then they discover that they’ve got an expensive—often very, very expensive—failed technology installation.
Technology is not the solution. Your planning process is. Technologies are designed to solve a particular set of problems, which may not be the ones you are facing.
Don’t spend any money until you completely understand your own needs and do some significant planning. An information governance advisor can bring you up to date on regulatory requirements and help you eliminate ROT (redundant, obsolete or trivial information).
The technology spend should come at the very end of the digitization process, not at the beginning. Once you have done your due diligence, you’ll be in a position to know whether or not a specific technology is designed for you. To determine whether digitization is the solution, you must:
Do these three steps before choosing a digitization solution. If you don’t, you’ll discover that you have created an expensive mess that not only has no value, but also puts your organization at more risk than before you started down the digitization path.
For more on how to effectively plan for digitization, check out this recorded webinar:
Policies and Procedures for the 21st Century