“Everyone keeps asking you for pictures, and after a while you get tired of that. I always say, ‘They are in the archives.’” – Annie Leibovitz
In fact, the photographs of the internationally renowned portrait photographer were recently acquired and are now officially archived by the Zurich-based nonprofit LUMA Foundation. But imagine the challenges that the iconic Rolling Stone photographer must have faced when trying to locate a single image or film negative from a career lasting more than fifty years. If, in your business, you’ve ever asked or been asked “Where can I find that document?” or “Who has the original file?”, you’ve probably faced the same frustrations. And since business records come in all shapes and sizes, from paper forms to microfilm and from images to electronic documents, you just might have a better chance finding that proverbial needle in a haystack.
Turning Straw into Gold
Fortunately, in today’s business technology landscape, there’s a smart way to manage your business records, regardless of the media format in which they exist right now. Digitize the haystack.
That’s right, by consolidating all of your media types and allowing them to be accessed and read using a unified technology with indexing and retrieval functionality, you might discover that the needle will practically find itself! Not only does digitizing business records and integrating them into a powerful content management system help you to quickly locate and identify individual items, it provides broader benefits to your business, including these:
- A single view of your business. Just as each business department needs to be structured and organized to operate smoothly, your company’s business files need the same attention – disciplined classification accelerates an employee’s ability to find information and serve internal and/or external customers.
- Centralized and automated access to all files by anyone who needs them, wherever they are. You can eliminate manual steps required for document access, ongoing records management, archival storage and disposition. At the same time, keeping all media types together using digital technology enhances access by all employees, whether they are in an office or remote/field-based.
- Information access and display using a single technology. Multiple media formats that typically require different display technologies can be digitized and viewed using one consistent interface. This not only offers user convenience and ease of training, but also ensures that all your content remains accessible through future system updates and enhancements.
- Enhanced control over security, regulatory audit processes, and legal retention requirements. Documents that are scattered throughout the organization are prone to loss, theft and disposition before legal limits. Digitization allows you to secure, monitor and control the use of media as long as you are legally required to keep them.
The DIY Challenge
“Good idea,” you think. This digitizing thing can really help you out. So now it’s time to hire an intern and start scanning, right? Not so fast….
There are many factors to consider when beginning a digitization project. A poorly implemented project can lead to many issues, such as difficulty in accessing media files, illegible documents, missed information and sub-par system configurations. Rather than making digitization a “side-project,” it is important to see it as a critical process offering strategic advantage for your company. So, when you make that important decision to invest in the security, efficiency and productivity for your business and employees, think about the following things before you convert that first file:
- Planning. By reading this article, you’ve already started the planning process. Knowing where your data and information is, how it is used and by whom, what types of files exist, and why (and for how long) you use them will not only help you ensure that all valuable records are converted, but will also help you to develop the system you need for optimal access and retrieval.
- Distributed files. How many offices and remote locations do you have? Each of these locations may or may not handle the same types of media, and they may be storing unique or duplicate files in electronic or paper form. Taking an inventory of existing file cabinets and servers will enable you to accurately assess the size and scope of your conversion project.
- Access to files. If your company has been in business for a while, it probably has created and stored files in many formats, such as paper, film and electronic documents. Many technologies and software applications may have been used, and older files may no longer be readable by devices available to you.
- Time. Auditing every location, scanning every document, and moving files off of every hard drive in the company can take many hours of effort. And since records are being created every day, it’s important to make sure a bulk conversion of business files is done as fast and accurately as possible.
- Resources. As with time, resources can be in short supply. You need a project team dedicated to planning and executing the conversion project, and one that understands business workflows and records management fundamentals. Remember, converting files is just the first step to an even more important process – using them.
- Quality. When files are converted, you want to make sure that each document or image is digitized with the same integrity as the original. This might mean clarity and legibility or it might mean ensuring the electronic version of the document has the same legal authority as a paper original. Consistency and quality control is key – imagine scanning thousands of files and then not being able to read a document during an important customer service interaction. Every document you keep is potentially the next one you need!
Getting Everyone onto the Same Page
Now you know the records you create are valuable. So valuable, in fact, that keeping them organized is not only a good idea, but it’s a serious matter with strategic benefit. Maybe hiring that intern isn’t such a good idea after all. But don’t worry. You have options to make the process fast and easy.
Taking an in-house team away from their core functions and responsibilities to manage a file conversion process may not be the best use of your company’s time and resources. You have products to develop and solutions to sell. Keep your team fully focused on revenue generation, customer service, and routine operational priorities by letting specialists support the digitization of your enterprise content.
A great service provider can be your partner in productivity. And when it comes to document conversion, Computhink is a great service provider with experience and expertise in capturing and using high-quality digital content to meet the needs of companies everywhere.
While you’re busy, so are we, uncovering every file folder and microfiche roll, every photograph and journal, every illustration and presentation – important work that sits in a box, on a shelf or in a drawer waiting to contribute to the next sale or the next business innovation.
Isn’t it time to put your pictures – and everything else you create – into the archives, then make those assets readily available to anyone (based on appropriate permissions, of course!) through a flexible enterprise content management system? That’s good organization, and good business.