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Guide to Document Digitization: What It Is and Why It Matters

If your organization wastes lots of time shuffling paper documents, you are not alone.

Paper documents are inefficient and can bog down mission-critical business processes.

Worse, paper documents can become damaged or lost or fall into the hands of bad actors.

That’s why more organizations are embracing document digitization.

What is Document Digitization?

Document digitization is the process of converting paper documents into digital images.  Documents can be converted to digital images using a scanner, fax, multi-function peripheral, or mobile device.

Digitized documents can be indexed based on metadata such as the date, document owner, and version of the document, enabling organizations to better manage information on semi-structured and unstructured documents, which represent a significant portion of the typical organization’s document mix.  Metadata from scanned documents can be captured using technologies such as optical character recognition, intelligent character recognition, and artificial intelligence-assisted machine learning.

Compared to paper documents, digital images are easier to process, route, store, access, and secure.  Once documents are digitized, they can be annotated or edited by authorized users.

Digital images stored in the cloud also provide accessibility when staff works remotely or on the go, and backup in the event of a natural disaster or other events at an organization’s operations center.

Any paper document can be converted into an image, including:

  • Credit applications
  • Sales proposals
  • Purchase orders and supplier invoices
  • Insurance policies
  • Contracts and other legal documents
  • Employment agreements
  • Passports and other government-issued IDs
  • W-9 forms, W-8 forms, and other tax documents
  • Business plans
  • Financial statements
  • Property titles and deeds

Digitizing documents like these simplify and accelerate processes across the corporate enterprise.

Use Cases for Document Digitization

Converting paper documents to digital images can benefit any business application.

Here are some of the most common use cases.

  • Human resources. Document digitization safeguards sensitive human resources documents such as contracts, payroll information, tax documents, government-issued IDs, health forms, and insurance claimsDocument digitization solutions enforce user permissions, ensure chain of custody, govern the separation of duties, and track all actions taken on a document.
  • Customer service. Digitizing documents and storing them in the cloud can enhance the experience that organizations provide their customers.  Customer service reps can instantly access documents such as sales proposals, contracts, invoices, and correspondence.  Fast responsiveness to customer inquiries can help a business stand out from its competitors.
  • Finance. Digitization facilitates electronic approval of purchase orders, supplier invoices, and other financial documents.  CFOs and other decision-makers can instantly access financial statements, tax forms, and other images securely stored in a centralized archive.  And auditors can effortlessly search archived documents by supplier name, amount, and other criteria.
  • Banking. Digitization streamlines banking processes such as account opening, credit card application processing, mortgage processing, signature cards, and safe deposit box contracts.

Benefits of Digitizing Your Documents

Digitizing paper documents delivers tremendous benefits to organizations of all sizes:

  • Better collaboration. Digitization makes it easy for stakeholders to collaboratively share and annotate documents to improve and accelerate decision-making.  Digital documents can be securely accessed at any time, from any location, even when stakeholders work remotely.
  • Streamlined workflows. Digitization eliminates the friction from document workflows.  Documents can be digitally routed based on pre-defined business rules.  Documents can be completed, signed, or edited electronically.  Managers can instantly see where documents stand in the process.  And all actions taken on a document are automatically tracked.
  • Enhanced service. Instant access to digitized documents means that customer service reps can respond to inquiries without putting customers on hold or having to call them back.
  • Less storage. Digitization eliminates the time and money that organizations waste physically storing documents in desk drawers, file cabinets, cardboard boxes, and with off-site services.
  • Improved disaster recovery. It’s not uncommon for paper documents to become damaged, lost, or prematurely discarded.  Digitization ensures the documents are securely archived and managed and accessible to users, even when staff is prevented from getting into the office.

Each of these benefit is compelling. Together, they can transform the way that an organization manages its information.

How to Get Started

There are lots of document digitization solutions out there.  Choosing the wrong one can set your organization back.  Here are some strategies to help ensure the success of your project.

  • Assess your needs. Determine the volume and types of documents that must be digitized, the indexing requirements for each document, how long each document must be retained, and the stakeholders who must access digital images.  Also, be on the lookout for smaller stores of paper files that workers keep at their desks.  Understanding your requirements upfront will help ensure that you choose the right solution and that your project timelines are realistic.
  • Create a project timeline. It’s tempting to want to try to digitize all your documents at once to prove that automation was the right decision.  But an aggressive timeline can overwhelm your staff.  A better approach is to benchmark how long it takes to scan, upload, and organize files and develop a realistic timeline, taking the day-to-day tasks of staff into consideration.
  • Don’t skimp on scanners. A document digitization project is only as good as the quality of the images created.  Look for production scanners that deliver high-quality images and provide built-in capture software with tools for verifying capture results.  The ability to process co-mingled documents will also ease the workload on mailroom staff.
  • Keep frontline staff in the loop. Develop a plan for educating frontline staff and other individuals who receive or access documents on your new digital process.  Review user permissions to ensure that sensitive information is only accessible to authorized staff.

Why It’s Important Now More Than Ever Before

While the volume of electronic documents coming into organizations is growing, there’s no telling when or if paper documents will disappear.  Converting paper documents into digital images makes them easier to capture, process, manage, and secure.  From banking and finance to customer service and human resources, document digitization delivers big benefits to most any business application.

To learn more, speak with one of our document digitization experts.

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