What is document scanning?
Document scanning is the conversion of paper documents into digital files. It’s a process many companies do with multifunction copiers, office supply stores, and even cell phone cameras.
Unfortunately, when you’re converting a lot of documents, or converting documents that require secure document scanning, those DIY scanning methods start to fall short in several significant ways. Inevitably, the secure handling of the documents can come into question. The quality can be inconsistent and indexing and storage can also become an issue if you haven’t already invested in the training and software required to manage the resulting files. And all too often, there are simply too many incoming documents to handle in-house. Even with a good system in place, companies that scan their own documents often spend too much of their employees’ time on repetitive tasks that could be outsourced at a fraction of the cost.
By contrast, a professional scanning service provider can securely deliver high quality images for large volume jobs. A scanning service partner can do it less expensively, more efficiently, and of a higher quality than your employees can—and best of all, they can make it painless.
Document scanning scenarios
Let’s get specific; what are the typical scenarios where professional scanning services can help?
Office Relocation Services
Moving is always a good opportunity to declutter, but often, businesses have no choice but to debulk their operations to fit in a new, perhaps smaller but better space. With limited resources available, most business owners aren’t keen to compromise valuable real estate with file cabinets and storage boxes, or spend time and money organizing and moving them into the new space. At the very least, a big move begs the question: why are we retaining all of this paper in the first place? What could be less necessary, what could be less efficient, than a file cabinet full of information that could easily be stored and accessed digitally? It takes seconds to find digitized files, so why spend time tracking down paper?
To save you from managing such a huge task alone, a document scanning company can pick up all of those files from your office and quickly digitize them for storage in the cloud or on your internal platform, saving time, space, and a whole lot of hassle for businesses on the move.
Need to retain documents for compliance, but they’re piling up
Companies are often required by law to retain documents for a number of years, even if those documents aren’t necessary for day-to-day transactions. For example, storing paper-based medical records, HR files, financial documents, and work orders to meet document retention compliance requirements can monopolize a company’s resources, without contributing much business value.
Document scanning services provide an avenue for getting rid of paper and migrating that information onto a digital platform. This not only cuts down on storage needs but also adds a level of security and accessibility to the information, which is key for compliance requirements. HR records, for example, are commonly requested by auditors and must be at the ready. But complying with these requests (while still running your business) is nearly impossible without document management software.
As a real-life example, one of MetaSource’s clients, the New York Foundling, had become overwhelmed with compliance-related tasks. They employ a rotating staff and have a high turnover among temps and part-time workers. Still, they had to maintain detailed records on all employees (even for years after termination), so managing the information became a paralyzing burden. But by scanning and digitally managing their HR records, they were able to reduce the time spent on audits by 90%.
Another client, ABC Home Healthcare, found that none of its employees wanted to file and process the medical documents for their 600+ client base. It was simply too much monotonous labor, and as a result, the organization of important records started to break down. They chose to scan and digitally index their patient files, cutting out over 1,000 hours of labor every year. What’s more, their patient records are now available with a simple click.
Need better visibility and information access
When you store information on paper, it gets harder and harder to access as the library grows. If that information is important, an ‘analog’ library can impede business-critical work. If supplying documents to interested parties is part of your business (see MetaSource’s client TitleVest), then digital file management can boost processing times and your bottom line. But sometimes the importance of information is a little more subtle.
Take laboratory notebooks for example. In the past (and sometimes today), research institutions relied on paper notebooks to record experiments and track research progress. Now they have troves of old data sitting around on paper. This slows down collaboration, because paper documents are harder to retrieve and share. And in some cases, the practice can jeopardize IP and research credibility as well.
This visibility issue also pervades AP/AR departments—paper documents impede insight into payment information, but digitizing the documents and capturing the data provides easy access to information. Whether you want to simply resolve payment or billing issues, or use analytics to develop strategic financial insights, having data in a digital format lets you work faster and smarter.
Who can benefit from document scanning services?
Document scanning services are useful across industries, but there are some common departments where converting paper documents into digital files has the greatest immediate impact. Unsurprisingly, these are departments that deal with a lot of paper.
Accounts payable / receivable
Companies that make a lot of purchases as part of their business (restaurants, for example) quickly accumulate paid invoices. And while those invoices aren’t useful for generating business, they are a record of business expenditures—which means throwing them away could lead to fines in the case of an audit. What’s more, paid invoices can also be useful for resolving payment and delivery disputes, should they arise. But until an audit or a payment dispute comes up, paid invoices create clutter and take up valuable floor space.
Document scanning and digital file management not only allow businesses to securely and easily access processed invoices for audits and disputes, but accounts payable automation results in more streamlined invoice approval processes, and creates better visibility for business operations, all while reducing costs and manual labor.
Contracts, tax withholding forms, payroll, I-9s, workers compensation, evaluations, references, the list goes on. All of these documents make up an employee personnel file, and they can be extensive. Multiply that by the number of employees in an organization, including those terminated in the last 3-7 years, and you have a significant document problem.
Personnel files must be stored securely, while being available to the employee, the human resources department, and auditors. This is a considerable burden for large organizations, but it can also be paralyzing for small-to-medium companies, especially those with high turnover or temporary staff.
By using document scanning services, HR departments, employees, and auditors all have immediate and secure access to every document, regardless of type, in one convenient location.
Healthcare providers, facilities, and insurers are bound by the Health Insurance Portability Accountability Act (HIPAA), which places tight restrictions on who can access electronic medical records and how those records are shared. Should there be an information breach due to improper record storage, healthcare practitioners can be held liable for the loss of a patient’s privacy.
All of these factors create significant compliance challenges when it comes to security, storage, and accessibility—all of which can be satisfied with a SOC 2 Type 2 audited document scanning partner and proper digital data management.
Research and development
Research and development departments contain some of the most important and sensitive material company-wide. Between historical archives and the manual use of lab notebooks, some of a business’s most valuable information is subject to myriad threats, from simple loss or inaccessibility to fire, floods, and even theft.
To save records, documents, and other forms of intellectual property from being compromised, document scanning solutions can help you digitally archive all of your data, providing security, easy access, and even time stamps to validate claims, inquiries, and disputes that may arise throughout a company’s lifetime—all with no risk of degradation.
These are typical use cases for document scanning, but by no means are they an exhaustive list. Any company that finds itself burdened by paper—storing paper, filing paper, relying on paper—should consider document scanning to put its resources to better use.
What quality document imaging services look like
Your needs first
A good scanning partner should have extensive expertise in handling different types and sizes of paper documents, digitizing them, and indexing the resulting files. And they should tailor those operations to your business needs. They should understand the types of documents that need to be digitized, your needs for accessing them in the future, and your budget. They should also be asking questions like: Color or grayscale? What data has to be captured? What data needs to be captured? Do you need optical character recognition (OCR) performed on the scans? Who needs to access the digital files, and on what platforms? And, of course, you should know if your partner will be able to accomodate all of your documents, regardless of size or shape.
Once you’ve worked out your needs and settled on an appropriate scanning protocol, the next thing to consider is follow-up. Choose a partner that can provide hassle free setup, training, and ongoing customer support to resolve any software issues that you might encounter.
Secure information practices
Before handing over important documents to an outside company, make sure that the company is trustworthy. Fortunately, this isn’t a guessing game; all it takes is a little homework to see if a scanning provider’s data practices are airtight. A good thing to check for is a SOC 2 Type 2 audit report. This audit, carried out by a third-party CPA, involves a comprehensive evaluation of a company’s security procedures and an assessment of how well those procedures are documented and followed over time.
Choosing a scanning partner
If you plan to outsource the job, finding an experienced scanning service provider nearby can cut down on shipping costs and turnaround time. MetaSource’s New York document scanning facility and Norwood, MA document scanning center provide central locations for companies in the northeast looking for a local and trusted scanning partner.
Experience, information security, and adaptability
An experienced scanning partner will have the resources and expertise to handle any size scanning job. They will also have enough certifications and experience to assure you that your documents will be handled professionally. They will have airtight, externally validated information security protocols (SOC 2 Type 2 audit) and will be able to work with your company to provide a tailored experience. They will be able to meet your specific needs with a tailored solution that is properly managed to make sure your job is delivered accurately and on time.
If your company has an electronic file management system in place, you may just want your scanning partner to take your documents, scan and index them, and return the digital images. But if you don’t have a system in place for managing and accessing that data, you could wind up with a folder of image files sitting on your company server. That beats a room full of file cabinets, but without document management software in place, it will be difficult to delegate access privileges and view those images on anything but a networked PC. This is where document scanning providers differentiate themselves.
A good scanning partner should be just that⁠—a partner. They should provide document management software with ongoing technical support that can be stored in the cloud or on your internal server. By understanding your company’s needs and specific reasons for scanning, they can recommend the best strategies for managing the resulting files based on document security, access frequency, and long-term vision.
If your ultimate goal is to go paperless, there are services beyond scanning that can reduce the need for exchanging paper throughout your organization. One example is a digital mailroom, by which all of your incoming mail is sent to a monitored PO box. As a service, that mail can then be collected, digitized, and delivered as digital files.
Document scanning is a great way to save money and prepare for your company’s growth. But it’s also a serious undertaking, and it can be hard to realize the benefits without careful planning and an experienced partner. Reach out to an expert today to make the process cost-effective and scalable for the future.