Oh it’s fine…we can just scan it!

I’m a scanning enthusiast. I hate paper; paper hates me, demonstrable by my current amount of paper cuts.  However, scanning is not the answer to all your problems.  It’s a short term fix to a long term problem unless it’s thoroughly thought out and planned appropriately.

Top 3 reasons organisations scan as a rash decision:-

  • We need to be paperless
  • We need to rationalise property
  • We have extra money floating around

But rash decisions are not the way to conduct scanning.  Fail to prepare; prepare to fail.  Think it through, scanning is not cheap and you could be chucking your money out the window along with really useful evidence too if you don’t do it correctly.

But how do I do it correctly I hear you ask? 

You need to consider how that paper is being generated.  You can go paperless today, but consider about tomorrow.  You can scan it but that won’t stop paper being created but equally scanning the records doesn’t mean the process is over then and there because scanning paper records does not automatically authorise the destruction of the source documents from which the scanned images have been created. The electronic record can legally take the place of the paper document; which can then be destroyed but you may need to consider whether it should be scanned in line with BS 10008:2014 or not because if it should and you don’t, you may risk records being thrown out as evidence in court.

Like all electronic records; scanned files must be accessible and readable for their full retention period.  This includes finding the file, opening the file, and reading the file regardless of the software used in its creation. Before destroying the records each scanned document image/file must be inspected visually to ensure they are complete (the entire document has been captured), clear and easily read but on the other end of the spectrum, the scanned records must be able to be purged and deleted especially if you are scanning personal data as PDFs you cannot purge will land you in hot water with the 5th Principle of the Data Protection Act or the Storage Limitation Principle of GDPR.

Some questions you need to be asking yourself before scanning:

What about the people that create the paper? Who accesses that information? How regularly is it used? Do you need immediate access to it? Is your senior management bought into the paperless idea?   Where are you going to put the scanned images?  Can you search the scanned images once they stored? Are they PDF searchable? What meta data is there?   Is it going into an EDRMS that is fully managed? Do you have an infrastructure than store the images without it toppling over?  How are you scanning them?  Are you scanning them to BS1008:2014 standard?  Do you need to scan them to the standard? How business critical are those records? Do the need to be protected?  Can everyone see them or is there confidential information stored within?  Do you need those records?  Are they out of their retention period? How long do you need to keep them?  Do you need to keep them by law? If they are less than 5 years’ retention, is it worth spending the money on them being scanned? If the retention period is over 10 years, what processes do you have in place for digital preservation and continuity? What value do they hold to your organisation?  Is there a return on investment? Will your local archive want those files?  Who owns those records?   Who owns the risk if something goes wrong?  Can you change the process so that paper is no longer created? Do you need to factor in a budget for day-forward scanning so where paper is created; it too can be scanned, daily?

If you’ve satisfied the above questions, then I’d say you’re pretty ready to scan the records. However, make sure that the answers to the questions are done with some thought and consider the risks that are involved with each and every step. Also consider if the process goes wrong and those records aren’t available any more what will you do? You might have gone paperless, used up the spare money or emptied that property but you can’t put a price on defending yourself when you don’t have the records to hand when you need them.

Emily Overton of RMGirl Consulting is available to discuss any elements in this blog post and how to effectively implement a paperless environment.   You can contact her on emily@rmgirl.co.uk. 

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