I’m a scanning enthusiast. I hate paper and paper hates me – my frequent paper cuts are proof! 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 well planned.
Why do organisations want to go paperless?
- They need to be paperless
- A need to rationalise property
- They have extra money floating around
But rash decisions are not the way to conduct scanning. Fail to prepare; prepare to fail. Scanning is not cheap and you could be chucking your money out the window, along with really useful evidence, 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 tomorrow. Scanning won’t stop paper records from being generated. Equally, scanning records doesn’t mean the process is over because scanning paper records does not automatically authorise the destruction of the source documents. The electronic record can legally take the place of the paper document which can then be destroyed, but consider whether it should be scanned in line with BS 10008:2014. If it should and you don’t, you risk records being thrown out as evidence if something goes to 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 records you must inspect the scanned documents visually to ensure they are complete (the entire document has been captured). The scanned documents need to be clear and easy to read. At the other end of the spectrum, you must be able to easily purge and delete records, especially if you are scanning personal data. Data that you cannot purge will land you in hot water due to the fifth Principle of the Data Protection Act or the Storage Limitation Principle of GDPR.
Questions you need to ask yourself before scanning:
- Who created the paper?
- Who accesses that information?
- How regularly do you use the information?
- Do you need immediate access to it?
- Has 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 a fully managed EDRMS?
- 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 that standard?
- How business-critical are those records?
- Do they 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 for?
- Do you need to keep them by law?
- If they will be retained for less than five years, is it worth spending the money on scanning?
- 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 for 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 you no longer create paper?
- Do you need to factor in a budget for day-forward scanning, so you can scan new documents daily?
If you’ve answered the above questions and you’re satisfied with your answers, you’re ready to scan the records. However, give the questions careful thought and consider the risks involved with each and every step. 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 if you don’t have the records to hand when you need them.
Emily Overton of RMGirl Consulting is available to help you effectively implement a paperless environment. You can contact her on firstname.lastname@example.org.