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What You Should Expect During Your Digital Conversion Project

Unless you work in document management, we don’t blame you for not knowing what you should expect when you enter into a digital conversion project. Digital scanning and conversions aren’t exactly mainstream, like going to the mall and knowing what you should expect from the staff at a clothing store.

It’s a different world, document management is. And it can be tricky, but that’s why we want to give you a few pointers to help you in your journey. Below are some thoughts that we, as a document and information management company, believe you should see and understand as you choose your partner in conversion. We’ve broken them out into what you should and should not expect; not in any particular order, just some useful tidbits.


What You Should Not Expect

It comes down to this: digital does not equal miracle. Once you accept that fact, you’ll be much more prepared for your project and ready to work with your partner to create a solid scope of work for digitizing and organizing your records.

They may! They absolutely may. But when you think about your own life, does it usually work that way? Do you wear the cheapest shoes? Drive the cheapest car? Eat the cheapest food day in and day out? (And c’mon, we don’t mean low priced. We mean the actual cheapest option you could find). Probably not. Instead, you got what brought you the most value at a reasonable price. And that’s the whole point, you’re reasonable! So be reasonable when you’re choosing your conversion partner.  

Sure, there are $10,000 martinis you could drink, but does that mean you’ll be happy after drinking that martini, which was unsettlingly like all the other martinis you’ve had? I doubt it. Just because something’s expensive doesn’t mean it’s valuable, so be aware of this side of the coin. The key is to understand the value you’ll receive and match that up with a reasonable price that makes sense for you.

Because it just ain’t real.

What You Should Expect

Yes, it is possible to completely remove yourself from the execution of a project, but we don’t suggest it. Lots of little things pop up during conversion projects that no one thought of, and it’s very useful to have you (you know, the one who owns the records?) be a part of the problem-solving team. If you’re not involved, and you don’t like the final product, then too bad! Just kidding (sort of). But by then you’ll wish you were more involved throughout the project to make sure that everyone was pointed in the right direction. So roll up your sleeves and get involved!

If you’re not being challenged, then you’re not working with an account executive; you’re working with an order taker. Which may be what you want! That’s fine, but it doesn’t take a genius to sit around and say “yes” to everything thrown their way. What you really want, and should expect, is an expert in document management that challenges your assumptions, your plans, your designs, and makes you really think about what you’re asking for. If they don’t, then you might end up with exactly what you asked for … and have no one but yourself to blame if it isn’t good.

If you already have the best plan, why do you need someone else? Answer: because you probably don’t have the best plan. And that’s OK. We all have massive egos; that’s what makes us human! But if a team of document management professionals suggests an idea or solution that isn’t exactly what you planned for, don’t immediately go negative. They may, just may, actually be trying to make your project more successful than you could have done on your own. Crazy, right?

It’s like the old saying about weddings: something will go wrong, just accept it. You’ll be furious at the time, but you’ll get through it and laugh later. Boiled down: don’t be a jerk when the project hits a bump. No one’s perfect. (see: “Don’t expect perfection” in the section above)

Because if you don’t, you’ll be sorely disappointed and probably frustrated throughout the entire project. There are things you don’t know, and things even the experts don’t know, but that’s the fun part about conversion projects. There’s always something new popping up, and being able to adapt and overcome these little obstacles makes your project unique, and forges a better solution.

Wrap Up

No one knows everything, and it takes a confident person to admit that they’re just not sure what they’re getting into. After reading this far, we hope you have a better idea of what you should (and should not) expect when you start your digital conversion project. If you’re interested in learning more about document management and scanning projects, take a look at our “Further Reading” section below; there are some links to other articles that’ll help you become more knowledgeable about document management.

Further Reading

If you have documents (paper, film, anything!) that are going into digital, you’ll need to get them organized. Take a peek into “The Wild and Wacky World of Indexing” and be amazed!

Got some microfilm sitting around and gathering dust, and you’re just waiting to figure out how to scan it into digital? Look no further, because our article
5 Ways to Ensure a Successful Microfilm Scanning Project” will give you just what you need to make your project a success. 

2018-12-10T15:19:04+00:00December 10th, 2018|Document Management|

The Wild And Wacky World Of Indexing

“Indexing? What indexing?”

You’ve decided to peek at the grim underbelly of the document management world, where brave souls venture forth … and occasionally don’t return. But where do these explorers go, and what are they looking for?

The elusive perfect indexing specification!

Indexing can be pretty confusing. It seems so easy at first, just naming files as they 
should be named. If you have folders, name (index) them by what’s on the folder. If you have stapled or paper-clipped files, name them by whatever’s on the first page of the file! If you have microfiche sheets, name them by the microfiche title strip!!

What’s so hard about 
that, BMI??

I’m glad you asked.

1. Native Knowledge

You have “native knowledge” of your files, and the content (actual data) of those files. What seems an obvious way to name a document to you could be extremely difficult for someone that doesn’t have a solid understanding of your records. Imagine that you have a bunch of patient charts, and you decided to name a file by Patient Name and Date of Birth (DOB). And those two index points (or “fields”) should be on the first page of every patient chart. Easy enough, right?

Ok, so we scan the patient chart into a digital format and are about to index the file. We’re looking at the first page within the chart.

Patient Name: check. (Easy peasy)

Date of Birth: check!

But wait!! Is that another date on the first page? Which one is Date of Birth?

Can you hear the sounds of something grinding to a halt?

What happens next is a string of emails and/or phone calls to ask what you want to do, and you don’t know because you can’t see the file, and so on and so forth. This back and forth to solve an indexing question may only take a couple of minutes, or a string of ten emails. Even when this one instance is resolved, it’s really only the first glimpse into the world of 

2. Exceptions

Exceptions are relatively common. Pretty ironic, right? An exception is an instance of an index point that doesn’t match the criteria that’s been described by the owner of the files. Or in English:

What we see doesn’t match what you told us we’d see.


  • You have student transcripts on microfilm rolls and want the Student Name, Date of Birth, Social Security Number, and Student ID of each student captured.
  • You’ve told us that all four fields are on the first page of a student’s file.
  • A student file is identified by a big red “S” stamped on its first page.

As we go through the first roll of microfilm, we see the “S” stamped on images, and we start keying the fields you’ve requested. All’s well, but as we move through the roll, about 50 student files in, we stop. We’ve found the big “S” stamp, easy enough. There’s a Student Name, Date of Birth, and Social Security Number, but no Student ID. EXCEPTION!

Further along we find another file that has Date of Birth, Social Security Number, Student ID, but two Student Names!! It looks like the person changed their name senior year. Which name should we use? EXCEPTION!

At the end of the roll, we find the big “S” stamp, but the first page is some kind of cover letter. Should we move on? Should we consider these images as part of the previous file? EXCEPTION!

In each of the above three examples, an exception occurred that would cause us to pause and clarify with you about how you’d like the exceptions resolved. This is time-consuming, costly, and throws the project into stall mode.

But how’s this problem solved? Contingency plans, my friend. In the student transcript example, a contingency to alleviate the exceptions would be: “if one of the four fields is not found, replace that field with an ‘NA.’” You may not be able to plan a contingency for 
every exception, but as many as can be identified and resolved prior to the project starting saves loads of time later on.

Solved. Done. Success.

3. Do You Really Want That?

This is a bit more philosophical than the other two reasons that indexing can be difficult, but important anyway. What it comes down to is knowing what will be considered useful and complete once the project is done.

If you work at a building department with thousands of permits on microfiche, a microfiche title might have a Permit Number, Street Number, Street Name, Project Name, Notes, Year, and more. If you ask to just “index the Permit Number,” it 
could be useful, but all that other information wouldn’t be captured. Once all of your microfiche are in digital form, like a PDF file or in a content database, is the Permit Number all you need? Will it be the single field you’ll use to find these records later on? If not, you may need to dig a little deeper and identify other fields that need to be captured.

On the flip side, if you wanted to capture 
all the information on the microfiche title, you could be creating an overload of information. Sure, it’s on the title currently, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily useful. We’ve seen many a case where title fields were added over the years and the current staff doesn’t know what half of the information means. If you don’t slice off some fat from the title info, you could be creating a mess that doesn’t help anybody.

So, what will be useful? That’s what you have to answer.


Getting your indexing right can be tough, we won’t sugarcoat it. But you want to do as much as possible to nail it down right so that you have an effective way of finding your records once they’re digitized. There’s not much that’s more demoralizing than wrapping up a digital conversion project, only to realize that you can’t even find your records and you’d be better off having not done the project at all. This is the exact opposite of how we’d want you to feel.

So, before leaping off the digital conversion cliff, take some time to really figure out the most effective and efficient way to access your records once they’re digitized, utilizing the ideas we’ve presented in this article. And if you need some help along the way, give us a buzz.

Further Reading

Here is our take on getting your scanning project off on the right foot:
How Do I Start A Microfilm Conversion Project?

And here are some ideas for you that (we think) will make your project a success:
5 Ways To Ensure A Successful Microfilm Scanning Project

2018-12-10T15:05:44+00:00November 5th, 2018|Document Management|