You’ve handed off your records to us and you’re excited to get your digitization project started. Finally, after months of discussing solutions, scopes of work, and negotiating services and prices, the project is rolling!
Then you get that dreaded call: “Hi! I’m Johnny Appleseed and I’d like a copy of my file!”
The Fear Of Not Being In Control Of Your Records
When you work with us to digitize your records, you’re accepting the fact that you’re not in control of the physical documents while the project is going on. This can trigger fear for some folks, and it’s perfectly normal.
If you work in an office that gets multiple requests a day, having the information away from you can be stressful because you don’t know if the files being scanned are the ones you’ll need.
So how do you resolve this fear about not being able to access files while they’re being scanned?
You plan for it!
Planning For Your Records To Be Scanned
Planning and preparation is key to having a smooth and successful project. As Dwight Eisenhower said, “plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”
What he means is that plans don’t always work out exactly as they’re designed, but it’s better to have a plan that you can adjust rather than having no plan at all and not be prepared in any way.
Some preparation and planning questions to ask yourself are below. These aren’t all-encompassing but will give you a foundation to build from.
How often do you get requests?
If you’re getting a lot of requests (multiple times a day or week), this is critical information to bring up as part of the scope of work.
If we’ve created a standard scanning timeline as a part of our collaborative scope of work and you immediately bombard us with rush request turnarounds, the project won’t be off to a good start.
One option might be to hold off on the section of documents that you know or believe will be the most often requested – once the majority of the project is complete, then these records can be scanned with everyone aware of and ready for multiple requests.
What information has to be provided to the requestor?
If a file is needed in your office, for a staff member or one of your clients, what specifically needs to be provided to them? Only certain parts of the record, or the entire file?
More specificity can sometimes be good, sometimes not so good. If you’re a registrar and need to provide student records from microfiche, you might just say that the entire microfiche sheet needs to be scanned and sent back to you as a PDF. Pretty easy!
But if you’re a third party administrator, maybe you have files that are 200 pages long but only need a certain handful of pages within that file; scanning the entire file is likely much easier for us to do than flipping through the pages and trying to identify which document you need.
Knowing what will be required as part of a request is useful information, and something we appreciate knowing before we start the project so that we can be ready for it.
How do you find the record?
Finding records isn’t always as easy as it may seem, especially when someone not familiar with the documents has to find them.
Your material should be clearly labelled and easily identifiable. When a request is made, clear instructions should allow us to find the requested file easily, and not require a hunt-and-peck approach.
Also, be prepared for records to not exist. We’ve seen this many times – a request is made, we search for the record, and it’s not there. We tell our client and they realize that they made a mistake in the requested document. Please be precise because hours of effort can be wasted due to incorrect information!
What is YOUR required turnaround time to provide the requested record?
When a file is requested from your organization, how long do you have to find it and provide it or a copy to the person making the request?
This timeline will influence our scanning and turnaround schedule: we’ll have to get the notification from you, find the document, scan it, and provide you a digital copy, or get the hard copy back to you.
Having an agreed-upon turnaround schedule for requests will allow everyone to keep cool when a request is made.
Which records are accessed most frequently?
If a certain set of your records is requested more often than others, it may make sense to hold those until the end of the project so that the other material can be scanned and completed in a normal timeline.
Once the non-critical records are scanned and done, we’ll know that the last batch of records needs to be completed quickly to reduce request fulfilments. Or, at a minimum, our scanning team will know to expect requests during the batch and can be ready to handle them efficiently.
What method of delivery do you want?
Your project scope will partly determine the delivery method of requests, and if you have specific requirements it’s good to let us know early.
Let’s say the goal of your overall project is to scan your hard copy files and convert them into your hosted electronic records management system. If you get a request, here are a few options to fulfill the order:
- Prioritize within the process flow
We can find the requested file, scan it immediately and ahead of any other records, and push it through our process flow to get it into your application. The upside here is that once it’s scanned and loaded to your system, it’s done. A potential downside is that the processing (after scanning) could be complex and might take a few days. Your request fulfilment turnaround time will influence if this method works.
- Electronic transfer (FTP or email)
We can find the requested file, scan it immediately and ahead of any other records, and load it to a secure FTP account (electronic file transfer method) for you to access. This is a quick way to digitize a file, but the potential downside is that the file may not be fully processed as required by the project scope of work. If the turnaround time is too quick for the file to be converted according to project specs, it may have to be re-scanned or re-processed later.
Email is also another option, depending on the sensitivity and size of the records.
- Return the hard copy
Returning the hard copy is usually an option, although usually as a last resort.
Creating A Request Process Before The Project Starts
Our recommendation for any project that may have requests is to collaborate with us before the project starts and determine the plan to fulfill requests, if they occur.
If we figure out a plan together beforehand, your entire project will be much smoother. In some cases we’ve even created entirely separate process flows to handle customer requests due to their complex and time-sensitive nature.
Better to have a solid plan and not need to use it than to not have a plan and scramble when something happens.
If you’re considering a digital conversion project, reach out to us by calling 800-359-3456 or send us a short email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We’ll get you set up with one of our sales reps to review your situation and see if we’d be a good fit to work together.
Below are some other articles you can read to learn more about digital conversion. Whether you have hard copy paper files or microfilm and microfiche, you might just need to see some of your records during a conversion, so knowing about how other parts of the conversion process works can only be a benefit to you!
“Breaking Down The Box: How To Approach Your Paper Scanning Project” lays out various ideas for you to consider as you approach your paper scanning project. Are you thinking about scanning and converting your paper records? It might be best to “break down the box” by parsing out the project into smaller, more manageable pieces.
“How To Choose The Right Microfilm Scanning Partner” gives you our thoughts on the subject and some ideas about what to keep an eye out for when deciding who to choose as your scanning partner.
“The BMI Microfilm Scanning Process” describes our 10-step method of scanning your microfilm. You should know what happens to your records when you work with a scanning company!