When you’re looking around for a scanning partner, there are a myriad of ways to evaluate and vet who to work with. You could talk about location, experience, longevity in business, costs, and so on and so on.
It’s critical that you ask questions early and often to make sure you don’t spend time with a company you aren’t likely to choose. Most often, the first and second contacts with a company’s sales rep (discovery calls) will be where you can ask the questions that will really give you the feeling if you’re looking in the right direction.
In this article we’ll give you five vetting questions that should get you started on the right foot in determining who you’ll choose to work with.
#1 – What will my project cost?
Before starting any scanning project, you’ll want a ballpark estimate of what it’s going to cost. Of course, the more detail you can provide a scanning partner about the project, the more accurate a quote they can give you. However, they should be able to provide you with a high-level cost estimate after just a brief chat.
The reason we list this as the first vetting question is one of practicality. If you have a certain idea and a budget for your project, and the quotes come in far above that budget, it might not be worth putting any more detailed planning into the project.
So although one estimate shouldn’t have to be make or break — again, you do need to get some detail on the scope of the project before you know how much it will cost — if there’s clearly no way the project can go forward within your budget, now is the time to part ways.
You can also ask how the company determines its pricing; in other words, what factors go into how they price services? Let’s take microfilm as an example — do they price it per image, or per physical roll? It’s important to make sure you clearly understand their pricing structure; complex pricing rules might mean the company is trying to hide something, and you could be in for a surprise when the invoice comes.
#2 – What’s the scanning process?
Next, you’ll want to know whether the company you’ll be working with follows a scanning process to ensure your records are digitized correctly. Many companies will say, “Of course we have a scanning process!” But can they show you what that process is? When they describe it, does it sound like they’re making it up on the spot or like it’s an actual methodology?
A well-defined scanning testing and scanning process becomes especially important with large projects because it’s the only real way to make digitization scalable. If you’re just dealing with a few documents, sure, you can ham-and-egg projects and make things work individually, but when the units start to pile up, a company will need a good process to execute efficiently, effectively, and on schedule.
Additionally, having a process removes the dependence on certain individuals. If someone gets sick, goes on vacation, or even leaves the company, the process doesn’t go with them; someone else can fill in the gaps and keep your project running smoothly.
If there’s a particular part of the process that you’re concerned about or want some extra assurance on — for example, quality assurance checks — this is the time to get your questions answered. If the company struggles to explain how that part fits into the process, this should be a red flag.
#3 – How do you protect my documents?
In many scanning projects, the protection and security of your documents is paramount. After all, these are likely the only existing copies of these records, not to mention that in many projects they contain sensitive or confidential information.
So how does the company you’re talking to protect your records? Are all records treated the same, or do different projects have different security levels? Does the facility have designated areas for different types of projects? Do they allow visitors to wander around their office? Where are the security cameras situated? Is there break-in monitoring? What’s the response time of local law enforcement in the case of an emergency?
All of those relate to physical security, but there’s also digital security to consider. Are the records encrypted when they’re stored and delivered? Are production areas separated from administrative areas on the network to mitigate the risk of hacks or ransomware breeches?
All of these questions are important in understanding how your files will be processed and handled. The answers you accept will depend on your risk tolerance and what type of data you’re dealing with.
#4 – What proof do you have that you know what you’re doing?
It’s one thing for a scanning company to say they protect your records, but it’s another to prove it.
After asking a potential scanning partner about security, you should ask how they can verify that they’re doing what they say they do. Start by asking if they comply with nationally recognized guidelines such as HIPAA or the FBI’s CJIS Security Policy, conduct internal security audits, or have had an independent SOC 2 audit.
You can also ask if the company belongs to any industry groups. In the digitization industry, this means a place where they can share ideas and methods for projects just like yours. IIMDA (Independent Information Management Dealers Association) is the premier digitization industry group in the US, with members from around twenty firms. If your potential partner isn’t affiliated with any associations, is there a reason for that?
#5 – Can you scan our documents onsite?
Not all scanning companies will be well equipped to scan documents at your location. There’s a lot more involved logistically, and the cost is often significantly higher than conducting the project at their own facility. So if this is something you’re leaning toward, or even just considering, be sure to ask any potential scanning partners whether onsite scanning is possible.
Once you get an answer, whether it’s a yes or no, you can dive into whether it’s in fact necessary, what it will take to do it, and how the costs will compare to working offsite.
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