Digital conversion projects have a lot going on – transportation, material tracking, preparation, scanning, image processing, index, and so on and so on. Add to this that a project involves hundreds of thousands to millions of images, and it can seem overwhelming.
So how does a scanning company get everything done, on time and correctly?
The answer, in most cases, is subcontractors.
In this article we’ll:
- define subcontractors as they relate to digitization projects
- describe common subcontractor tasks within jobs
- cover security and protecting data
- touch on subcontractor costs
What Are Subcontractors?
In the world of digitization, subcontractors (or “subs”) are the organizations we work with to whom we delegate parts of our projects.
To our clients, our company is typically seen as simply “the contractor.” For instance, we might be working for a city government department that wants hard copy records scanned — we’re ultimately responsible for the digital conversion project.
However, based on the requirements of the project and how the workflow is set up, we may assign a piece or pieces of that project to our subcontractors; they’d work on that aspect of the project on our behalf which would ultimately be utilized as part of the delivered product.
Subcontractor Tasks During Digitization Projects
Digital conversion projects can entail dozens of steps, depending on their complexity. Some projects have as few as 8 to 10 steps, but we’ve seen others with more than 50. These include tasks like receiving materials, preparing records, performing the actual scanning, conducting post-processing and indexing, and delivering the images and data to our clients.
Often, certain steps can be accomplished faster and more cost-effectively by subcontractors who specialize in them. One example is indexing or data capture—essentially capturing information from a record or image and naming a digital file. There’s also image framing or cropping. This task ensures that a digitally scanned image is captured accurately, showcasing only the parts of the image that our client desires. When working with materials like microfilm and microfiche, there’s often additional border and extra fluff around an image that isn’t useful. Cropping the image removes this padding, leaving only the relevant image.
Another area where subcontractors often shine is record identification. This process involves examining scanned or digital images and identifying a specific image based on various requirements. Record identification may be necessary for determining which images in a project need to be keyed, marking the start of an indexing process, or identifying where a file or document ends. It’s particularly beneficial on microfilm and microfiche scanning projects due to the sheer volume of images that need to be reviewed.
What do all three of these tasks have in common? They’re time-consuming, and they demand scalability for efficiency and cost-effectiveness. This is exactly where subcontractors highlight their value.
Security & Subcontractors
The term “subcontractor” sometimes carries a negative connotation, as folks believe that utilizing a subcontractor means their images are being sent to an unknown entity or that the information on the images will be compromised. This raises concerns about security and trustworthiness.
However, when properly managed, subcontractors can be an integral part of a project, and they often prove to be as security-conscious as the primary contractor. It’s all in the way subcontractors are utilized, and the process by which data is transferred to them.
Depending on the sensitivity level of the records involved in a digitization project, subcontractors may not even be aware of what they’re handling due to the records’ fractured distribution (randomized pieces of data are sent to different subcontractors for keying, for instance), or they might only receive low-resolution, illegible images for framing, ensuring no data is directly provided to the subcontractor.
While we can’t vouch for other companies’ practices, our subcontractors are thoroughly assessed through our security process and re-evaluated each year, and we maintain detailed business associate agreements with all our subcontractors. During our annual SOC 2 Type II audit, an unbiased third party reviews our security processes and methodologies, confirming that we’re managing data appropriately, including when working with subcontractors.
How Subs Can Affect Project Costs
Subcontractors play a key role in digitization projects because they can scale much more rapidly than most scanning companies in many areas. This means it’s often more cost-effective to have subs perform particular tasks than for the primary contractor to do them all. These savings are typically passed along to clients, so it’s a win-win.
We will note that subcontractors are not always necessary for a digitization project—if a client prefers not to involve subcontractors, it’s possible that all necessary tasks can be performed “in-house” by the primary contractor. However, they might be missing out on the substantial benefits of scalability and efficiency, which often translate into cost savings.
Ready for your digitization project? Call us at 800.359.3456 or email us at email@example.com, and we’ll work with you to define a scope of work and put together a project that fits your needs (and likely use subs to make it happen!).
BMI Annual Security Audit
Finding a company that executes security audits gives you confidence that they’re handling your records properly, they have systems in place to protect the physical copies as well as the digital files, and that they have a reviewed and audited method of capturing, storing, transmitting, and disposing of your data after your project is completed.
Choosing A Partner For Your Secure Scanning Project
What should you look for when choosing a partner for your secure scanning project? Some key items include physical security setup, digital and network security processes, and security credentials (such as audits). Read some of our recommendations and make an informed choice for your conversion project.
Digitization & The Chain Of Custody
The chain of custody of your records is a critical component during a digital conversion project. Learn what to ask about and how to evaluate a company’s chain of custody methods.