The question many of us ask ourselves when we embark on a project is “should I pay someone to do this for me or just do it myself?” It can be fixing some home plumbing, doing an oil change, making food for 50 guests at a bridal shower, and so on.

It’s the same thought that will probably cross your mind if you’re thinking about a digital scanning and conversion project, and we hope that our article helps you make the decision that’s best for you.

Set Up For Success

First things first. When you’re set up for success, you’re likely to succeed. Right? Of course.

So what do you need to be set up for success when it comes to a digital conversion project? Lots of things, actually. Here’s a list of major items with brief descriptions of each:

Without the people, you’ve got nothing. Not just for the physical part of scanning, but the intellectual part, too. Scanning sounds like a rote process, and it can be, but to make it actually work you need to have the right people and the right plan. The labor side of this can be more complicated than it would seem; most would look at a scanning project and think “it’s just scanning. Just scan it!” If it were only that easy. Let’s say we’re scanning paper. You can’t just throw it into a scanning machine and hope for the best; you’ve got to prepare the records to make sure they’re ready to be fed into the machine, lest you break the thing! Prep can include pulling staples, removing paper clips, pulling off rubber bands, flattening corners, taping tears, and so on. It’s tedious work but it must be done.

Then onto the scanning. Pull out a chunk of papers (maybe loose leaf, maybe by folder, depending on how they’re originally stored) and put in the scanner. Ziiiiiiiiip! First batch scanned. Second batch loaded, off we go! Uh oh, paper jam, let’s get that fixed. Try again. Wait a second, what’s this small sticky note in here? That needs to be handled separately. And so on, and so on.

And how will the project as a whole work? How are you organizing all of your files once they’re scanned in digital? If you’re loading them to a content management system, you need to put some thought into this. Do you have the right load files? The storage space? The security to protect your records?  

Your IT staff should be able to help you answer some of these questions, but they’re probably busy doing something else. Even if they can help you, you really need to have a designated project manager/coordinator to make sure all of the moving pieces fit together. This is the intellectual side of the people portion, and if you don’t have this, you’re going to have a mess on your hands. 

There are scanners, and there are scanners. We have the second kind, the heavy-duty production-volume units that are made for hundreds of thousands, millions!, of scans. If you’re thinking you’re going to digitize your 500 boxes with a desktop scanner, good luck. Or how about those 1,500 rolls of microfilm on a public-facing personal microfilm scanning unit? See you in 30 years.

When it comes to hardware, you need to be ready for volume. Oh, and don’t forget about maintenance when something breaks.

Ohhhh, that’s right! You can’t just have the material and the hardware, you need the space to put it somewhere. Records are usually kept in a storage area, maybe a cramped closet or back room. From what we usually see, there’s not much room in there, especially not to set up a scanner connected to a computer, with a workstation to prep your material. Without the space to put your scanning machines and people, how will you ever start, let alone complete, your project?

Let’s say you have the people, the machines, and the space to run a conversion project. That’s fantastic! Now do you have the software to handle the digital processing?

We’ll pretend you have microfilm records. Are you just throwing your film on a scanner and hoping it comes out okay? Or do you have densitometers (calibration units that measure the density of the microfilm) that will give you the right settings for your scanning units?

What about project tracking? If you have hundreds or thousands of rolls of microfilm, how will you know how far along you are, which rolls have been completed, and which ones need rework? Where are the images stored, and where do they go when they’re ready for import to your digital content system? How long will that take?

How much storage space do you have for your images? With hundreds of rolls of microfilm, you can easily get into the terabyte range, and you don’t want to run out of space.

Once you get past the physical part of the scanning project, there’s a whole other beast waiting for you, and you need to be prepared.

Desire is a HUGE part of a conversion project, because if you don’t have the desire to start it and see it through to the finish, you’ll end up with a half-cocked mishmash of records, some in digital, some in hard copy, some in one system, some in another. It’ll be a mess. We live and breath conversion projects, so if you choose to work with us you’ll have a partner that’s ready and willing to see your project through to completion and success.

Time and Lost Opportunity

What are you not doing if you’re doing this instead?

If you’re having an employee work on your scanning project a couple hours a day, you’re paying them their normal rate to do something that will probably take 3-4 times as long as a professional company would do it. And they’re also not doing the job they’re supposed to be doing. So then they fall behind in their work, and put off the scanning project because it can wait, then it sits for awhile before becoming a priority, so then more time has to be dedicated to it, which means not doing their actual job…

It’s a vicious cycle. Don’t fall into this cycle.

BMI Is Built To Do This, So You Don’t Have To

After reading about what you’ll need for an in-house scanning project, it probably seems like a lot of work. And it is! We’re built for these projects, we have the equipment and personnel to handle them, and with thousands of projects under our belts we’ll be able to give you our best recommendations to make your unique conversion project a success.

Let us do your work, so you don’t have to.

Further Reading

Want to know more about digital conversion projects? Below are a couple of articles that you might find interesting.

How Do I Start A Microfilm Scanning Project gives you four things to consider before you begin your digital conversion project. It’s a quick read and should help you understand where to start.

Walk Backward To Sprint Forward: Reverse Engineer Your Project” explains why it’s important to work backward from your desired completion date to understand when you need to start your project, and what needs to happen from the beginning through the end.