Paper scanning projects run the gamut in terms of size, scope, and complexity, and we’ve (almost) seen them all!

No paper digitization project is exactly the same as another, though there are a few common factors that will affect how long your project takes to be completed.

By the end of this article, our goal is for you to understand the various factors that will affect your paper scanning project’s timeline and to be able to create a general estimate of how long your particular project may take from start to finish.

What Is Paper Scanning?

Paper scanning is the process of creating digital files from your hard copy paper records. 

You’re able to get your paper records scanned in a few different ways (DIY vs. outsourcing, on-site vs. off-site), and every project will have something unique about it. Our paper scanning process article lays out the steps we take to convert your records, and will help you understand what your records will go through if you decide to work with us. 

The purpose of paper scanning is to provide you with digital records so you can stop using physical copies.

Timeline Considerations

To understand what can affect your project’s timeline, below is a list of common factors that drive a paper scanning project’s schedule and longevity:

The more paper you have, the more time it’ll take to scan. The number of pages that you have as part of your conversion project will be a major influence on the timeline.

Not sure how much paper you have?
Check out our video to scope out your project!

“Paper” is a catch-all for a large variety of records, but it does come in various formats that require different handling and scanning methods. The overall process is identical, but the specific type of paper document (office size, large format, bound book, index card, etc.) will demand minor tweaks that can affect the project timeline.

Scanning is just one part of a digital conversion project; when taken as an entire concept, the project specs and requirements can have a major effect on your completion timeline. The general rule of thumb is that the more detailed and complex your project requirements are, the longer the project will take.

Scanning your hard copy files is the first step to conversion, but once we’ve created the electronic copies for you, they need to be named. Without a good indexing scheme, you’ll find it difficult to locate your records and use them in a productive way. 

Paper scanning projects can have some of the most difficult indexing requirements because there are so many variations! You might have folders that need to be named, or maybe sections within a folder. Some folks might just want a batch of files named by the box they came in, and others may want certain fields based on different form types. With so many ways for paper files to be organized and named, the indexing can become a central piece to your project.

Having a start and end date for your project is great because it sets a clear goal of what you want accomplished and when. For example, if we provided you a scanning quote for a project and estimated that it’s going to take six months, but you say you need it done in four, it’s possible to make it happen if you let us know about it.

As much as we’d always like to say we can take on any project at any time, occasionally that may not be the case if we already are full of other commitments. If we’re completely booked for three months out, we may have to start your project a little later than planned, extending your project timeline. On the other hand, if paper scanning is light and we estimate your project to take four months, we might get it done in two or three. We try to give you a pretty solid project schedule, but as capacity fluctuates we adapt to the situation and make the best of it, which could affect your timeline.

Our Milestone 1 process (“M1”) is the method we use to build, test, and refine your unique project process flow. In general, an M1 takes 3-4 weeks to be ready for your approval. If you’re in a rush, it’s possible for us to expedite this. If your project is complex, or has a lot of exceptions and issues come up during the M1 phase, it may take longer than normal.

Paper Scanning Project Examples

Below are three example paper scanning projects. They’re similar in many ways so that we illustrate how small changes to a project scope can affect the timeline.

Example 1

Quantity of Records: 300 boxes (~750,000 pages)

Content: Accounting Records

Paper Type: Office-size (8.5” x 11”)

Indexing Requirement: Folder Level

Estimated Milestone 1 setup, testing, and approval: 2-3 weeks 

Estimated project completion: about 2-3 months after M1 approval


300 boxes of paper records is a medium- to large-sized project. What we typically recommend for a project of this size is break up the project into two or three batches so that we can complete each batch within a month and then cycle into the next batch. What will really drive the timeline is the condition of the records and the project specifics for indexing and organizing the files. 

We’re using Accounting Records for this example, which is confidential information to our client, but it’s not at a security level such as medical records (HIPAA) or criminal records (CJIS) which would require additional security measures to be compliant in those areas. 

Let’s assume that the physical records are in good condition (light wear and tear), are organized consistently in folders, and have the standard amount of fasteners (staples and paper clips) to keep some records together. All in all, a project that shouldn’t require too much preparation prior to actually scanning the records. 

To digitally name the files, it’s simply capturing the information on the folder tabs and creating a multi-page file from the pages within that folder: for example, “June 2018 Expenses.PDF” is the resulting name, captured directly from the folder tab.

The M1 for this project should be about 3-4 boxes, depending on how many specific document types are represented in the overall project. The M1 is estimated to be ready for approval within two to three weeks. Once we receive your approval, the remaining records (~300 boxes) can be digitized within two-three months. 

Example 2

Quantity of Records: 600 boxes (~1,500,000 pages)

Content: Accounting Records

Paper Type: Office-size (8.5” x 11”)

Indexing Requirement: Folder Level

Estimated Milestone 1 setup, testing, and approval: 2-3 weeks 

Estimated project completion: 4-5 months after M1 approval


What you’ve probably noticed is that this example is the exact same as Example 1 except for a single change, the number of boxes to scan. 600 boxes of paper documents is definitely pushing into the “large” category so we’d again recommend breaking up the project into batches. At 600 total boxes, the M1 will typically be 5-10 boxes depending on how many record types you have, and then each cycle batch will be roughly 100-150 boxes. 

Since all other aspects of the project are the same as Example 1, we won’t regurgitate the other details of the project; the big difference is the total number of boxes to be scanned. You’ll also notice that the timeline doesn’t necessarily double. In most cases with larger projects, we plan them out more strategically and set aside the resources and people necessary to keep the pace. This is compared to, say, a 20-box project that pops up and we fit it into the current schedule as available. 

The M1 for this project should be about 5-10 boxes and is estimated to be ready for approval within two to three weeks. Once we receive your approval, the remaining records (~600 boxes) will be digitized within four-five months. 

Example 3

Quantity of Records: 600 boxes (~1,500,000 pages)

Content: Police Reports (criminal records)

Paper Type: Office-size (8.5” x 11”)

Indexing Requirement: File Level

Estimated Milestone 1 setup, testing, and approval: 3-4 weeks 

Estimated project completion: 4-5 months after M1 approval


For our final example, we’ll stick with 600 boxes of records but change it up a bit by saying that they’re police reports and require file-level indexing. 

First, criminal records fall into the CJIS (Criminal Justice Information Services) category, which is a specific category of material security classification within our company’s operating method. Because of its designation as CJIS material, our IT and Production people are required to set up special groups of employees to work on the project, segregate network data, and other audit items based on the CJIS Security Policy. Doing this adds time and effort to all aspects of the project. 

Next, the indexing is at the file level (as compared to the folder level in the other two examples), which in this case would be the case file level. Instead of capturing the digital naming information from a folder tab and naming all pages inside that folder as a document, we’ll now have to look at individual pages to locate and capture the naming data. For instance, a box of paper records has roughly 2,500 pages in it, and a case file might have an average of 5-10 pages. If the case files aren’t separated by folders, staples, barcode sheets, or some other such physical identifier, we’ll have to look at every one of the 2,500 pages to find the case number in order to capture it. To summarize, we’ll have to look at 2,500 pages per box, and from there capture and key 250-500 index points/case files. Now multiply that by 600 boxes and it’s quite the project!

The good news is that even though the indexing is much more granular, the most time that it’ll affect is the M1. Making sure we understand the indexing specifics, how the records change throughout boxes, and preparing our keying processes and people will add some time to the M1, but once it’s approved and we’re scanning the bulk of the project, the time to complete is about the same as the folder-level indexing project. 

The M1 for this project will be about 5-10 boxes again, and with the new indexing requirement the M1 is estimated to be ready for approval within three to four weeks. Once approval is received, the remaining records can be digitized within four to five months. 

Next Steps

Reach out to us today! Click the “Get Your Quote” button below, fill out the form, and we’ll quickly reply to you to discuss your project.

Further Reading

Check out some more articles about paper scanning and digitization:

“How Much Does It Cost To Scan A Box Of Paper?” addresses seven factors that will affect your scanning price including the number of records, the condition of your material, and indexing requirements, to name a few.

“The BMI Paper Scanning Process” outlines our 9-step process to take your records from hard copy to digital. Steps include tagging boxes with tracking information when we receive them, creating your unique job order so we can execute the project, and of course scanning!

“Choosing A Partner For Your Secure Scanning Project” describes what it means to scan secure records and some recommendations for you to consider when you’re choosing a scanning partner. When it comes to sensitive and confidential documents, it pays to be aware!