According to an IDC report, by 2025, there will be 2.3 trillion pages of documents printed. Despite a decline in printing, this figure still represents 4.4 million pages printed around the world every minute which is the equivalent of 39 football fields.
The decline in printing is due to more companies embracing digitalization and digital-first workflows as more widely acceptable replacements for printed paper and physical files. This trend is accelerated by document scanning, which is often one of the first steps in a company’s digital transformation journey.
Numerous outsourced document-scanning or document-imaging vendors exist in the marketplace today, offering various pricing options for their services. Of course, companies can also take on their own do-it-yourself (DIY) scanning projects, but as a stand-alone approach, that comes with a number of critical risks.
Why Scan Now?
There are several reasons companies have placed more of a priority on scanning their physical documents.
Cabinets stuffed with files take up a lot of space. As companies look to free up space to create more flexible and accessible workspaces, bulky cabinets with years or decades of paper records are an unnecessary hindrance. Some companies have also turned to off-site storage which creates an additional, recurring cost along with even bigger information accessibility issues.
Needless to say, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated companies’ digitalization efforts. When the pandemic forced companies to rapidly transition to remote-work arrangements, many found that employees didn’t have access to important legacy documents, hindering their productivity at a critical time.
Remote and/or hybrid work is now considered an acceptable, long-term workplace model, prompting organizations to double down on their digitalization efforts to empower a permanently distributed workforce.
Costs Associated with Scanning
The cost structures for document scanning can be as varied and multifaceted as the third-party providers themselves.
Today, many scanning vendors are highly transactional, charging per document, per page or per image, as an example. Others take a broader approach, charging scanning customers for a box or other bulk storage container full of files.
In general, scanning projects that involve charges per transaction seem to offer a lower entry amount but, in reality, can be more expensive overall as unknown factors can quickly balloon the cost over time. For example, most companies don’t know the number and type of documents that are maintained in their file systems, which can obfuscate the total project amount. Moreover, image-based pricing models can escalate unpredictably as some documents are double-sided and stapled or present other complications, such as X-rays, blueprints, and mechanical drawings, that multiply the expenses for some projects.
In contrast, scanning vendors that use a per-box model offer companies a fixed, quantifiable, and all-inclusive cost structure that can be more budget friendly.
DIY companies are responsible for buying hardware and software, along with self-managing the solutions. The risks, with the potential to derail any digitalization project, are numerous. Factors to consider for a DIY scanning project:
- Do you have the time, strategy, resources and proper equipment needed to carry out the project—especially on a large scale?
- Does the person or people responsible for the actual scanning have the experience necessary to produce quality outputs?
- Who will be responsible for overseeing the project and providing quality control?
- Who will develop indexing requirements and ensure they’re being followed
- What will be the strategy for providing access to staff as well as incorporating the digital documents into operational workflows and other enterprise applications such as electronic health records (EHRs), human resources management systems (HRMS, and legal case management software?
The output for a DIY scanning project could very easily end up producing unreadable images and documents that staff can’t find (because they weren’t indexed correctly). That is if the project even sees completion. Companies like to think that they can rely on their existing multi-functional devices in the office for a scanning project. Unfortunately, the sun will burn out before they ever get through the project.
Tips to Help Reduce Scanning Costs
While companies want the best outcomes from their scanning and digitalization initiatives, controlling costs is still a top priority. Whether partnering with a third-party document-management provider or forging ahead with a DIY project, businesses can reduce scanning costs by:
- Understanding their document population. Know what types of documents you have in your file system, who needs access to those files, and what the regulations are for storing different types of information. Companies should consider the legal and compliance implications of information accessibility and data storage, ensuring that their efforts follow HIPAA, PCI, or other industry guidelines.
- Evaluating documents for retention efficacy. Not all documents need to be retained. Be aware of the time requirements for keeping information. Prioritize files that still have longer-tail expiration dates. For example, if there are documents coming up on their compliance expiration dates, then don’t spend that money scanning those. Just destroy those files in accordance with your company’s document-retention policy.
- Considering accessibility requirements. Some documents don’t need to be accessible to all people. For instance, X-rays or blueprints, which often incur additional scanning costs, can be stored in physical files, while more critical, day-to-day documents are scanned for online storage.
- Destroying unneeded files. It’s easy for physical storage areas to become bloated and inefficient. The digitalization process presents a good opportunity for companies to review older physical documents and prioritize unneeded files for secure destruction.
Get the Most ROI from Your Scanning Project
Scanning documents helps companies reclaim office space and alleviate the cost of off-site repositories. At the same time, a strong digital document-management system better protects data by enforcing policies, regulations and business rules which, in turn, helps companies remain compliant in terms of their overall information management.
If your company is not willing to assume 100-percent of the risk associated with a DIY scanning project but wants to partner with a third-party digitalization provider, then make sure you perform the necessary due diligence and look beyond the basic scanning services.
Not all document-scanning or document-imaging vendors are created equal.
To protect you, your company, and its documents, only consider vendors who invest in the necessary certifications, training, and infrastructure to keep your information secure.