Key Points to Consider when Digitizing Paper Documents into your Microsoft SharePoint Content Management System

While electronic documents have taken a bite out of the amount of paper an organization uses, we still have lots of paper documents swirling around our offices…invoices from other companies, business proposals and other important pieces of information litter desks and filing cabinets across the globe.

Microsoft's SharePoint content management capabilities are quickly positioning SharePoint as one of the dominate players in the Enterprise Content Management space. In addition to its content management capabilities, SharePoint also offers deep MS Office Integration which gives users the ability to work within their favorite Office applications and seamlessly create, store and collaborate on this content thru SharePoint.

Add to this, SharePoint's meta-data management, content lifecycle workflows, and powerful search features to surface this content quickly and easily and it is no surprise that a lot of companies are switching to SharePoint to fulfill their Enterprise Content Management needs.

One important question for a lot of these organizations is - how do we transform our paper documents into a digital format that's easily accessible, searchable and manageable?

To properly answer that question, organizations need to consider the following points to ensure this transition makes effective use of company time and resources.

Don't rely on ad hoc measures to digitize paper documents into your SharePoint content management system

As with any effort involving an entire company, you need to establish firm policies and procedures for digitizing information contained in paper form. It's easy to rush out and start scanning but without any formal rules, your SharePoint ECM system will serve as nothing more than an electronic filing cabinet.

If someone cannot find something or it takes them several hours to sift through thousands of documents, digitizing will not serve much benefit.

Remember, documents enter your company through several means – through the mailroom, fax, email and remote offices.

Also, any data capture solutions must include the ability to connect to different devices and sources, especially if you're using SharePoint ECM as an add-on to your current infrastructure.

Save time and money by automating manual tasks

Automating document capture can help shorten processing time and enable your business to do more with less. Different methods of accomplishing this include everything from barcodes for document identification to routing documents to a particular SharePoint document library. More advanced automation strategies include extraction of form data and more sophisticated identification of forms.

Automating your digitization of paper documents can go a long way to reducing operating costs and accelerating processing.

Use OCR (Optical Character Recognition)

Use optical character recognition (OCR) during the document capture stage to create searchable text from the document image. This enables users to search for a document, or content within a document, using a character string search to find and retrieve relevant information.

Don't make scanning a primary job if your company is decentralized

Traditionally, if you had a lot of paper documents to convert to some other storage means, you would hire a firm to microfilm or scan them. Or perhaps you would assign someone internally to handle it.

Either way, if your office is in one spot, that's a feasible option.

But if you have branch offices or workers who are always traveling to do their jobs, a centralized structure like this may not work out too well. Therefore, workers in the field will have to handle the digitization and cataloging of their paper documents themselves.

In recognition of this reality, you need an ECM system and data capture policies that are simple enough for these workers to handle that's adaptable to different operating environments.

You don't want workers in the field diverting too much of their attention from their main jobs to worry about digitizing paper documents into a SharePoint ECM system.

Tie into your existing authentication and authorization source

Security and user authentication through Active Directory enables access control and a complete audit trail by storing the document based on the user rather than the device.

Starting out with standardized rules will save you from headaches later on

Garbage in, garbage out – it's a popular saying in the corporate world. If you input garbage on one end, you can only expect to receive garbage on the other.

Having set rules that outline where content is to be stored, how folder and file naming conventions are applied, how data is formatted and what types of documents are allowed go a long way to ensuring you maximize the value of your SharePoint ECM system and it not become just another disorganized “electronic” filing cabinet.

Digitizing paper documents and storing them with a SharePoint ECM system may be in its early stages since many companies still rely on paper to run their businesses. But over time, it can become a powerful tool to help companies like yours operate faster and smarter.

Get started on the road to modernizing your company's document management and learn more by contacting Georgia SharePoint consultants at Innovative Architects today. Our on-call consultants are ready to help guide your ECM system's implementation and ongoing technical management.