Recent unfortunate events in public and private organizations, institutions and market centres have starkly highlighted the need for proper processing and digitization of document in every business. Disasters such as fires, collapse of buildings and floods are unpredictable and business executives have a responsibility to ensure their companies’ information are secured against such events. Questions one must think about include:
– How many man hours would be involved to transport my business critical documents to a new location in the event of a disaster?
– How would we access our data in the event of a disruption?
– How long would it take us to restore our information in the event of a loss?
In time of any disaster, you may recover the cost of the building from the insurance company. However vital information like records and valuable documents which you require to continue operations will be lost if not digitized and stored in an appropriate records system. Digitization according to the businessdictionary.com is a conversion of analogue information in any form (text, photographs, voice, etc.) to digital form with suitable electronic devices so that the information can be processed, stored and transmitted through digital circuits, equipment and networks.
Even with the advances in Information Technology in recent years, auditors and legal institutions still prefer hard copies of documents as supposed to records stored in electronic records management systems. This puts pressure on organizations, institutions and individuals to continue creating and keeping hard copies of relevant documents.
The world is fast moving towards a paperless generation and whilst the Forestry Commission and environmental protection agencies continue their campaigns against chainsaw operations on trees, the legal and audit institutions are advised in this article to rethink their strict adherence to keeping paper documents and help industries reduce the use and storage of paper documents.
In 2011, when my company garnered executive approval to implement a centralized document management project that will enable electronic document storage, retrieval, and workflow management to achieve cost savings and improve traditional ways of doing business, I was at the core of the project. It was important for me to ensure that backlogs of documents that were stored in darkrooms, basements or mixed up with old equipment were first processed (appraised, organized, boxed) and digitized as backups before the automation of most processes were initiated.
The importance of digitization as realized over the years of operating in the field is indisputable. Although digitization comes with certain disadvantages such as overreliance on technology, lack of skilled personnel, change management and security issues (hackers, crackers, viruses) among others, the benefits far outweighs these drawbacks.
Digitizing your paper documents prepares your organization for business continuity and allows you to relax, knowing your vital records are safe in the event of a disaster. Again it allows you to easily search and share your files right from your desk as supposed to the cumbersome processes involved in searching for paper documents.
Companies and departments that have so far embraced Digitization have enjoyed its immense benefits. These benefits includes;
– Access to company records over the internet and improvement in the retention of institutional knowledge when staff leave or retire.
– Improvement in audit and Controls through properly indexed documents and an effective paper and electronic filing systems.
– More effective organizational planning against disaster through better management of and access to information
– Improvement in the ability to share documents with colleagues and increase flexibility when accessing and using records.
– Reduction in the amount and storage of duplicate document
As I conclude, my advice to any organization, institution or individual considering digitization is that if you want your digitization done professionally, do not purchase a flatbed scanner and get few of your clerical staff to scan documents of your organization. Digitization is not just scanning your documents.
Access and proper control of your digital copies after digitisation are very essential and a Records Officer/Manager will ensure records are properly processed in an appropriate order before digitization. He/she will also ensure a standard file naming convention or index them into an electronic system with appropriate metadata for easy access, retrieval and use while considering security issues.