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Converting Paper Files into Electronic Files

New Project: From Paper to Electronic

We are going to start converting our paper piles into electronic files. We have many, many, many filing cabinets so this looks like thousands of paper to convert. This looks like it will be a yearlong project.

We'll have to scan those papers and most likely we'll OCR them to make them text readable since scanning just makes a picture copy. Then we either feed that OCR into a database or data management system or network server for easy access, by data querying or searching.

The scanning process looks like a brute process where the paperwork will have to be organized, with staples taken out, then scanned and hopefully a metadata added. We could outsource this process or hire an intern/temp. We'll also probably have to get an OCR software or add OCR capability to our copier/scanner. I looked into using VBA to automate the OCR process but one route requires scanning the paper as TIFF files and the other route using Acrobat Professional. Neither are optimal because we still don't have the metadata to go with the file. But it was fun to look into this possibility.

Then there is a question of how and where do we want to save these electronic files. Do we want the OCR text files to feed into a database or do we just save them into a network server. Or maybe instead of the network, we use a cloud. How are we going to search these files?

There's also the process of what do we do with the paper. Do we still need to keep them? Or can we immediately destroy them? How long do we need to keep the electronic version? We'll need a retention process.

Then there's the fact that technology changes so fast that it can make hardware and software obsolete. So if you need to keep the electronic files for many years, say 7, then you may face the possibility that as time goes by, equipment fails and you no longer can get replacement. And therefore, the data can't be retrieved. This is the preservation process.

Next week I hope to talk to accounting and our IT guy to get their input. I'm also going to talk to our office manager since she is already well versed in this project. She said she had tried for 5 years to get folks to move from paper to electronic.

Gulp! Okay, there is also a process for changing behavior. It's going to be hard to move from paper to electronic. Sometimes it's just a lot easier to see the numbers on paper. I came from a company where everything was done electronically. In the ~10 years that I was with the company, I rarely printed out anything - maybe once a year, if even that. So, I'm used to it. I guess I naturally gravitated to using the computer as my paper.

Changing behavior may actually be the biggest hurdle.

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