Take a look around your desk. Is it cluttered with paper?Now look around your office. Is it lined with filing cabinets? When was the last time you actually opened one of them?
If you answered “yes” to either of the first two questions, and those cabinets continue to steal prime office space, it might be time to start taking some baby steps towards digital organization - or as the pros call it, document management.
“Hold on!” you say, “I’m not spending any more money on new office technology!”
BREATHE - nobody said you had to…baby steps, remember?
The first step towards document management can actually be done with a tool that is most likely already within those walls…the hidden treasure that is your copier’s scanner.
And you don't have to scan into a document management system (though that has many business benefits). Even digitizing documents and moving them to a file store (even one in the cloud) can be a solid first step on the road to a more efficient, less-paper office.
Baby Step 1: Make an Honest Plan
Let’s start with the desk. A lot of people like the comfort of having a desktop file stand for working files. So ask yourself, could you part with them to live digitally? If you really think about it, most of us live and die by our email inboxes and sent folders. Email is electronic, so why couldn’t the same be true for your working files? Invoices, meeting agendas scattered with notes you feel compelled to take but never look at again, receipts – work’s little insurance policies if you will. Break free from them and send them to digital heaven! I guarantee they won’t care, and the peace of mind from a tidy workspace is a beautiful thing.
Baby Step 2: Garbage in, Garbage Out
Prepping your physical documents is a key step in making sure that the final scanned image looks as good as it can. If you document is in poor shape to begin with, chances are, the scanner will capture that. But, since scanning is kind of like your documents taking a selfie, it’s time to bring out the smoke and mirrors.
Start with the basics, removing any staples, paperclips, or notes from the pages. Tape any torn pages so they feed smoothly (if you are using the automatic document feeder). It’s also a good idea to put all of the pages in the same direction so you are not scanning a pile of pages all in different directions (think bank teller - we all know they can’t stand to see your benjamins up, then down, and up again.) It's tedious to have to rotate documents so that you can actually read them!
Next, consider your options, or in the selfie example, “your filters” - the things that are going to make your document look it’s best. Whether you have delved into the advanced screen settings on your copier’s scanner mode or not, most all of them come standard with a virtual smorgasbord of options:
- Original type (text, photo, text and photo, etc.)
- File type (PDF, TIFF, and JPEG most commonly)
- Resolution (aka., how many dots per inch you want the scanner to record - 300 is usually best for print)
- Color mode - just like copying, you can scan pages of one color mode into another (color, black and white, or grayscale)
- Destination - where do intend to send this precious file? Network folder? As an email attachment? This might be a good time to consult with your IT folks to ensure there is sufficient space available for whatever method you plan on scanning to.
Baby Step 3: Tag, You’re It!
Ever had to thumb through a stack of files looking for that one critical document? While paper can easily be misplaced, electronic files can be just as hard to find (especially when you start accumulating a lot of them) if you don’t take the time to tag, or “index” them. Indexing is a key component to a successful document management system, and like most technology, has varying levels of complexity.
In it’s simplest explanation, indexing boils down to one of two methods:
- Keyword indexing - you key in the most relative terms that will help retrieve that document later. It should be noted that if you plan on sharing your files with other in your organization, establishing a consistent way of generating keywords is a good idea. One way is to think of how they would be filed in a physical sense in an actual filing cabinet - alphabetical, by year, by client name, by quarter, etc.
- Full-text indexing - every character of ever word on the page is recorded with the use of optical character recognition (OCR) software and made available to search upon later (the main difference here is you can search on just about anything, not just the keywords you thought of at the point of capture).
Doesn’t sound too painful does it? With these simple baby steps, you can be on you way to digital freedom - retrieving files with ease, saving time, and maybe even some money in the long run. Plus, it never hurts your office reputation to have a tidy desk, right?