AIIM Golden Gate Chapter
1. Convert and pre-load all documents in the back file
into the system prior to going live.
Happy New Year from the Golden Gate Chapter! 2. Convert only the most recent “documents” that are
being used (convert all “live” documents up to 1
Welcome to this issue of Headlines – a quarterly
year) and then convert documents only as they are
newsletter for AIIM Golden Gate Chapter members.
requested. All other existing documents remain in
This issue of Headlines is devoted to the subject of their original format, unless requested.
document conversion – whether the documents are film, 3. Don’t convert anything and bring into the system
paper, or electronic such as MS Word. As many of you only new items beginning on a “day forward” basis.
already know, document conversion can be a time and Convert any documents requested “on-demand.”
resource intensive project and without proper planning 4. Some variation of the above: convert in-house
things can quickly go awry. documents up to 6 months old for the initial system
release and outsource the remaining documents.
Is seems that document imaging and document
Considerations: Determining which files to convert is an
management is being reconsidered by many companies
exercise in their usage and how much money is allocated
that may have initially thought it too expensive or not
to the project. If budget and time are not a consideration,
yet capable of satisfying their needs. And there is also an
converting everything may be the way to go. Many
increase in the number of companies that are trying to
companies, however, realize that converting everything
satisfy compliance regulations and the need for records
is not feasible because some documents are seldom
accessed or may be nearing the end of their retention
When thinking about implementing a document period. It may not make financial sense to convert a
management system, think about all the file cabinets, series of documents only to delete them within a year.
boxes, and warehouses full of paper and filmed Permanent retention documents should be converted as
documents; all of the electronic documents stored on they may be part of the business continuity plan.
personal drives, shared drives, networked drives, and all
It is important to have the new document management
of the various media now used to store our files. The
system loaded with documents when it becomes
question is: What do I convert and how do I do that?
operational. A good conversion strategy will ensure that
This issue is designed to get you thinking about the the needed documents are available.
conversion process and maybe even answer some
As part of the document conversion project, consider
questions - but it only a starting place. Also, we are
whether to implement records management procedures
sponsoring a presentation on January 25, see Calendar
and if so, additional indexing information may be
below, about document conversion strategies and
required to match the documents with your file or
technologies, which may help you to plan your
retention plan. If records management is the principal
reason for undertaking this project, make sure it is
Document Conversion Strategies adequately described in your RFP or RFQ.
Introduction Table of Contents
One of the most important considerations for an Welcome ........................................................................1
enterprise content management (ECM) project is Document Conversion Strategies ..................................1
whether to convert existing documents or not. If we Document Conversion Formats ......................................3
consider a hypothetical situation in which an ECM The Question...................................................................4
system (paper files and electronic files) goes live on a Did You Know?..............................................................4
Monday morning, how will the business users of the GG Chapter News ..........................................................4
system use the system? Committees.....................................................................4
There are many choices that can be made, but below are
the most common options when considering a backfile
January 2006 - 1
AIIM Golden Gate Chapter
Make sure you understand that an ECM conversion
Issues to Consider
project may involve film (roll film, microfiche, or
Not only do you have to consider one of the options
aperture cards), paper documents, electronic documents
above, but one of the following must be decided upon –
(Excel, PowerPoint, Word, CAD system drawings, etc.),
if you are going to do a conversion: as well as converting existing document images from
one system/format to another system/format.
1. Do the conversion in-house with your own system
and people resources.
While film is somewhat easier to work with, from a
conversion point of view, it is still a physical media and
2. Hire an outsourcing company to do the backfile
can be subject to loss or damage. Film that has not been
conversion for you. If so, will the conversion be
stored properly may have problems and the images may
done on your premises or be done off-site?
not be acceptable. You may also have paper that is not in
3. Some combination of the two above.
acceptable condition and will require special prep work
Given the above decisions to be made – whether to prior to scanning.
convert and how to convert – you will also need to
Before getting started and sending all your paper, film,
consider the following before any work can be done:
and electronic data to the conversion specialist, also
1. How to properly name and index the documents think about how you are going to ensure the documents
being converted. are actually:
2. Whether to OCR (optical character recognition) 1. Scanned or converted to an acceptable image that is
image files instead of indexing them or in addition to as readable as the original. Image quality control is
indexing them. of primary importance, especially if the original
documents are being destroyed after the scanning
3. If the conversion is subcontracted, how to get the
project is complete. Also consider that looking at a
data to the subcontractor?
document on a computer screen is different from
4. If the conversion is subcontracted, how to get the looking at a piece of paper.
electronic data back to your company and loaded
2. The quality measurement has to be agreed upon
onto your new system ?
prior to any scanning or conversion. This should
5. Whether the conversion is subcontracted or not, involve test runs, samples, and corrections until you
what to do with the paper and/or film files after they feel the quality is acceptable.
have been scanned?
3. If the vendor is scanning 50,000 pages a day and
And not to let you off too easily, you may also consider putting them up on your system, how will you
the following: quality review 50,000 pages? Watch those
1. If subcontracting, how many of the “original” paper
or film documents do you release to the vendor? 4. Image quality is not the only QC area – if an image
Think disaster recovery here. is mis-indexed, it is essentially lost forever. Indexing
must be part of the QC process and is as important
2. What happens when you need one of the documents
as the image quality itself.
that is being converted? How do you get it back and
how quickly? Make sure you cover all the possible 5. Remember that paper and film may not be the only
contingencies in your contract if you use a documents being converted – if you are converting a
conversion company. 1,000,000 Microsoft Word files, correctly indexing
3. Some companies will scan your documents locally
but send the digitized image off-shore for indexing, Finally, prior to starting, should you purge/delete files
QC, and other operations. This may or may not be a before sending them to be converted or should you
consideration to review with your management. convert first and purge later? It would seem obvious that
you would purge/delete first – after all, why spend a
January 2006 - 2
AIIM Golden Gate Chapter
time and money to convert a document and then delete conversion vendor. If a major hiccup occurs while your
it? Well, in some cases it may be faster to actually delete project is in full swing, it may have a serious impact on
images after they have been scanned and this may your business operations.
provide a lower overall project cost. It may not be
On a brighter note, conversion is often a clean, fast, and
physically possible to assemble all of the boxes
painless way to get thousands to millions of documents
containing paper documents and manually go through
off the shelf, out of Iron Mountain, and into your new
them. On the other hand, if you have a good records
ECM system. Outsourcing can be very affordable and
management system and know that you are behind on
may be less costly overall than you could provide
deleting files, the RM system could be used to ensure
that all files ready to be destroyed are, and are not sent
over to the conversion house. Document Conversion Formats
Electronic Document Conversions The other, and perhaps more complex question is - if
you start down this path of converting physical or
Document conversion can also include your existing
electronic documents for archival storage, what format
electronic documents such as Microsoft Office Word,
do you convert the documents to?
Excel, PowerPoint; it may include Adobe PDF
documents; and it may include engineering drawing Will these documents be readable in 5 years, 20 years, or
documents. The conversion can have several facets – 100 years? How many of us today can load and read our
you may simply be loading/converting existing old Wang disks? And if you could read the disk, do you
documents into a document management system (DMS) have the Wang software to allow you to access the file?
or you may be loading documents into a DMS and There are potentially two (or more) separate issues: (1)
converting them from MS Word to PDF/A or even to will software programs be available to read the data
TIFF (Tagged Image File Format – which is an when needed at some future date and (2) will hardware
electronic conversion of MS Word documents to a bit- change such that I no longer have the correct physical
mapped image format just as if you had scanned them). drive to load the archived data? Could you read a 5 ¼ “
As part of the conversion, you may also be trying to
process the electronic documents into a records
If scanning, is TIFF going to be a readable format in
management system (RMS) that can either be part of the
DMS or a separate system by itself.
• If storing Microsoft documents is Word going to be
While it may seem a simple process to “load” MS Word readable in 50 years?
files into an ECM, it is quite complex and requires a fair
• If I go to PDF, is PDF going to be readable in 50
amount of planning and isolating the metadata to be used
years? Or the new PDF/A (Archive)
in the conversion process. You may also consider how to
treat duplicate files that are spread across drives and As of today, there is no “good” answer to these
such things as files on personal drives or all of the files questions. Adobe is working on PDF/A or, PDF Archive
that are stored on CDs and DVDs. to become an international standard but, Microsoft is
also working on this issue and has released “Metro,”
which Microsoft hopes will compete with Adobe’s PDF
This short article only touches on some of the format. Some companies are exploring other options
considerations but is in no way a complete checklist. with data formats that they hope will become
Prior to undertaking any conversion project, identify “standards” for the archive and display of documents,
several conversion companies in you local geographic images, photographs and all other stored digital media.
area (see The Question below)and meet with them at
Some companies have considered archiving a full copy
their facility, explain your project, and try to get any
of the application software with each type document
planning materials that they have for review. It is
stored and have included the physical drive in their
absolutely essential that you have a firm project plan
plans. CDs and DVDs have not be physically around for
prior to sending thousands of pages a month to a
50 or 100 years to prove that they will be readable and
January 2006 - 3
AIIM Golden Gate Chapter
there is some evidence that CDs and DVDs may not hold Record Preservation & Management Co
up over the years. Although magnetic tape has been used Oakland, CA
for a number of years, it is subject to breaking and may www.rpmco.biz
loose data after 15 years, which means that tapes need to
be refreshed periodically.
What will become the final standard (if there will be www.softfile.com
one) is not yet known. In the meantime, stick with the
Did You Know?
standards in the industry – which includes PAPER or
FILM based media, TIFF for scanned documents and The following facts are “thumbnail” estimates:
PDF for electronic documents. Many companies with
1 scanned page (8 1/2 by 11 inches, A4) = 50 KiloBytes
long-term archival needs continue to use microfilm as
(KByte) (on average, black & white, ITU G4 compressed)
the accepted method for storing documents as it may be
viewed without computer-based equipment. 1 file cabinet (4 drawer) (10,000 pages on average) = 500
MegaBytes (MByte) = 1 CD (Compact Disc)
1 box (in inches: 15 1/2 long x 12 wide x 10 deep) (400 x 300
I have a document conversion project but have no idea x 250 mm) (2,500 pages) = 1 file drawer = 125 MBytes
where to start and how to find companies in the Bay 1 linear inch = 100 pages = 5 MBytes
Area. Can you help?
42 linear feet = 50,000 pages = 2.5 Gigabytes
There are a number of local companies that provide
1 roll of 16 mm microfilm (100 ft) @ 24X reduction = 2,500
conversion services in the San Francisco Bay Area.
letter size images = 1 box = 1 file cabinet drawer = 125
Below is a list of companies that we could find but it
may not be a complete list. In addition, you may ask the
Special Note: 1 two-side physical page is 2 images.
vendor that is supplying your document management
system as they may have a list of conversion companies
Golden Gate Chapter News
that they work with or recommend.
The Chapter is always looking for help and ideas for
programs and educational events. If you have a good
document management or records management case
study and would like to share it, give us a call.
BMI Imaging Services
The AIIM Golden Gate Chapter is looking for a Program
Manager to help us develop and organize new programs,
events, and presentations. If interested, please contact
Bud Porter-Roth at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Want to set the direction on where the ECM and DM
industry will go? Then join one of the many committees
Santa Rosa, CA
that is hosted run by AIIM.
For more information, go to:
January 2006 - 4