Backfile Conversion: Best Practices and Considerations


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Overview and strategies for leading backfile conversion projects to a successful outcome.

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Backfile Conversion: Best Practices and Considerations

  1. 1. Backfile Conversion: Best Practices and Considerations for Electronic Document Management DATAMARK, Inc. White Paper in association with the Outsourcing Institute. SUMMARY The Digital Age is upon us. The need to convert paper documents to digital files in pursuit of streamlined workflow and improved efficiency presents a challenge for private companies and government agencies alike. The process requires both digitization and organization of new, inbound documents – traditional and electronic mail and facsimiles – and the “backfile” digital conversion of what can be millions, even hundreds of millions of existing paper documents. Addressing the process in a strategic, planned fashion can make order from potential chaos. Successful outcomes deliver ownership of a modern workflow solution that serves the organization's needs going forward. © The Outsourcing Institute
  2. 2. Introduction – A Government Agency Goes Digital When a state's Human Services Department decided to undergo a major document digitization project in early 2013, officials understood the effort would be advantageous for citizens and employees alike with a transformation of services based on paper-based workflows to systems using searchable digital images. Clients of the agency would benefit from faster response times, and staff would avoid the headaches of having to search through and manage cumbersome paper-based case files. But the transformation also meant committing to a system of Electronic Document Management (EDM) incorporating millions of legacy paper documents. The paper-to-digital backfile conversion required the creation of a holistic process solution that analyzed every document type – from structured agency forms, to unstructured supporting documents – and created a model that determined how each – and all – would be handled. Some 100 million paper documents were transported in bankers boxes from locations throughout the state to a service provider's secure facility for scanning, imaging, indexing and storage. In the end, the agency gained a modern solution for document storage, as well as anywhere, anytime document accessibility. Government agencies and private corporations alike are realizing the need – and requirements – to free themselves from the physical and fiscal burdens of paper. While the concept of a “paperless office” might present a seemingly insurmountable challenge for some organizations, making strategic steps toward digitization and EDM does not. Given smart practices and strategic planning, EDM not only can create an efficient document management solution, it can present a model for future document handling. For those organizations committed to EDM, digitization is a powerful change agent that unlocks efficiency, convenience and improved customer service in ways paper never could. From the Promise to Reality of “Paperless” In some organizations, “paperless” is difficult to achieve. Paper enters the process flow from many points. Some are bound by law or regulations to retain paper, even after originals have been digitized. For others, digitization includes hand-written patient notes, X-rays or other media in the case of a healthcare organization, or largeformat renderings for an architectural firm. Executives or managers with such companies often believe their enterprise's processes are the most complicated and that digitization is impossible. And frankly, many of us like the feel of paper in our hands. Obstacles may seem insurmountable. But they can be overcome with careful planning, and by starting with a single paperbased process within an organization, rather than confronting the overwhelming task of transforming an entire enterprise at once. © The Outsourcing Institute 2
  3. 3. Any transition to EDM often begins with an end-to-end process analysis conducted by experienced business engineering consultants of a global business services provider. At DATAMARK, for example, the Business Engineering Department is engaged to conduct a comprehensive Business Process Analysis (BPA) as a first step in reviewing, evaluating and proposing a backfile scanning and EDM solution. The BPA uncovers the “pain points” within the client's paper flow. These could be a lack of accountability or verification of the presence or process for arriving documents. Or they could be document bottlenecks and backlogs. Among the areas evaluated and questions asked are: • What are the most effective EDM systems for the organization's process? Some companies may need only one; others, like healthcare, may need several, including an Electronic Health Records system, an ePrescription System, or an eInvoicing system, for example. • What will work best? Can the organization outsource backfile scanning offsite to a service provider, or does it need to be completed in-house? • What's the deployment environment? Does the organization have the network bandwidth needed for the EDM system? Are desktop hardware and legacy systems able to integrate with the system? Does the organization need a mobile, tablet-based environment? Every evaluation will be different, with the business engineering team developing solutions that meet the output needs of the client. The goal is to transform the organization in a way that is as non-disruptive as possible – today and in the future. The consulting team should help the organization better understand the value of digitization – and mitigate the risk of storing millions of paper documents. Questions to ask include: What documents have inherent business value? Do legal imperatives necessitate keeping certain documents? What future costs may be borne from lost productivity or storage of files that otherwise can be digitized and the paper documents disposed of? A Business Process Analysis leads to the development of a formal work plan for the project. This will serve as the master schedule for all teams involved, both internal and external. The business engineering team will identify project stakeholders in pursuit of development of a consistent workflow that will endure through the duration of the project and beyond. Consulting teams also encourage a cooperative effort that crosses disciplines – such as operations, business engineering, software development and IT, for example. With gates open and “silos” gone, communication is enhanced. The Technical Side of Paper Capture At its most visible core, back file conversion is the transition to a digital workflow that requires the capture of legacy paper – important files, records and forms that have been warehoused for years and which must be imported into the alldigital workplace. Because solutions are digital and automated, consultants can establish rules based on the types of documents clients process. The consultant helps define needs by the specific client and create a model that is dependable, measurable, relatively error-proof and within a defined workflow and comfort level. Over time, the more clients come to realize the control they gain in the paperless process, the more they embrace it. © The Outsourcing Institute 3
  4. 4. Not all digital initiatives call for backfile conversion. With some, a "day forward" approach will suffice. This means that all future documents will be scanned as they enter the workflow. The organization gradually will phase out paper as it reaches its scheduled date for longterm retention and storage or destruction. Regardless of the approach, not all documents will be scanned. Documents instead may be purged, organized and/or prepared for handling. This can be labor intensive and require involvement of various individuals. The goal, though, is to reduce or eliminate as many human touch points as possible – as well as the individual decision-making involved in choosing what should be scanned. By taking advantage of available automation technologies, human error can be reduced. File organization is an opportunity to introduce logical steps to the process. For example, a healthcare claim can be scanned, organized, and put in order with supporting documentation that prepares a smooth path for review and decision-making. Document preparation is as it sounds. Papers often require the removal of staples or paperclips, copying of odd-sized documents – like a physician's prescription, envelopes or “sticky” notes, and the flattening of dog-eared or folded pages. Smart preparation ensures images are readable, equipment is protected and delays caused by malfunction or maintenance are reduced as much as possible. Additionally, the use of Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology during the scanning process allows for the capture of vital information, including machinewritten (and in many cases handwritten) information in form fields, such as names, dates, addresses, ID numbers, invoice amounts, etc. Once read, they can be automatically indexed, reducing the need for manual keying by a data entry operator. Other Considerations for Backfile Conversion Projects A paper-to-digital conversion can take many forms, from short-term, in-house projects that are easily managed to large-scale endeavors that require months of planning and engagement with outside consultants and service providers. Regardless of the scale, it's best to begin a backfile conversion project with sufficient knowledge to allow for thoughtful review, analysis and preparation for an implementation. To lead a backfile conversion to a successful outcome involves careful planning with an eye for finding opportunities to improve existing processes. Below, we share some important project considerations: • Perform a cost analysis to determine whether to scan inhouse or to outsource. Identify all costs: labor, utilities, facility space, equipment, maintenance, supplies and any other costs associated with handling the backfile scanning project in-house. © The Outsourcing Institute 4
  5. 5. • Consider the kind of preparation needed for your documents. Are there paper clips and staples that need to be removed, sticky notes that need to be copied and organized? Do they need to be sorted in a certain way? Lots of document preparation will affect the speed and cost of the project. • Understand the technical requirements for compatibility with your content management system. Define the acceptable formats for TIFF or PDF images before beginning the project. • Understand your indexing requirements so images are easily findable and searchable. Define the number, length and type (alphabetic, numeric, mixed) of fields to be indexed per document. Will you require double keying (higher accuracy, but costs more) on indexing? • Visit your potential outsourcer's facilities. Make sure the provider has the technical capability for the job. Do their scanners have the required throughput capability? Is there a barcode scanning/document tracking system in place? Does the scanning software meet your requirements for image clean-up, such as straightening, despeckling and deskewing? • Establish quality guidelines. Images should be as readable as the original document. Make sure to do test runs and make corrections necessary to ensure your quality goals are met. Quality control should also address indexing--a quality image isn't of any use if it cannot be found. Conclusion With the arrival of the Digital Age, companies are discovering the need to transform paper to digital media. As a result, they're realizing improved workflow, greater efficiency in the handling of new, inbound documents as well as vast stores of existing documents. Backfile conversion of years of retained paper holds the potential to transform a chaotic workplace to one that enjoys a modern workflow solution ready to serve the organization's needs today – and in the future. About DATAMARK DATAMARK is a leading provider of multichannel customer contact center services, digital mailroom and mail center management, data entry, document processing services and business process re-engineering services for Fortune 500 companies, government agencies and other large enterprises. Founded in 1989, the company is the strategic business process outsourcing ( BPO ) partner for companies across numerous industry sectors, including healthcare, insurance, banking and financial services, and transportation and logistics. DATAMARK offers on-site, onshore and offshore processing facilities, delivering enterprise content management (ECM) and process-automation technologies and solutions to help organizations improve efficiency and profitability in all business functions. © The Outsourcing Institute 5
  6. 6. For Targeted Outsourcing Sponsorship Programs Contact The Outsourcing Institute 6800 Jericho Turnpike Suite 120 W Syosset NY 11791 USA Phone: (516) 279-6850 - 712 Fax: (516) 706-2855