The Ultimate Guide to Digitising Records

Posted on 27th September 2023

Digitising Your Records

The first step, if you haven’t done so already, is to scan your paper documents so you have all your records in a digital format. Depending on how many years your company has been active, and the retention guidelines for keeping information, this could be many, many records. It could be so many records and documents that you may not even know where to start. Our first tip is to find out what the statutory retention periods are for the types of documents you hold. For example, most financial records only need to be kept for 7 years. If you decide to outsource your scanning to ProScan, then we will assist with best practices and suggestions based on our years of experience in digitising records.

Determining Your Folder Structure

Creating an effective folder structure for digitised records is crucial for organising and managing your digital documents efficiently. The structure you choose should be intuitive, scalable, and tailored to your specific needs. 

Start by clarifying the purpose of your digitised records. Understand what kind of documents you're dealing with, how they will be accessed, and who will be using them. This will help you tailor the structure to meet your specific requirements.

Group your documents into logical categories or types. For example, if you're digitising financial documents, you might have categories like "Purchase Invoices," "Sales Invoices," "Expense Claims," and so on. Understanding your document types is essential for creating a meaningful structure.

Create a hierarchical structure that reflects the relationships between your categories and subcategories. Start with broad categories at the top level and progressively narrow down to more specific subcategories. This structure should make sense to users who need to find documents easily.

Give folders and subfolders clear, descriptive names that convey their contents. Avoid vague or generic folder names, as they can lead to confusion

Naming Your Files

Naming digitised files is a crucial aspect of organising your digital records. A well-thought-out naming convention helps you quickly identify and locate specific files. Here are some guidelines for naming digitised files:

Be Descriptive: Choose file names that accurately describe the contents of the document. A good file name should provide enough information for someone to understand the document's content without having to open it.

Consistency is Key: Establish and follow a consistent naming convention throughout your digitised records. Consistency makes it easier to sort and search for files.

Include Date Information: Depending on the nature of your records, consider including a date in the file name. This could be the date of creation, the date of the document's subject, or another relevant date. Use a consistent date format (e.g., YYYY-MM-DD) to avoid confusion.

Add Version Numbers (If Applicable): If you frequently update documents and need to keep track of versions, consider including a version number or revision date in the file name. For example, "Report_v1.2.docx" or "MeetingNotes_2023-01-15_v2."

Include Keywords: If applicable, include relevant keywords or tags in the file name to make searching for documents easier. For example, "Contract_ClientA_2023-03-15.pdf."

Use Leading Zeros for Dates: If you include dates in your file names, use leading zeros for months and days to maintain proper sorting order. For example, "2023-03-01" instead of "2023-3-1."

Test Your Naming Convention: Before implementing your naming convention, test it with a small batch of files and see how it works in practice. Adjust as needed based on your experience.

Document your naming convention and share it with all users who will be handling digitised files. Providing clear guidelines ensures consistency across your organisation. Remember that the specific naming convention you use will depend on your organisation's needs and the type of digitised records you are managing. The key is to create a system that is logical, consistent, and easily understood by all users.

Make Your Entire Document Repository Text-Searchable

The single most important thing you can do to ensure that everyone in your organisation can find the information they need quickly is to make every single document in your digital archive text-searchable. This is done by running optical character recognition (OCR) as you add new files and/or retroactively on files already in your archive. 

Running OCR with a large quantity of documents can be time consuming and expensive. But the benefits of being able to find the information you need—even if the document is accidentally misnamed or misfiled—are more than worth the investment.
Making digital documents text searchable offers several significant benefits, especially in terms of information accessibility, efficiency, and productivity. 

To Summarise:

Digitising your records involves scanning paper documents into digital formats. Understanding statutory retention periods for different document types is crucial. Consider outsourcing scanning to professionals for efficient digitisation. Establishing an effective folder structure and employing a consistent and descriptive file naming convention are vital steps. Make sure all documents are text-searchable through optical character recognition (OCR) for enhanced accessibility, efficiency, and productivity. Implementing these strategies will help organise and manage your digital records effectively.

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