The Business Case for Digitizing Your Archive

Most organizations have had a physical document archive that has grown over the years. This includes filing cabinets, bookshelves, archive boxes or Compactus shelving storing a litany of different business documents.

In recent years physical archiving has been superseded by electronic document management systems (EDMS).  As digitisation becomes more pervasive document controllers will need to decide what to do with the information stored in their physical document archives.

These physical archives aren’t always a high priority for most office managers, so, putting off the decision to digitize is understandable. Even so, most office managers agree that physical archiving is not an ideal way for storing historical documents and whilst the  decision can be delayed for now, they know that ultimately they must choose to  either  destroy or digitize their physical archives.

If destroying the information is not a suitable course of action digitising the archive is the only way forward. The argument for digitising a physical archive is  strong. As you’d expect scanning your archive will give you all the benefits provided by your EDMS and as such the business case is similar to that of installing an EDMS in the first place. We’ve gone through some basic reasons why document controllers and office managers digitize their physical document archives  :

Reason 1 : Reducing Storage Costs
Perth office space is at an all-time premium and thanks to the one in a hundred year mining boom it doesn’t look like it will change any time soon. Costs associated with filing cabinets include the floor space they occupy, the cabinet itself plus the paper within it. Reducing the number of filing cabinets in your office reclaims thousands of dollars of poorly utilised office space. Whilst offsite storage can reduce the cost, especially for those in the CBD it introduces its own unique problems and ongoing charges.

Reason 2 : Reducing Retrieval Costs
A large part of the cost of your archive is the time it takes to retrieve documents from it. Finding documents can be difficult in large, disorganized archives and chew up a lot of labour time. Even the best organised physical archive will soak up hours of your employee’s time and retrieval times and costs can grow considerably when documents are stored offsite. Compared to the time taken to search through an EDMS the long term cost of storage and retrieval of electronic documents is considerably lower.

Reason 3 : Meeting Statutory Requirements
Depending on your industry you may have a legal requirement to retain certain documents. Government instrumentalities have a more pressing need to retain documents for longer periods of time. The period can be as long as 20 years once a document becomes inactive. Scanning your archive allows simple access to the documents without having to worry about the safety of the document for 20 years or more.

Reason 4 : Surviving a Disaster
Physical archives are susceptible to fire & water damage. Scanning your archive allows you to create multiple redundancies for these documents in separate locations across the business. In the event of a disaster, business interruption is reduced to the absolute minimum.

Reason 5 : Maintaining Archive Integrity
Physical archives deteriorate over time. What’s worse is the use of the archive also can interfere with its integrity, files can go missing and papers can be returned to the archive in the wrong spot. Digitising the archive halts the process of document ageing and misfiling, preserving the integrity of the database.

Reason 6 : Future proofing
Your organization never knows what’s going to happen in the future. Legal challenges may require evidence of original documentation. Even worse critical design flaws in the future may require referencing original plans. As some buildings are designed to last 100 years, it’s unlikely your predecessor will be  able to  find those blueprints from 2002 in 2102 unless they’re in a safe place.