Digital illustration of a document glowing representing digitalization

Why to Digitize Your Paper Documents & How to Do It


Uncover the benefits of converting paper to digital documents.

Read time: 4 minutes

What does it mean to digitize your paper documents?

Digitize means to convert hardcopy originals into an electronic file format that can be saved, edited and shared. Often, digitizing documents includes storage in an electronic document management system (DMS) which only permits access to documents by authorized users.

Examples of digital file types created by scanning include the ubiquitous Adobe PDF, which essentially creates a snapshot of every page in a document, .tiff, .jpg, and .psd formats used for graphic images, as well as countless other formats for proprietary applications.

Converting hardcopy to digital requires some type of scanning device. Today, many scanners are one feature of a multifunction device, although you can still find single-function scanners.

Often, metadata or tags that help to identify and organize the content by keyword can be attached to files for faster retrieval. In specific industries like legal, documents are saved with standardized data indicating the time and date the page was scanned into the DMS, called Bates stamping.

Why digitize your paper documents?

With the shift toward remote working and hybrid workplaces, digital documents are essential to ensure convenient and seamless information access and sharing.

There are practical benefits too. Digitizing hardcopy originals can have a significant impact, especially for larger, enterprise organizations.

  • Enhances user productivity: Once scanned and entered into the DMS, digital documents can be searched and found quickly for immediate retrieval. No more manually thumbing through piles of paper looking for the needle in the haystack.

  • Simplify filing: Organizations can devise indexing and naming schema to match their unique workflows to make scanned documents easily identifiable.

  • Consistency for compliance: Rules can be implemented to determine information governance policies like user access permissions, archival and destruction periods, as well as version controls after documents are edited or updated.

  • A faster and more cost-effective way to share information: Sharing electronic documents with coworkers and customers via email attachment is instantaneous and cost-free versus printing and mailing paper. Better yet, when individuals have access to a cloud document management system, documents can be accessed and viewed from anywhere.

  • Reduces overhead: Organizations can save costs on off-site document storage and retrieval services, as well as make better use of office space occupied by filing cabinets.

  • Information preservation and archival: Original image quality remains intact as scanned images do not fade over time. Digital backups stored in the cloud ensure information cannot be damaged by fire or flood.

Furthermore, digital documents mean information can never get lost or monopolized by a single user – there is always access to original records for everyone on the team to view, refer to and work with as needed.

How to digitize paper documents

The simple answer is to use a scanner. The speed, size, and capacity of which should be a function of the size of your organization and the volume of paper documents. Here are some popular scanning solutions:

Desktop scanners

Best suited to low volumes, high-resolution desktop scanners are available in a number of sizes but are generally too slow for large volume scanning. Extensive use could also get tedious.

Scanners designed specifically to capture both sides of insurance cards and driver licences, for example, are popular in medical offices and government agencies.

Mobile device apps

Don’t own a scanner or only have an occasional need for one? Transform your smartphone or tablet into a mobile scanner by downloading one of many commercially available scanning apps like Adobe Scan or PhotoScan by Google.

Mobile phones are a good way to capture sensitive documents like photographs and originals that cannot be put into a scanner.

Multifunction Printers (MFPs)

Most MFPs today are equipped with high-speed, high-resolution and high-page-capacity document scanners. Many offer the ability to capture both sides of two-sided originals in a single pass for greater efficiency in scan-intensive environments.

And most MFPs in a corporate setting are networked, making them perfect entry points for scanning hardcopy documents into a DMS. Some can even be used “touchless” via a mobile app.

There was a time when manufacturers offered stand-alone document scanners. Some still do – dedicated high-speed devices intended for scan-intensive environments in finance, health care and insurance. But for most typical corporate environments that also require printing, copying, and faxing capabilities, scanning from an MFP accomplishes the same task without the need for additional hardware.

Document imaging services

Larger organizations with high volumes of paper documents and hundreds of users need to standardize workflows so that all documents are entered into the system consistently and without error.

To accomplish that, many businesses today are engaging third-party scanning service providers to digitize their documents as well as process, route, store and shred the original hard copies. This is done by using rule-based intelligent workflows that ensure the speed, security and compliance of documents as they circulate through an organization.

Ricoh can help with scanning services to digitize your sensitive, confidential and everyday documents to reduce the burden on your employees and enhance productivity and efficiency.

  • Intelligent Delivery is a managed service in which inbound paper communications (mail) are received, opened, scanned, filtered and forwarded directly to the responsible party regardless of location.

  • Backfile Scanning converts mountains of legacy paper documents into useful data that can be easily organized, searched and accessed as needed, while driving down overhead and the cost of physical document storage.

  • Day Forward Scanning helps you stay ahead of the massive amount of data that is produced every day by converting paper-based data into digital workstreams so their employees can do their jobs better and faster from anywhere. Having real-time access to data and information can help improve efficiency, increase collaboration and streamline processes.

Can a partner help you digitize your paper documents?

If your business is paper-intensive, scanning can take a lot of time. Multiple people inputting documents into a DMS using their own “best practices” instead of standardized rule-based processes can result in errors, lost documents and compliance issues.

This is where a third-party service like Ricoh can help to optimize and automate key business processes like mail processesaccounting processes and more to help take labour-intensive document management off your hands and transition to a digital-first workplace.

Find out more on how you can streamline and automate manual and paper-based tasks for faster and more cost-effective work here.

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