Document digitization is the process of converting paper documents into a digital format. There are various tools and techniques to convert hardcopy documents to digital format. Some are more successful than others.
Document digitization is done for a variety of reasons such as archival purposes or to repurpose data that to date, was only available in paper form.
Becoming a digital-based business is no longer an option. If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it is that we must be exceedingly agile to adapt to disruptive occurrences.
What is Document Digitization and Why Convert?
Document digitization is the process of creating electronic versions of paper documents. Digitization facilitates capitalizing on data, that to date, has only been available in a physical format.
The benefit of digitizing files goes beyond, storage and a reduced need for physical storage space. It enables us to capture critical analog information and store it as digital data in a single repository for subsequent retrieval and repurposing. Digitized documents are easier to take care of, store, secure, and share.
The Document Digitization Process
Before you begin scanning, the first thing to determine is what should be digitized, how it will be organized, and how it will be secured. Preplanning is sure to save you time and headaches.
Establishing a document management system (DMS) is key to be able to find the data once it is digitized. There are a number of DMS services out there such as Microsoft SharePoint. Once you have determined the what and how, you can begin the conversion process.
Scanning, creates a digital copy of the paper documents either as an image or PDF. While the files are now electronic, the data within those files are not able to the accessed as if it were content in a Word file. If your goal of digitization goes beyond storage you should consider using an Optical Character Recognition (OCR) scanner.
OCR technology converts the image data and renders it as editable text. This can be done with any document that was created either laser printed or via a typewriter. It will not work with a handwritten copy. There are a variety of technologies out there to meet different needs including:
- Intelligent Character Recognition (ICR) – An advanced OCR, it can convert handwritten text to editable digital text through machine learning and AI (Artificial Intelligence)
- Optical Mark Recognition (OMR) – Remember all those bubbles you filled in during standardized tests? Well, OMR was used to read your responses. Used to process evaluations, surveys, ballots and etc. While this technology has been around for a long time, it continues to advance.
One thing to keep in mind, these systems are not flawless. You will need to check your final document and confirm that it captured the data accurately. Highly formatted forms (tax returns) and special characters sometimes will not render properly and therefore will require manual input or form recreation.
Digitization and Translation
Many times, clients will only have a PDF (scan) of a document (source file) that they need to be translated, whether it be tax returns, contracts, technical papers, etc. In this format, it is essentially the same as working with hardcopy. The disadvantage to this, is that it is not possible to utilize translation memory (TM) software, which can help with terminology management.
Depending on the length of the document, it may make sense to convert the PDF to a format where the copy can be edited, and TM software can be used. This is where OCR will be used, however, before the project can be sent to the translator, it must be proofed to ensure that all content has been rendered properly. Special characters and forms may not render correctly and will need to be fixed or recreated. In the case of large documents, if the resulting OCR output will require significant clean-up, a conversation with the client explaining the issue and the time/cost impact of cleaning up the file should occur so that the client can make an informed decision.
The Top Document Digitization Benefits Are:
- Save space for storing
- Increase productivity
- Easy accessibility
- Boost security
- Automate business processes
- Boost collaboration
- Data recovery
- Integration with other systems
- Environmentally friendly
- Enhance compliance
There are many to document digitization, it allows for easier access to documents and can help preserve them for future generations. Additionally, digitizing records can help to save lots of space and make it easier to share documents with others. Converting them to a format where the content can be accessed is another step in the process that requires careful review once done to ensure all content has been rendered properly.