So you’ve decided to, or are thinking about, outsourcing scanning to convert a bunch of your backfiles. Excellent! Now the question becomes: where do you start when selecting a document scanning company?
To answer this question, read on to learn about everything you should know and ask when vetting a company to scan your documents.
Pro tip: scanning and imaging can be used interchangeably.
1. Document Scanning Technology
The first thing you will need to understand are the basics of scanning/imaging technology and software. A good vendor will help you with this as it’s pretty simple, though not a process that most people know about!
Having a loose idea of technology will make understanding the full scope of your project much easier.
2. Company Goals
Next, you should look at your organization’s priorities, goals, and objectives. Some of these include:
- What is the retention schedule of the documents? Or, how long do these documents need to be kept?
- How many people/users need to access these records?
- How are records stored, provided, and backed up?
- Is training and orientation necessary?
- Should you run a test to benchmark the process?
- How long will the conversion take?
- Can I access these records when they are at the service provider?
- Will the security and privacy requirements of these records be maintained?
- What special requirements need to be discussed?
Knowing the answers to these questions will allow your scanning partner to recommend the best solution for your company culture and budget, along with ensuring that everyone is on the same page for the scanning project.
3. Selecting a Document Scanning Company
You should evaluate at least two service providers. Trustworthy companies are easy to find via the internet through a search, an online directory like Yelp, or trade organization websites. Visit the business’ website to make sure that they are a reputable business. Read online reviews if there are any. Check out their social media accounts to see if they’re active.
If you have a good relationship with other companies your size or in your industry, reach out to them to see if they have used a scanning company before, and if so, if they would recommend them.
4. Touring the Facilities
It is highly recommended that you tour the company’s facility as this is a true reflection of the quality, process, and management of that provider. You’re going to want to know who is handling your records, so you can, in-person, gauge the expertise and attitude of key staff.
Please note: only request a tour if permissible by local health guidelines. If not available, see number seven and ask for additional references. Watch any company videos that include their processes. Call the company and ask to speak to the Production Manager.
While you tour the facility, the following should be evaluated:
- How is the production run?
- What equipment is being used and why?
- What is the general appearance of the facility on the inside as well as the outside?
- How is the general employee work environment?
- Are clients’ jobs are handled with care they deserve?
- Remember to ask if the company makes use of the latest national and industry standards.
If you are not able to physically visit the location, make sure that you ask about the production process and for customer references.
5. Expertise and Experience
A document scanning company should employ scanning specialists who are trained, certified, and have had several years of experience. Find out how long the employees have been with the company. This will reveal the level of experience and expertise in the company. It should have trained operators, along with qualified supervisors, for everything it does. Its staff should be knowledgeable enough to aid with any problems or issues that arise.
If the company provides professional services and/or offers consulting services, its staff consultants should be experienced in in systems design and be formally trained and certified in the imaging and document management software used in that company.
You should also meet with one of the principals of the company. The management of a good scanning company should be closely involved with the operation and customers. Most owners and c-level executives are seriously passionate about document management and love to talk about it!
6. Cost and Location
As with all things, you get what you pay for. And as such, beware of companies that offer extremely low prices for their services. This can be a sign that the company is desperate for business and may be financially unstable. It also may be a sign that the company is cutting corners on processing to undercut its competition.
On the other hand, they shouldn’t overcharge you either. Document scanning services do take many hours of labor, but you should be quoted a fair market rate based on the nature of your work. All charges should be clearly stated on the agreement so that there are no surprises on the final bill.
Ideally, the company will be located somewhat close to you so that transportation costs and turnaround time are reasonable.
7. Reputation and Financial Strength
The service company should provide some references of current clients. You should contact these references to validate the firm’s reputation. The company will most likely give the names of satisfied customers, so try to ask some pointed questions such as “What did you not like about the services provided by the company?”
You should ask questions about the company’s financial strength as this also dictates a well-managed company. When measuring financial strength, one good indication is the company’s longevity. If the company has been in existence for over five years, it is probably being run reasonably well from a financial standpoint.
8. Reliability and Turnaround
Measuring quality and turnaround can be easily determined through a simple pilot test. Send a representative sample (a box of paper documents or a roll of microfilm) with actual documents of varying quality. The varying quality is important because you’ll want to see if the company can properly scan files of both good and poor quality.
When doing this, keep the following in mind:
- How quickly does the company turn this sample around? If it finishes in a couple of days or under a week, then it was a priority and is a good reflection of the prospective vendor.
- Does the provider have the necessary capacity to process your work in the event of some equipment downtime or other challenges? Software, hardware, networks, and labor are all areas that can cause downtime. Ask the vendor about this to ensure they can meet your turnaround requirements. Check when their peak loads are and whether they can handle increased volumes during these times.
One of the most important factors to determine about a scanning bureau is whether it guarantees the quality of its work. This is easy to tell based on the results of that sample of work from the last step. To cover yourself, you can put an escape clause in the agreement to allow you to take your work to another company of the quality is unsatisfactory.
10. Privacy, Security, and Integrity of Data
You should find out how many people will be handling the material and put privacy agreements in place as needed. In addition, protective storage should be provided in the company’s facilities. Obviously you’re going to want to make sure that your records are protected from loss or damage while they are processed. The company should have the ability to store your records in a locked cage when not being worked on.
There should also be a means of adequately and securely disposing of your records if you do not want the physical files back. Find out what options there are for the disposition of your records.
Finally, the company should have a security and fire alarm system as well as be thoroughly insured with policies covering errors and omission, liability and cyber insurance.
One Last Thing
Here’s the last thing to keep in mind: after selecting a company, you are not cleared of responsibility. The records are yours and the ultimate responsibility of the quality of these records is yours, as well as the system you use to manage these records.
If you’re not entirely sure how you want to manage your records going forward or just want some advice, a good service provider should be able to walk you through multiple solutions.
In summary, a good document scanning company can provide you all the benefits of imaging while freeing you of capital investments and labor. In addition, a good scanning company can provide a complete solution or provide the scanned records in a format ready for your document management or imaging system.
Naturally, we’d love to work with you on converting your physical documents and film into high quality digital files. If you’re interested in starting a scanning project, give us a call at (630) 321-0601 or contact us!
This post is part of the Datamation Guide to Document Scanning.