Why You Shouldn't Scan Documents

by Jesse Spencer | October 17, 2019

Sometimes it’s more cost-effective to keep paper records, and chances are, if you have a lot of paper records, you’ve got a really great system for archival and retrieval.

Regardless of whether your paper situation is fully under control, or if it’s gotten way out of hand, scanning documents isn’t all that helpful.

Scanning Adds Risk:

  • Where will the scanned documents be stored?
  • How do I know if I got them all?
  • How will I find records?
  • How can I secure sensitive data?
  • It's more work to search through my computer than to just go find the paper file!
  • And what happens if I lose the data?

The list goes on and on.

We understand.

Data Migration vs Document Scanning

When documents are scanned, they’re typically saved in PDF format. PDF is great because it works on any computer without expensive software. And today’s scanners also include optical character recognition (OCR) software that makes your documents searchable.

Document scanning is great for reproducing paper in digital format, but it doesn’t solve your deeper problems (and sure doesn't help with microform). It doesn’t make content easier to find, organize, or secure. In fact, it adds complexity and risk of losing important information.

Data migration is the safe and smart alternative to document scanning.

If you’ve waited to do something with your paper records, now is a better time to act than ever before.

To understand the difference between data migration and document scanning, think about the last time you saw a web page or article in a language you didn’t know. You could see the content just fine, and recognize the letters, but the content didn’t have any meaning to you.

When you scan documents without creating an awareness of the content, it’s the same thing. Your information systems have no clue what’s there. And it makes sense. There’s all kinds of different documents you work with. It's not thousands of copies of the same form. How’s a computer to know what’s what?

Data Migration Technology is Now Available

Data migration software not only reads your documents, but understands the content and migrates specific information into your information systems along with a human-readable PDF image.

It’s like going back in time and capturing everything in a software application instead of on paper.

Data migration is the singular solution to eliminate both fear of digitizing records and cost of manual data entry (because, let's face it - you could hand-key everything!). 

How Does it Work?

The first step in getting software to read like a human is converting documents to a machine-readable version. Humans understand the intent of a document just by looking at it. Tables, cells, the structure of the document, and labels tell us everything we need to know. But software can’t read documents so easily.


The best attempt so far at getting machines to read documents has been with OCR software. And it doesn’t work all that great on paper documents. It tries to interpret everything on a document as a letter or number. The letter “I” is easily confused with a 1, or an l or L or an i… And when OCR sees lines or other non-text marks on a document, the results are ugly. You can’t trust this data or make business decision on it. Check out this article which does a nice job showing real-life struggles on a simple receipt. 

Then, the important elements that make up the structure of the document must be added back in because they provide the context for how the software will interpret text on the page.

The process is simple. Remove everything that isn’t text, read the text, then add back in the document structure and interpret the meaning of the text.

And to do a really good job of reading the text, the machine will need to use multiple OCR tools (we call them engines). One OCR engine might be better with handwriting, while another is better at reading those odd fonts on checks. 

Now the software knows what’s on the page and the meaning of specific data elements like dates, numbers, quantities, line items, addresses, checkboxes, etc.

Your job is to tell the machine how you want to integrate the data within your information system(s). Easy!

Can I Trust the Data?

You have to be able to trust the data. To assure high quality data is entered into your information system, the software performs validations like financial and date calculations, and flags any discrepancies for human review. Additionally, your existing databases can also be used to validate known information like account / case / matter numbers, names, and any other specific index.

How Do I Use the Data?

You choose how to integrate document data and where it goes. Merge information into existing databases, scrub confidential data, create multiple versions of PDF documents (maybe you need the original and also one with redacted info), create spreadsheets, sync to a document repository, etc.

4 Steps to Achieving Wisdom You can Use at Work Today

4 Steps to Achieving Wisdom You can Use at Work Today

How to create an Information as a Second Language program. [Free Guide]

4 Steps to Achieving Wisdom You can Use at Work Today

4 Steps to Achieving Wisdom You can Use at Work Today