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 converting 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 is required. 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 sudden shift toward remote working and hybrid workplaces, digital documents are essential to ensure 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. Companies 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, and versioning after documents are edited or updated.

  • Faster and cheaper to share information. Sharing electronic documents with co-workers 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 you have an internet connection.

  • Reduces overhead. Businesses can save vast amounts on off-site document storage and retrieval services, make better use office space currently occupied by filing cabinets.

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

And of course, 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.

Related content

Article: What is a document management system?

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 get tedious.

Scanners designed specifically to capture both sides of insurance cards and driver's licenses are popular in medical offices and government agencies.

Mobile Device Apps

Don’t own a scanner or have only 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.

Multi-function Printers (MFPs)

Most MFPs today are equipped with high-speed, high-resolution, 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 mobile app.

There was a time (not too long ago) when manufacturers (like Ricoh) offered stand-alone document scanners. Some still do – dedicated high-speed devices intended for scan-intensive environments in finance, healthcare, 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 hardcopies – using rules-based workflows that ensure the speed, security, and compliance of documents as they circulate through an organization.

We offer scanning services like this. For clients looking for a scanning partner, we can digitize sensitive, confidential documents or everyday documents to reduce the burden on staff, allowing them to focus on more customer-centric activities. For example:

  • 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. 

  • Capture and Conversion Services help companies convert mountains of legacy paper documents into useful data that can be organized, searched, and accessed as needed while driving down overhead and the cost of physical document storage.

These document imaging and management services, and others that will follow and deliver through our Intelligent Business Platform (IBP)℠, are available to help businesses transform paper into actionable insights for better decision-making and enhanced compliance.

Can a partner help you digitize your paper documents?

Is using a third-party scanning service provider right for you? It’s easy to find out.

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 rules-based processes can result in errors, lost documents, and compliance issues. 

This is where a third-party service may be of assistance to consolidate and automate business processes like mail delivery, claims processing, accounts receivable/accounts payable workflows and more.

Have questions? Let the experts at Ricoh design a solution that bridges the gap between your hardcopy and digital worlds.

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