Documenting Your Documents: A Blueprint for Conversion

Documenting Your Documents: A Blueprint for Conversion

Document conversion is unquestionably advantageous. Businesses save space, create easily-accessible archives, and build searchable databases of “intelligent documents” that make labor-intensive research a thing of the past. And as with any major workflow change, good planning is the key to a successful outcome. With document conversion, good planning means documenting your documents – creating a master document that analyzes the types of documents to be converted, the ways the converted documents will be used in the future, and the kinds of content that will be used in the database.

Your conversion planning documentation should include:

  1. Document Analysis – Decide on document categories – correspondence, manuals, accounting records, etc. – and define the parameters for each category.
  1. Document Usage – Envision how the e-documents will be used in your organization’s typical workflow. Will they need to be printed out? Emailed? Updated with new information? Linked to other documents?
  1. Document Intelligence – Decide what kinds of data will need to be extracted from the content of the converted documents, and set up categories of data that fit your type of organization. Will you need to search for past tax return items? A series of client letters? HR hiring history? These decisions will make your database truly usable and add efficiency to your post-conversion workflow.

A document conversion plan is complex, requiring input from leaders throughout the organization. Each department or division should be polled about its document needs and usage. And in the words of Gen. George Patton, “Document everything.” Your planning document should memorialize every decision you and your colleagues make, in order to inform future decision-makers who will be tasked with updating the database as technology changes.

Every business organization is different, and every document conversion plan requires a unique set of conversion tools from the array of conversion solutions. Document conversion is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Partnering with a document conversion expert will guide you through planning and conversion to a customized and successful document management system.

 

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Sec. 508 – The Wheelchair Ramp of Digital Documents

Sec. 508 – The Wheelchair Ramp of Digital Documents

Rules and regulations – no matter how you feel about them, most of them began as good intentions, and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is no exception. Providing equal access is a laudable goal, and that includes digital information access for those with physical or neurological challenges. In 1997, Section 508 was added to the Act to address the growing importance of digital documents. It mandates e-document accessibility within federal agencies. But making e-documents accessible is easier said than done.

Document conversion is a major part of the Sec. 508 challenge. Changing a paper document into a digital document doesn’t automatically make it easier for the visually impaired to read, and a simple PDF doesn’t fulfill the Sec. 508 requirements. To make a PDF adaptable to accessibility programs, the document must be properly tagged with additional information. These tags may include descriptors for visual items (photos, charts, etc.) for text-to-audio translators, or cues for automatic text enlargement.

Adding this kind of “intelligence” to scanned documents entails encoding via specialized software, and man-hours of quality control to ensure that the encoding is correct. With budgets already strained, acquiring software and additional personnel can be out of the question for many federal agencies. To complicate matters, there is a wide degree of latitude in compliance, and a compliant document in one agency may not be compliant within another agency.

A more cost-effective solution is to look outside the agency to a document conversion specialist. Conversion service providers with specific experience in creating Sec. 508-compliant digital documents can take the burden of acquisition and management off the shoulders of agency personnel. When agencies hand off document compliance to an outside vendor, they can keep their attention on their mission instead of regulatory compliance, while still offering equal accessibility to all Americans.