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Image a Document, Honor a Vet: The National Archives

Image a Document, Honor a Vet: The National Archives

It’s customary to thank vets and active military for their service. Now everyone has an opportunity to put those thanks into action via the National Archives’ Citizen Scanning project.

The Archives are enlisting citizens across the country to assist with the colossal task of scanning and tagging the military-related paper documents stored in the Archives. Volunteers in the D.C. area can review and scan documents in person in the National Archives Innovation Hub. Those outside the area can participate remotely as online taggers adding searchable metadata tags to newly-scanned documents.

Documents to be scanned in person come from four categories of military records:

  • Compiled Military Service Records, after the Revolutionary War to the Philippine Insurrection.
  • Military Pension Files, including affidavits, medical records, and marriage records, from 1783 to 1903.
  • Bounty Land Records, including applications, supporting documents, and land grants, from 1790 to 1855.
  • Medical Records, including hospital records and reports of medical treatment in military service or military hospitals, after the Revolutionary War through 1912.

Tagging and transcription projects, for remote volunteers anywhere across America, are divided into wide-ranging categories of military history, including:

  • Indian Scout pension files
  • Buffalo Soldiers pension files
  • 20th Maine Infantry Regiment Civil War military service records
  • Escape and Evasion Reports from escaped American POWs

Accessibility and security are two reasons the National Archives is undertaking this enormous document imaging project. Scholars, students, and the general public can now access this wealth of information online, remotely. Moreover, the fragile one-of-a-kind original documents are digitally preserved, safe from fire, floods, and pilferage.

These benefits are two of the great strengths of imaging. Imaged documents become instantly available to remote workers – your organization’s team members who are continuing to work from home, for example. Businesses operate with better speed and efficiency when information is readily available to the entire team.

And imaged documents are protected from disasters of every kind. While your business documents may not have the same antiquity as those in the Archives, they are every bit as important to the management of your organization.

Check out the National Archives’ Citizen Missions. You’ll get a better appreciation of the benefits of document imaging, and you’ll have an opportunity to show your thanks to the veterans who helped keep this country safe.

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Are Your Documents Future-Proof?

Are Your Documents Future-Proof?

“Prediction is difficult – particularly when it involves the future.” Attributed to Mark Twain, this statement perfectly captures the dilemma faced by business organizations every day. Business documents need to preserved, some for a short time, some for a longer term, some forever. And when those documents are paper, the choice of preservation format demands special attention.

Paper is an ancient technology, and writing is a universal format. The format is still readable  after hundreds, even thousands of years, and it will be so into the future. For some documents, paper is the obvious choice for long-term information preservation: deeds, contracts, and health records, for example.

But paper records have certain disadvantages:

  1. Susceptible to loss, deterioration, or destruction – fire, insects, humidity, filing errors, and pilfering make paper inherently risky. Guarding against these risks is expensive.
  2. Bulky – the average business today spends 3% of its revenue on paper costs, according to research company Gartner. Document storage is a significant part of those costs.
  3. Labor intensive – filing paper documents, searching for filed documents, and disposing of outdated documents requires many person-hours of labor. And labor costs are only going up.

At NOS, we have been recommending document imaging to our clients for some years. Imaging makes a digital version of a paper document. The digital version has all of the advantages of any digital file: searchable, shareable, secure, space-saving, sustainable. Even if you retain your paper documents after imaging, you’re avoiding many of the disadvantages of paper-only records.

But imaging – a far newer technology than paper – can have pitfalls for the unwary. One thing that is certain about the digital future: It’s guaranteed to change. How many people still play CDs in their cars? Still have a laser disk player? Still use floppy disks? Have even seen a floppy disk?

Rapid obsolescence of digital technology can be a disaster for businesses. When an organization images its documents to a format that isn’t future-proof, it has set itself up for the loss of vital information. An obsolete digital format is just like a fire destroying paper documents; the information is gone.

To guard against the consequences of digital obsolescence:

  • Talk to peers who have gone through a digital conversion process.
  • Consult with a vendor who has an extensive track record in the field; they will steer you toward a future-proof imaging format.
  • Practice good digital hygiene by updating software and converting files to newer format standards in a timely manner.

Another quote from Mark Twain: “Plan for the future because that’s where you’re going to spend the rest of your life.” And that goes for your business documents too.

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Decision Math: Calculating the Cost of In-House Document Imaging

Decision Math: Calculating the Cost of In-House Document Imaging

Decision math is something business managers use every day. There’s nothing like cold, hard, inarguable math to help decision-makers who are faced with multiple solutions. Decision math lets you analyze and compare the costs associated with each solution, and choose accordingly. Straightforward, right? But it can be trickier than it seems, especially when comparing in-house processes versus outsourcing. When it comes to highly complex processes like document imaging, the equation factors are far-ranging.

First, take a look at your resources:

  • Office space – Do you have sufficient room for the imaging equipment, the personnel, and the workflow? Or will you need to spend money on extra space?
  • Materials – Do you already have scanners, servers, and software license subscriptions, or will you have to procure those?
  • Labor – Do you have trained personnel you can deploy for a major imaging project, or will you need to hire and train additional staff? If it’s the latter, what is the current labor market?
  • Time – Do you have an unlimited time horizon for your imaging project, or is there a need to complete it sooner rather than later?

If there are resources lacking in any area, calculate the costs of eliminating the deficiencies. Add those costs up.

Then consider your utilization. Is this a quarterly archiving project? A project to convert a warehouse of old documents? A high-volume every-work-day process? And what is the likelihood of relatively quick equipment and software obsolescence?

Continuous full-time utilization is, of course, the most cost-efficient. Idle resources cost money. Most imaging projects, however, are infrequent.

And finally, your mission. Unless you’re in the document business, your business mission is something other than piles of paper. Distractions slow down achievement. What does it cost your business to lose focus, even temporarily?

So… is it a good decision to pay for everything above — additional space, increased head count, expensive equipment and software licenses, and loss of focus – for an infrequent project?

That’s a rhetorical question, of course. Every enterprise is different, and each one has its own unique volume of documents for imaging. But for the great majority of businesses, outsourcing your document imaging is always the right answer.


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Document Imaging Works For All: WFH, Hybrid, or Fulltime In-Office

Document Imaging Works For All: WFH, Hybrid, or Fulltime In-Office

It’s no secret that the nature of office work has been permanently changed by the covid pandemic. WFH has been confirmed as a viable alternative to large, expensive in-person offices. Hybrid offices have evolved into a productive balance of part-time WFH and well-scheduled in-office work. And for workers and managers who rely on in-person collaboration, new office designs are making it safe to work together again.

Flexibility is the new standard for the post-covid office. And that flexibility includes a variety of technologies, with employers providing:

  • High speed internet and home office furnishings, for the WFH work model;
  • Collaboration and scheduling software to manage work time and location, for the hybrid workplace;
  • Safety-conscious touchless technology controlling entry, lighting, and climate, for the fulltime in-person office.

Some of these technologies overlap workstyles. For example, both WFH tech and in-person office tech fit well in the hybrid office. But there is one technology that is common to every workplace model: document imaging.

Document imaging supports productivity in any workplace.

  • In the in-person office, imaged documents save valuable space, letting managers convert document storage space into additional room for safely-spaced workstations.
  • In the WFH office, imaged documents can be accessed from anywhere, keeping productivity high even when physical documents aren’t accessible.
  • In the hybrid workplace, imaged documents support collaboration whether in person or remotely.

As employers seek to fill post-pandemic jobs, workers have a new-found leverage to state their preference for WFH, hybrid, or fulltime office work. The Harvard Business Review states that today’s recruiting challenges won’t be solved by the solutions of the past. Adjusting salaries to the cost of living, recruiting overlooked talent like older workers, and setting up satellite offices to reduce commutes all make it easier to recruit and retain top talent.

But for employees and employers to be successful, the workplace technology should be matched to the preferred workplace model. And for all workplace models, document imaging technology is a productive match.

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To Err is Human, but Document Imaging is Divine

To Err is Human, but Document Imaging is Divine

Errors are an unavoidable part of human endeavor. In some situations, errors have a positive side, helping us learn how to do things better. (Ask any sports coach.) But in operational settings, human error is costly.

Paper documents in particular are error magnets. Even when a document’s information is correct in every detail, a misfiled paper document is just as significant an error as a misspelled name or an incorrect date.

And the costs of misfiled or missing paper documents add up.

  • Each misfiled document costs $120 in additional labor
  • 2-5% of an organization’s documents are misfiled at any given time
  • 10-12% of misfiled documents are not located on the first attempt

The costs don’t stop there. Misfiled documents create liabilities. Misfiled medical records can slow down patient treatments, with potentially adverse outcomes. Regulated industries can fall out of compliance due to misfiled or missing documents.

Document imaging solves the problem of misfiled paper documents. Imaged documents are searchable. Any word within a document can be a search term. Even if an imaged document has been incorrectly filed in an electronic file folder, it can be located by searching on key words.

And unlike a manual search in a filing cabinet, a search for an imaged document happens with electronic speed.

Of course, document imaging has other benefits. Imaged documents save space. They are far more secure than easily-destroyed paper. They are accessible to in-house and remote staffers. They contribute to an organization’s sustainability program.

A well-designed imaging program can give your business all of these advantages, while saving the costs of human error. Talk to an experienced imaging consultant and eliminate document filing errors.


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Could Your Imaged Documents Be Potential Fund-Raising NFTs?

Could Your Imaged Documents Be Potential Fund-Raising NFTs?

NFTs are the hot ticket for the digitally-savvy investor. A Non-Fungible Token (NFT) is essentially a certificate of authenticity for a digital file, ensuring that the owner of the digital file possesses the genuine asset. The technology behind NFTs and their underlying blockchain systems may be confusing to the average layperson, but the concept of asset management, buying and selling, is something we can all understand.

NFTs hold the potential for leveraging the monetary value of almost any digital file, from artworks to archived documents. Digital assets, like physical assets, have value for any enterprise. Like physical assets, digital assets are managed and maintained for the benefit of the enterprise (digital asset management or DAM). NFTs intersect with DAM when the monetary value of a digital file is determined, and an NFT is issued for it.

Digital art has been prominently featured in the NFT market, but UC Berkeley recently sold an NFT of some digitized documents for $55,000. The university owned imaged files of some Nobel Prize-related research documents. An NFT was created of these imaged documents, and it was auctioned to the highest bidder. Berkeley received a lump sum, plus a 10% royalty of any subsequent sales of the NTF.

What does this mean for other organizations’ digital assets? Every business, non-profit, and governmental body has documents that could be valuable to collectors, historians, or researchers:

  • Vintage logo artwork
  • Historic contracts with signatures
  • Founding documents
  • Historic correspondence or writings
  • Archived photographs of significant events

Selling NFTs of some of these digital assets could yield significant funds for an organization. Keep in mind that an NFT can be structured in many ways – a royalty structure such as UC Berkeley did, or perhaps an ownership reversion under certain conditions. And there can be multiple NFTs of a single digital document, under a limited-edition structure.

But before you can profit from the sale of your digital assets, your paper documents have to be converted to digital files. That’s where document imaging comes into play. A well-designed and professionally executed imaging program gives you all the benefits of document conversion – security, accessibility, reduced storage space – along with the potential for additional income. Image your documents, and mine the value of your digital assets.


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