One of the overwhelming responses to digital documentation is one of pure gratitude. The longer it has been since a company implemented their digital document strategy, the harder it is for employees and management to imagine going back to the days of hard copies. You may hear the occasional story of a transition gone wrong. Even these stories usually have a happy ending when the problems are resolved.
Digitalization of documentation is not terribly difficult, but it requires a lot of planning and a sound strategy to do it right.
A Full Understanding of Current Documentation
You probably have a mix of electronic files and hard copies. Digitalization encompasses all of these because the end result should be a system that is easy to search. That means bringing the electronic information into the fold and changing certain aspects (such as file names) so that they are part of the system, not a relic of a less organized time.
One of the biggest problems is not fully understanding your current documentation. You need to know where all of your current soft files are, how they are stored, and what they are named. More importantly, you need to know everything that is only in hard-copy. These will be the most time-consuming items to digitalize, so you need to know how much you have and where everything is stored.
Designation and Implementation of Naming Conventions
Before getting started, determine if you will use a naming convention. It will be much easier to implement it from the beginning than to try to superimpose it later. If you already have a naming convention, you can use that. Make sure that anyone who works with files knows about these conventions so that new files will be consistently added later.
Document the Process
Beyond just the digital document strategy, you need to document the process itself. Make sure the steps are known and are written down so that they can be more easily followed. There will be changes and likely unforeseen problems, but documenting the process from start to finish ensures that you will be able to go back and figure out what happened.
Create A Timeline
A successful digital document strategy will have a timeline with some wiggle room. Create the timeline after assessing the current needs and existing documentation. The timeline should provide goals and easy to measure metrics.
The timeline can be broken down on different levels as well. For example, a large company may have an overarching timeline to complete digitalization over the whole company. A second tier to that could be broken down by department. The larger the company, the harder it will be to complete the process with a single timeline. By creating a big-picture timeline and timelines for each department, you significantly improve your chances of a successful transition.
The first part of the digitalization will be the hardest. Make sure that the timeline reflects this. Over time, it should get easier because the kinks and problems will likely be worked out, creating a more streamlined process.
Regularly Review Digitalization Progress
Once you start the project, you will need to review the progress of the digitalization. Regularly assess how things are progressing so that you can determine if adjustments need to be made. If there were any problems, check back to make sure they were resolved.
One of the things that most people overlook is the need for good communication. No one should be working in a vacuum. If there is a serious problem or a slip in the schedule, this needs to be communicated to other affected people.