Recently we helped a client convert a small amount of paper documents related to a one time transaction into PDFs. The PDFs would simply be in a folder and viewed or emailed as needed. To keep it simple the files could be named in a structured format, ie. “ABCCo-Contract-060116-Brazil-Engine-D-JF.pdf”. Most of that short hand is clear except the “D” is for diesel engines and that the Sales Rep was John Franklin? Seemed simple enough and so we proceeded based on the clients requirements.
In this case, the volume of documents was small, but the documents had a significant amount of descriptive information that could be captured. Each piece of information could be captured in a document management system database and ready for user searches. For example, find all contracts for Brazil or all diesel engine contracts. So here is the issue – do you capture all of the rich information when converting the documents or do you keep it simple because sometimes simple is better?
In general, the answer probably has to do with the quantity of documents and the fact that this is a one time event. If there are only 100 or 200 documents, the downside risk of using shortcuts is minimal. A user could easily scroll the list of documents and with relatively good abbreviations, would find what they were looking for. And if there ever was a need to pull these documents into a fully searchable document management system, it is not a gargantuan effort to go back and capture each piece of information.
The decision would and should change if there were 10,000 or 100,000 documents involved. First of all, there will generally be a need for automation to efficiently convert such a large quantity of documents to digital format. That automation will include the use of a database and batch processing, which will make it easier to capture the full descriptive information. Batch up all contracts for Brazil and scan them all at once and therefore, each document in the batch will automatically be associated with Brazil.
Secondly, it is also more reliable in a process involving that many documents and multiple data entry people to capture actual descriptions rather than rely on each person to always abbreviate in the exactly the same way. The sales rep could be referred to as JF or JohnF or JFranklin. Better yet, it should be a selection from the drop down list of known sales reps.
Besides quantity, the most important consideration though, concerns the next user that might need to find the document or documents. We have all moved at least once in our lives and so we are all familiar with trying to find something that is still packed in a box. A room with boxes is not so bad. A garage and basement full of boxes with little to no description is not fun. The more information written on the box the faster you will find that treasure you were looking for. It’s just that simple.