You’ve heard a lot about digital transformation and what it could mean for your organization. We’ve been listening, too, and after 25 years of working with digital content, we think it’s time to help dispel some common myths of going digital.

Here’s what going digital is, what it isn’t, and how to start realizing its benefits.

Myth 1: Going Digital Must Be Enterprise-wide or Nothing At All 

While the benefits of going digital have become impossible to ignore—for government agencies of nearly every size and type—it can still feel overwhelming to begin the monumental task of an all-encompassing, enterprise-wide transformation. That’s partly because converting paper, microfilm and other content to digital files takes time, budget, planning, expertise, and a strong business case to justify it. As a result, digitization initiatives are often bumped so far below other organizational priorities that they’re never started.

The truth is that you don’t have to digitize everything at once. With a thoughtful strategy, the process can be completed in small bites. Prioritize and complete in phases, and you’ll have an easier time at incremental success and securing buy-in for future stages.

Fact: Starting small can help you have more success with digitizing in the long run and achieve overall digitization initiatives faster.

Consider which services are most commonly used and which workflows are most time-consuming and inefficient, then focus on digitizing the content affecting those areas first. A phased approach generates momentum, and you can apply what you’ve learned to fine-tune the effort as you go.

Myth 2: Document Scanning Is a DIY Job

Many public sector organizations are still struggling to realize the full potential of digital transformation. One reason for this is that agencies are simply not up to the challenge due to lack of internal experience and resources.

We’ve seen agencies fail in their initial attempts at digitization when they go at it alone because they underestimate the task. Even those that bring in temporary dedicated staff to scan documents end up becoming frustrated by slow progress. Typically, they view digitization as merely scanning paper and not as a strategic transformational process.

The truth is that few agencies can efficiently accomplish digitization on their own.  An experienced partner working collaboratively with an internal team is the best approach to getting it right. Here’s why:

Fact: Digitizing paper takes strategic planning, specialized technology, protocols, resources, and expertise. 

Trained staff, as well as equipment and processes, such as document prep, file indexing, data entry, image capture, optical character recognition (OCR), quality control checks and chain of custody are needed.

The most successful approach to digitization includes a mix of in-house employees and an experienced expert partner.

Myth 3: Digital Is Not Secure

 If security concerns are keeping you from going digital, take a closer look at your paper-based systems.

Paper is inherently insecure. Paper files stored in file cabinets and file rooms present a clear security risk. A printed sheet of data can go anywhere, anytime, with anyone. Paper is also susceptible to loss from natural disaster and physical deterioration. With a trackable, digitized document, you have far more control over who can access your files and protection from the environment.

Fact: A dedicated and secure cloud-based data storage solution is the most secure way to store, organize, and share digital files.

On-premises solutions still present significant risks, but a digital file room in a compliant cloud solution will make content more usable and eliminate risk. Cloud document storage also allows you to maintain control over your content with extensive and configurable security settings that comply with the highest standards. 

When the Florida Department of Law Enforcement wanted to improve the accuracy and reliability of its fingerprint search process, it chose Image API’s imaging services team to digitize 24 million fingerprint records on microfilm, complying with the stringent quality and security requirements of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Florida’s Department of Safety and Motor Vehicles digitized several million high-security images, improving security of and access to confidential records such as state drivers’ licenses using Image API as its expert, cloud-based services partner.

Cloud-based content management solutions deliver far greater security than even the largest government organizations could afford to implement on their own. When cloud-based solution providers partner with cloud platforms such as Amazon Web Services, they leverage best-practice controls, policies, and technologies for data security.

Myth 4: Going Digital Means Just Going Paperless.

Going digital means far more than just going paperless, freeing up office storage space, and enabling online document access. When done well, it impacts cost, efficiency, and service delivery, creating immense value for your agency.

We know that paper-based records can lead to agency-wide inefficiencies, low productivity, and that paperless processes also drive down or completely eliminate many operational costs, while increasing productivity and efficiency.

Fact: Digitization unlocks opportunities for automation, collaboration, and the efficiencies of integrated content, systems, and processes.

It strengthens compliance, makes audits simpler, and empowers people to get more done.

We’ve spoken to government agencies with dedicated resources assigned to physical records rooms, including employees exclusively focused on document management. A typical process might include an employee receiving a document request (sometimes via face-to-face appointments!), walking to a separate and secure area to retrieve it, submitting the document for redaction, waiting for the redacted document, then physically picking it up and delivering it to the requester. Each time a document is requested, the same process is repeated.

Prior to digitizing its paper-based files, Florida’s DOH Personnel and Human Resource Department’s paper files and manual processes overwhelmed a full-time staff, who spent a significant amount of time rifling through records and responding to records requests. Manual processes were prone to loss, misfiling, repeat requests, delays in response times, and contributed to the high cost of training new staff. After going digital, tasks that it took staff hours and days to complete now only take minutes. 

Myth 5: Going Digital Is Costly

Believing the price of going digital is too high may be costing you more than you think. In fact, not going digital is entirely more costly and risky.

In addition to the cost of paper itself, paper-based records come with ongoing costs related to copying and printing, manual filing and processing, storage, recovery, and loss.

Fact: There is tremendous risk and cost in delaying or avoiding going digital, including regulatory non-compliance, security breaches, and loss of business-critical data.

Client after client, we see the reallocation of staff and space previously used to manage and store paper-based systems drive significant cost savings. New York State’s Nassau County freed up and cost-effectively repurposed an entire floor of office space when it moved from paper-based records to digital. For the New York City Housing Authority, digitizing case files eliminated the need for thousands of square feet of expensive office space.

Long-term cost savings are a clear benefit of digitization particularly content that is managed in a cloud-based content management solution. Cloud-based solutions not only reduce operational costs, but also the expenses related to hardware, software, maintenance and physical storage.

The ongoing costs associated with managing and maintaining paper or on-premises content are exponentially higher and less secure than cloud-based solutions. 

Don’t Let the Myths of Going Digital Stop You from Getting Started

With thoughtful implementation and planning, the impact of digitization is far-reaching.  Don’t let common myths hold your organization back. Check out our guide for going digital and get started today.