Since scanning or imaging of paper has become a well accepted and preferred method for managing expanding record sets, this question has been on the lips of those that must manage these record sets.

I hear it, myself to the tune of The Clash song: “Should I Stay or Should I Go?”

For years now, these options have been presented as mutually exclusive but really, they’re not. What has traditionally driven that impression is largely the matter of what was available to service record sets, and what companies had capital invested in for service delivery.

Each option has its benefits, in some applications one makes more sense than the other.  However in most places, they BOTH make sense, in the same space, in the same enterprise, in the same system.

Why is this becoming more apparent and more of an option?

Two reasons, I think. Storage companies are beginning to embrace the electronic delivery of content back to their clients,  because clients are starting to ask for it, in some cases requiring it. Alternatively back file scanning companies, so used to managing record sets off site during conversion are beginning to perceive solutions that allow them to service the client for Request of Information during the conversion process in a more effective and secure manner.

So like the old candy commercial, “you stuck your chocolate in my peanut butter, no you put your peanut butter on my chocolate” the methods are beginning to merge.

Application providers are beginning to notice this, define this to new methods and put the control back in the end users’ hands, in the form of options. What a novel concept, options in making complex decisions!

If you have complex record keeping and management issues, then you should be able to rely on delivery methods that deal with that complexity by creating decision points with systems deployment. This means that an effective software strategy enables ALL reasonable methods as information about the records is realized through a management plan.

Once the methods are revealed through the application of a management strategy and record use is tracked, the effective plan can define whether records should stay, or go.

Should I scan, or I should I store? The answer, again, is probably BOTH depending on the requirements that the records present.

Should I fill up boxes and send them off somewhere with some vague assurances that we’ll make sure to perm out your records when retention has been met? Who keeps track of that?  Are you relying on the storage provider to remind you that you no longer need to pay them to store records?

When you need something out of those files, how are you receiving it? E-mail, hard copy return? What are you getting there? Well, in the case of email you’re generating another copy of the record, how does that get managed and accounted for as to compliance? Retention?

Hard copy delivery? So you just dumped a hefty service fee into your vendors’ hand to do what? Return something to you, so you can pay them to return it back to them? What if you need it again? More service fees, duplication of effort and archaic methods and another line item on the storage bill that never seems to do anything but grow on a monthly basis.

What about scanning everything? Sounds good. You eliminate the storage costs, no service fees for sending files back and forth, and you recover space. But what if the cost to do that far exceeds the cost to just dump them into storage because there’s very little demand on the records? Now you’ve spent money, but not effectively.

The key is to know what you have on the front end. You must define your policies and implement them into your management system.  If you are storing, then you must account for what you have, when it has met retention and when it should go. If you’re making decisions to scan, then you should have reliable, empirical data as to the cost benefit of that method.

The good news is that software is beginning to emerge that puts every reasonable method into the mix and manages those methods as part of a unified policy where what stays and what goes is managed in the same way, regardless of the state of those records, or their location.