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Document Indexing: Getting the Most Out of Indexing Your Files

As you go through the process of becoming a paperless office, there are certain tools and techniques you should invest in to truly take advantage of what being paperless can mean. Many businesses that decide to become paperless think the process ends after all your paper documents have been scanned into your system — that’s only half the battle. The next step is just as critical — properly indexing your documents so they can be retrieved and edited easily.

Document indexing is the process of classifying information that describes a document and allows you to easily search and find said document once it has been digitized. As you begin converting your paper copies to a digital format, indexing is the next step in the process of moving toward an all-encompassing document management solution. In this blog, we will talk about exactly what document indexing is and how your business can get the most out of it. 

Why Do I Need to Index my Documents?

To be productive, you must be able to find and retrieve the digital documents you need quickly and without headache. As the number of documents in a system grows, this task becomes more challenging. Indexing your documents, no matter how big or small your volume is, will save you time and money by making documents easier to access and manage in different ways. 

Organization

When executed properly, indexing not only allows you to identify your documents based on keywords, fields, etc., you can also group similar documents together based on the identifiers used. This allows for a streamlined process you can use to manage your documents while also keeping them organized. Say you have a large volume of documents that need to be organized by specific categories such as invoices or payroll, indexing allows you to easily organize and identify these documents as an invoice or payroll document so you don’t have to rustle through other categories to find what you need.

Faster Access – Less Time Wasted

Once your documents are indexed and integrated into a stable document management system, you can access your documents easily with its identifier. This saves your business time and money by not having employees take hours out of their work day to sort and find documents by hand. 

Understanding Indexing Methods 

To get the most out of indexing your documents, you need to understand the different methods of indexing to see which kind best fits your document management needs. Historically there have been three indexing methods: database records, keyword tagging, and text search. 

Database Records

With this method, each document is associated with a database record in a traditional relational database management system (RDBMS) such as Oracle or MSSQL. Records may contain any number of structured fields of various types such as text, numbers, dates, drop down menu, lists, check boxes, and radio buttons. To retrieve records, you must perform standard queries against the database. Since you must enter index information for each document stored, database records typically require the most time up-front. However, there are many advantages to using this method. 

Since you are prompted to enter data for each field, all documents in a repository have an excellent chance of receiving good, fitting indexing data. Each field has a type such as text, number, or date associated with a document. This allows the data entered in a field to be type-checked for consistency, resulting in higher quality and more complete records. Since each field type normally has a prompt, such as SSN or Name, you would know exactly the type of data to enter and where to enter it when searching for documents. This makes finding a single document more efficient and easier.

Keyword Tagging

The keyword tagging method is when keywords are inputted and associated with each document. There can be multiple keywords associated with one document depending on the information within that document. To retrieve these documents you would need to perform queries using one or a combination of keywords associated with that particular document.  

Keyword tagging can be considered a freeform method of document indexing. Since there is typically no enforcement of either the number or quality of keywords entered, there is more room for user error. These errors usually happen because when searching, users normally have no idea what keywords were assigned to documents in the repository. If a “keywords used” list is available from which users may select, it is normally presented with the most commonly used keywords first. When you select a common keyword from that list, it would result in the retrieval of many documents – not ideal when trying to find just one document. It is only by combining several selections of common keywords that a user can typically narrow down a search. This process often occurs interactively, requiring many seconds.

Text Search

The text search method is when the contents of a document are indexed. To retrieve documents, you would input words or phrases that are likely to appear in the content. This is usually the most attractive option at first glance because it appears to offer document organization for little to no up-front effort. While it is certainly true that the up-front effort involved is minimal, the back-end search time can be restrictive.

With text search, your scanned documents must be processed through an Optical Character Recognition (OCR) step before the text will exist to be properly indexed. Text search suffers from similar drawbacks to keyword tagging. Since you are searching for documents based on the content within the document, if the content of a document does not contain the word(s) used in your search, a document could be missed and never found. Using more generic search terms results in more hits, but as anyone who has used Google knows, attempting to find the one document you need from a list of thousands is simply unrealistic.

Which one?

Now that you know and understand the different types of indexing methods, which one best fits your business needs? If your business requires that you absolutely must be able to find all documents in your system quickly, you should use the database record method. Say you rarely retrieve documents and can afford to take a few minutes looking for one, the keyword or text search methods will likely save you up-front time. 

Overall, when it comes to indexing your documents the more time you spend up front, the faster and more accurate your searches will be on the back end.

Getting Started

When applied correctly, document indexing can allow for easy search and retrieval as well as save time and money for your business. However, we understand that figuring out what method best fits your system can be a challenge. Contacting an experienced partner that deals with document indexing regularly can help you find the method that best fits your business’ unique needs. Here at Optix, we have experienced partners that can help you and your business find the right indexing method that will benefit your business. To learn more, contact us today. 

Questions on what method will work for your company? Contact us today and we’d be happy to discuss what a transition looks like for many of our past clients. See in real-time how small businesses can transform their document management with Optix.

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