- Selecting the records and your approach
- Business case
- Project planning and management for digitisation
- Common questions
If the approach to digitisation and records to be digitised are carefully selected, and the project properly planned and managed, the benefits of digitisation can be realised, costs managed and risks mitigated.
Initially you will need to consider what records to digitise and what approach (or approaches) to digitisation to take. Decisions may vary according to your particular needs. Your decisions should be documented and periodically monitored and assessed. These considerations, along with other planning considerations such as benefits, costs and risks, will inform your business case and other planning documentation.
If you define your drivers and stakeholder needs you will have a clearer picture of what records need to be digitised. Selection should be done with care. Poor selection decisions are common and can cause organisations to waste precious resources. See Selecting the right records for more information.
Select extent of digitisation
Knowing your drivers and stakeholder needs will also help you to define the extent of digitisation required.
In some cases you may undertake back-capture digitisation to support ongoing business processes in high risk or high volume areas.
The Council of the City of Sydney had a back-capture digitisation project to capture the existing records of the private certification process from 1999 (when it began). These records are important and held in significant quantities. The same process is still being undertaken and the records are now digitised when they are received by Council officers. See Case Study: Council of the City of Sydney - Outsourcing the digitisation of private certification files.
In other cases you may be digitising discrete groups of records which have little direct impact on current business processes.
An organisation digitised its 19th century photographic collection so that the images could be used for publicity or historical purposes, made more accessible and offered for sale.
Often you will be digitising original paper records by batches. However, in some circumstances it may be appropriate to only digitise certain highly-requested items. This is generally known as ‘digitisation on demand.’
You may decide to digitise files that are requested in response to subpoenas.
In some cases you may decide to digitise only parts of existing original paper records.
You may choose only to digitise bound volumes, but not related paper files.
You may choose only to digitise files between certain dates.
You may choose to digitise only key documents of interest on files.
Note: The format and chronological approaches may not cause too many problems for selection. However, where a selective ‘key document’ approach is taken, the records will be removed from their original context and can change the nature of the record. The digital image of a partially digitised record becomes a new record and you will need to consider whether the new management requirements will adversely affect your reasons for digitisation.
Determining the extent of your digitisation project can help you to make decisions about whether digitisation should be centralised or decentralised (i.e. whether to establish a central site for digitising all records or multiple digitisation stations throughout the organisation). This will in turn dictate who will undertake digitisation (i.e. action officers or the staff in the central area). Workflows will need to be established, with responsibilities assigned, for digitisation and how digital images will be circulated.
Integration with current business systems
Where digital images are being used for current business they may need to be integrated into current business information systems.
For example you may need to consider:
- if the intention is to create a seamless process incorporating both the current and older records or whether it will be a separate process
- if there is a need or opportunity to redefine or change the way the current business process is being performed
- what metadata from or about the digital images will be needed and how this will be linked to fields in the business system
- if the business requires enhanced search capability i.e. whether Optical Character Recognition (OCR) is required.
Consider how the records need to be accessed
You will also need to consider stakeholder needs for access. These may have implications for the way a digitisation project needs to be established.
You will need to consider:
- the technological infrastructure required for access
- acceptable time frames for records (either original paper records or digital images) likely to be inaccessible while digitisation is undertaken
- additional metadata required to meet stakeholder needs, e.g. index terms
- methods of delivery.
Will the digital images need to be transmitted across internal and/or external networks?
Will digital images need to be available to staff at central and remote locations? 
Will digital images need to be accessible on mobile technology, e.g. smart phones and tablets?
Will access to the original paper records (while still in existence) be restricted?
Are derivatives needed?
It is recognised best practice for many back-capture digitisation processes that a master and derivative versions are created.
Master copies are copies made at optimal quality for longevity and maintained as separate and inviolable records in safe storage environments.
Derivative versions may be edited versions of the original image, images created at reduced quality or compressed images. Typically derivatives have smaller file sizes and are made for delivery or web access.
Not all back-capture projects will require derivatives.
In Housing NSW’s back-capture digitisation project for client files only one version of each image was made. This was sufficient for all business uses. See Case Study: Housing NSW - Outsourcing the digitisation of client files.
However, in some cases they are essential.
The organisation that digitised its 19th century photographic collection so that the images could be used for publicity or historical purposes, made more accessible and offered for sale, created a master of optimal quality. They also created a number of derivatives, including a thumbnail version for the web, a publication quality version and a lower resolution version for email delivery.
Your organisation should consider your digitisation project and its aims when determining the need for additional versions images and their intended use.
Digitisation projects for preservation purposes should always have a master copy and secondary derivatives to ensure the security of the master digital image.
In-house or outsource?
You will need to decide whether you are going to conduct the digitisation in-house or outsource it to a service provider.
If you decide to outsource you need to ensure that roles, responsibilities and obligations have been clearly articulated in the contracts. While the service provider will be undertaking the work, your organisation is still responsible for meeting State Records’ requirements, including that original records do not leave NSW without permission from State Records.
Even if you outsource you will need internal staff to set the benchmarks and measurements, manage the project, negotiate the contracts and monitor compliance. They will also need to manage the change within the organisation.
Some projects may involve both business process and back-capture digitisation and you will need to decide priorities and consider issues that arise with conducting both types of digitisation. For example, you may decide to outsource aspects of the back-capture digitisation while conducting the business process digitisation internally.
An organisation decided to conduct business process digitisation for their human resource management records but also wanted to do a back-capture project to digitise the paper files of existing employees. The organisation decided to outsource the back-capture elements while establishing an in-house project for business process digitisation from a certain date.
Many public sector organisations require the development of an internal business case before they will allocate resources for digitisation.
A business case enables you to communicate the parameters of a back-capture digitisation project, substantiate its viability and justify why resources should be invested. The focus should be on how it will assist your organisation in carrying out its functions.
The content of business cases will differ according to the level of funding being sought and the type and extent of the digitisation project. The following checklist shows standard inclusions you will need to define. 
|Considerations to address in a business case|
|The problem or situation that the digitisation project will address, i.e. the driver or business need.|
|How the digitisation project will relate to and support operational objectives, directions and strategies.|
|The scope of the digitisation project including its size and scale, and the range of records.|
|The options considered and the rationale for choosing digitisation as a solution (including purpose and expected use of images, stakeholder needs and impacts).|
The digitisation project’s conformity with existing policies etc. This should include records management requirements for your organisation and specific needs for the records in question including storage, handling and disposal.
See Disposal of original paper records after digitisation and Managing original paper records for more information.
The implementation plan. This should outline benchmarks, technical and metadata specifications and quality assurance for digitisation.
The expected costs (including project budgets and resource commitments).
See Costs and risks of digitisation in back capture projects and Benefits, costs and risks of business process digitisation for more information.
The anticipated benefits and anticipated business or cost efficiencies.
See Why digitise? and Benefits cost and risks of business process digitisation for more information.
The expected risks associated with implementing digitisation and how these will be mitigated.
See Costs and risks of digitisation in back capture projects and Benefits cost and risks of business process digitisation for more information.
A back-capture digitisation project requires careful planning and management. This guideline does not state a particular planning methodology as your organisation may already have a methodology you need to follow.
The following issues should be considered and addressed in program planning:
- staffing and space requirements
- change management initiatives – a separate change management and/or training plan may be required
- the standards that should be followed
- the need for policies and procedures and how these will be distributed
- how the program itself should be documented for accountability
- the identification of legal requirements and how these will be addressed
- the management of disposal requirements for both original paper records and digital images
- the need for benchmarks and quality assurance measures built into the process
- what technical specifications are required to meet program needs
- what metadata needs to be collected and how it can be collected (e.g. automatic or manual?)
- what equipment is needed to meet program needs
- storage and management issues, including security and access requirements, to ensure digital images are retained for as long as they are required.
You will need to have a general understanding of what is involved with each of these areas before you write your business case as they will impact on costs and implementation plans.
Your aim may be to save storage costs by implementing a back-capture digitisation project and destroying originals. However, you then discover that the organisation does not have a current retention and disposal authority for these records. Until one is in place you are not able to destroy original records, so you will need to factor the costs of creating a retention and disposal authority into your business case.
You may want to include cost estimates of equipment in your business case. However, you need to have a clear idea what your technical and metadata requirements are in order to make sound judgements about what equipment is needed meet them.
Once your business case is approved you will need to spend more time considering and planning for these issues.
Monitoring and evaluation
As part of planning your organisation should define how and when the digitisation process will be monitored and reviewed.
See Frequently asked questions for answers to the following question:
- What extra things should I consider when managing large-scale back-capture digitisation projects?
|Planning for digitisation||Yes||No|
|Has an approach to digitisation been selected, documented and implemented?|
|Has there been consideration of physical condition, copyright or other constraints when choosing records for inclusion in the project?|
|Have stakeholder needs for access been considered?|
|Has the need for masters and/or derivatives been considered?|
|Has a business case been developed for the digitisation project?|
|Does the business case address the:
|Are there documented plans in place for the digitisation project?|
|Do these plans address the need for:
 National Archives of Australia, Digitising accumulated physical records: A guide to initiating and planning digitisation projects, 2011, p. 28.
 Archives New Zealand, Digitisation standard, 2007, p.14.
 National Archives of Australia, op.cit., p.8.
 Ibid., p.35.
 Ibid., p.8.
 Department of Premier and Cabinet’s Business Case Guidelines. For capital business cases see NSW Treasury, Guidelines for capital business cases Policy and guidelines paper.