Document Digitization Explained: Benefits, Processes, and Applications

Published: July 05, 2024

Documentation is the lifeblood of business workflows. From invoices to contracts to memos, documents are integral to business operations. As many are in physical paper-based format, document digitization is recommended for security, efficiency, and monitoring.

Document digitization is a key component of digital transformation. Although many businesses rely on digital documents, some still work with paper-based ones. Many businesses also have archives that need to be digitized.

It’s vital to embrace paper digitization because many workflows have gone online. If your company hasn’t yet transitioned to fully digital operations, chances are your business partners or clients have.

MST tools, including eViewer HTML5 and Batch Converter, are useful for digitizing documents and their storage and sharing across the organization. With technologies like optical character recognition, scanned copies of old text-based documents can be completely digitized and be more useful to your business.

What Is Document Digitization?

Document digitization refers to the process of converting physical paper-based documents into digital formats, for example, DOCX, PDF, or TIFF.

The paper documents are typically scanned using scanners or cameras and saved in the desired format. For example, a contract may be saved as a PDF, whereas a paper advertisement, or photo images may be saved as a JPG file.

The digital file can then be organized, stored, and shared electronically, which is much faster than mail.

Document digital conversion may be necessary in several scenarios:

  • Old documents from a time before computers
  • Signed documents
  • Hand-written documents
  • Legacy formats, such as MODCA, that are no longer accessible

Document digitization isn’t just about scanning and creating digital copies. Depending on the document type and use, it may require further processing, for instance, making it editable, searchable, or turned into a specific format with standardized properties (for example, size, resolution, etc.).

Benefits of Document Digitization

In a study, as many as 89% of companies reported adopting a digital-first strategy. Digitizing documents is part of digital transformation efforts, as businesses reduce their reliance on physical documents and improve business efficiency with digitized copies.

Enhanced Security

Physical documents are prone to security threats and loss. Critical documents like contracts or patents can end up in the wrong hands, compromising confidentiality. Similarly, paper-based documents can get lost if not properly filed and stored.

Then, there’s always the threat of natural disasters. In the unfortunate event of a natural disaster like an earthquake or storm, or even a fire, any damage to the premises may result in the permanent loss of documents.

Digitizing documents and storing them in multiple locations or in the cloud creates redundancy. You can also set up access controls to store the digitized documents; this prevents unauthorized access.

Digitization of documents may also help enforce compliance with data security and privacy regulations. Depending on your business’s niche, you may be liable to protect personally identifiable information (PII).

Once digitized, the physical documents can be destroyed or retained per your needs or company policy.

Increased Accessibility and Efficiency

Employees in the US spend 25% of their work week looking for documents and information. Physical documents are time-consuming to locate, and find the relevant information needed within the documents, even if they’re stored in an orderly fashion, and retrieving them can be resource-intensive.

Also, it can create a lot of red tape around document access. For instance, an employee in one department has to walk up to another department and ask an employee for the specific document they need.

Digitizing documents makes it easier to find them. More importantly, it becomes more straightforward to find the information you need. Think of a lawyer looking for a particular clause in a paper document. They’d have to read the entire thing to locate it. Instead, if the contract was digitized using OCR and made searchable, they could simply search for the text of the clause and find it in seconds.

Cost Savings

Managing physical documents takes a lot of time, which could be spent on other important tasks. Increased employee productivity can result in increased revenues. Moreover, businesses can save money by reducing their paper costs.

There are some tradeoffs, as digitization also requires time and investment. However, the outcome in the long run will result in significant cost savings.

Improved Customer Service

Whether you’re a B2B or B2C company, document digitization can enable you to provide better service for your clients. Digitized documents can be shared instantaneously via cloud, email, or another medium.

For example, trading businesses can share digital versions of documents like advanced shipping notices or invoices through EDI (electronic data interchange) systems. Sending the same document by mail would take a long time and result in delays on your client’s end.

Going digital with documents makes workflows and communication more efficient.

You can also commit to the environment by cutting down on your paper trail and digitizing documents.

The Document Digitization Process

Digitizing documents is a multi-step process to ensure that documents aren’t simply digitized but serve their purpose more efficiently.

  • Assessment: Begin by assessing which departments, teams, operations, or workflows rely on paper documentation. In the same vein, identify the archives of paper-based documents and determine the volume of documents. The more paper-based documents you digitize, the more resources you may need.
  • Establish the Rules and Standards: Create policies for digitizing physical documents. If you create or receive certain documents initially in paper format, standardize the requirement for digitization so that digitization can become an intrinsic part of the workflow.
  • Prepare the Documents: For archives of documents to be digitized, prepare them by sorting and organizing them by priority or date. You may also need to separate pages from files and remove staples or paper clips before the next step in the document digitization process.
  • Scanning: Use high-quality scanners to create digital copies of the documents. To make these documents digitally searchable and editable, utilize OCR technology, like that offered by MST’s eViewer solution. Make sure the scans are legible and clear. You may use image processing tools to enhance the quality of the old or damaged documents. Collect metadata and index the files so that retrieval in digital systems can be quick and easy.
  • Storage and Management: Define the storage policy and designate where exactly the digitized files should be stored. For example, if your business is cloud-based, you should store the documents in the cloud. Conversely, if you want to store them on-premise, you can store them on your internal computers or servers.
  • Integration and Security: Ensure that the digitized files are stored securely. They should be encrypted and password-protected if necessary so that only authorized personnel can access them. If the documents are part of your business processes, you may want to integrate them with your tools.

What Documents Should Be Digitized?

Depending on your business niche and industry, several critical documents may require digitizing. While it’s recommended to digitize all documents relevant to your business’s operations, some are more important.

Here are some examples of documents that should be digitized, categorized by industry:

  • Healthcare: Medical records, surgery schedules, insurance claims, patient ID.
  • Insurance: Claim forms, correspondence, evidence documents, policy documents
  • Legal: Contracts, briefs, court transcripts, evidence documents
  • Government: Tax documents, IDs, public records, permits, licenses
  • Engineering: Drawings, site plans, construction documents, invoices
  • Finance: Account forms, loan applications, customer IDs, financial reports, appraisal reports

MST’s products offer features suitable for digitizing and reviewing digitized documents in the mentioned industries. You can digitize documents and share them internally or externally without compromising on security. With end-to-end encryption and features like AI-based redaction, digitized documents can be shared in compliance with data privacy regulations like GDPR and CCPA.

Common Challenges in the Document Digitization Process

Although a positive endeavor, document digitization also has several challenges. Navigating these challenges can ensure you get the most out of the process.

  • High Initial Costs: Digitizing documents requires tools and resources. Relevant team members may have to dedicate time to sorting, scanning, and storing documents. If the volume of documents is high, these costs may seem daunting. However, as mentioned before, these upfront costs will be paid off in the long term with increased productivity and efficiency. If you’re faced with budgetary constraints, digitization can be phased out over a longer period.
  • Resistance to Change: If your organization has been working with paper-based documents for a long time, it may take some time for employees to get used to digitized files. There may be resistance to change, which can be handled with education and training. First, raise your teams’ awareness about the benefits of digitizing documents. Second, offer training workshops on the process of digitization and any tools used for it. Teams will be more receptive to this change with training.
  • Data Security: Even after digitization, documents aren’t immune from security threats. Various cyber threats, such as ransomware and data breaches, can compromise critical documents. Digitizing is only the beginning; you need to ensure that these files are secured comprehensively from both internal and external threats. Use standard security best practices such as file encryption, access controls, and redundant backups to ensure digitized documents are secure.

How MST Services Facilitate Document Digitization?

MST offers eViewer HTML5, a document viewing and sharing tool. It also offers the MST Batch Converter, which can convert files from various formats into a single file type.

Both these offerings from MST can aid the process of document digitization. Here’s how its features can be useful:

  • OCR: Optical character recognition technology—is a standard feature in both the eViewer and Batch Converter. It can turn images of typed or written documents into searchable, editable files in formats like DOC or PDF. This tool can be useful for making digital scans usable where editing or searching is needed.
  • Conversion: Document scans may be stored as JPG or PNG by default and require conversion into formats like PDF to be shared and utilized in several applications.
  • Metadata: View, edit, and save metadata information for digitized documents according to organization policy or standard, which can help users understand the purpose and ownership of documents.
  • Watermarking: Proprietary or confidential digitized documents in any format (PDF, TIFF, DOC, JPG, etc.) can be watermarked to ensure confidentiality and enforce copyright protections.
  • Annotations: Users can add annotations and comments to digitized documents in the eViewer for easy collaboration between team members and even those outside the organization.
  • Batch conversion: Quick, easy, and simultaneous conversion of scanned images (regardless of file type, including MO:DCA) into a single format (PDF or TIFF).

MST’s solutions are designed to be scalable, so they’re suitable for small and large businesses alike. They can facilitate document digitization processes and complement other tools with integrations.

Case Studies

Many organizations have used MST technologies in their document digitization journey. Here are a couple of examples:

  • WorldPay: A well-known payment processing solutions provider, WorldPay, used eViewer to facilitate the digitization of documents for internal and external users. It allowed users to scan and capture documents and safely upload them to their repository online. Users could also perform actions on the digitized files, for example, splitting documents or creating different versions for different teams to access.
  • AFBA: The Armed Forces Benefit Association (AFBA) utilized the Batch Convertor SDK with their existing IT infrastructure to quickly convert large batches of documents into PDF or TIFF format. The Java-based SDK works in the background and can convert digital copies of physical documents into PDF files, eliminating manual data entry.


Digitization of documents isn’t an option but a necessity—something all progressive business leaders are now realizing. You may want to digitize your archives or incorporate digitization in your operations if you still rely on paper-based documents (contracts, invoices, receipts, forms, etc.).

Digitization enhances the security of physical documents and makes them more usable. As a result, workflows become more streamlined, and teams can perform more efficiently. It’s a win-win situation for all stakeholders.

MST complements businesses’ digital transformation with its document capture, viewing, and sharing capabilities. The various features available with its flagship eViewer make document digitization a breeze. Once converted into usable digital files, these documents can be securely shared.

So, what are you waiting for? Contact MST today!

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