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Bringing paper archives to life on screens: from vision to realisation as a service model

2024 / 03 / 25

A complete digital archive where you can quickly find the document or information you need, from the most relevant contract details to a once-handwritten designer’s note on a drawing. Novian companies offer organisations the possibility to create such archives and integrate them into their other digital processes, also performing this work as a service.

Archive digitisation significantly simplifies and streamlines processes in the long term, making information available on demand to internal and external users and speeding up searches. At the same time, it saves costs by reducing the amount of human resources needed to handle paper-based material, reducing storage costs and opening up new possibilities for use. For example, information can be listened to or reviewed, even down to the smallest detail.

While there are different ways to implement such projects, archive digitisation as a service offers many advantages. On the one hand, it addresses the issue of the ‘host’ of the project, as the service can be provided from A to Z by an external supplier. And on the other hand, it can cover all relevant processes, from advice and training to the necessary tools, knowledge of processes and support from professional experts.

From equipment to training

According to Artūras Milašauskas, Innovation Director at Novian Technologies, organisations today are well aware that data, including archives, is an asset. However, several important conditions must be met in order to empower this asset. Firstly, the data needs to be digitised, and secondly, it needs to be integrated with other digital processes. However, the reality is that a large part of the assets of these organisations, especially if they have been operating for a longer time, may still be stored in paper archives.

‘Since this job is usually not prioritised and there is no clear procedure or technology, there is hesitation about how to do it. Often this results in the transfer of the paper archive to the PDF format, which frees up space but does not allow for efficient work with the data and its use in a digital context’, said Mr Milašauskas.

According to him, in order to exploit the wide potential of the digital archive, it is not only worth digitising the documents, but also ensuring proper cataloguing of the information, including the preparation of metadata, the creation of a search process, and the integration of archival information in preparation for its delivery to internal and external users. This is where the advice of experienced professionals comes in handy.

‘One of the reasons why organisations with archives find it difficult to start digitising their data is that they don’t know how they will continue to use the information. In this case, we help with the process of creating the data management logic’, said the company’s Innovation Director.

Cost savings, faster search

‘The output of a digital archive can vary according to business needs: the digital data can be presented in the required level of detail. For example, an archive of contracts can contain important prices, deadlines, information on the parties to the contract, and amendments,’ said Mr Milašauskas.

Archive categories can also be created according to the needs of specific fields. For instance, legal practice might require certain information on court rulings, while infrastructure projects might require drawings with information on both the object itself and its surroundings. Today, technological advances also make it possible to digitise handwritten records, such as diplomas from several decades ago.

‘By bringing up-to-date data into a digital archive, we get a kind of digital cross-section that we can analyse in different ways’, said the Innovation Director.

He said it is also important to note that creating a digital archive is a process. ‘Experience shows that understanding how an organisation will use an archive and what data it will need may not happen right away. It is therefore critical to produce as much detailed information as possible from physical sources when digitising archives, thus expanding future options. In addition, when creating an archive, it would be worth going beyond metadata and bringing out the actual content of the documents’, said Mr Milašauskas.

Offering digitisation as a service

Typically, organisations deal with archiving needs in several ways: either by carrying out a separate project using external suppliers, or by acquiring equipment and seeking in-house or external expertise. ‘However, if you want to create an effective digital archive, the task is quite broad, and finding a host for such a task in the organisation can be challenging. External assistance can help to implement a project much faster’, says Mr Milašauskas.

Novian Technologies offers another option when working with external suppliers: using the digitisation process as a service. This means obtaining a complete package of services, from the scanners, hardware, and software required for a specific organisation, to advice and training on how to design and execute the process to create a digital archive of value.

‘The greatest value of digitisation as a service is advice on how to design and implement a project. This service is also attractive in terms of time – as it allows the organisation to plan when and how to carry out the project based on the available time resources – and financially, as they do not have to buy expensive equipment themselves: they can rent the equipment for a certain period of time, exactly as they need it according to the needs of their activities, and connect the necessary software to this equipment’, says Mr Milašauskas.

Novian’s technical capabilities for digitisation:

  • Digitisation of document archives: scanning paper documents, hosting and storing digital material in document systems;
  • Document processing (text recognition, metadata, segmentation, different formats, tools for editing and quality control);
  • Export to multiple formats such as JPG or PDF with text search, multiple XML standards all in flexible formats and layouts;
  • Archiving solutions and specialised software for processing and hosting materials;
  • Software for digitising and segmenting the content of printed and/or scanned documents and publications;
  • PDF to XML conversion;
  • Indexing scanned documents (from paper, microfilm, or PDF images in various formats);
  • OCR (optical character recognition), including Gothic or so-called Fraktur text.

Digitisation as a service makes the process more efficient: scanners can be changed according to the needs of the organisation and the formats of the archived documents. Hence, the work can be done in stages – for example, according to the information contained in the archive and the document formats (as the archive is often heterogeneous), with a variety of formats.

The digitisation-as-a-service model is also useful when there is no clear vision for the catalogue. It is often unknown how the existing archival information will be used before scanning and cataloguing, and this approach allows the catalogue to be built up gradually.

Appreciated by customers around the world

The benefits of the digital archive have already been recognised by Novian group customers. One of them is Visiolink, a Danish digital publishing solutions provider with pan-European services and digital platforms for publications.

Zissor, a Novian company based in Norway, provides Visiolink with a PDF-to-XML conversion service, which allows it to present information for publications in a web-friendly format. ‘This is a daily process of decomposing the content into metadata, text and illustrations, thus creating XML files and illustrations for easy reading of the publications on the web, on mobile phones or on tablets’, said Mr Milašauskas.

The Swedish National Archives, which has been working with Zissor for more than ten years, uses Zissor Content System software to digitise newspapers. It is estimated that the total number of digitised pages has already surpassed 37 million.

Among the reasons why the organisation chose Novian are the fully automated and smooth process, dedicated software and maintenance, and the ability to easily integrate new requirements.

According to Novian representative, the software provided to the Swedish National Archives is an integral part of the digitisation process. ‘The system automates the conversion of document image information into digital content. Although the main content consists in periodical publications, the system can be flexibly adapted to other types of archives’, said Mr Milašauskas.

About Novian group

Novian group companies have exceptional technological potential in the region to undertake complex, large-scale digitisation projects ranging from digitising documents in a variety of formats to transferring text and images or creating the necessary metadata for digital use. They also offer a broad range of solutions for data empowerment.

Novian companies in Lithuania, Estonia, Norway, and Moldova offer digitisation of archives, books, newspapers, magazines, journals and other publications and libraries, not only in the Baltic and Scandinavian countries but also in the rest of Europe and on other continents.

The group has extensive technical capacity for digitisation services thanks to the Novian digitisation centre in Tallinn, Estonia. It is equipped with five types of scanners, for media ranging from A4 documents to complex large old newspapers, and maps. Automated solutions also allow for processing multipage or large publications.

Novian Technologies is part of Novian group, whose companies provide technological, software and digitisation solutions, as well as integrated IT solutions and services in these fields. The group’s companies are based in the Baltics, Norway and Moldova, from where they serve clients and implement projects across the globe. Read more about the group’s digitisation services here.

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