So What’s the Big Deal about Indexing?

If indexing simply helps you organize digital documents so you can find them at some later time, how hard can it be, right?

After all, you’ve tackled organizing hundreds of photos from decades ago that you’ve finally finished scanning into your computer along with all the baby photos and family vacation memories. If you can get a handle on that, doing the same for your office documents can’t be that much harder…..or can it?

PC Magazine’s encyclopedia defines indexing as “creating tables (indexes) that point to the location of folders, files and records. Depending on the purpose, indexing identifies the location of resources based on file names, key data fields in a database record, text within a file or unique attributes in a graphics or video file”. Thus, photos are one thing (you can create folders based on months/years or particular events), but documents containing lots of varied data are quite another.

Since the organizational structure of your index needs to make sense to everyone who will utilize it, it’s important to collaborate and be sure that what you’re looking for can be found with relative ease. Indexing is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. What works for one organization will often not translate to an efficient or accurate method for another. There definitely needs to be a balance between cost and efficient, reliable retrieval.

This is where an experienced and knowledgeable vendor is invaluable. Since you can’t theoretically index everything, it’s important to know what some of the “standards” are that work within your industry. And, often even more important, what doesn’t work.

In this case, you want to rely on someone else’s trial and error results to cut down on your own learning curve. Of course, once you decide on the parameters, you’re only partially done. Since cost is often one of the main factors in a project’s success, you’ll need to determine if you want to:

  • Manually input data

  • Utilize OCR/ICR (optical character recognition/intelligent character recognition) technology

  • Auto-populate some fields based on linked data as it’s input

  • Limit the number of data fields or characters per field

There are always other unforeseen costs associated with any project. But if you’d like to gather additional information specific to indexing, this article produced by the University of Texas is a great starting point.

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