Paul Moonan, Managing Director at Restore Digital , highlights key ways in which the implementation of a digital mailroom can bring cost savings and efficiency benefits to organisations under pressure to digitise, including those within the public sector.
While the image of the post room operator delivering and picking up the post is still seen in several organisations, it is becoming an image of the past, something you see in old movies. The digital mailroom is picking up speed. Of course, digitization in a mailroom context isn’t new and digitization in the mailroom doesn’t totally equal the concept of the digital mailroom as we know it today.
The first wave of digitization and automation in the mailroom was strongly related with the rise of powerful document scanners and document capture solutions, leading to the mixed, yet often centralized mailroom we still see and which in several circumstances still make sense.
In recent years, among others driven by the need for speed, this centralized model has been under pressure as the need to capture documents and mail at the earliest point of entry in the organization, leads to more hybrid and decentralized models.
Central mailrooms mainly exist in very large organizations, both in the public and private sector, while smaller companies and branch offices often have hybrid approaches. As always, it’s not a “this versus that” story and the ideal solution doesn’t exist. It all depends on the industry and business (and customer) needs, among other.
Large Business Processing Outsourcing (BPO) providers or service bureaus who specialize in mailrooms, today de facto often are document capturing and processing hubs where digital is a key part of the equation. This isn’t new either. In fact, a big part of document imaging and capturing and related digitization processes today still happens in mailrooms. When we first started talking about digital mailrooms in Restore, it was essentially in this context of digitization and the automation of incoming mail processes.
The Overview of the process
Essentially, the digital mailroom acts as an enterprise front door for incoming data and documents. It automatically identifies several forms of correspondence in both hard copy and electronic format. Next, the digital mailroom immediately analyses and distributes the information to the department, personal, back end system, or front end business process that requires it. The same system can serve multiple departments such as procurement, administration, account payable, and facilities of course.
The benefits of implementing the process are not considered to be revolutionary – that ship has sailed. Instead there is a common acceptance amongst the private and public sector that a digital mailroom provides better multiple benefits; mail traceability and compliance, improved customer service, enhanced quality of data capture into downstream processes as well as the payback based on labour and space savings alone.
The Public Sector Agenda
Triggered by a Government commissioned digital efficiency report in 2012, which concluded that it was possible to save up to £1.8 billion per year by going ‘digital by default’, the public sector is now striving hard to meet the challenges of making the UK digital by design from 2020.
Early digital adopters, like the Ministry of Justice, are already reaping the efficiency and security benefits of digital systems just like the digital mailroom and are reducing historical reliance on physical documents, but many more organisations still need to follow their example.
However, the size and complexity of public sector organisations, increased data volumes, growing security risks, and more Freedom of Information requests, all mean that there remains a lot of work yet for the public sector to meet its digitisation targets within the timescale set.
The arrival of posted mail is the start of the paper mountain which has to be managed on a daily basis. Dealing efficiently with post, where there can be multiple buildings across various sites, can be time-consuming for any internal mail system. It can also be a weak point in the information security chain with the on-going risk of important documents going astray.
By turning to advanced digital mailroom technology, companies are able to rationalise their information delivery. An automated mailroom with document scanning and digital mail delivery to the correct person, or department, results in the physical movement of paper being virtually cut out of the process. Important documents are assimilated into an efficient data management workflow solution with vital information being quickly processed and accessed.
Restore was recently tasked with creating a digital mailroom for Stoke on Trent City Council to support its ‘paper lite’ policy. As a consequence of its digitisation of inbound communications, and the intelligent use of the right technologies, Restore was able to implement the tracking, identification, categorisation and capture of received information.
Some of the tangible benefits the transition brought included: improved efficiencies in handling and response times, reduced mail handling costs, better mail prioritisation, better channelling and control over communications, more effective information sharing and of course a reduction in paper usage.
The council was delighted with the improvements it was able to make. The Corporate Business Administration Manager at Stoke on Trent City Council, revealed that pre-project, the delivery process used to take three people all day to deliver their post, afterwards two people did it in just half a day.
Allowing firms with proven expertise in digital document management solutions to advise and install efficient mail systems would speed public organisations along in meeting government targets. Not only would they end up with a first-rate digitised document management system, but they would have more time to spend on other vital projects.