Why digital transformation in the mailroom is changing the way we handle and use informationFebruary 13, 2012 No Comments
Written By: Keith Holdt, Director of Swiss Post Solutions Ltd
The phrase ‘from the mailroom upwards’ was often used in the past to indicate the lowly role of the traditional mailroom as little more than a physical ‘logistics hub’. But as many organizations have discovered, elevating the mailroom to an automated, digital ‘information hub’ offers huge potential benefits, not just in boosting efficiency and productivity but to the bottom line too.
There have been three key drivers in the way businesses manage the flow of information into, through and out of their organizations:
- cross-border business
- mobile technology
Organizations are faced with the need for fastidious compliance with ever more rules, regulations and laws. Innovations in document management technology now produce a virtuous triangle of achieving internal and external regulatory compliance while delivering cost-savings and better access to information.
The advantages in terms of productivity, efficiency and cost savings of digitising the activities of the mailroom are now well-understood. They include: improving business process and staff productivity; faster and more accurate routing of documents; raising customer satisfaction; and reduced costs associated with moving, processing and storing physical documents, as well as demonstrating a clear commitment to running a sustainable business.
Better filing and archiving disciplines that become possible with mailroom digitisation have a close connection with achieving compliance objectives. The greater visibility of information from receipt right through to destruction helps to limit the compliance risks that come with poor controls on information storage and retrieval.
Data protection issues can be identified and dealt with from the outset as information enters the business and documents are first archived after being digitally recorded. A centrally managed archiving system can monitor compliance with a company’s retention policy and minimise the risks of any sensitive information, which may need to be destroyed from being mislaid or filed elsewhere.
What’s imperative to understand is that it’s not scanning on its own that will deliver results, it’s how that information is handled and incorporated into the business workflows that matters. When organisations reduce their reliance on paper-based documents by converting information entering the business into electronic formats, the digital transformation enables them to leverage the value of their corporate data through integrating it into their normal workflow process.
With the mailroom elevated to digital information hub, companies can begin to realize the full benefit of digitisation. But to be truly effective, it must be combined with a clear approach towards corporate information management; information logistics as a whole should be considered.
A particular appeal of the digital information hub to larger companies is the ease with which it can be rolled out across business units and across borders, providing a consistent level of service whether that operation is taking place in Washington or Beijing and improving the customer experience. It can be managed centrally with just local process variations to support any regulatory or other local demands. The key is to design the infrastructure from the outset as a corporate-wide solution, not just there to support a single department or function.
Digitisation and centralized processing allows the mobile workforce to have mail and other business-critical documents delivered on a virtual real-time basis to their iPads and smartphones, and to the same service level as staff working from the main business site.
The mailroom has certainly evolved. At Swiss Post Solutions we have developed a range of mailroom and document services to provide better access to corporate information through proper management and automation of electronic and paper records, backed by an integrated, end-to-end Document Services Platform (DSP). Accessible via a standard Web browser, the DSP supports automation of the various elements of the lifecycle of the document through a set of integrated modules that can be deployed either on-site as part of a managed operation or off-site as part of a fully outsourced service.
The future for the mailroom as a digital information hub depends on the extent to which organizations choose to exploit its huge potential. The speed and volume at which information flows into a business and its importance to fast and accurate decision-making makes the mailroom operation the ideal nucleus for optimizing workflows and improving decision support/business intelligence.
The days of dark and dusty mailrooms doing little more than deal with mail items as they arrive at and leave your building are as distant as the days when regulatory compliance obligations could be met simply by keeping an orderly filing cabinet. By implementing faster, more efficient and better-value digital solutions to information flow and retrieval, organizations can improve their ability to deliver not just on compliance but also the cost-savings and productivity gains that their CEOs demand.
Keith Holdt is a Director of Swiss Post Solutions Ltd and a regular writer and commentator on document and information management issues.