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Intelligent mailroom: Supercharging snail mail forever?

Intelligent mailroom: Supercharging snail mail forever?

Whilst digital mailrooms have been around for many years, they are sometimes still a source of mystery. But, in an age where all businesses are looking for cost-effective, high-impact digital technologies to make them more competitive, the role of the digital mailroom continues to gain importance.

The introduction of the digital mailroom was the next logical step in the move towards digitalisation. Before the digital age, businesses were burdened by a clunky and awkward process when it came to handling mail. Sacks full of letters would be directed to the mailroom in the organisation, where it would be sifted, sorted and then distributed at regular intervals by people from the mail room throughout the business.

On the face of it, this was a straightforward process. Apart from human errors in the system, where letters were misplaced or lost, the process of receiving mail was usually successful. However, there was no record of the letters once they were received. The receivers would usually extract the relevant information and then either dispose of them or file them locally. It made it very difficult for the business to gather centralised intelligence about its key contacts and correspondence. What's more, it was labour intensive, slow and inefficient. The potential of the digital mailroom was born.

Businesses drivers behind digital mailrooms

It is almost impossible to find an industry that has not been affected by digital transformation. The desire to become digital-first has also become the driver behind the evolution of the digital mailroom. What began with scanning documents to ensure there was a digital record, quickly progressed to improving business connectivity. A business's overall performance is now dependent on its ability to manage it communications across every channel - phone calls, instant messages, emails, physical letters and new channels as they continue to evolve.

With digital transformation comes the proliferation of data. Technologies like cloud have meant that data can not only be stored, but also harnessed for business insight. Businesses can instantly assess who has been contacting them across every channel and address any queries or concerns in the most appropriate way. This can be hugely important for customer service queries and in turn its reputation.

However, this data revolution has brought with it a growing spotlight on the way companies manage their information, protect user's data and provide security for confidential business information. Prior to digital, a wrongly distributed letter was simply regarded as a potentially embarrassing, but unavoidable consequence of the handling process.

Now, following the introduction of EU wide directives such as GDPR, it can lead to major fines. Confidential information reaching the wrong person can also reveal business secrets, further underlining the importance of getting it right. With this in mind, more businesses are investing in digital mailrooms to reduce human error and in turn, reduce the threat to compliance.

A new approach

There is another factor at play: the way we work has changed. The idea that everyone wears a suit, goes to work in an office and uses only work devices has been firmly put to bed, even in the most traditional environments. Whereas once paper was the lifeblood of the organisation, with more people working flexibly, employees are not necessarily in the office to receive physical mail. Meanwhile,

With most jobs now requiring a suite of tools such Skype, Slack, IM, Email and Google Teams, information from a physical letter is now expected to be available to send in any channel almost as soon as it is received.

Technology changing the game

However, the digital mailroom is rapidly evolving to meet these new demands. It could now be described as 'Intelligent', powered by technical advancements such as capture on-demand, Capture as a Service (CaaS), e-forms, page analytics and mobile capture. One simple platform is now able to manage multiple systems of engagement from scanners, multifunction devices, emails, images, MS Office, electronic data interchanges, XMLs, mobile devices and even faxes. This system dramatically increases data security and compliance.

Businesses, such as life insurance, pensions and asset management provider, Aegon, have also delivered a competitive advantage following adoption of this kind of set up. They were able to save 25% of costs and speed up mail processes by 50%. As well as increasing customer satisfaction by cutting response times, the new system has provided Aegon with full process control and reduced compliance risks.

With working life becoming more fluid, yet compliance rules stricter, it is increasingly important to introduce control over the flow of data. Business communication continues to evolve, becoming more complex and fragmented. Whilst even 10 years ago it might have been acceptable for an organisation to rely on a physical mailroom, this no longer aligns with the digital-first strategy of any future-focused business. But the digital mailroom is more than just a sorting tool. As the technology continues to get smarter, it has the potential to become the hub of communication and the eyes and ears of the business.

* By Dana Eitzen, Corporate and Marketing Communications Executive at Canon South Africa.


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