Does your business need a digital mailroom?

The dream of a paperless environment is still far from reality for many organisations but it doesn't have to be that way.

Australian business understands the benefits of digitising paper processes, however, the reality of a paperless environment is still far from reality for many. The results from a recent AIIM survey revealed the surprising fact, that despite 40 percent of organisations questioned, they continue to process over 1,000 items per day and for nearly a fifth of them this volume continues to increase.

Organisations are subject to a never ending daily deluge of documents. Orders, payments and contracts make up just part of this and many are struggling to deal with processing this influx of documents. This is not just physically managing the routing and the classification, but extracting the business critical information containing in these documents. Indeed, 74 per cent of the organisations quizzed stated they have business improvement campaigns that would benefit from paper-free processes but 18 per cent haven’t yet begun implementing a plan to digitise processes.

Organisations are fully aware of the business risk that this increasing volume of information stuck in unstructured, unmanaged documents causes. It’s all essential information but it becomes practically impossible to manage when 80 percent of it is caught up in inefficient workflow processes. Not only is the manual classification of this extremely time-consuming, but as with anything involving human input, there is a risk of accidental error which can often be costly to resolve. The value lies not just in extracting the content, but in extracting the context.

Furthermore, not being able to get your hands on information quickly and efficiently means that opportunities and information gaps can be overlooked and a company’s ability to respond to its customers’ needs is significantly affected.

The digital antidote

A digital mailroom offers the antidote to much of the above, as the entry point to the organisation for essential documentation. This manual sorting of data and the methods of doing so have evolved in recent years to become even more intuitive and efficient. Nowadays there are intelligent capture-based solutions available that allow scanned documents to be automatically classified, according to their content, which significantly reduces the need for any manual intervention.

An ‘Intelligent Data Capture’ solution can extract intelligence from unstructured or semi-structured documents like invoices, sales orders and inbound correspondence — in fact, virtually any type of document. It sorts documents based on their content, lifts critical information based on its context, validates it, reconciles it, then passes it to core business applications. Because it uses advanced pattern recognition techniques that work like the human mind, Intelligent Data Capture doesn't need to take a template- or rules-based approach to data capture: instead, it learns from just a small sample set of documents and is then able to process information received, regardless of the format.

The whole process can be managed from end-to-end, with documents imported, OCR (optical character recognition) used to classify information and then information extracted and validated before being exported. These intelligent solutions can be put into action from the very beginning of the process and can automatically differentiate different forms of mail, including invoices and orders, and then process them according to a business’s pre-existing rules.

Digitising your mailroom processes brings many benefits; primarily it means the right information can be put in the hands of the right people quickly and securely. Access to information is dramatically improved which in turn enables a more smoothly run and efficient business, something which positively impacts on a company’s bottom line. By removing all the tedious and time consuming steps previously necessary for a business to gather and prepare their documents, employees’ time can be freed up to get on with more valuable tasks.

As mentioned, organisations can face many problems thanks to inadvertent human slip ups too. With a digital mailroom, documents can be securely stored from the very beginning and any chance of losing a document is greatly reduced. Automating the entire process means little need for manual intervention and therefore a far slimmer margin of error. Furthermore, with digitisation, organisations can ensure that they are compliant with both existing and newly introduced regulations. Transforming paper documents to digital gives greater visibility throughout the organisation; this is particularly important in departments such as finance, which are constantly under pressure to ensure there’re adhering to regulatory changes. Then in turn, customers can be confident that they are being treated in a fair and consistent way, thus ultimately helping to build loyalty.

Despite all these clear benefits, there are still many businesses lagging behind and relying on paper-heavy processes for their day-to-day workings. Some fear the process of digitising their mailroom will be far too complicated. This is where businesses can look at outsourcing their mailroom needs, allowing a company to handle all the complex challenges needed to implement a digital mailroom.

We have seen digital mailroom techniques develop steadily over recent years. Now with the intelligent tools available to assist with the automation of processes, it is a lot quicker, efficient and cost effective to sort through incoming documents. Without this in place, organisations still risk errors occurring from manual intervention, which can be damaging to the business and its reputation.

Rob Barrow is national sales manager at Perceptive Software.