The Digital Mailroom and the Paper-Bound Organization

Posted by Greg Bartels on Jun 1, 2009 4:54:00 AM

Most large organizations regard the development of a digital mailroom - defined as a solution to accurately capture and process all incoming documents regardless of their content, format, or point of origin - as critical to their success. Development of an integrated input management solution for paper and electronic information is key to improved efficiency and cost reduction but also to more important strategic goals of more responsive customer service and better management control.

 While cost containment continues to be a favorite preoccupation of businesses operating in a flat economy, there is growing recognition that sound information management also has a role to play in corporate governance, regulatory compliance, planning, quality control and other fundamentals. These disciplines will still be vitally important long after the last penny has been squeezed out of process costs.

 Two-thirds of respondents believe the digital mailroom is important to the success of their organizations and, of those, 22% regard it as critically important.

 Despite this apparent strength of conviction, just 14% plan implementation within the next three years, while 56% are unable to put a timescale on their plans.

 The main factors holding respondents back are budgetary constraints (54%), problems integrating IT systems (51%), problems aligning business processes with the requirements of customers and partners (44%) and lack of data to make a case for return on investment (43%).

The CIO or IT executive is usually - but not always - in charge of email and web forms. Responsibility is often devolved to departmental level. Mailroom services are under the auspices either of a dedicated manager or come under the wider remit of heads of operations or facilities management.

 Only 8% of businesses put the CIO or IT director in overall charge of postal operations, even though the mailroom remains one of the most vital conduits for business-critical information entering the organization. Similarly, mailroom managers rarely have any influence over or control of electronic media.

 This fragmented management is one reason why only 42% of organizations regularly audit document processes and why management control of these processes is rated between average and very poor in 39% of cases. Unable to take a holistic view of what is delivered to corporate information silos and how efficiently it is managed, the business is leaving a lot to chance.

 Of those that perform regular audits, the most commonly measured factors are regulatory and legal compliance, document traffic volumes and storage requirements. But a third of audits fail to measure mailroom in-tray times and two-thirds take no account of executive time spent on routine document handling.

Attitudes to the efficiency of mailroom processes range from complacent to defeatist. Most respondents believe mail handling is about as good as it can get, a distinctly downbeat assessment reflecting the prejudice that paper is inherently unmanageable.

 Topping the list of priorities for improvement are automatic routing of scanned documents, better filtering of junk mail - including the detested spam - and reduced manual intervention.

 Most of the technological obstacles to progress have been removed. Only a minority of respondents question the maturity of capture technology (24%) or the availability of technical standards (15%). There is some residual skepticism about the ability of IT suppliers to bring together all of the elements to deliver a complete digital mailroom solution.

 Document management is moving up the corporate agenda and is now regarded as a competitive issue rather than an organizational chore. But the punch-bag mentality prevails: the obsession with beating cost out of the process obscures the potential gains to be made from concentrating on quality. "What do these processes cost?" is an important question, but less important than "What do they exist to achieve?" and "How can we improve them?"