Reduce Paper and another 21 Benefits of a Digital MailroomNick Scarff
The concept of a Digital Mailroom has been around for a long time, but many organisations have still yet to embark on this part of their digital transformation journey. Here, we look at the environmental impact of paper, how a digital mailroom helps to reduce paper usage and provide a list of 21 other benefits that can help your organisation make an internal business case.
Whilst forecasts for worldwide printed page volumes were expected to fall by 13.7% for 2020 compared to 2019, total volumes were still estimated to be 2.8 trillion printed pages! (source IDC).
A large part of the reduction in paper produced is as a direct result of COVID-19 and the changes to how work is being conducted. However, future years are still only expected to fall at less than 5% per year meaning a substantial amount of paper still being produced and used.
Across the world the pulp and paper industry is the 5th largest energy consumer and uses more water to produce a tonne of product that any other sector. The Union of Concerned Scientists, https://www.ucsusa.org/ states that “wood products,” including paper, account for about 10% of total deforestation.
Looking at it another way, 1 tree will produce about 8,333 pages of copy paper. So annually we are using the equivalent of 336,013,440 trees worth of paper.
In the UK, we use 12.5M tonnes of paper each year. Granted, we recycle around 80% of paper, but even so that is still the equivalent to a forest area the size of Hampshire. Furthermore, recycling isn’t without its environmental impact and reduction will always be more effective than recycling.
Source: The World Counts
In the current precarious environmental state that the world finds itself today, a paperless office and the role of a digital mailroom, can help to reduce the use of, and need for paper in organisations. By digitising at source, it removes the likelihood of copy documents being made further downstream in the process and by being able to automatically process documents from non-paper channels, it allows an organisation and its customers and supply chain to interact digitally. Ultimately reducing the use and need of paper.
We’ve compiled a list of 21 additional benefits to assist when making a business case for your Digital Mailroom:
21 Benefits of Digital Mailroom Solutions
- Reduce time spent on manual handling of physical documents
Using mailroom equipment that automates the opening and scanning of documents that are received can greatly reduce the amount of time spent by mailroom teams in handling paper documentation that is received.
- Ensure a physical document is captured at source
Capturing a document as soon as it is received allows an organisation to reduce the risk of important or sensitive information being lost in a process or inadvertently given to the wrong individual or department.
- Provide the organisation with a robust way of knowing when a physical document was received
As soon as a document is digitised using a document scanner, the electronic file is date stamped and tracked from that point onwards, so it becomes much easier to understand and measure processing timeframes and adherence to service level agreements.
- Reduce time spent sorting and classifying documents
Using cognitive capture technology it becomes possible to automatically identify and classify document types based on content and layout. This means that there is a significant reduction in associated manual tasks by using digital mailroom automation technology.
- Enhanced accuracy of classification and subsequent routing
Rules defined for the cognitive capture engines ensure consistency of document classification and that it is no longer opened to the subjectivity of a person conducting this. This helps to ensure documents are classified correctly and subsequently sent to the right person.
- Automatically extract key content for routing
Extracting key words, phrases and references can be extremely beneficial in determining who a document needs to be sent to. A case reference number may indicate which specific case handler needs to have sight of a document or a word like ‘complain’ may indicate the need for a complaints team to be involved.
- Use automatically acquired metadata to push information to line of business systems
Typically most organisations will have a number of line of business systems that will need to be updated with either data to indicate a document was received, a link to the document or the document itself. Cognitive capture technology can be used to automatically identify this data and integration to line of business systems allows a transfer of documents and data as required. Integration methods and tips are discussed in this blog article.
- Drive digital workflows to improve accessibility and efficiency
By leveraging digital images and the associated data that comes from using automated data extraction, it becomes possible to route documents and data faster to appropriate people in the organisation, wherever they are based. This means no more manual decisions on deciding who a document should be sent to and a reduction in the time before somebody can action.
- Management information
By digitising documents, automating data extraction and using an intelligent process automation platform to control the process, it becomes possible to provide valuable, real-time insight into processes and allow organisations to identify opportunities for further enhancement as well as advance warning of potential issues and bottlenecks through interactive dashboards.
By managing communications (scanned paper, email, portal documents etc) in an intelligent process automation platform it becomes possible to create a full audit trail of activities that having taken place. Visibility of user interaction and process steps can assist in discovery scenarios to identify what went wrong and how as well as assist in being able to demonstrate compliance.
- Improve customer service
Processing documents faster can allow an organisation to respond to customers, suppliers and internal stakeholders earlier and help to improve overall customer service. By automating document capture and data extraction using cognitive capture technologies it means a piece of correspondence can be processed in seconds and an organisation can better handle peaks without additional resources, all meaning that customer service activities can be improved.
- Reduce dependency on physical locations
A digital mailroom allows an organisation to disseminate work to available teams or individuals irrespective of location. This reduces dependency on a physical site and enables remote working as well as the ability to better handle peaks and troughs in workload.
- Reduce decision time and speed up processes
A digital process allows information to be moved to users at a faster rate, thereby allowing them to act faster. It also gives visibility to the organisation of the process as a whole meaning decisions can be taken in real time as an event occurs.
- Enhance security
Digitising documents as soon as they are received will eliminate the risks associated with paper being distributed around the organisation or emails ending up in the wrong place. By using a process automation platform, access to documents and data can be controlled so that only certain users can access certain documents.
- Connect with Core Business systems
Most documents being received into an organisation will need some form of action to be taken. Often this will involve other business systems that will control the action or at the very least record what has happened and may require a copy of the document. For example, a customer letter of correspondence will typically be stored in a DMS (Document Management System), accessible from a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system where a task may be created for someone to respond. A Digital Mailroom allows documents and the associated data to be pushed automatically to different systems that an organisation may have.
In utilising a process automation platform for routing of documents and data around the organisation it ensures that not only there is an audit trail of what has happened but that defined steps in a process are always followed or alerts are created if something falls out of the defined process. In this way, it helps an organisation to ensure that processes comply with internal and external requirements.
- Free up Valuable Space
By digitising paper at the point of receipt and using an electronic image of the document from that point onwards, there should no need in the majority of cases to keep the physical document, which means that there can be a reduction in physical space needed for storage. A paper-based process will often create multiple copies of the same document as it passes through different people and departments, whereas an electronic document can be accessed multiple times by different people at the same time.
- Deliver on Digital Transformation Objectives
Digital Transformation is a common strategic objective for many organisations; fundamentally changing the way they operate, communicate, and transact. A digital mailroom can help to drive transformation and engage users with electronic ways of working.
- Reduce Risk
Processes that rely on physical documentation or manual user determined steps are much more open to error. This could include loss or misplacement of a document or incorrect decisions being taken on a document due to inconsistencies that occur due to individual’s interpretation being different. Through using digital documents and ensuring that processes are created and controlled centrally, it can significantly reduce risk for an organisation.
- Enhance Cashflow
Where documents being received include sales orders, onboarding documents, applications etc, a digital mailroom can be used to identify these and prioritise the processing of them. Using Cognitive Capture technologies scanned images, email bodies and attachments and extracts from portals can all be processed and classified, before extracting relevant data and passing to appropriate back end systems. Ultimately these documents can be processed faster allowing downstream activities to be started earlier and billing to be brought forward, all having a positive impact on cashflow. More information on the specifics of sales order processing can be found here.
- Competitive Advantage
Using automation technologies can have a positive impact on speed and accuracy. This helps organisations to be able to respond faster to customers with the right information which can be important when looking to retain customers. Digitising and automating processes will also assist in removing process overheads and in reducing operational costs to provide further competitive advantages.
For more further assistance creating your business case for a Digital Mailroom, please contact our experienced team who will be happy to assist, contact us here.