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The Buzz on Digital Mailrooms

July 20, 2022

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Taking the Snail Out of Your Mail

A big challenge of the pandemic for businesses of all sizes was the quick implementation of work from home as a way to safely keep people working. It was a function long already on the radar for law firms, especially, as firms have been off-siting backroom departments like Docketing, Word Processing/Editing and IT support, spurred by the desire to shrink the space (and the accompanying expenses) of the physical office.

The pandemic response accelerated that trend and it has led to firms and businesses of all sorts looking to at least have some sort of hybrid work option available and to improve or better develop the associated processes needed to make it work safely and efficiently.

Most industry data (from productivity rates to profits) supports the view that this was very much a successful response by firms over the past 18 months.

That is Lesson #1 from the pandemic: workers can successfully operate remotely or in desk share mode if needed. It just requires that staff are be able to still access company resources and data.

And a good chunk of that data still arrives in physical mail form. Ad hoc systems to address physical mail were instituted by many organizations even as it piled up on unattended desks. Mostly, though, basic scanning of mail to the company email system is often the answer companies provided.

Email Alone is Not the Answer

For most small organizations, simply scanning a document to an email recipient using your equipment’s native capabilities makes time and money sense. Any company with even moderate data volumes, though, would do well to stay clear of using email as a primary document delivery and storage system. To do so opens one up to added security and legal exposure as well as the ire of IT management.

Email systems can be a bear to manage, so any ability to reflow data to more easily managed and secured data silos is a welcome tool to keep data where it belongs. (And if you maintain a DMS you should want the lifecycle of a document to begin there as soon as possible for the sake of security and version control.)

Additionally, platforms like nQueue/ZebraWorks’ MailQ allow for mail recipients to decide for themselves if the scanned document sent their way should exist or not via preview and to direct where the scanned document should go internally, providing further flexibility in keeping unnecessary documents out of the company’s email system.

Mail Delivery is a Common Organizational Weakness

With staff and principles working outside the office for considerable amounts of time, the ability to get incoming mail delivered in a timely manner has been a challenge. It has become clear to office administrators with mailrooms that the old way of delivery is becoming anachronistic in the digital age, when the physical delivery of mail – even under normal circumstances - can result in unexpected delays to client or business-related work.

Most incoming mail in a company is physically routed to recipients, a labor intensive effort for medium to large organizations and with few chain-of-custody controls. I’ve always felt that immediate scanning of the bulk of incoming mail offers several business advantages:

  • Vastly improved accountability and security
  • Better service to the client
  • More lead time to address time-critical issues
  • A strengthened Business Continuity Plan

This is a long common workflow kink that has been exacerbated in many offices and mailrooms during the pandemic and is driving organizations to move more quickly towards mailroom digitization strategies that may have been discussed for years prior, but have not had the traction nor sense of urgency to be executed.

That urgency has now arrived – delivered via COVID-19, but widely understood to be a potential organizational weakness for any number of possible future events that may keep staff from regular in-office hours or are working within desk share and hoteling strategies.

Organizations of all sizes must address the possibility of current and future workers untethered to a specific physical location.

Adapting to Current or Future Hybrid Office Realities That Aren’t Going Away

I’ve spoken with IT and office administrators in numerous business markets this year - healthcare, legal, finance, energy, etc. – and one topic that has consistently come up is how to deal with the challenges of getting incoming physical mail to people quickly and safely in the new era of the widely accepted hybrid office model.

Traditional mail distribution processes within organizations are also labor hogs, even before reduced office populations were a reality. Companies have responded reflexively during the current crisis by either consolidating and reducing mail drops or setting up centralized mailboxes for departments to access. While this response addresses excess labor used to deliver physical mail, it also maintains a layer of insecurity if that mail is not being tracked from cradle to grave.

Creating Competitive Advantages

Pretty simple, really: if your mail moves from the mailroom to the company recipient faster (regardless of where they are), clients are taken care of more quickly. Resolution of or addressing client needs is faster. 

Processing incoming data in hours vs. days is a distinct business advantage that cannot be ignored. Especially when considering the current decline in USPS performance (adding about 40% longer to delivery times) that appears is becoming standardized for the immediate future. 

Even if end users wish to have the physical mail eventually placed in files, scanning it first and then routing the physical mail saves time and more efficiently starts the clock on document retention policies.

Digitizing mail brings companies one step closer to reducing the long term costs of paper storage, retrieval and destruction. It also supports the sustainability goal of reducing paper use in the office by acknowledging a digital-first approach to office work.

Having physical mail scanned by mailroom staff frees recipients to concentrate on higher level tasks rather than document processing, providing improved productivity for higher cost employees.

Securing Your Mail

Digitized mail eliminates several security concerns by providing an audited trail for mail from intake to final distribution, regardless if your company uses a centralized document management system or not.

If you use a DMS – getting mail into the system immediately should be a priority both for efficiency and security’s sake. A DMS is normally an expensive investment – so allowing physical mail to bypass it is as much an economic failure as it is a security failure if you aren’t leveraging the competitive advantages it offers.

If you don’t use a DMS – your need for a Digital Mailroom is even more critical as there is potentially no record of incoming documents and where they have gone. A verifiable chain of custody simply does not normally exist.

Where to Start?

There are a number of solutions available on the market – our company alone has several options we support – so the first step is having a qualified vendor rep either experience your mailroom workflow first hand or talk them through if physical visits are still not being allowed within your organization.

Then we can set up a remote demo to show how the processes work and illustrate the customization options that best fit your environment.

If you’ve been putting off moving to a Digital Mailroom, now is the perfect time to more seriously look in to it as systems designed for it have had rapid development of features over the past several years. Digitally standardizing your incoming mail processing will leave you and your company with a competitive advantage and heightened security regardless of the next local or global event.

You excelled at Lesson #1. Lesson #2 is waiting.

(Article originally published on LinkedIn)

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