Despite the dramatic rise in storage capabilities and the leaps and bounds in processing technology, the use of paper in any organisation continues to grow at an ever-increasing and counter-intuitive rate.
In Australia alone, It’s estimated that businesses are spending around $24 billion dollars a year to convert the information on documents they receive every day into the useful data that is needed to operate their business processes. And this doesn’t even include data coming from electronic sources such as e-mail, mobile devices and web forms etc.
The average cost of processing, according industry guru’s AIIM, is around 30c to 50c per inbound item, and this is generally a hard cost that does not take into account costs of ‘loss of opportunity’ and other risk factors, such as compliance risks or chain of custody errors.
Unsurprisingly, the greatest bottleneck of information is still in today’s corporate mailroom. It’s a primary source of vital business information, yet it struggles on a daily basis to keep up with the increasing speed and accuracy demands of their organisation.
This pressure is a natural result of the ever-increasing customer expectation for speed and ease-of-use, with added pressure coming from within their own businesses to grow their customer base, improve onboarding and increase customer retention. And all while keeping control of operating costs.
The result is a mailroom that is inevitably caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place.
Unfolding Paper Costs – The Elephant in the Room
The greatest benefits in optimising paper management come from a variety of business areas, but primarily include:
- Decreasing the classification time of documents and increasing the response time to customers
- Creating workflow with the ability to handle and distribute unidentified mail and quickly manage exceptions.
- Automatically capturing information from known document types using OCR and ICR technology and automating classification
- Increasing the quality of captured images by automatically applying functions such as contrast enhancement, de-speckle, de-skew, hole punch mark removal etc.
- Accelerating the paper processing and decision cycles by integrating directly into ERP, CRM or other line of business applications
- Reducing the file sizes of captured images and converting mail into multi-page PDF files for digital archiving and rapid retrieval at a later time.
- Tracking of paper throughout the work cycle to avoid penalties associated with compliance mandates and maintaining adequate chain-of-custody records
- Reducing invoice payment cycles and saving money by taking advantage prompt payment discounts
- Reducing any fees and penalties that are associated with time sensitive mail items
Getting Down and Digital
Despite the need to incorporate new customer touch points, many digital mailroom automation projects will still stubbornly focus solely on capturing paper documents from scanners.
The reason for this, is that paper is perceived as being the biggest pain point. So solving the ‘paper problem’ becomes a tactical win rather than focusing on the strategic bigger picture and tremendous opportunities get ‘missed’ to expand the power of the mailroom to capturing other forms of information and passing it directly into the business cycle. For example data and forms from mobile devices, e-mails and attachments, PDF documents, web forms, social media integration or any other medium that can be a likely customer touch point.
Today, almost everybody has a scanner in their pocket that is capable of capturing virtually any type of document, such as an insurance claim form, credit card application form, electricity bill, expenses claim form, an invoice that needs to be paid ASAP, or copies of identification & supporting material for a loan or mortgage application.
The Age of the Customer
There is no denying that today is the age of the customer. Period.
They carry around the power of the internet in their pockets and this new generation of customers have become accustomed to simplicity, speed, agility and above all responsiveness.
The customer is active way beyond the usual 9am to 5pm corporate time window.
They are not prepared to wait around for their credit card applications to be processed, technical support queries addressed or their insurance claim held up because of slow or lost information.
With a few clicks and the swipe of a finger they will find “the competition” and businesses that have not embraced multiple technologies, especially mobile capture, are likely to be left explaining to their shareholders that they missed the boat.
But get it right, and they will all be praising you with all the power that they can muster through social media.
Corporate fortunes can now be won and lost in frighteningly short periods of time. So the ability to react to an ever changing audience is of paramount importance.
Catching the Mail Train
In the “olden days” that used to mean getting up and going to work in a dusty carriage along with the post before the sparrows were awake, but today it is still a valid metaphor for being the first-up-and-first-out.
The mailroom continues to play an increasing and vital role in coordinating business information, especially as mailroom staff are generally highly skilled at managing exceptions, solving problems on-the-fly and working flat out. They also arguably know more about information relevance and the flow of data within their organisation than anybody else.
As a natural result of incorporating digital technology into the mailroom, it is possible to have your cake and eat it.
By improving and streamlining the flow of paper you will significantly reduce operating costs, improve customer responsiveness and reduce risks, thus leaving you with plenty of manpower and resources to adopt and new technologies.
When that infrastructure is built on the right foundations, today’s corporations will not only be poised to leap ahead in today’s consumer race, but will also be ready to adapt to change far more easily in tomorrows growing technology pastures.
About the Author
Dave Hutchinson is a document capture enthusiast at Computron Software Australia. He has worked as a games developer, software analyst, programmer, communications support consultant for The Executive Office of the President and number of military & defense organisations in the USA. He was also once fired from a chip shop in the UK for incompetence.
About Computron Australia
Computron is a specialist in capture and business process management solutions and enterprise financial systems, with offices in Sydney, Melbourne and Singapore. Computron is a wholly owned subsidiary of Computron Software LLC and was founded in 1978.
Computron is also a Kofax Diamond partner, one of only 13 organisations out of 850 global re-seller & consultancy company’s to achieve this level and has been successfully installing solutions with Kofax for more than 12 years in Australia, New Zealand and Asia.