Digital Mailroom Automation: How to Best Employ for Optimal Efficiency
Automation is a part of digital transformation that can be tempting to treat as a silver bullet for efficiency. But when we talk to business owners and operations professionals, we find not everyone shares the same concept of what automation is and what it can do for their organisation.
We’ve written this article to show you what automation really means within a digital mailroom context, and how to add the right level of automation for your business requirements.
Or, to learn what a digital mailroom is, take a look at our Digital Mailroom Explainer: How it Works, Benefits & Solutions.
What is digital mailroom automation?
Automation in any mailroom operation relates to replacing manual tasks and processes to increase efficiency and lower costs.
In a digital mailroom context, there are many different instances of automation that can be applied at different parts of the process, from classifying to data extraction to actioning.
For example, immediately after receiving an incoming communication, you can employ optical character recognition (OCR) software to automatically classify and capture documents by category or type to save you a lot of time and resources.
Introducing a case management capability can automatically group related documents together, making it easier for your staff to locate and manage information through a portal, giving everyone a single view.
Applying automation at moments along the mailroom journey can have huge benefits on costs and efficiency. However, we always advise looking at the entire process from end to end and critically evaluating where automation is a help and where it is not.
Where to automate your digital mailroom
The level of complexity in your current mailroom operation will inform exactly what kind of digital mailroom solution you need, and where to apply automation.
To understand what’s possible with digital mailroom automation, let’s run through all the moments where it can be implemented.
The workflow below shows at a high level how a digital mailroom works – in this case we are using the Adare SEC digital mailroom solution as an example.So what can you automate at each point in the process to increase your operational efficiency?
Stage 1: Receive inbound communications
Here you can combine all inbound channels, physical and digital, into a single workflow by employing digital capture and classification tools, saving time from gathering everything together.
Stage 2: Classify communications
Automatic classification of incoming documents will save a team time leafing through papers and scrolling through emails. Software is used to capture suitable metadata for each document, such as the type of document received, the date received, details of the sender, their account information, purchase order number, invoice number and payment value.
AI can be introduced to recognise an incoming document type, and will continuously improve its accuracy, reducing errors.
Stage 3: Capture communications data
Intelligent capture employs OCR software to pull out information from communications, effectively replacing the need for people to read through some types of communications.
For example, automatically extracting data from structured form fields, which can then integrate with a client business systems to update customer information.
Stage 4: Send to correct workflow
Depending on the information extracted in the classification and capture stages, communications will enter a workflow, created by you when implementing your solution.
To add a level of oversight, your solution should include a light-touch case management system, where your staff can view the progress of each communication in a remotely accessible portal, and manually assign or archive each one.
Stage 5: Carry out predetermined tasks
During the build phase of your solution, you can programme business rules that trigger depending on the information gathered in the capture and classification stage. They can be whatever you want, and as complex as you want. Or as simple as configurable notifications that alert staff that new documents are awaiting attention.
Stage 6 & 7: Mark as complete and archive
Not every stage includes automation. Here, the assigned document owner manually marks a communication as complete and stores it in a GDPR-compliant archive, showing a full audit history.
By mapping out your entire mailroom journey, you can see where automation can help. We suggest running a workshop with your teams to understand exactly where the inefficiencies are. Your digital mailroom vendor will do this as part of their discovery phase.
When to automate your digital mailroom
The entire reason for bringing in automation is, as we mentioned, to increase efficiency and lower costs. But bringing it into a digital mailroom only achieves these outcomes if you apply it where it is necessary, and only if it is financially beneficial.
We never recommend automation if it does not save you time and money or if the cost of the technology outweighs the potential savings. Any good digital mailroom vendor will take you through a cost-benefit analysis, and only recommend automating processes when it meets your requirements.
Automation is one way of improving efficiency
Increasing operational efficiency does not always mean more automation. (Read our article on 5 Ways Digital Mailroom Speeds Up Customer Communications to see what we mean.)
Sometimes it is simply a case of outsourcing to someone who can do it better. A digital mailroom vendor will have spent years optimising their service, and understand where they can introduce efficiencies, whether it means introducing automation, or simply improving the process.
Sometimes it is simply the remote nature of the digital mailroom that improves efficiency and staff productivity. When staff can access their communications from anywhere, it supports mobile, at-home and office-based workers, enabling operations anywhere.
At Adare SEC, our digital mailroom service is consultative and collaborative, first understanding your requirements and the complexity of your current operation before suggesting solutions that deliver the required efficiencies and improvements.
See our article on How to Implement a Digital Mailroom for our view on how a solution should be set up, or get in touch to speak to someone about your requirements.