From mailroom to boardroom

Taking corporate information from the backbench to star forward, by Markus J Becker, Chief Executive, Swiss Post Document Solutions

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Corporate information is the lifeblood of any organisation. Having the right information available at the right time enables faster and better decision-making by company managers and CEOs. But the availability and value of such information depends upon how an organisation manages its capture and then its flow into, through and out of the business.

Organisations are reducing their reliance on paper-based documents by transforming the information that enters the business into electronic format. The transformation enables them to optimise the value of their corporate information through integrating it into their normal workflow process.

The use of automation is not just leveraging information as an asset but helping to make cost and productivity efficiencies by managing the sheer volume of information flowing into the business. Important information can be processed, scanned and digitised for dissemination within the organisation. The costs associated with moving, processing, storing and eventually archiving physical documents are therefore removed.

The point where this volume of information flows into a business is the mailroom. The mailroom should be at the heart of your data capture and information management strategy. At Swiss Post Solutions, we are working with organisations that now view the mailroom as a digital information hub, rather than just a physical logistics hub. For them it plays an integral role in automating and managing the flow of corporate information within their business. By integrating mailroom services into their information management system, organisations are realising significant value across their business processes, and importantly achieving a very strong ROI.

A compelling business case
It is now widely accepted that digitising incoming mail and documents and storing them in an electronic format has several benefits. For the CEO, this not only improves your own way of working, ensuring you have access to  key, up to date and timely  information necessary to make decisions, but also increases your organisation’s operating efficiency. There are improvements to the business process and staff productivity; enhancing filing and archiving disciplines, supporting compliance and legislative obligations; reducing the costs associated with moving, processing and storing physical documents; and demonstrating commitment to the environment.

However, digitisation alone will achieve little and must be combined with far-reaching improvements to optimise how the information is processed and distributed. This includes assessing the most cost-effective use of physical resources, identifying where services may be centralised, consolidated and standardised, introducing appropriate technology, reviewing existing business processes and investing in staff training.

To realise the full benefit of digitisation, organisations need a universal and consistent approach that integrates processing incoming mail and paper-based documents within an overall approach for managing corporate information. The long-term objective should be reducing reliance on paper-based documents and optimising information-based workflows. Business cases that consider only local or siloed requirements, rather than the full potential across departmental, business unit and geographical boundaries, will miss out on the major impact this method of working can have.

The business case should be predicated on a service model that bundles together document services that have traditionally been managed independently of each other, such as mail processing, document scanning and archive and file management. For example, we work with a global insurance business, whose mailrooms are being transformed into document management centres (DMCs). Here the traditional ‘mailroom’ function is only one of a number of services. The value to the business grows as an increasing number of services are delivered from the DMC, which has as its focus the delivery of improved and cost-effective service levels, coupled with the consolidation of distributed services into country or regional document-processing service centres.

A corporate solution
So how do you go about putting the mailroom at the centre of information management? The initial step is to analyse how paper-based documents flow through the business and how services are ordered and delivered. By doing this at a country, regional or global level, an organisation can develop a service model that integrates a set of disparate services into a DMC model.

This means greater efficiency and more effective cost analysis, as well as a change to existing processes. Activities that were historically managed by the business function, such as payment processing and claims and application document processing, may now be managed by the DMC, before the information is electronically passed to the responsible business function.

A particular appeal of the digital information hub to larger companies is the ease with which it can be rolled out across business units and countries, providing a consistent level of service and improving the customer experience. It can be managed centrally with just local process variations to support any regulatory or other local demands. The key is to design the infrastructure from the outset as a corporate solution.

Competitive advantage
The business benefits of centralised information handling are self-evident. Making sure information is accurate is vital, but it will be of little use if it is not accessible by the right people, at the right time, in order to make the best business decisions. This will improve operational efficiency, increase productivity, deliver better customer service and contribute to cost savings.

Digitisation and centralised processing allows remote or home workers, and staff who travel regularly, to have mail and other business-critical documents delivered on a daily basis, and to the same service level as staff working from the main business site.

Knowledge is power. And the digital information hub is one way businesses will leverage it in future. The evolution of the decentralised, location-dependent physical mailroom into the centralised, location independent digital mailroom, means that with the right approach, and partnering with the right service delivery organisations, you can achieve significant results.