On-premise mail centers are often slow, error prone, and require too much labor and valuable real estate — not to mention they simply cannot support today’s transition to a hybrid or remote world of work.

Before the pandemic, the business landscape was slowly moving from a heavy, document-centric workstyle to one that is more data-centric. However, COVID-19 fast-tracked the digital transformation movement.

Our “new world of work” now requires company information—both inbound and outbound—to be as mobile as its workforce.

Outdated Operations Trap Companies in the Twilight Zone

We’ve all been there. Our company has people working from home several days a week, only coming into the office part time. However, our physical mail is delivered daily to our business address, and it’s impossible to have relevant documents redirected to employees’ home offices.

These outdated mail center operations are keeping companies trapped in the twilight zone of document-to-data transition.

The underlying problem: An exorbitant number of documents still in paper form. Companies — large and small — have business-essential mail streams coming through the U.S. Postal Service in physical form that have to be captured; data extracted; and then married with electronic counterparts. If your company is stuck in manual mail center workflows, then this process can be a logistical nightmare — even with an army of employees with daily orders to open, copy, scan, send, and repeat.

The way a company processes and manages information from the mail center impacts core business operations in every department. Invoices, contracts, purchase orders, client communications, and expense reports are just a few examples of the myriad of business documents received in volume each day.

Challenges physical mail centers create:

Long, Inefficient Processing

The traditional mail-delivery process begins with a staff member opening the correspondence, logging it, and determining who gets it internally. Then, it’s often hand delivered to the appropriate party, who then reads it and either files it away or scans a copy to share by email or, even worse, makes multiple hard copies to distribute internally.

Creation of Information Log Jams

Companies that rely on these cumbersome methods can quickly find themselves mired in mounting document piles and workflow bottlenecks trying to process all this information manually.

Uptick in Errors

The manual handling of mail creates an environment ripe for human errors to creep in. From internal routing mistakes and inaccurate data entry to scanning exceptions and misfiling, errors can be numerous — and, if uncaught, can often result in negative operational impacts downstream.

Too Many Processes to Manage

The exchange of information today comes in from more sources than ever before — customers, prospects, suppliers and colleagues — across multiple communication channels and in a number of different formats. Each requiring its own process for handling.

A digital mail center can help companies overcome these challenges and begin to transition their operations to include more data-centric workflows that have become a necessity in today’s digital business world.

A Digital Mail Center in Four Steps

In a global survey conducted in 2020, McKinsey & Company found that two-thirds of businesses are piloting solutions to automate one or more of their business processes. Forrester predicted new forms of automation will support one out of every four remote workers directly or indirectly by the end of this year. Digitizing the mail center and automating the related workflows can help companies meet modern information demands while helping to drive operational efficiencies — even with a distributed workforce.

With a digital mail center, businesses can capture mail and inbound documents from multiple channels — including physical mail streams from the U.S. Postal Service, emails, faxes, and web forms. The most sophisticated digital mail center solutions offer a SaaS platform that can then intelligently and automatically process items to ensure regulatory compliance and centralize the information securely in the cloud to provide instant accessibility for authorized users.

A digital mail center can capture and distribute incoming information faster to the right people, workflows, and systems. Here’s a four-step overview of how it works:

1. Mail is routed to a secure facility: All incoming mail is received at a secure facility where it’s quickly scanned and automatically delivered in digital format to the designated recipients.

2. Automatic alerts go out when new mail arrives: Recipients receive an email notification the second new mail arrives and can instantly access it in the cloud through their log-in credentials.

3. Information can be acted on immediately: Staff can act on new information faster, whether it’s depositing checks, paying bills, onboarding employees, routing documents for review, collecting signatures, or applying retention rules.

4. Sending mail is a simple click away. Sending mail is made easy with the click of a mouse. All the work to print, fold, meter and ship mail is automated.

Production Workflow Benefits Across Departments

Being able to manage physical documents plus a wide array of electronic information in an efficient manner is critical for companies today. Too many organizations are still operating with the same physical paper mentality they’ve had for decades, resulting in misdirected deliveries; delayed and misplaced mail and checks; and staff spending too much time scanning, uploading, naming and attaching documents within their filing systems.

Digital mail centers produce a number of benefits that help automate and improve company-wide workflows:

Gain significant time, space and cost savings

Manual mail processing and distribution is a thing of the past. Get rid of overnight documents from branch offices and remote workers. Reduce unnecessary headcount and reclaim precious real estate dedicated to peak, unpredictable volumes. Decrease infrastructure investments with digital workflows that can scale to meet future needs. Eliminate long cycle times, slow responses, and errors that lead to late fees, penalties and compliance risks.

Activate valuable data trapped in physical documents

Paper is the antimatter to process automation and improvement, and email isn’t much better. Paper can be stopped at the source, and data that matters captured as soon as it arrives. Information trapped inside documents can be activated instantly within workflows and enterprise applications.

Transform operations on every level

Relying on clunky processes filled with delays, errors, miscommunication, and risk can sink even the most successful companies. Transform operations across every department by instantly uniting information with the right people, processes, and systems as soon as it hits the door. Every action becomes faster, more precise, and easier to manage, track, and improve — from approving invoices, responding to customers, and onboarding employees to satisfying retention and privacy policies.

National Law Firm Processes Mail in Seconds, Gains Total Visibility

The Great Recession was the last major event that reshaped how the legal industry operated. Since that time, the industry has begun to accept that technology can be successfully and securely applied to perform firm-related activities and deliver a variety of legal services more efficiently and cost-effectively — while still maintaining the necessary client confidentiality.

The pandemic has given law firms a new window of opportunity to use technology to innovate much quicker, especially as many organizations allow some form of ongoing remote work. Morgan & Morgan, with 60-plus offices across the country that receives more than 80,000 pieces of case-related mail per month, is one innovative law firm that has benefited immensely from deploying a digital mail center.

With a digital mail center, the law firm has accelerated its mail delivery; developed superior response-and-cycle times; realized significant cost savings; improved accountability; and enhanced security and compliance. More specifically, Morgan & Morgan’s digital mail platform has enabled total visibility and accountability into every piece of mail that comes into the firm. Additionally, paralegals and staff are processing mail in seconds and spending more time working on revenue-generating activities versus handling inbound and outbound paper documents.

Digitization and Automating Workflows Should Start in the Mail Center

IDC has projected that spending on technologies and services that enable digital transformation of businesses will hit $1.97 trillion in 2022. Part of this digital transformation spending boom will revolve around technologies, such as cloud, automation, IoT, artificial intelligence and 5G (just to name a few), that will help drive this movement.

In examining the best place for an organization to jumpstart its digital transformation, one needs look no further than the mail center — the main point of entry for documents. A digital mail center combines document capture and management with automated workflow technology to digitize the secure inbound and outbound delivery of mail, resulting in a positive impact across the entire organization.

David Winkler is Executive Vice President and Chief Product Officer, Docufree. Contact him at david.winkler@docufree.com