By Kim Crowley
Organizations such as financial groups, insurance agencies, healthcare providers, universities, government agencies, and other businesses receive vast amounts of mail daily. These firms turn to digital mailroom solutions to efficiently and securely open, extract, scan, and route incoming mail.
Finding the right digital mailroom solution involves more than selecting the right technology, says Terrence Doeberl, director of business development, Pitney Bowes Management Services (PBMS). "The various components of a digital mailroom—such as image capture, data indexing, database selection and design, as well as delivery platform—all must be carefully researched, selected, and integrated," he says.
Making it Work
Companies should not limit the thinking of digital mailrooms to scanning into an email or a content management system. "The real value of transitioning to a digital mailroom and a broader Virtual Mail Management solution is to look beyond merely trying to ‘more cheaply deliver an envelope,’ which sub-optimizes the full range of possible benefits to the company. A Virtual Mail Management strategy drives mail center transformation as a strategic enabler to facilitate a broad range of enterprise-level cost savings and benefits," says Doeberl. PBMS’ Virtual Mail Management strategy involves applying digital technology and infrastructure; changing and adapting business process and policies; reducing and eliminating physical materials distribution; and locating services to the optimal location—either on- or off-site.
Implementing the digital mailroom presents challenges that vary from company to company, depending on the type and quantity of mail they receive, number of employees, compliance, and other issues. The common challenge among most is related to end-user adoption. "The most significant challenges are usually related to culture, established business processes, policies, and habits," explains Doeberl.
Automated processing of transactional or named mail comes with its benefits, but Doeberl cautions against using an organization’s email system as a mail delivery method. "Using the company email system for delivery of scanned mail can be fraught with fundamental pitfalls such as a dramatic increase in attachments in the face of in-box size restrictions," he says.
Mail to: Cisco Systems
Cisco Systems’ digital mailroom adoption began after the terrorist attacks of September 11th, in response to concerns about handling mail. "Our CEO and executive staff wanted a solution where they did not handle their mail," explains Bruce Nelson, program manager, Cisco Systems.
The company selected Pitney Bowes’ dMail Solution to handle the roughly 120,000 pieces of inbound U.S. mail each month. The rollout occurred on a phased approach, starting with a successful establishment at the company headquarters in San Jose, CA. "By beginning with a user base consisting of executives and support staff, we were able to effect a change in business process and behavior that became embedded as part of the company culture," notes Pitney Bowes’ Doeberl.
The solution at Cisco Systems is an example of Pitney Bowes’ Virtual Mail Management strategy, combining the Pitney Bowes dMail Solution with other technologies like smart parcel lockers, e-subscription services, business process, and policy changes, as well as reduction or elimination of physical materials distribution. "This provides a comprehensive approach to the mail center that goes far beyond digitizing the mail and delivers savings and business benefits for the enterprise, employees, environment, and community," says Doeberl.
A representative is sent out to evaluate a client’s needs. The technical infrastructure is evaluated within the organization if it is to be an on-premise solution. Next, they perform mail profiling to understand typical monthly volumes and average pages per mail piece to determine the total number of scanned pages per month. They then determine service level agreement targets for delivery timeframes, processing turnaround, and accuracy.
"Once we understand what fields need to be indexed to make the mail fully searchable within each end user’s account, and the volumes, we can determine the hardware and software requirements and put a pricing service proposal together," explains Doeberl.
The dMail solution is comprised of scanning and indexing components, including Kofax capture software as the integrated image capture mechanism. The back end document management and imaging database and delivery mechanism is Pitney Bowes’ internally developed dMail software application.
The investment varies based on elements such as mail volume, which dictates the number and type of scanners, the robustness and number of workstations for the indexing, and the amount of storage.
"For a client like Cisco, where we’re running the dMail solution on their servers, on their network and firewall, we’re basically leveraging the existing infrastructure from an IT perspective, so the incremental cost is not very high," says Doeberl. Other than the infrastructure, costs include software licensing and the cost of personnel to handle the mail.
Cisco and Pitney Bowes worked together to aid employee transition to the system. "In partnership with our executive sponsor at Cisco, we developed an internal employee communications, training, and change management program to facilitate understanding and acceptance of this new tool and business process change," states Doeberl.
Cisco reports a 50 percent footprint reduction in terms of square footage in the mail stops across the corporate campus alone. The company is able to reduce headcount by a few employees, based on reduced footprint and less labor involved with mail delivery. There is also a ten percent increase in productivity now that mail is not hand delivered.
Quicker turnaround to recipients, accessibility, and enhanced document security are also key benefits. "I can’t stress enough the importance at Cisco for the security of the documents," says Nelson, "and the fact that anyone on the program can access it any time without physically handling it." Hard copies of mail are still accessible for those that require it.
The digital mail solution also benefits Cisco’s remote workers. "We have quite a few remote and mobile workers that either work from home or travel a lot. They do not have to come in to pick up their mail with this program," says Nelson.
"The solution very fundamentally changed the way people do their jobs," states Doeberl. "They are no longer hand sorting. People get their mail right at their desktops whether they are remote or in their office."
Minor challenges surfaced during implementation, rolling it into the firewall, and getting everyone on the same page. "In the beginning with a fairly brand new product, we expected a learning curve. The process was a work in progress with regards to what the workflow should look like. Really it was sort of a test bed to implement, but overall it is doing really well," he says.
Cisco is happy with upgrades from Pitney Bowes and expects more enhancements and benefits in the future. "There have been some navigation improvements and some other things that Pitney Bowes has done since it was implemented and I know there is more to come so overall I am very pleased," says Nelson.
Cisco plans to continue growing its digital mail program. "It is a big change management when you try to go from individual mailboxes to scanning the mail, so the goal is to roll it out to the remainder of corporate and then the remainder of the company," says Nelson.
Cisco has confidence in the rollout and digital mail on a global scale. "We’ll get there, because around the globe we’re going electronic and digital wherever we can," adds Nelson.
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