Post perfect: Towards digital mailrooms

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June Dean (pictured right), managing director of ITESOFT UK looks at how the digital mailroom is moving from theory into practice

Dont write wood, alright? said Greg Weinstein, a crooked stockbroker in the business movie thriller, Boiler Room. He was instructing his trainee not to send paper documents to potential clients. However, business at large has yet to embrace this advice.

Companies still battle with managing incoming paper trails. For organisations dealing with multiple suppliers and customers across different sectors, or directly with consumers, paper documents remain the dominant business medium. With such a mass of paper, the only viable choice is to try and deal with it as efficiently as possible

This means enhancing all types of document capture, to try and extract the relevant business information from the paper it arrives on and funnel it into the corporate workflow, for processing by the right department.

Good business
This drive to streamline document processing serves two key purposes. First, its simply good business sense. It drives down transaction costs automating essential back office functions such as order, invoice and remittance processing is proven to deliver cost savings. At the same time, it improves customer relationship management. In customer-facing environments, data quality is also vital, so the detail of transactions needs to be updated as near to real-time as possible.

Best practice matters
Second, a digital mailroom addresses expanding information management legislation, from SOX and Basel II to the Data Protection and Freedom of Information Acts, which specify the need to capture, track and control information as soon as it touches a company.

So whats involved in setting up a digital mailroom? The overall solution has to be able to process all incoming mail into an organisation, whether electronic (email) or paper (which is scanned on receipt).

Once correspondence is digitised, it should be classified by its content, and then workflowed according to the type of document: purchase orders to the sales and manufacturing departments, invoices to finance, and so on. If the document management system can link to core business systems such as ERP or CRM, so much the better, as this can further automate and enhance processes

All correspondence should be indexed within the core document management system to ensure security, easy access, safe archiving and complete auditability. The benefits are clear: quicker elimination of paper, more accurate routing of key information, accelerated business processes, and reduced operational costs, both in the mailroom and throughout the organisation.

SIXTs digital mailroom drive
An example of a large organisation implementing an enterprise-wide digital mailroom is SIXT AG, the largest German car rental company and a leading European mobility service provider. The company is building its mailroom around ITESOFTs FreeMind document processing solution.

SIXT AG will use FreeMind to capture and process more than 50,000 documents of 20+ pages each per month. Relevant data will be extracted from each page and forwarded to the appropriate system, such as finance or archiving according to policy and compliance restrictions. FreeMind integrates with SIXTs Icodex workflow management system, proConIT purchase system and StepOver biometric authentication system.

Documents captured include supplier invoices, vehicle invoices, shipping receipts as well as certificates, tax assessments and hand-written complaint letters. Digitally capturing the documents arriving by post, email or fax allows SIXT to streamline its administration processes in a faster, more secure, transparent and efficient way.

Gearing up for benefits
The immediate digitisation of documents saves SIXT having to request new copies of misplaced or lost documents and provides authorised staff with instant access to data. As each step in document processing can be tracked, transparency and security both increase. Routine tasks such as checking accuracy of invoices, and compliance with legal prerequisites are automatically done by FreeMind, easing the workload of qualified staff. Fast invoice processing directly translates into financial benefits by taking advantage of supplier discounts and avoiding additional charges. SIXT plans to integrate all international sites into its digital mailroom project.

In conclusion, the digital mailroom should be seen as more than just a smart way of sorting business documents. Its a key step in mapping and automating corporate information flows, to improve business performance and match regulatory demands.

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