The joy of mailroom automation

I posted a little tweet the other week that said, "I think mailroom automation delivers the most bang for buck of all Document Management projects."

Mailroom automation? Really?

OK, so it's not exactly Desperate Housewives or Survivor or Social Business when it comes to juicy topics, but it's important stuff. And in the rush for organizations to leap aboard the latest 2.0 bandwagon, they often overlook substantial efficiency gains or kick them to the side.

What I mean by mailroom automation is simply the immediate scan and capture of data on arrival at your premises. Particularly in situations where transactional documents or any kind of forms -- application forms, invoices, checks, and so on -- get processed. 

Realistically in 2012 there should be little need for keying data from hard copy forms (be that a paper copy or a static electronic Tiff image) manually into any computer application.  Data can be extracted from incoming mail at a far more accurate rate, much quicker pace, and much lower cost, than any team of human clerks could ever manage. Yet we all see overflowing filing cabinets, boxes of documentation, and piles of paper on desks within companies of all shapes and sizes -- even recently-established firms in the tech sector.

So why is this still the case?  Well for one thing I think things are starting to change, albeit slowly. Growing revenues generated by intelligent capture products such as Kofax, Captiva and Brainware suggest a considerable spike in interest. Likewise the emergence and adoption of new providers such as Ephesoft hardly suggests a lack of business opportunity.

But mailroom automation is dull, it isn't sexy, and it's not the sort of project business teams are fighting over to work on.  That's a shame, because if you want to know about real technology ROI (Return on Investment) rather than mythical ROI (based on hope and conjecture), then grabbing that mail at its earliest point, extracting and populating data fields immediately, and applying rules and workflows, will most likely deliver more visible business transformations than most trendy Social, Collaboration, or Enterprise Mobile initiatives ever will.

That's why we research and publish product evaluations in this area, and offer detailed one to one advice on the topic to our subscribers. Encouragingly we are receiving more inquiries from subscribers to talk about just these issues. We ourselves are just starting an internal back file scanning project, and even as a small firm are capturing at an ever earlier point documents and forms. Not new but scanning, capture and the related automation of document based tasks is undergoing something of a rennaisance. 

That being said, there is still long way to go, and I'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences on how to make such projects a higher priority and get the attention they really deserve.


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