The Future of Post in the Digital Age

23 Nov 2016
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The Future of Post in the Digital Age

23rd November 2016

By Spencer Wyer, Group Chief Technology Officer, EDM Group

2016 was the year of digital and unsurprisingly digital technologies played a significant role in shaping the business landscape. However, new research1 from EDM Group found that 23% of UK businesses are still receiving more than 5,000 items of inbound mail every month.

This insight reveals how handling thousands of pieces of paper effectively and efficiently remains at the heart of the facilities function and ultimately managing a business.

The implementation of digital mailrooms
As both business and personal lives shift towards a more virtual world, it is a fair assumption to make that physical post is a dying phenomenon. From digital payslips to online till receipts in high-street shops, paper-based documents are on the way out as businesses see the opportunities to be gained from digitalising processes.

Remaining competitive in the fast moving and ever expanding corporate environment is crucial for all businesses. Of equal importance, organisations are always looking at cost-effective and high-impact digital technologies to transform their processes and offer a more efficient and personalised service to customers. The digital mailroom, despite not being a new concept, has evolved to a stage where it can now provide a customised service tailored to individual business needs.

However, despite developments in digital mailroom technology, a quarter of UK businesses have still never tried a paperless office initiative and only 19% currently use a digital mailroom allowing post to be digitised on entry.

Mailroom automation is the bridge between the paper-based processes that companies will always deal with and the demands to digitally transform business models. With only 16% of UK businesses believing their organisation ‘always’ meets its mail service levels and just over half (57%) saying their mail service levels were ‘mostly’ met, the opportunities for businesses to exploit are endless.

Benefits of a digital mailroom
Our research found that four in 10 facilities and operations professionals said they believed a digital mailroom would improve the overall performance of their business. This is around double the number of people who thought there would be no improvement (in addition, around a third simply didn’t know). The digital mailroom can provide organisations with one platform to unite all paper-based communications, such as in-bound mail, and absorb the information into digitalised processes alongside email and web forms to increase business efficiency and ultimately performance.

Digital mailrooms are dramatically improving data capture and information management, as well as enhancing customer service and compliance. Businesses across all sectors are competing with the needs and demands from the customer for personalised and rapid response rates, and with 39% of facilities, customer service, operations and procurement managers believing that mishandling mail is having a negative impact on their customer service levels, digitalisation is a necessity to meeting the modern customers expectation.

Impact of regulation
Facilities managers need to be not only looking at the external risks and pressures of paper-based documents, but also the approaching General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which will significantly impact internal processes.

The most notable impact will be the obligation for businesses to get a lot smarter with regards to information and data – the risks of not doing so are becoming significant, including the real threat of financial and reputational losses. We believe that implementing a digital mailroom and automating key processes are major steps any business can take towards addressing these demands while creating competitive advantage.

The future of paper
The death of physical mail has been much discussed over many years.  The nirvana of a truly paperless office is unlikely to arrive in the near future because so many customer communications still need to be exchanged in paper form for legal or other regulatory reasons.

However, despite the fact that paper may never truly disappear, in our view organisations can still gain significant financial and performance benefits by digitising their inbound mail operations. By eliminating paper at its source and incorporating it into a single, smart platform that can automate routing and decision-making, and by introducing robotics and artificial intelligence, organisations will grow in competence and be able to provide a better service.

1 52 individuals surveyed in November 2016 via both online and telephone methodologies. Respondents were primarily facilities managers, customer services managers, purchasing/ procurement managers and operations managers. Most had roles encompassing a number of these disciplines