The physical mail that flows into and throughout your enterprise is incredibly inefficient and drives substantial unnecessary costs. But why has it been so hard to rid this particular logjam from an otherwise digitally streamlined flow of commerce?

It’s because most of the costs – not just in dollars, but in labor inefficiencies, lack of controls (we’ll be writing on that next time), lost time and slow customer responsiveness (there’ll be more on that, too) – occur after the mailroom makes its initial delivery. Hidden in every corner of your business, ingrained in a thousand downstream operations, these pain points are so widely distributed among many departments that they can seem invisible – and hard to solve at their source. Often, they become a completely accepted component of the fabric of your business. Yet their total impact can be huge.

Example? At one big bank we work with, their “consumer correspondence” department receives several thousand pieces of mail a day. Every day, trained employees open, evaluate, sort and repack each piece into 50+ bins for internal forwarding – to different departments, often in distant locations – while still on paper.

This kind of “content-based post-delivery sub-sort” (yes, it’s a mouthful, but it simply means you need to open the mail and evaluate the content before the next step can be determined) occurs in almost every department. The labor alone is costly, but there’s more. This kind of mail is almost always transactional: it requires a response and it can’t fall between the cracks. Often, it contains personal or confidential information that needs to be protected. So, add security and document control processes to the equation – and you can feel the time, labor and management costs mounting.

Now, zoom into just one of those 50+ destinations — “account name changes.” Located in another city, it gets about 100 sub-sorted pieces of mail a day. There, an employee scans each document one by one — for security and control of the count. Then, that same employee forwards each scan by email – one by one, for the same control reasons – to a destination in India… And in India they print them out again.

Why? Because on their end, a multi-person team works to enter name changes into a master system. And it’s impossible to have multiple users access the same email inbox and maintain the necessary control. So they print and stack each document in a physical pile, so each employee can grab the paper on top and do their data entry, until the pile is gone. And this is in a so-called digital world!

The details may be different in every department, but the story is the same: physical mail is inefficient, slow and expensive. Digital mail changes everything. All of your mail is digitized on high-speed scanners at the point of entry, then routed instantly and automatically to either the end-recipient, or to subject matter experts who forward it to its proper destination – with a click. And at every step, the system automatically builds a complete digital audit trail of every action taken – offering perfect, searchable control.

Which means, in our India example, no more reprinting. Instead, the relevant name-change documents go into a multi-user digital queue for processing – while the system automatically keeps track of exactly which documents are processed, and when, and by whom.

Once you think about it, digital mail is amazingly powerful. Processing times are compressed by orders of magnitude, while the labor and workflow steps associated with physical mail – opening, repacking, forwarding, downstream scanning, printing and duplication – it all goes away. It’s impossible to lose or misplace documents, and management transparency and metrics are at your fingertips.

The truth is, when it comes to costs, the average corporate mailroom is just the tip of a paper iceberg. The more you look beneath the surface, the more obvious it becomes that the potential benefits of bringing digital mail to your enterprise are enormous.

Jay Maller
Jay Maller
Jay Maller is the founder and CEO of Eco-mail. He has 30+ years of management experience leading the design, development and implementation of financial products: prime brokerage, hedge fund, portfolio accounting, and fixed-income derivatives trading solutions. As Managing Director at Morgan Stanley, he led the development of the business’ industry-leading client facing applications, proprietary multi-currency portfolio accounting system, and complete re-engineering of all client management workflow systems.

Eco-Mail is a secure, scalable, Digital Post Office system that transforms incoming physical mail into powerful digital assets – at their point of entry to your business. We enable clients to streamline their operations, increase response times, improve their controls and compliance – and, by the way, save a huge amount of money. We’re already helping one of America’s three largest banks. We love to talk about digital mail, so email me direct if you like at [email protected]