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8 Benefits of a Digital Mail Process

Mar 15, 2010 12:26:00 AM by John F. Mancini

Ted Ardelean  Ted Ardelean leads the Segment Marketing function for Océ Business Services. Ted is AIIM ERM Master Certified, and has over 20 years of business experience including management consulting and business process outsourcing. Océ Business Services is a leading international provider of document process outsourcing services and technology. To learn more visit Ted can be reached at

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8 Benefits of a Digital Mail Process

Given the many technological innovations during the past few years in the way organizations manage their documents, an executive might wonder what could possibly be new in the mail arena. Actually, there’s a big change occurring as traditional, physical mail is now being converted into digital form in the mail center. Companies are considering this approach because it offers a way to enhance efficiency while providing faster access to incoming documents and the ability to reduce unwanted mail.

Here are eight things to consider in implementing a digital mail process:

1 -- Understand the digital mail process.

Digital mail is a hybrid mail and scanning process that coverts incoming paper mail into digital and delivers the mail to the addressee electronically and/or physically. The lifecycle of a document starts when it is created and mailed through the USPS. The postal service delivers the mail piece to the organization’s mail center, which then rough sorts all incoming mail into scannable and non-scannable mail. Scannable pieces are entered into the digital mail process. Depending on the digital mail procedure implemented, the mail is either opened, scanned and delivered electronically, delivered physically, or disposed (not delivered). The non-scannable mail pieces are delivered normally through the physical process. With the digital mail process, employees receive an email with a link to the digital image copy of the physical mail piece. Employees can then retrieve, save, forward, archive or delete the documents, which are in PDF or TIFF format. 

2 -- Increase efficiency and operational excellence.

There are several important business benefits that can result from the digital mail process. Digital mail solutions enable organizations to merge the incoming mail stream with the digital information/document stream at the earliest point. This offers benefits such as shorter cycle time; higher productivity; lower processing costs; more responsive customer service; lower costs for storing, searching, retrieving, reproducing and distributing documents; improved mail center performance; reduced volume of unwanted/non-essential mail; and greater control and insight into the mail process including mail volume, type and recipients. 

3 -- Better manage high-value and/or time-sensitive mail, such as documents that impact compliance.

Digital mail enables organizations to better meet compliance and regulatory requirements by turning an ordinary mail piece into an “accountable” mail piece once the envelope or its contents are scanned. Before digital mail, documents with legal or regulatory significance could enter and leave the enterprise without any surviving record because the mail piece was not recorded as received (unless it was mailed as an accountable piece). In today’s environment with strict accountability, that is unacceptable. Moreover, some digital mail software offers the capability to identify mail pieces as belonging to specific categories (such as “legal” or “healthcare compliance”), as well as the capability to implement document searches and generate reports, which provides an audit trail. All of these features help the company improve its ability to maintain regulatory compliance. 

4 -- Reduce mail forwarding and long mail distribution runs.

Typically, when implementing digital mail organizations review their current mail operating process and assess changes that can be made to service delivery and procedures. Such changes could include eliminating the physical forwarding of mail via courier or local van if deemed no longer necessary. Or, changes could include reducing the number of mail distribution runs and changing the timing of the runs. (For example, instead of two mail runs per day, one at 10 a.m. and one at 4 p.m., the new process might include scanning and digitally presenting the mail in the morning, and then implementing one mail run at 3 p.m.)

5 -- Enhance collaboration with remote (field) workers or telecommuters.

Digital mail allows for more efficient collaboration between company headquarters offices and professionals who work remotely. For example, many construction industry professionals work at construction sites. These individuals are involved in processing sub-contractor agreements, invoices and other documents that might need immediate review and/or approval. Without digital mail, someone at a central office might accumulate a site manager’s mail for a few days and forward it to the site, forward the mail daily, or alert the manager to pick up the mail at the office. With digital mail, the manager can receive a digital image of the envelope or document itself and act on it right away.

6 -- Gain visibility into incoming mail volume.

Digital mail offers organizations visibility into the incoming mail volume. For the first time mail managers have hard data about where mail comes from, how much mail employees or departments receive, and managers can even measure what actions employees take with respect to business or non-business (e.g. personal) mail. This visibility enables smart decision making about how to better manage mail processes and costs.

7 -- Reduce non-essential (i.e. junk) business mail.

As highlighted in #5, the digital mail process can provide visibility into incoming mail processes, including good versus unwanted mail volume. Based on this insight, the company can institute policies to suppress unwanted mail. This is particularly relevant when the company has a goal of reducing paper usage as part of its “green initiatives.”

8 -- Align with the company’s privacy policy for opening mail.

Organizations have different privacy policies for opening mail. It’s important to be aware of different service levels that give companies flexibility in leveraging digital mail. One option includes converting all incoming, scannable mail and entering it into the digital workflow. Another option allows employees to instruct the mail center as to which mail pieces may be scanned and entered into the workflow. A third approach enables employees to receive digital images of mail pieces that they can instruct the mail center to deliver or dispose.


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  • Topics: compliance, digital mail, content management, privacy, oce, records management

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