The new wave of digital mailroom automation

Capture in the mailroom is not a new concept. It was first deployed in Europe in the aughts to understand the scanned contents of an…

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OpenText Content Cloud Team

November 17, 20226 minute read

Capture in the mailroom is not a new concept. It was first deployed in Europe in the aughts to understand the scanned contents of an envelope—to classify and route incoming mail to whomever it is addressed. It caught on in a more limited fashion in the U.S., often including integration with business process management (BPM) technology. Today, digital mailrooms have become part of digital transformation strategies, with companies using Capture to understand incoming paper, as well as electronically generated information, at the earliest point of entry into an organization. The goal is to move forward the point of impact for this information.

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated digital transformation initiatives and led to a renewed interest in digital mailrooms. After originally bringing many activities to a halt, businesses soon realized that enabling remote workforces was a way to continue operations, albeit in many cases with a transition to electronic processes and communications. This transition was already underway, but the pandemic accelerated it, and digital mailrooms have increasingly become a means for converting, enabling, and controlling the distribution of incoming information.

Incoming business information comes in many forms, with the greatest growth coming from electronic sources, much of which is email (see graphic below). In addition, organizations must still process faxes and mobile-created communications, which increasingly use multi-media. Mailroom systems have expanded into understanding and routing this electronic input. 

A graph that shows the global capture market input sources from 2016 to 2021.

Historically, the term mailroom automation has never gained much traction in the U.S., perhaps because of the extensive use of PO Boxes to pre-sort physical mail. However, the basic process has been implemented in conjunction with high-speed scanners in many companies. Now, with increasing amounts of incoming information delivered electronically, agile organizations have realized that they can leverage their existing business rules to ingest electronic, as well as paper, information. These organizations are implementing new Capture technologies to extract data from multiple sources and route that information to the appropriate process.

This new wave of mailroom automation has occurred simultaneously with an increase in the availability of cloud-based Capture services, which can lower the cost of implementation. In addition to moving the infrastructure and processing online to third-party services, cloud-based capture can add efficiencies by introducing new types of processing, such as handwriting or multi-media recognition, through services calls – making it more convenient for an organization to experiment and run tests on new types of input. Cloud-based Capture services enable more modular and flexible Capture platforms. 

Because Capture vendors have increased access and expanded functionality to enable the new wave of digital mailroom automation, organizations can now more efficiently expand the data types they are processing by implementing advanced recognition for new items, such as incoming statements for reconciliation, without having to license a full solution. Capture services have also improved and widened their support for different character sets, languages, and document types, with updates immediately available in the cloud, so organizations no longer need to wait for the next release of on-premises software.

Cloud platforms also enable software users and developers to more tightly integrate with other external cloud services outside of Capture, such as ERP, CRM, and other line of business systems, as well as third-party data sources. This enables additional options for data validation and enrichment, which can be utilized to improve the effectiveness and flexibility of routing input to downstream processes. For example, a claims process might be initiated by a Capture service, and then, when new information about the claim is introduced into the workflow, it might require a second Capture services call. Al algorithms can even be utilized to make these secondary calls dynamically, essentially creating a real-time request for additional information, similar to the way a human claims adjuster would.

As the capabilities and flexibility of Capture expand, we need to think of mailroom Capture as being available for use on a broader basis—not just for incoming information. Historical information that is archived within a company may hold clues to trends and direction. Using SaaS mailroom services, a company can classify and extract analytics information from a broad variety of archived documents. Many of these have already been captured for records management reasons—but SaaS services can be used to go through these files extracting a wider variety of information. For example, a life insurance carrier might be interested in examining cause of death trends in a particular region over a specific period of time.

The expanding capabilities of Capture technology, as well as their availability in the cloud, are enabling new departments to leverage mailroom Capture services to understand and drive their processes faster. Pre-pandemic, digital mailrooms were an important factor in digital transformations. In the midst of the pandemic, when remote access to information and processes was vital, digital mailrooms became a key element for the survival of many businesses. The transition to digital processes was already in effect prior to the pandemic, which has only accelerated the trend. Digital mailroom implementation can be a key element in embracing this trend toward digitization, as it enables users to rapidly onboard a wider swath of their incoming information into accelerated digital processes.

Digitization is also a key element in corporations’ moves toward sustainability, another transition that was accelerated by the pandemic. A 2021 survey by the Stanford Graduate School of Business indicated that 63% of businesses indicated that “delivering on corporate sustainability goals,” is now a key outcome of their procurement programs—almost triple the total from prior to the pandemic in 2019.

Sustainability is about maintaining processes long term and it is built on three main pillars: economic, environmental and social sustainability. During the pandemic, many businesses came to the realization that their sustainable practices helped them maintain their operations. Digital mailroom technology, which can transition paper processes to digital ones, plays an important role in achieving greater sustainability.

From an environmental perspective, it can drastically reduce the use of paper, the production of which utilizes billions of trees per year in addition to creating pollution. There is also pollution created through the disposal of paper, as well as by vehicles used to transport it between sites. Transportation of paper also costs businesses money, as does workers spending their time locating paper documents. Finally, from a social perspective, digital mailrooms can better enable collaboration among workers and partners worldwide.

OpenText is a long-time leader in on-premises enterprise Capture applications, including digital mailroom implementations. Since 2019, OpenText had made its Capture technology available in SaaS and cloud services offerings: Core Capture includes the ability to process multi-channel input, apply auto-classification and multiple levels of data extraction including next-generation machine learning/AI, and export output to a variety of back-end processes.

About the author: Ralph Gammon is senior analyst for Infosource Software—the leading industry analyst firm that focuses on the Intelligent Capture and IDP market. Infosource provides in-depth analysis and guidance involving software and solutions used to automate business processes involving unstructured and semi-structured business inputs. 

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OpenText Content Cloud Team

The OpenText Content Cloud offers a broad and deep suite of content management products, providing end-to-end solutions that help organizations maximize the value and minimize the risk of their information. OpenText Content Services platforms and applications support diverse business and industry needs through extensive integration capabilities, full lifecycle management and intelligent automation.

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