COVID-19 is the Compelling Event for “Virtual Mailrooms”
One operational area compelled to adapt to COVID-19 disruptions is the traditional mailroom. While most organizations have digitized their mailroom operations to some extent, the new reality is that distributing physical documents in any volume is no longer possible. Going fully paperless is not optional, it’s the only option to support work from home situations. And what is also now apparent, the likelihood of another COVID-19 is a reality in the not too distant future. Most organizations already have technologies that could be leveraged to establish Virtual Mailrooms. To achieve this objective there are five key principles that will guide you on a potentially quick win:
- Multi-channel Consolidation
Modern mailrooms are often managing a combination of physical documents and content that is already digital such as emails or files uploaded to external portals. Content from all these channels needs to be consolidated, best performed by an enterprise capture system so that it can be digitized and contextualized in a standardized manner to enable downstream processing.
Along with the consolidated capture of multiple channels of content, you should be standardizing an ingestion process that extracts data for use as metadata enabling classification, initial routing, decisions and exception handling. Without this capability in a Virtual Mailroom, things fall through the cracks and it becomes difficult, if not impossible, to maintain consistency, speed and proper governance.
Where straight-through processing isn’t possible, incoming content should go through a validation and/or exception handling process. This is where an ingestion system must not only provide contextual metadata but also evaluate that metadata against established business rules to catch problems upon receipt. If problems are found, an effective ingestion system should also trigger exception handling queues and associated workflows so that the appropriate people, including those working from home, can make the necessary corrections in a timely fashion minimizing any delays.
Subsequent to validation and exception handling, the Virtual Mailroom solution should allow incoming content to be routed to the appropriate people or departments for required reviews and approvals. For this to happen the context provided by metadata created during the ingestion process can be utilized by an underlying workflow or rules system that guides the flow of content through to the appropriate participants.
Inevitably some content will have to be rerouted due to process participants being absent or due to the complexity of certain transactions. In these situations, a paperless Virtual Mailroom solution must provide for automatic re-routing based on pre-defined business rules and user-initiated based on system permissions. The Virtual Mailroom solution should also provide for users to add comments and annotations to ensure that those receiving any re-directs are properly informed. While re-routing can traditionally introduce compliance risks regarding confidentiality, because content has been properly classified during the ingestion process the workflow system can also ensure that appropriate security is applied while at the same time providing a full audit trail for compliance purposes.
Not surprisingly, we find most organizations already have technologies in place to meet some if not all Virtual Mailroom requirements. The barrier between where you are now and where you need to be is often just a lack of configuration of these components. With a quick analysis of existing architecture that keeps the five key principles in mind, it’s likely possible to design and re-configure for an initial Virtual Mailroom solution that supports continuity of business processes in days rather than months.
Contact us to discover how your organization can leverage existing technologies and infrastructure investment to establish Virtual Mailrooms.