The value of mail digitisation in a pandemic and beyond

We’re no longer accepting new Decipha customers

Please note that we are phasing out the Decipha service discussed in this article and are no longer taking on new customers or work. Find out about other information management services.

When social distancing turned entire workforces into virtual teams, enterprises and governments had to find a new way of distributing inbound mail to the right people and functions. Here’s how Decipha stepped in to offer a mail digitisation solution.

When the coronavirus reached Australian shores early this year, no one was truly prepared for how it would change the way we work. In what seemed like an overnight transition, entire workforces had to recreate their workspace in their home and organisations had to adapt their business processes to meet social distancing requirements and function in a virtual space. Among the many business areas that underwent an adaptation was the mailroom.

“Many organisations only had 10 per cent of their workforce on-site and this was limited to critical staff,” says Damian Naylor. “They needed help in getting information to their remote workforce and managing their mail. That’s the challenge we’re helping our customers resolve.”

Naylor is the Head of Product & Solutions for Decipha, the inbound information management service under Australia Post. The service has helped large organisations manage their physical and digital mailrooms for the last 20 years through screening, categorising and sorting incoming information into data streams. It then delivers this information directly to the organisation’s business systems and workflows at the start of each business day.

When the movement restrictions came into play, Naylor says, many organisations were figuring out how to come up with a solution for an uncertain future. “Just before Easter, there was talk of a potential Stage 4 lockdown so we stepped up to meet demand with a quick-to-deploy solution that helped our customers get mail to their workforce.”

Decipha has on-boarded 40 new customers since mid-March, including key government departments in Victoria, Queensland and New South Wales. A significant number are financial institutions and insurance companies that recognise how mail digitisation can support their business continuity plan.

The current solution that Decipha is providing enterprises and government departments is a scaled down version of the typical mail digitisation solution, and one that can be deployed within days instead of months.

“The key features of this basic version are its simplicity and the speed in which it can be deployed. What our customers need right now is an interim solution that digitises mail and disperses it to their nominated digital delivery points. They don’t need all the bells and whistles. That sort of robust solution can come at a later stage.”

“This basic version is step one - creating a digital version of the contents of an envelope. We’ve also been able to offer basic mail classification where we’re able to sort mail based on high-level business rules. There is still, however, a manual element in this digital process that involves sorting general or unstructured mail like contracts, purchase orders and HR-related documents.”

Unlike structured documents, like loan application processes and invoices, which are often directed into specific PO Boxes for easy sorting, general documents need to be sighted by someone in the organisation to ensure they’re sent to the right recipients.

“We don’t yet have a detailed enough understanding of our customers’ specific business rules to know who or where a general document should be sent.”

Is mail digitisation the way forward? 

Even when movement restrictions are fully lifted and life in the city restarts, the future of work and workspaces will be very different. Considering that the shift to virtual teams has been successful for so many organisations, the prospect of a semi-remote workforce could be the next topic of conversation.

“Organisations will have to address this elephant in the room,” Naylor says. “They’re possibly going to have more staff working remotely and more flexible work arrangements. Many of our customers are already considering this and mail digitisation supports this new model of work.”

Naylor’s team is also deep in conversation with customers who haven’t yet signed up to digitise their mail but are considering it as part of their future-proof planning. According to him, these are organisations that decided they weren’t at a sufficient state of shutdown to warrant digitising mail and that were reluctant to sign up for an interim solution that still required manual handling.

“But they’re telling us that they never want to be caught off-guard again so they’re talking to us now about a mail digitisation solution that involves automation, high-level business rules, classification and some form of workflow. They want technology that enables information to be distributed throughout the enterprise and is delivered to the right person, team or business function.”

“Many have had already spoken to us about digital mail prior to the pandemic. Back then, they understood what it entailed but didn’t see it as a priority until now. And being part of Australia Post means Decipha already elicits a great deal of trust and confidence in our ability to deliver.”

Subscribe to our Building Business newsletter