This article originally appeared in the May/June issue of Mailing Systems Technology.

Today, we share information in ways – and at speeds – that would have been inconceivable not long ago. Still, many mail centers haven’t changed in decades, especially when it comes to inbound mail processes, despite 40% increases in mail costs. Mail remains an integral part of many business operations, but all too often, getting that mail is inefficient – or even downright impossible, as modern workstyles keep employees on the move in and outside the office. However, there are new business trends occurring that should reshape the way businesses look at mail, enabling them to embrace a more modern approach. Three of these trends are, broadly stated: compliance, real estate, and digitization.

Compliance Challenges

People refer to this as “the digital age,” but when it comes to legal matters, paper records and communications remain incredibly important. For example, take a subpoena – or a note from the FDA, or any other pressing legal document – that is sent to an employee in a New York office, but he or she may be working out of the San Francisco office that week. With traditional mail handling, that employee has no way of knowing that document is awaiting their arrival in New York. A judge may not care why the employee missed the time-sensitive mail piece, and the employee may find themselves in breach or in other kinds of trouble with the court. Forwarding addresses can help, but forwarding mail can be slow, and modern work often demands more flexibility than leaving a forwarding address allows. Furthermore, digitization creates a permanent electronic record of inbound communications, helping to ensure compliance with discovery and regulatory needs, as well as making record lookup faster and easier.

How can you address and capitalize on these challenges?

Look for new ways to accommodate remote, mobile, and hot desking (the office practice of allocating desks to workers only when they are required) employees by deploying a service that enables mail to follow recipients wherever they go. One way to accomplish this goal is via email with intelligent delivery services. By digitizing incoming mail and alerting recipients, you unify the inbox, thus enabling the worker to work anywhere. There are services available today that can gather data on frequent behaviors, such as an HR department’s preference to always physically receive large mail pieces or take note on an employee’s habits of working out of other offices to help design a more efficient delivery process for critical information.

Pressing matters of compliance aren’t the only type of time-sensitive mail, though. Even those who don’t work in highly regulated or often-litigated industries need to be able to communicate quickly, accurately, and effectively. However, the office itself is changing, which means the way offices’ mail is handled is changing, too.

Real Estate Challenges

As property costs go up and newer workstyles (such as mobile work, remote work, and hotdesking mentioned earlier) increase in popularity, physical office spaces are shrinking. That leaves less space for mail centers, yes, but it also means it’s harder to pinpoint where a mail recipient will be on a given day as employees move within and between offices. With traditional mail delivery, that can cause delays, missed messages, and a greater expense for managing your information.

How can you address and capitalize on these challenges?

With an inbox unified by intelligent delivery services, recipients can choose to confirm their current location on the fly. That way, when recipients want to receive physical copies of their mail, they can do so on the first delivery attempt. The way to capitalize on the new world of work is to be more efficient. Evaluate how your mail center looks at analytics… and whether they’re being used at all. Design analytics to further enable smarter business decisions by observing metrics that drive real insights around how mail moves – within the business walls and beyond to those mobile, remote, and hotdesking locations. How often is mail received digitally in the office versus on-the-go? How often is physical mail delivered when digitization is an option? The list goes on. Based on that information and analysis, adjust processing patterns so the mail is managed based on recipient’s preferences, no matter where their work takes them.

Digitization Challenges

Implementing a process that manages digitization accurately, seamlessly, and in accordance with unique business regulations can be an overwhelming task. The handling of so many types of documents is strictly regulated, especially when it comes to confidential and litigious matters. Recipients need to be confident they will receive their mail accurately, securely, and on time. That means a digital operation has to be reliable, secure, and efficient. Digitization is on the rise across enterprises. Businesses love digitization not only because it speeds up the sharing of information but also because, when leveraged properly, it can provide a lot of additional data. That data can become actionable insights, multiplying the efficiency gains inherent to digitization. But those gains aren’t worth it if the actual act of getting mail to recipients is negatively impacted. Furthermore, employees can be slow to adjust to the new approaches of digitizing mail delivery.

How can you address and capitalize on these challenges?

For that reason, you should look for an intelligent approach that takes into account unique workstyles and slow adopter challenges. By enabling users to view where their mail is coming from and choose the appropriate method to receive content, you’ve made mail simple. Empower users with a menu of choices to receive an electronic copy and destroy the physical copy, receive an electronic copy and deliver the physical copy, only receive the physical copy, or reject the mail piece outright. This provides the assurance that wherever work takes them, they’ll get their mail on time in the format that best matches the way they work. These services aren’t just unifying the inbox; they’re decluttering it, too.

Technology alters the workplace – regardless of what form it takes – and creates new technology requirements to address the trends in compliance, real estate, and digitization. Enhancements to the manner in which inbound mail is managed can help cut one of the last lines that tethers workers to traditional, fixed working locations. The implementation of new intelligent delivery services can empower the mail center of tomorrow to reach internal recipients, in the form they prefer, no matter where their work takes them, helps cut down on spam, and streamlines office operations.

Does your mail center do that?

Bob Brock is Vice President, Legal and Managed Services, Ricoh USA, Inc. He is responsible for Managed Services sales within the U.S., as well as the legal vertical and off-site services revenue for Ricoh in the Americas. With more than 30 years of experience, Brock’s efforts in growing Ricoh’s services portfolio have contributed to building the organization’s reputation as a best-in-class services provider.