Australia Post has been digitising mail addressed to 40 state government departments and financial services firms since mid-March as a stopgap measure while physical mailrooms couldn’t operate.
The mailroom digitisation service is a subset of what Australia Post normally sells under its Decipha brand.
Decipha is a process outsourcing operation, usually aggregating inbound physical and digital information, categorising it, and then sending it on to specific parts of a customer’s organisation.
That is reasonably intensive and requires some specific knowledge of customer operations, which it appears can take some months to get right.
When coronavirus lockdowns took effect, Post said it needed to find a way to quickly digitise inbound mail for government and financial organisations whose workforces were suddenly distributed and physical mailrooms rendered inoperational.
“Many organisations only had 10 per cent of their workforce on-site and this was limited to critical staff,” Decipha’s head of product and solutions Damian Naylor said in a blog post.
“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 said Decipha created a “basic” version of its usual service that could be “deployed within days instead of months”.
“What our customers need right now is an interim solution that digitises mail and disperses it to their nominated digital delivery points,” he said.
“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.”
Those general documents needed “to be sighted by someone in the organisation to ensure they’re sent to the right recipients,” he said.
“We don’t have a detailed enough understanding of our customers’ businesses to know who or where a general document should be sent.”
Usually, Decipha was able to process more structured documents like invoices by funnelling them to specific PO boxes, from where they could be digitised and easily routed to a company’s internal accounts function.
Naylor said that Decipha had onboarded 40 new customers to the basic plan since mid-March.
He said those customers included “key government departments in Victoria, Queensland and New South Wales” and a “significant number [of] financial institutions and insurance companies that recognise how mail digitisation can support their business continuity plan.”
Australia Post is banking on those customers not only continuing to digitise inbound mail but also scaling up to the full Decipha service as lockdowns ease.
Additional companies were interested but “decided they weren’t at a sufficient state of shutdown to warrant digitising mail and … were reluctant to sign up for an interim solution that still required manual handling,” Naylor said.
Naylor is hoping to pick up those conversations as organisations begin to map long-term operational models.
“Many [organisations] 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,” he said.