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Automation of Postal is the Trend in 2021

April 06, 2021

This is a guest article from Crawford Technologies, a valued BCC Software partner.

Postal Processing is one of the most expensive and error-prone parts of a production workflow. This year, 2021, it is when you need to spend time automating!

Last year, 2020, was tough for many of us and our organizations. Manual steps and workflows that require multiple in-person touchpoints have bubbled to the top of the cauldron of issues.

Many organizations still run postal as a manual step in their marketing workflow and Data preparation. This is not something that can continue in 2021.

As “Remote Work” and “Work from Home” is now the new normal, more and more “Data Quality” and IT people want to continue working from home.  This will create challenges if your workflows and processes are not automated.

Many transactional shops have already implemented a handful of automated mail processing tools like PRO Conductor (Low Code ADF Solution from Crawford Technologies) or just scripting BCC Software’s TaskMaster into their workflow.

Production Departments and Mail processers that are not focusing on continuous workflow automation improvements will suffer many challenges in the coming months and years.

Manually processing data is very time-consuming.  A recent cost analysis that I completed estimated that having an IT employee run a daily marketing mail application will cost the organization over $40 a day or about $10,000 per year. This is just processing one job that is now in the process of being fully automating using PRO Conductor and BCC Task Manager.

Every manager and employee needs to be focus on using technology to improve the way they work. Technology and opposable thumbs are what have enabled us to thrive in this challenging world we live in.

Gartner listed “Hyperautomation” as one of the 9 top trends for 2021. So why do so many organizations still feel that it is appropriate to have a person or multiple people handle, sort, and process postal data every day?

I have met with many IT and mailing executives in the past 20 years, and the answer is always nearly the same when we get to automation, “Well, we have this one job that can’t do that.” In the past, I have slapped down the negative responses that we must have manually process because of a single workflow or application. And I will continue to slap them down!  Get on board the automation train of 2021 and automate the other 99 percent of applications.  After that, spend time reviewing the one or the few applications that cannot be automated.

Another response I hear about data not being automated is, “The client is always changing the format, so we never know what to expect?” This can be challenging because it can equate to a larger issue.

Develop a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for all aspects of your business. Ensure your staff has guidelines to follow, your customers understand what you expect, and they know to send you files. It does not matter if it is an internal business unit or a client that is three levels removed, everybody wants the project to succeed, and documenting standards for receiving data is a great place to start. If you do not have SOPs, expect your sales and customer services teams to say yes to anything.  You will have to then deal with manual processes that can easily be automated.

There are many cases where the data does not suit the application or the input standards haven’t been defined.  Luckily, it is 2021. You have multiple choices to choose from:

  1. You agree on an SOP with the client, customer, or business unit, and you set up an automated workflow for that file type.
  2. You use a simple web upload interface and have the client link their data to the predefined data format that you have previously pushed out across your organization.

Option 2 is a great way to move ownership and data errors from your mailing department to the client, customer, or business unit.  You will have to ensure that once the file is uploaded, it confirms your defined data standard.

There will always be one-offs, and there will always be reasons that people can’t do things within an automated workflow.  However, to succeed, thrive and become a lean mean data processing machine, you need to ensure that everyone in your organization is moving in the same direction.

That direction needs to be continuous process improvement and automation of manual steps. So take a deep breath, start with a single application and start your journey to success in 2021.

About the Author: Adam Armstrong is on the Product Management team at Crawford Technologies. In the past 20 years, he has helped hundreds of organizations transform their workflows and developed multi-channel and multi-experience engagement campaigns to focus on improving customer experience and reducing the operational costs associated with production print and mail processing. Adam is an avid presenter at many conferences and is always happy to sit down and meet new people.

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