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Digitisation opens doors for the Co-operative Group - pfm article

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SPS puts the Co-operative Group on Path to Achieving a Paperless Office …

SPS puts the Co-operative Group on Path to Achieving a Paperless Office

As part of its move to its new 14 storey head office in Manchester, the Co-operative Group is transforming the way it handles incoming and outgoing mail, document management and archiving.
In 2011, SPS was awarded a five year to deliver a new digital mailroom that will see the digitisation and delivery of two million items of external and internal mail per annum via SPS's hosted platform to up to 3,500 client users and save the Co-operative two storeys of office space.

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  • 1. 2219 - PFM Jan12 Edn._PFM Month 2011 14/12/2011 11:53 Page 22 Mailroom DIGITISATION OPENS DOOR The Co-operative Group is building a 14 storey HQ in Manchester. Had it not been for its move to ‘less paper’ practices then a further two storeys would have had to be built to accommodate the paper generated by the organisation – an expensive filing cabinet! Tim Fryer went to see the project in action. T HE NEW HEADQUARTERS IS DUE FOR COMPLETION in SPS was the selected partner to implement September 2012 and will house the majority of the digital mailroom, partly at least because of the Co-operative Group’s (The Co-operative) the wider range of services that it offered with central operations. We occupy 1.1m sq ft of office the opportunity to develop the solution further in space in Manchester city centre, of which about the future. Foley said: “There is obviously a 650,000 sq ft has been identified as commercial element to this [awarding the space currently occupied by colleagues from all of contract] but ultimately the solution has got to our family of businesses and which will be right for our organisation. The contract we be consolidated through various space efficiency have with Swiss Post is initially for five years initiatives into our 326,000 sq ft new head office. and one thing that we were very keen to ensure However, for all that the calculation on paper we captured was the strategic nature of how the usage and storage makes for a compelling solution could be developed, because once we financial argument in terms of the size of the new have the digital mailroom element that then building, this was not the original driver for the opens the opportunities around process document lifecycle programme, nor the digital redesign and work flow which we may choose to mailroom that I had come to see. look at in the future. Swiss Post were clear in Kevin Foley, The Co-operatives Resource & terms of what they could do for us by allowing Planning Manager, explained how the the solution to mature over time.” programme came about back in 2009. “It started SPS started at the beginning of 2011 and the through a print review which we were option for digitising mail was realised within undertaking with a view to introducing multi- four months – part of a structured programme as functional device technology as opposed to Palmer describes: “We took the solution over ‘as traditional printing. We soon recognised that a is’, but in the contract we actually have a phased more strategic approach was required, transformation plan. So it is not that we have incorporating all elements of how our just promised to deliver the end service, we organisation interacts with paper, from printing, actually say how we are going to do that and at to physical storage, inbound and outbound mail what stages we are going to make every change and ultimately, how we behave as a business - it is quite clear from day one.” Early stages when interacting with paper medium,” said Foley. included setting up and configuring the online “The digital mailroom forms a part of a much systems and moving certain manual functions wider programme which we refer to as document from The Co-operative in Manchester out to the lifecycle. The founding principle of document SPS facility in Salford Quays. lifecycle is to reduce our organisation’s reliance Kate Morris is The Co-operatives Head of on paper. So within the document lifecycle Facilities Management Shared Services and is programme we have digital mailroom for responsible for both the move into the new head inbound mail in addition to multi-functional office building and acts as principle stakeholder devices and controlled physical document storage of the document lifecycle programme. She archives both onsite and off-site, which are all commented: “All of the contracts that we supported by associated policies and engagement procure, whether it is in this area or other FM mechanisms to drive and sustain behavioural areas, are always evaluated against a number of change.” criteria. Obviously cost being one of them but The document lifecycle programme is therefore also ability to meet requirements of the project clearly more than just driven by finances, and is and other relevant factors. In this case the main actually much broader - the inbound digital mail factor, in my mind, was certainly around project is one of the enablers to achieving that innovation. Being able to ‘be smarter’. I think it strategy. In fact digitising documentation is in is fair to say that to deliver a digital mailroom is itself an enabler to fundamental changes in not that difficult, but the critical thing in terms of working practices, as Mark Palmer, Area Director our programme is changing the way the of Swiss Post Solutions (SPS), explained: “There business behaves. We are heavily reliant in the is the ongoing objective to allow for the change in organisation on how individuals behave and, for working practices, to allow more flexible working. example, not to print something that they don’t Therefore in addition to the focus on paper need to print.” storage in the new building, it is also about where Morris added: “The other point is that the and how people work, whether they work from digital mailroom is an enabler to flexible home, a store or from other offices, the driver is working; by encouraging people to work from to allow them access to the information they need other locations for us or at home, regional office quickly, securely, and easily.” or elsewhere, we require less desks and people 22 PFM/January 2012
  • 2. 2219 - PFM Jan12 Edn._PFM Month 2011 14/12/2011 11:53 Page 23 Mailroom on site, but colleagues still need access to their documents. So we have space efficiencies to be made there as well. It is part of a very big picture. Our overall target is to have 80% desks to people - 1.2 people to 1 desk, but we are actually achieving through the flexible working pilots significantly more than that in some areas. An investment of around £250,000 was needed by SPS at its Salford Quays facility to accommodate The Co-operatives work, which in mail alone is currently at around two million items a year. The investment was partly to adjust the facility to accommodate the additional Co- operative staff, but also to upgrade SPS’ IT infra- structure which included brand new Kofax 9 and but this only requires the click of a button and VM servers and upgrades of all software to the delivery is almost instantaneous – so adding the latest releases. scanning processes is actually resulting in At present all mail comes into the Manchester people receiving their mail earlier, and is usually complex where the physical mailroom is still available before they start work. located. The mail is opened, sorted and then Morris’ Workplace Services team will be first to transferred over to Salford Quays where it is move into the new HQ in September to prepare scanned. Then it is delivered back through the building for everyone else, with all other electronic means, although it is not simply departments moving in a phased operation lasting replicating an email system as this would only three months. Moving into the new building has transfer storage problems from being paper- allowed Morris to take a look at the provision of based (full up filing cabinets) to electronic other FM services. “It has thrown all of our (clogged up email servers). services into the air for review as to how they are The Co-operative staff now receive their mail going to operate,” commented Morris. “Catering using SPS web-based Digital Mailroom solution is a good one to talk about because we were which provides hosted access to images and actually discussing the kind of meal offer we are data within a secure environment. This allows a going to have in the new head office 12 months user to view and action an image whilst also ago, because what we needed to do was create an recording an auditable history of the actions environment in the kitchen and serving areas they take. Palmer explains: “Each individual will which met that offer. So we were very fortunate have a secure log on to enable them to view from the point of view of an FM function as we delivery points within the system known as were right there at the design stage to create desks from where they can view and action mail. something that is workable. Most FM functions The system provides them with a number of inherit buildings and then have to make it work, actions they can apply to an image, for example but we are not in that situation – we are designing in the simplest terms it could be a piece of junk the operation from scratch.” mail which they could choose to delete or a Incumbent catering supplier Sodexo, who document that requires an action or to be shared remain preferred supplier after a tender process, with other Co-operative users or ultimately to be helped in the design of the new facilities. saved withintheir own document storage “Another example would be our cleaning system, which from a compliance point of view contractor," Morris continued. “who has assisted is fantastic as it provides an historic record for us in determining the specification of finishes each inbound piece of mail, telling The Co- within the building to make sure they can actually operative who got it, if they read it, what they be cleaned and maintained at an appropriate level did with it, and ultimately where they stored the of cost - because obviously there is a difference image.” between what architects like and the practical There has been extensive consultation with all operational management of it.” of the departments to see how each would like However, even within the document lifecycle the mail service to work for them, in part at least programme it could be that its objectives morph to promote the possibilities of the document over the period of transition into the new facility. lifecycle programme. Each department may have Foley said: “Further projects are currently different approaches to tackling administration underway to look at Invoice Processing solutions duties regarding both physical and digitised for the digitisation, extraction, validation and mail, the latter still being rolled out to a number payment of invoices received by The Co-operative. of departments. This is one example of a business process that can Currently there is still more physical mail benefit enormously from digital enablement and being delivered than is being scanned, but as other department specific workflows will be departments are rolled out this will reach a identified and explored in terms of additional tipping point for the incoming mail operation to efficiency and automation that can be made move to Salford Quays, to speed that end of the possible.” operation. Already the SLA for physical mail Additionally SPS’ outbound solutions in the delivery internally – after mail deliveries starting areas of document output, customer interaction at 6.30am and subsequent sorting – is to start at and electronic delivery of information have many 8.30am. This means that some people may get possibilities to further enhance how The Co- their mail within ten minutes or within an hour operative treat specific outbound streams such as depending where they fit on the mail round. The communications with stores, customer loyalty SLA for scanned mail delivery is also 8.30am, programmes, account statementing, and so on. PFM/January 2012 23