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Extending Business Processes Two Directions – Digital Mailrooms and Mobility

I recently recorded a video comment on the subject of The Next Steps to Business Process Automation – Mobility.   This video is posted on the SAP Mentor channel of YouTube. This segment topic is very interesting to me as it covers developments and extensions to business processes in two different directions, 1) automating company mailrooms, and 2) by mobilizing business processes. 
Until recently I had not considered that many business processes do not start until after the mailroom manually opens, sorts, stores, transports and distributes mail and other paper documents (order forms, warrantly cards, customer complaints, invoices, etc) to the various departments in a company.  This is a very old fashion, potentially slow and labor intensive process that is prone to many human errors.

Digital mailrooms and transactional content management solutions are new categories of solutions that extend automation into the mailroom.  For more information on this category of solutions visit the blog Transactional Content Management and Digital Mailrooms.

The second area I cover in the video comments is mobilizing the invoice approval process.  This involves extending traditional ERP invoice approval processes out to mobile devices like smartphones.  Why is this important?  Often suppliers will offer “early payment” discounts if a manufacturer pays within a certain agreed upon period of time (e.g. Net 7 days).  That means the person who approves the invoice must be able to review and approve the invoice quickly enough to meet those terms.  If the manager is mobile and travelling it would be easy to miss a deadline, however, with the right mobile application the invoice can be approved from anywhere.

If a digital mailroom speeds up the process of opening, sorting, imaging, data capture and routing data to the appropriate ERP business process in the mailroom, and invoice approvals can be completed on mobile devices, then you have extended business process automation (invoice receipt, processing, approval and payment) two directions and with great potential results for the business.

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      Author's profile photo Richard Hirsch
      Richard Hirsch
      The example you give about a manager approving the invoice is just an existing process in which a user has the ability to access his process inbox via a mobile device.  Depending on the technology involved (portal, etc.), this is probably possible today.
      The more important / interesting question is: do existing processing really exploit the potential of mobile devices or do we need a new sort of process that reflects the unique characteristics of the mobile environment? I suggest looking at Sigurd Rinde's "PUI, the 'Process User Interface'"  blog ( ) for more ideas.