More than 150 government and private sector leaders and professionals shared their progressive ideas for paths the U.S. Postal Service might take to remain relevant and responsive to America’s communications needs in 2020 and beyond. Conference organizer, John Callan of Ursa Major Associates, stated at the event’s outset that “the PostalVision 2020 initiative was conceived to help envision the American postal ecosystem of the future, approaching discussions from a new perspective…, it is key in the discussions to enlist the expertise and provocative ideas of those familiar with what would be new territory for the USPS.” For those who could not attend the conference, below are sound bites from those who spoke, as reported by Bill McAllister and Kathy Siviter for PostCom Bulletin. Additional reviews, commentary and links to full conference video of the sessions can be found per the Reviews and Video tab and News tab above.
Jay Adams, CEO of MakesBridge Technology…, “stressed that digital solutions need to provide holistic systems for target users driving the transition and need to be easy for people to adopt.”
Patrick Bartlett, Senior Consultant at Ursa Major Associates…, “free shipping will be the new wave along with international e-commerce taking advantage of the weak USD. UPS’ business-to-consumer business has doubled but the USPS has not enjoyed the same growth rate in its parcel business.”
John Callan, Managing Director, Ursa Major Associates and PostalVision 2020 Conference organizer, posed the question about the powerful proposed concept of USPS serving as “the Platform” for all postal services, physical and digital alike, “should the Postal Service act as an ‘enabler’ or a ‘provider’ of services? Can it practically do both?”
James Campbell, Jr., independent legal counsel…, said he was not convinced that Congress “wants to save” the Postal Service from its current financial difficulties. “If letters are dead, then the post office is fundamentally dead,” Campbell said.
Vint Cerf, Google VP and Chief Internet Evangelist…, e-mail in its current form is “quite weak” because of its unknown origin, spam, and lack of third party authentication to ensure its origin. “The USPS might be in a position to solve that problem,” he suggested, noting how today’s notification legal requirements are satisfied by legal postal address use.
Dr. Gene Del Polito, President, Association for Postal Commerce…, “the private sector should be encouraged to bring the USPS ideas about ways to partner where the USPS could satisfy a public need with private resources. But the USPS needs to change its past behaviors, ” he said, “in terms of taking the ideas others have brought them and pursuing them itself. ” “It should not steal business, ” he said, “it should satisfy the public need.”
J. Erik Garr, Principal, PWC’s Diamond Advisory Services…, “there are about 12 million housing units still lacking broadband infrastructure and no business case for those private companies to put the service there. That’s where it becomes a government issue.”
Ruth Goldway, Chairman, Postal Regulatory Commission…, “What I see as the most important part of the Postal Service is not whether it makes a profit at the end of the day, ” Goldway said, “but whether it is an enabler for the country to develop its economy and democracy.”
Jeremy Grant, Senior Executive Advisor for Identity Management, NIST…, “The USPS has wonderful brand trust today, ” Grant said, “with rules, laws and an enforcement system already in place.” “Online is still the wild, wild, west,” he said. “The framework the USPS could provide is unique and could be of great value.”
Jeff Jarvis, blogger, author of What Would Google Do, Professor…, “Digital is always going to be faster, cheaper and more efficient,” Jarvis said, “which leads to a fairly simple rule — if it can be digital, it will be digital.”
George Kliavkoff, CEO, Manilla.com…, “E-mail is a broken channel,” he said. “I disagree that the USPS should not be looked at as a business losing money and what can be done.” “If the USPS partnered with entrepreneurs and embraced change to grow the revenue for the most valuable parts of its business, he told conference attendees, “that kind of innovation could fund other things.”
Ramesh Ratan, President of Pitney Bowes Document Messaging Technology…, “what we can do to fix the USPS is not the appropriate conversation.” “What is the role of the USPS in our country, our economy, our ecosystem?” he said is the direction the conversation should take.
Ronald Stroman, USPS Deputy Postmaster General…, “If you want more innovation, ” he said, “change the model to allow a period of incubation for things to percolate, see if they work, see the direction you want to go. ” He stressed that in order to allow decisions where the USPS partners with the private sector, changes in the framework are needed to allow the USPS an atmosphere to pursue such strategies.
Matt Swain, Associate Director InfoTrends, Document Outsourcing and Transpro Consulting Services…, “three guiding principles the USPS should observe in any digital strategy it pursues: promote solutions for the communication problems in the digital age; utilize the core competencies and assets of the USPS; and consider the policy implications of the strategy based on the current legal and regulatory environment.”
Jennifer Tomlinson, Director of Growth and Strategy at Innovapost…, universal access in a digital strategy would be part of a USPS role because it’s key mission is to enable connections. She said the USPS should explore a digital platform linked to its physical delivery network with open architecture but with standards.
Marshall Van Alstyne Associate Professor, Boston University, Visiting Professor MIT…, “It’s the platform that will win, not the best product,” said Van Alstyne. He said “digital strategies need to include comprehensive platform strategies, not just product strategies.
Larry Weber, Social Media Marketing Expert and Founder/Chairman W2 Group…, “Social media presents another fascinating trend,” Weber told the PostalVision2020 crowd, noting that it also presents huge opportunities. “Lessons for the folks at the USPS is how to become a social enterprise so entrepreneurs can rise up.”
David Williams, Inspector General of the U.S. Postal Service…, “the nation owes its citizens a lean, fast, best-in-class communications infrastructure that provides businesses with the ability to compete globally and a postal system that energizes and serves commerce” Williams said, “Americans want integrated digital and physical tools that provide bridges for data exchange, business intelligence and facilitate comprehensive mobile shopping.”
“Digital is going to be an essential part of the Postal Service going forward,” said Deputy Postmaster General Ronald Stroman, speaking on a panel at the PostalVision 2020 Conference in Arlington, Va. However, he added that the USPS should not be prevented by regulation from “moving into the digital age.”
“[Jeff] Jarvis said social media networks such as Facebook have made personal letters irrelevant to younger generations. He added that businesses will continue to adopt digital communications methods, such as email or a future platform that has yet to be invented, because they are easier to use and less expensive than the mail.”
“What is the competitive advantage of the USPS? Larry Weber, speaking on social media asked that question and the question was reprised by many of the speakers throughout the day. Companies have various types of competitive advantage: inspired employees, perhaps. Some organizations are flatter and thus quicker to market than others. Some are extraordinarily innovative, others create more products and services, others lower cost structures, and others have delighted customers. Interestingly, Mr. Weber, as we have noted, discovered the USPS change of address system as a possible source of competitive advantage. Why not build a social product around the change of address service that enables people to interact about schools, shops, and life in a new neighborhood in general.”
“The US Postal Service is moving into the digital age, but in its current financial and political situation it can only achieve the move through incremental change, it said on Wednesday.”
“I am convinced that until the 24th century, we are going to need the Postal Service to provide delivery services,” Cerf said. “But since you are walking past every single mailbox every day, except Saturday – is there anything else you can do with that feature?”
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