PostalVision 2020: “USPS, Re-invent Thyself”

Matt Swain
May 23, 2011

In response to advances in technology and changes in customer behavior, a common theme across industries today is “re-invent thyself.” This is particularly important for high-volume mailers and the global posts that serve them.

As we watch major players in the print & mail market evolving to embrace digital distribution strategies, we also see postal organizations around the globe (i.e., Australia, Finland, Italy, and Norway) creating competitive digital solutions. A post where we have seen little digital innovation to-date is the U.S. Postal Service.

It is an interesting entity, as it runs as an independent agency of the United States government and is obligated to serve all Americans, regardless of geography, at uniform price and quality. It does not receive taxpayer dollars, yet is not privatized. It is chastised for high overhead, but is often handcuffed by Congressional oversight when it attempts to change. For instance, the USPS has a mandated prefunding schedule for its retiree health benefits program of $5.5 billion to $5.8 billion per year through 2016–a schedule that is substantially higher than any other government agency or private-sector business.

The recent appointment of Ronald A. Stroman to Deputy Postmaster General shows a commitment to begin to influence change. Louis J. Giuliano, Chairman of the Postal Service Board of Governors, stated “[h]is depth of understanding of the legislative process as well as his demonstrated ability to work with members on both sides of the aisle makes him an important addition to the USPS team as we work through the many issues facing us today.”

On June 15th, Stroman will participate in an InfoTrends-sponsored event entitled PostalVision 2020. The conference is designed to address the relevance of the current USPS model in a digital age, and provide actionable direction for how it can evolve to a sustainable business model. 

Jeff Jarvis, author of What Would Google Do?, will be kicking off the morning with a discussion of trends along the theme of “if it can be digital, it will be digital.” I read Jarvis’ book, and found several relevant thoughts to share:

  • “It’s better for you to disrupt and cannibalize yourself than for a competitor to do it to you.”
  • “Create and manage abundance rather than control scarcity…”
  • “Paper may not disappear. But if newspapers do not at least plan for the eventuality—if not inevitability—of the transition, they will be left protecting nothing but their presses.”
  • “Protection is not a strategy for the future.”

Larry Weber, author of his most recent book Everywhere: Comprehensive Digital Business Strategy for the Social Media Era and Founder and Chairman of the W2 Group will go next, emphasizing the disruption that is affecting the traditional mail channel.

My role will be to provide a historical and forward-looking perspective on the USPS, as well as to highlight companies that are evolving to address the digital migration. I will follow the presentation with a panel discussion that includes:

  • Jay Adams, President and CEO, MakesBridge Technology
  • Patrick Bartlett, Senior Consultant, Ursa Major Associates
  • George Kliavkoff, CEO, Manilla
  • Dr. Ramesh Ratan, President, Pitney Bowes Document Messaging Technologies
  • Jennifer Tomlinson, Senior Consultant, Innovapost

The afternoon keynote will be delivered by industry luminary Vint Cerf, Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist at Google. Immediately following his keynote, the discussion will shift gears to address the role of government in the postal service and communications, with:

  • Jim Campbell, Legal Consultant on Postal Regulatory Issues
  • Erik Garr, Partner, Diamond Management and Technology Consultants (and former General Manager of the National Broadband Plan at the Federal Communications Commission)
  • Jeremy Grant, Senior Executive Advisor for Identity Management, National Institute for Standards and Technology
  • David Williams, Inspector General, U.S. Postal Service

The day will close with a panel of speakers who have the power to influence the path to re-invention:

  • Gene DelPolito, President, PostCom
  • Ruth Goldway, Chairman, U.S. Postal Regulatory Commission
  • Ronald Stroman, Deputy Postmaster General, U.S. Postal Service
  • David Williams, Inspector General, U.S. Postal Service

John Callan, Managing Director of Ursa Major Associates and the creative force behind PostalVision 2020, has done a great job of pulling together the right people to initiate the dialogue. As strategic advisors to this event, InfoTrends invites you to come join the conversation!

Find the complete list of speakers’ biographies here.

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