Informed Visibility: Coming out of the oven too soon?
The new U.S. Postal Service® Informed Visibility™ platform has been a long time coming and something that the mailing industry has been eagerly awaiting. New capabilities such as near real-time data, additional logical scan events, bundle and container scans are just a few of the features that will provide additional insight into your mailings as they flow through the Postal Service.
At one point, Informed Visibility was scheduled to be available early in 2017. This would provide the mailing industry plenty of time over the summer to transition from the current legacy system (that the Postal Service announced would be discontinued on September 30, 2017) to the new platform before the busy fall mailing season gets underway.
As the project progressed, several mailers volunteered to work with the Postal Service as pilot testers of the new system. The pilot test was originally scheduled to take only a few weeks. However, reported problems and issues with the system greatly extended the pilot period. A second wave of pilot testers were also added (42 in total) to help with the necessary testing and validation.
As we reached the end of July, the pilot testing was still a work-in-progress and there were significant concerns being expressed from the mailing industry around the quickly shrinking window to transition from the legacy system (still set to be discontinued on September 30th) over to Informed Visibility. At that point in time, the pilot testers were still seeing issues related to missing, inaccurate and/or delayed data. Knowing Informed Visibility wasn’t yet ready for prime time, the mailing industry was asking postal leadership to delay the discontinuation date for the legacy system.
On August 11, the mailing industry was surprised to see an announcement from the Postal Service that apparently the pilot testing was done and that Informed Visibility was being made available to all mailers. As of mid-August, data issues still exist with Informed Visibility and data validation between the legacy system and Informed Delivery has yet to be successfully completed. Yet the Postal Service stated that they “have determined that now is an opportune time to expand access to all Letter and Flat mailers”.
It is important to note that this determination did not come from User Group 4 (a MTAC sponsored group that is focused on Informed Visibility), and it did not come from the Informed Visibility steering committee that was created by the Postal Service. User Group 4 has also requested numerous times for the Postal Service to publish an issues list for Informed Visibility, similar to the PostalOne! issues list that is regularly reviewed with the mailing industry. As of mid-August, we are still waiting for that to be shared.
Without this list, only the pilot testers are aware of what the known issues are, and even they only know the ones that they individually reported. So any mailer that makes the decision to move to the new Informed Visibility platform will have little visibility into possible problems. Every organization will need to carefully “kick the tires” before making the decision to move your current production systems from the legacy system to Informed Visibility.
Since the August 11 announcement, the Postal Service has also announced that the discontinuation of the legacy system is being extended by 60 days from September 30 to November 30. There are still some on the industry side with concerns that the 60-day extension still does not provide sufficient time to stabilize the system and complete the migration in the middle of the busy mailing season. Those involved with the pilot testing would like to see several weeks of stable data before switching production systems to the new platform.
Based on the August 11 announcement, now is the time to start working with the new Informed Visibility platform, but it would be wise to proceed with caution and be sure to thoroughly test the new system before using it to drive your production systems.