Informed Visibility versus USPS Fiscal Year
Informed Visibility® and the expanded capabilities of this new system is one of the more eagerly anticipated programs by the mailing industry. Near real-time data feeds, being able to receive data more frequently, container scan events, and logical scan events are all new capabilities that the mailing industry is looking forward to playing with. Not only does it improve on the capabilities of being able to track the mail, it also creates new opportunities to tie the physical mail piece with the digital world and further enhance the value of mail. Once implemented, the new logical scan event for “the carrier has driven past the mailbox” will create the opportunity to perform another touch. For example, sending an email to check your mailbox when you get home for a special offer.
Informed Visibility was supposed to be generally available months ago, but pilot testing has identified a number of data issues that the Postal Service® is still working to fix. As of mid-July, Informed Visibility is still stuck in pilot testing with no officially scheduled date for general availability. Having to wait for new technology to become available is not uncommon in any industry, but there is an added twist. The Postal Service has stated that they plan to shut down the current tracking system at the end of their fiscal year. That is September 30, 2017.
The mailing industry has been using MTAC User Group #4 as the forum to express their concerns around the very limited transition window that continues to shrink. From one perspective the Postal Service has taken some steps for a smooth transition. For example, allowing people that are receiving the data from the current system to keep receiving the data in the exact same format, with the same scan events in the new system. In theory, it could be as simple as changing the location of where the data is being pulled.
The challenge that does not have an easy answer is data delegation. In the current system there are a number of ways the data can be configured to flow to various parties that all play a part in the mailing process. All that data delegation setup needs to be recreated in the new Informed Visibility system. In situations where a single mail owner is using several Mail Service Providers or a single Mail Service Provider has numerous Mail Owners, the process of re-creating “what data needs to flow where” can be complex and time consuming to figure out. Much of that data configuration was probably done years ago, and possibly the person that knew how to do it, may no longer be with the company.
How this is going to ultimately play out is unknown, but as the mailing industry starts to gear up for the busy Fall mailing season, having to deal with a very tight transition window for their tracking data is not going to be a welcome addition. The prudent approach would be to extend support for the current tracking system into the 2018 Fiscal Year. There has been a little discussion around what would be an acceptable transition timeframe. No decision has been made on that, but 6 months after general availability would seem like a reasonable approach. Quadient will continue to monitor the situation as it develops.