• on Jan 14th, 2013 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 6 comments

    Even with smartphones, high-speed Internet, and other modern technologies, Americans spend an inordinate amount of time running errands. Interacting and conducting business with our government is no exception. It can be time-consuming. Wouldn’t it be great to use the local Post Office as a one-stop center for doing business with government? Or, what if the U.S. Postal Service had a digital platform to access government services or information online? Last week, the OIG released a white paper called "e-Government and the Postal Service — A Conduit to Help Government Meet Citizens’ Needs.” The paper identifies opportunities for the Postal Service to partner with other agencies to better connect with citizens, improve services, cut costs, and reduce duplicative and wasteful services. By providing e-government services, the Postal Service could help the government save money. There has never been a better time to do more with less. Through the Postal Service, individuals could send secure messages to government agencies, convert physical documents to digital records and send them instantly, apply and pay for permits and licenses, and access other crucial services. The Postal Service could also verify a person’s identity for sensitive or complex transactions. In addition, the Postal Service could lease unused Post Office window space to other agencies, so citizens could have a convenient access point for face-to-face services across the government. Business owners could use the Postal Service to look up information on regulations and laws affecting them, learn about federal small business loan opportunities, file information with the IRS and other relevant agencies, and submit all necessary forms and documentation through the Postal Service’s secure messaging and identity authentication services. Or, these things could be done in one visit to the Post Office, rather than separate stops to numerous agencies. Do you think the Postal Service could serve as a one-stop shop for government services?

  • on Oct 15th, 2012 in Finances: Cost & Revenue | 1 comment
    The U.S. Postal Service spent $12.3 billion on supplies and services in FY 2011, which made up about 17 percent of its total operating expenses. Suppliers to the Postal Service range from large integrators, such as FedEx and UPS, to individuals responsible for cleaning offices and transporting mail between postal locations. With thousands of suppliers, the Postal Service needs a procurement process that is agile, yet transparent and secure. When the Postal Reorganization Act created a self-supporting Postal Service, it exempted it from many federal purchasing laws, including the Federal Acquisition Regulation, which most other federal agencies must follow. Since then, the Postal Service’s purchasing policies have gone through many changes and iterations in an effort to follow the procurement developments of the private sector, streamline its acquisition process, and reduce purchasing costs. In 2005, the Postal Service implemented the Supplying Principles and Practices, which are not legally binding and allow it to make purchasing decisions based on best value rather than rigid factors. Postal contracting officials have much greater discretion than their counterparts at other federal agencies. The streamlined process was designed to create a more efficient businesslike approach, but it has also opened the door for potential problems, especially in the area of non-competitive contract awards. A 2010 audit by the Office of Inspector General on the Postal Service’s noncompetitive contracts said the Postal Service needed to put in additional controls to make sure its interests are protected. Among the suggestions were to strengthen oversight of noncompetitive contracting, maximize competition, and avoid any potential conflicts of interest. The streamlining of purchasing procedures also created a new process for resolving supplier disagreements. Previously, suppliers filed disagreements with the Postal Service’s general counsel and decisions could be appealed to a federal court. Under the new process, suppliers file disagreements with a Postal Service manager, designated as the supplier disagreement resolution official, whose decisions are final and cannot be appealed by the supplier. Do you think streamlining of the purchasing procedures has positively or negatively affected the Postal Service? What is working particularly well in the current procurement process? What could be improved? Should the Postal Service follow procurement developments of the private sector, or should it be required to follow more federal procurement rules? Share your thoughts below.
  • on Sep 3rd, 2012 in Products & Services | 9 comments
    As the U.S. Postal Service remakes itself into a leaner organization in the face of a communications revolution, it still remains a powerful medium and an important part of the nation’s infrastructure. A smaller Postal Service will still be huge, with more than $60 billion in projected revenue. It will not disappear tomorrow. A lingering concern remains, however, that the Postal Service is becoming less relevant to younger Americans. A recent public opinion poll by The New York Times and CBS supports this conclusion. According to the poll, only 30 percent of people under 45 say they use the mail “all the time.” While daily reliance on the Postal Service is still high for older generations, these poll results raise questions about the organization’s long-term future if physical mail does not play a role in the lives of younger Americans. A Pew Research study shows these younger generations turn to the Internet and smart devices for their news, entertainment, and to connect with friends and family. The Postal Service and traditional hard-copy communication vehicles will find it hard to win customers that have grown up as digital natives. Still, other polls suggest that hard copy and direct mail remain an important part of the media mix, even for those under the age 35. A 2011 survey by Pitney Bowes indicated that marketers under the age of 35 are more likely to use direct mail in their marketing mix than their older counterparts. Package delivery also remains an opportunity for the Postal Service as younger Americans are more likely than older generations to shop online. What do you think is the best way for the Postal Service to serve a younger demographic? Should it attempt to promote its traditional products to younger Americans and tout the benefits of hard copy as a complement or supplement to digital? Should the Postal Service instead focus on expanding its digital offerings? Is there another strategy?

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