Thursday, June 9, 2011

Is there a Future for the Postal Service in the Digital Age?

The future of the Postal Service is no longer a question for just postal stakeholders.   The default on Postal Service obligations to the Federal Government this fall will create above the fold headlines in national newspapers when it comes shortly after the Federal Government faced either actual or potential default to its obligations due to the inability of Congress to raise the debt ceiling.  

These headlines have already begun in numerous publications that are widely read by the Washington Political elite.  Here are just a few of the headlines that have appeared in the past week.

Business Week:  The U.S. Postal Service Nears Collapse 
Catholic Online: Insolvency looms for United States Postal Service
Daily Caller: Postal reform requires presidential leadership
The Washington Post: USPS reform may be on the way, but is it too late?

All of these headlines indicate that the Postal Service is on a fast track racing toward a ravine where the bridge needs repair or replacement to ensure safe passage across.   Recent statements from the Postal Service's CFO Joe Corbett that mail delivery could stop in the summer of 2012 when the Postal Service runs out of cash, suggests that signals on the bridge indicate that unless something is done it will collapse soon.

The problems facing the Postal Service that could send it over the cliff reflect a combination of legislative, regulatory, management, and market factors. Even if the bridge is fixed, it is clear that the world on the other side will be quite different as in that world, digital communications will replace millions if not billions of print communicaions that the Postal Service now delivers.

The concerns of those whose livelihood depends on print communications for both getting over the revine and surviving the journey beyond are obvious.   But as Politico noted in an article yesterday, the champions of digital communications care as well and will be joining leaders in shaping postal policy in the United States and Europe at Postal Vision 2020 on June 15th to discuss the future of the Postal Service in the digital age.

Politico accurately described Postal Vision 2020 as a brainstorming process focusing on the question:
"How can an anachronistic, paper-based service remake itself in a digital world?"   

Beyond this initial question Postal Vision 2020 will raise additional questions:
  • What new technologies will challenge current preferences among digital, mobile, and print communications?
  • What roadblocks, including communications security, customer acceptance, and technical compatibility, could affect these preferences and the speed that senders choose digital or mobile options?
  • What are the inherently governmental functions in the delivery of print, digital, and mobile communications and parcel delivery?
  • Are there characteristics of the print delivery services offered by the Postal Service that would affect the switch to digital communications if digital communications options had similar characteristics?
  • What challenges exist in the transition toward digital communications in all demographic, and geographic segments of the United States?
  • In a world that finds any communications that can be digital being sent in a digital form, what will the role for print communications be and how will private sector firms in the print communications business make the transition?
  • What role should current governmental institutions, including the Postal Service play in a digital transition?
  • Can the Postal Service make the transition as a government institution under the current business model or one that is similar in a manner that ensures its self sufficiency?
  • Does the Postal Service require private sector investors, and even possibly privatization as suggested by the Washington Post and Daily Caller pieces in order to make the transition?
These and other questions are critical to Congress, postal stakeholders, and digital communicators.  It is why Postal Vision 2020, which will occur on June 15, 2011 at the Cristal Gateway Marriott in Arlington, VA only has a limited number of seats still available.   If you have thought about going, you need to send your registration forms in quickly.   The following are links to the registration forms that can be e-mailed or faxed in.

PDF Registration Form

Microsoft Word Registration Form

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