Will Full Service Intelligent Mail join this list?

--The Big Dig - Boston MA - Began 1982, completed 2007; Budget $2.8 Billion; final $22 Billion
--Channel Tunnel - First plan 1802, started 1988, completed 1994, 80% over budget
--Sydney Opera House - $7 million estimated cost, 10 years late, 14 times over budget
--Concorde - Last flight for the 20 units in 2003 with development costs six times projected budget
--F-22 Raptor - No budget allotment in 2010
--NPOESS (National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System) - cancelled February 2010

All of these projects were complex, over budget, late - and several were finally cancelled. During the development and construction, benefits were quite difficult to envision and justify amidst the chaos.

Is the Full Service Intelligent Mail project out of control with risks far greater than suggested benefits?

You might be thinking that Full Service is not a construction effort for a tangible item. Okay, that's fair. Consider Information Technology projects and four related surveys that identified reasons for failure and see if anything you've experienced while implementing Full Service IMb rings a bell:

Bull Survey (1998)
Missed deadlines 75%
Exceeded Budget 55%
Poor Communications 40%
Inability to meet project requirements 37%

KPMG Canada Survey (1997)
Poor project planning
Weak business case
Lack of top management involvement and support
Schedule overruns
60% of failed projects planned to take less than one year to complete

Chaos Report (1995)
Cost Overruns, Time overruns, Content Deficiencies: Lack of resources, unrealistic expectations

OASIG Study (1995)
Lack of attention to human and organizational aspects of IT
Poor project management
Poor articulation of user requirements: failure to involve users appropriately

But those studies were in the late 90s - a decade ago. Okay then, according to a May 2008 article in Developer World, frequently changing requirements and too many people having a say in the matter are two reasons why information technology projects are over budget and late.

Here's the reality check. With the recent announcement of a November 2010 "Phase IV planned postage assessments" for some IMb Full-Service requirements, as well as non-compliance with time frames to use the "free" address correction data, this program is full of risks and no rewards from the industry perspective.

Full Service has cost my company a large amount of money to implement, created many problems in processing jobs, added vast amounts of time and increased our exposure for additional unseen risks. The skill set required to work with the postage payment process is at an IT level - not clerical - which means more money and staffing changes.

Mail is not perfect. There are many last-minute changes that clients have to make that cause compliance with Full Service to be nearly impossible and still make the requested in-home date. Software vendors have to develop and release many software updates that they can not always keep up and release before properly tested - much less allow me time to test.

While the USPS announced the November compliance or loss of postage discount, I have not read anything from the USPS that balances its errors. Where's my payback for the time drivers sit at the USPS because USPS personnel don't know what forms they're supposed to be looking for? What about any reimbursement for when the USPS does not close our destination entry appointments that make me look like a "no show"? And just where's the payback for having to prepare paper postage statements AND input postage payment electronically when there are PostalOne issues?

What ever happened to the basic business concept, "Make it easy for your customer to give you money?"

Full Service Intelligent Mail - the USPS' version of The Big Dig.

Wanda Senne is the National Director of Postal Development for World Marketing. Contact her at wsenne@worldmarkinc.com or 770-431-2591.