Firework displays, parties and champagne usually help us usher in the new year. As we continue to make our way through 2015, it will be no different. But the fireworks and parties will be centered on new chairmen and retirements; on an era of new postal leadership and saying good-bye to old friends.

Change is not always slow, and it is not always bad. New leadership could bring a fresh perspective that could revive a mature industry through meaningful reform. Active listening, positive engagement of all interested parties, and partnership are foundations to building a secure postal infrastructure that meets the nation's needs, while continuing to grow business communication and commerce through the mail.

The challenges the postal industry faces in 2015 are no less significant than those of 2014, but with new leadership in place at the Postal Service, the Postal Regulatory Commission, and Senate and House committees, the industry has the opportunity to do something it did not do in 2014 - CHANGE.
Regardless of whether change is openly accepted or thrust upon us, it still happens. The ability to manage our reactions to this inevitability is what sets us apart from others. So let us celebrate the accomplishments of those that are leaving us this year:

Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe of the U.S. Postal Service
Chairman Darrell Issa of the House Oversight Committee
Chairman Thomas Carper of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs
Chairman Ruth Goldway of the Postal Regulatory Commission

. . . and roll out the red carpet to welcome these new leaders:
Postmaster General Megan Brennan of the U.S. Postal Service
Acting Chairman Robert Taub at the Postal Regulatory Commission
Chairman Jason Chaffetz of the House Oversight Committee
Chairman Ron Johnson of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs
Confirmation of Commissioner Nanci Langley and Commissioner Tony Hammond to the Postal Regulatory Commission

Although some new faces grace postal leadership, many have been within industry circles for quite some time. Acting Chairman Taub has been with the Commission since October 2011, while Vice Chairman Hammond served on the Commission from 2002-2011 and again from 2012-2013. Commissioner Langley has been elected to her second term this past December 2014.

Both House and Senate committee chairmen Jason Chaffetz and Ron Johnson have served on their respective committees during the last Congress. A benefit to having individuals that have been involved previously with postal issues is that the learning curve will not be as steep as for someone who is brand new to the postal arena. The complex issues and challenges facing the nation's postal system are not for the light-hearted; it involves a complicated web of policy issues couple with basic business needs. These needs can no longer go unnoticed due to the large financial losses the Postal Service continues to experience, and will continue to do so in the future.

As the debate over postal reform takes place in Congress, there are discussions that need to occur at the Postal Regulatory Commission that could have lasting impacts on the Postal Service's products and services. A reoccurring exchange between the Commission, the Postal Service, and the mailing industry is the need to examine the systems that underpin today's postal costing. It has long been argued that the Postal Service needs to revamp its costing systems to better reflect the realities of usage and access by business mailers. With the introduction of the Intelligent Mail barcode, the Postal Service tracks every mail product throughout its network providing unsurpassed visibility into postal operations. Now the Postal Service has the business intelligence and analytical tools to leverage costing information that can lead to a change in how costs are tracked, measured, and reported.

With increased mail visibility, the USPS can optimize its operational information to accurately measure automated mail flows and begin to replace manual sampling with real-time information. These improvements will supply the Postal Service with near real-time handling data for letters, flats, handling units, and containers, as well as information regarding air and surface transportation. The system will capture and build the nesting associations necessary to maintain end-to-end operational visibility, while processing these data immediately upon receipt will provide mail users and postal managers with real-time mail tracking information.

In 2015, the entire industry needs to continue to explore ways to take advantage of this newfound mail visibility and expand its potential uses into re-examining postal costing. There also needs to be an examination of the communication between the Postal Service and the industry. It is imperative that multiple communication channels be established to convey new information, as well as updates to postal strategy. Although the Postal Service has several communication vehicles in place today, the emphasis to use them are not as strong as they once were. With the announcement that Corporate Communication will report directly to the new Postmaster General, the industry is hopeful that this means more direct messages and information will be forthcoming.

Although some would like to paint the Postal Service and its future in dire straits, it simply is not true. The postal infrastructure and the nation's need for it may be changing, but the demand for consistent, reliable, and predictable delivery of mail, and more recently packages has not. All stakeholders need to realize that the Postal Service and what it offers will continue to be needed well into the future. How we solve the issues of today will greatly affect the services of tomorrow.
Before the industry looks to Congress, or the Postal Regulatory Commission, or the Postal Service, we must first be able to define what we NEED, not what we WANT from a postal network. Outside of the reliable delivery of mail and affordable prices, what else does your company NEED? Is it transparent costing?
Unchanged service standards? Six-day delivery? As you answer these questions and ask some of your own, keep in mind that everything comes at a cost. But are you willing to pay the price your NEEDS will cost? Defining these NEEDS will be the ultimate challenge for 2015.

Jessica Lowrance, CAE, is Executive Vice President, Association for Postal Commerce.