Aug. 21 2013 04:36 PM

Initially geared for the small business owner and those working out of their home, the next generation of online postage solutions supports the needs of larger companies - especially enterprises with branch offices or a distributed workforce.

Enterprises face increased pressure to drive down operating costs across the board. Mailing and shipping expenses can add up quickly when businesses operate out of multiple locations. Mail center expenses are receiving closer scrutiny by CFOs; however, mail managers are discovering they lack clear, consolidated visibility into mail expenses outside of the main headquarters office and even less ability to actively control and manage the spend. This can be especially true in industries with local offices or home-based employees, such as financial services, insurance, and retail. With this lack of standardization and control, waste is common.

Expensive make do' processes cost enterprises time and money

Without the proper oversight or automation tools, organizations have adopted processes that lead to higher costs and delays when it comes to sending mail and packages.

· High Retail USPS Expenses. Branch offices fall back on old-school practices, such as daily trips to the closest USPS location to purchase stamps and shipping labels - at full retail price. This wastes time of staff and leads to larger postage expenditures and over-stamping.

· Wasteful Transport Expenses. In some organizations, branch employees will actually courier all outgoing mail and parcels to the home office each day for processing. While this takes advantage of economies of scale and automation, the savings aren't realized due to the expense of this unnecessary step.

· Improper Service Options. When they run out of stamps, it is not unusual for office managers to simply choose an overnight service - which ensures that "mail goes out" but at a cost that far exceeds the needs.

· Approximation of Postage Expense. Ad hoc processes used by branch and home offices for petty cash and postage reconciliation don't lend themselves to accurate reporting. Finance and accounting departments have difficultly clearly understanding the postage expense and even when they do, have little ability to actively set limits on the spend. Manual reports and no controls, cannot provide meaningful insights into postage expenditures.

· Stand-alone Solutions. Some branch offices use one-off tools, including online postage, to manage mail and shipping at their specific location - but these solutions are not tied into enterprise reporting systems, so CFOs, Finance and Procurement remain out of touch.

Ten years ago, online postage was introduced as a small business solution to make it convenient to manage low volume mailing and shipping needs. Now, online postage has grown up, addressing and can address the full range of enterprise mailing and shipping, reporting, and postage spend control needs.

The Next Generation of Online Postage Solutions

Today's more advanced online postage solutions offer the best of both worlds for enterprises: they give enterprise users the ability to control postage spend in multiple offices from one, central location while allowing branch offices to avoid time-consuming workarounds and visits to the post office.

With new web-based postage resources, branch offices and corporate HQ can each get the right tool for their portfolio of mailing and shipping needs. Whether sending high priority documents or shipping small packages, the new online postage solutions can do it all. CFOs appreciate the new-found visibility into mail and shipping costs across multiple locations and their ability to control this expense. Branch offices and remote workers can adopt easy-to-use web-based tools that solve their mailing and shipping needs without any hassle and added effort to send in postage expense invoices to HQ.

Best-in-class online postage programs should provide enterprise reporting the way an enterprise would like to see it. Enterprises have different reporting needs and output requirements so sophisticated reporting tools need to be flexible and easy to access and use.

Since online postage is web-based and relies on the existing hardware (printers) within an enterprise or branch office, there is no additional capital investment. Once an enterprise makes the decision to implement online postage, new processes and outcomes can be in place within days, not weeks. Online postage can be accessed from any Internet-connected computer; the only hardware requirement is a printer. Users simply log in to their account, connect to their printer, and begin. Most programs include step-by-step online help as well as access to a help desk for any necessary troubleshooting.

Enterprises can continue to take advantage of savings and volume discounts on shipping, Express Mail, and Priority Mail services they currently enjoy.

The most effective organizations will employ the "right-sized" solution for each mailing and shipping need. This may range from production mail systems to mailroom postage meters, to online postage solutions built for a laptop. Easy to implement solutions are now available. Enterprises win big when they can manage and administer mail and shipping expenses across every environment.

Maia Benson is Digital Products Lead, Pitney Bowes.