The new U.S. Postal Service Informed Visibility platform has been a long time coming and is something that the mailing industry has been eagerly awaiting. New capabilities, such as near real-time data, additional logical scan events, bundle, and container scans are just a few of the features that will provide additional insight into your mailings as they flow through the Postal Service.
Informed Visibility was initially scheduled to be available in early 2017. This would have provided the mailing industry plenty of time over the summer to transition from the current legacy system (that the Postal Service announced would be discontinued on September 30, 2017) to the new platform before the busy fall mailing season got underway.
As the project progressed, several mailers volunteered to work with the Postal Service as pilot testers of the new system. The pilot test was scheduled to take only a few weeks. However, the pilot period was greatly extended due to reported problems with the system. A second wave of pilot testers was added (42 in total) to help with the necessary testing and validation.
As the end of July approached, the pilot testing was still a work-in-progress, and there were significant concerns being expressed around the rapidly shrinking window to transition from the legacy system (still set to be discontinued on September 30) over to Informed Visibility. The the pilot testers continued to see issues related to missing, inaccurate, and/or delayed data. Knowing Informed Visibility wasn’t yet ready, the mailing industry asked postal leadership to delay the discontinuation of the legacy system.
On August 11, the mailing industry received a surprising announcement from the Postal Service stating that the pilot testing was done, and Informed Visibility was going to be available to all mailers. As of mid-August, data issues still existed with Informed Visibility, and data validation between the legacy system and Informed Delivery has yet to be successfully completed. Yet, the Postal Service stated that they “have determined that now is an opportune time to expand access to all Letter and Flat mailers.”
It is important to note that this determination did not come from User Group 4 (a MTAC sponsored group that is focused on Informed Visibility), and it did not come from the Informed Visibility steering committee that was created by the Postal Service. User Group 4 has also requested numerous times for the Postal Service to publish an issues list for Informed Visibility, like the PostalOne! issues list that is regularly reviewed with the mailing industry. As of mid-August, we were still waiting for that to be shared.
Without this list, only the pilot testers are aware of what the known issues are, and even they only know the ones that they individually reported. This means that any mailer that makes the decision to move to the new Informed Visibility platform will have little visibility into possible problems. Every organization will need to carefully “kick the tires” before making the decision to move their current production systems from the legacy system to Informed Visibility.
Since the August 11 announcement, the Postal Service has also announced that the discontinuation of the legacy system will be extended by 60 days from September 30 to November 30. There are some concerns on the industry side that the 60-day extension will still not provide sufficient time to stabilize the system and complete the migration in the middle of the busy mailing season. Those involved with the pilot testing would like to see several weeks of stable data before switching production systems to the new platform.
According to the August 11 announcement, now is the time to start working with the new Informed Visibility platform, but it would be wise to proceed with caution, and be sure to thoroughly test the new system before using it to drive your production systems.
Bob Schimek is Senior Director of Postal Affairs, Satori Software and a frequent contributor to industry publications.