Intelligent Mail barcodes, Five-day delivery, Move Update compliance: it seems the issues associated with direct mail are evolving daily, and not every direct mailer is aware of the impact these changes will have on its day-to-day business.

How will direct mail businesses and organizations survive? A simple answer is by effectively integrating technology into the business. This can be a daunting task for many businesses and organizations. The easy solution is to rely on experts in the field to provide the latest updates and most cost-effective solutions. For example, SAP has built a business on providing its direct mailer customers with up to date information. Industry experts on the SAP team monitor the US Postal Service, engage in the Postmaster General's Mailers Technical Advisory Committee and support such associations as IDEAlliance and the Association for Postal Commerce (PostCom).

What does this type of proactive partnering mean for customers? Joseph Carty, Postal Industry Solutions Manager for SAP, summarizes his company's commitment to its SAP BusinessObjects Postalsoft customers, "We participate in these organizations and maintain involvement in MTAC to strengthen our commercial mail offerings and ensure our customers and partners have the most powerful and reliable software available to reach deliverability, productivity and cost savings goals."

Clean and organized data makes economic sense
In today's economy where businesses and organizations are faced with doing more with less, investing in technology to improve efficiency and save costs is critical to survival. The right software saves substantial marketing, printing and postage dollars by improving data quality and meeting the latest postal standards.

"Clean" data is a fundamental prerequisite for economical and efficient implementation of any business-to-customer strategy. CASS-Certified address standardization is only the beginning of the process. Printing names and addresses in correct order with proper documentation is taken for granted. Software is now expected to import and export data easily, to assign genders and greetings, to detect duplicate entries and eliminate them, to process suppression lists, and to do more. The capability to print the Intelligent Mail barcode exists today and SAP's customers should find an easy transition throughout 2010 so they are prepared for the May 2011 USPS deadline. Without a comprehensive mailing software package, postage prices for businesses would skyrocket.

Keeping up with postal industry changes
SAP's Joseph Carty is actively involved with postal industry committees and associations so he can keep his thumb on the pulse of the industry. He was recently elected to the Board of Directors of PostCom and will be serving on the Policy and Legislative Committee to help shape proposed postal rules, regulations and penalties. He is also participating on the Postal Operations Committee to work through proposed operational changes and evaluate their potential impact on the industry. The USPS recently filed a request to the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) to streamline activities and deliver mail only five days each week, basing its decision partially on its proclamation that it will lose $238 billion dollars over the next ten years. PRC Chairman Ruth Goldway spoke in early May to a group that included SAP participation and called the figure "unsubstantiated." She also indicated that the USPS is expected to file an exigent rate case requesting postal price increases for January 2011. With direct access to this type of "business intelligence," companies like SAP can act immediately to help customers cope with changes that will affect their business.

Carty is also part of the Mailing Software Development Group (MSDG) of IDEAlliance and will provide representation for the Mailing Software Developer community and their end-users. This group is challenged with minimizing the difficulties presented to the mailing industry when implementing changes to DMM Mailing Standards, IDEAlliance specifications, and related areas. Carty's "behind the scenes" efforts ensure that SAP customers will be able to make more effective marketing decisions and to improve the speed and efficiency of their mail operations.

It's no secret that postal volumes in First-Class Mail are falling. But this can be a plus for bulk mailers since there are fewer mail pieces competing for attention in the mailbox. Now is the time to reach customers, donors, and clients. It is also the time to take advantage of work sharing and volume discounts by using technology. Make sure the company you choose to provide the technology is taking the time to understand the unique challenges of our industry.

Ellenor Kirkconnell is a nationally-known consultant on postal issues. She is a frequent speaker at postal conferences and events and the author of several industry articles. Contact her at