USPS-certified software has been a foundation of trust for many mailers and Business Mail Entry Units for decades. Consider CASS, the Coding Accuracy Support System, which forms the basis for ZIP+4 assignments and overall address quality. In fact, CASS-certified software is required in order to obtain automation sortation rates. Per the Domestic Mail Manual (DMM) section 708, "Any mailing claimed at an automation price must be produced from address lists properly matched and coded with CASS-certified address matching methods listed below." It goes on to note that the methods include a whole host of other software components such as DPV, LACSLink, and others.

Another software certification specifically called out in the DMM is PAVE, the Presort Accuracy Validation and Evaluation system. While the use of CASS-certified software is a specific DMM requirement for all automation mailings, use of PAVE software is only required for certain types of mail preparation. However, while use of PAVE-certified software is voluntary for other mail preparation routines, PAVE does provide national approval of computer generated facsimiles of United States Postal Service postage statements, standardized documentation, and other presort documentation. Thus, PAVE does form the basis for expedited and trusted mail acceptance.

Beginning in January 2014, the USPS will require Full Service Intelligent Mail barcodes on all automation priced mailpieces, trays and containers where applicable, and mailers must submit mailing documentation electronically. So, where does this leave PAVE certified software? If PAVE is considered the trusted certification program for presorting mailpieces and generating standardized documentation, shouldn't PAVE be enhanced to support Full Service IMb requirements?

In 2011, the USPS began working on a program called TEM - the Test Environment for Mailers. TEM was initially designed to certify that the mail preparer could electronically submit data (typically as Mail.dat or Mail.XML) to PostalOne! to satisfy the electronic documentation requirement for Full Service IMb mailings. Many mailers considered TEM to be very complex and it was not uncommon for completion of TEM certification to take weeks or months. Thus, in 2012, the USPS and the software vendor community (primarily the Mailing Software Development Group) worked to streamline the process by introducing a TEM certification program for software products. This simplified TEM process, which was rolled out in January 2013, resulted in mailers achieving TEM certification in less than one day. And while this is indeed great progress for onboarding Full Service IMb mailers, it once again begs the question: Where does this leave PAVE certified software?

It would seem that TEM is undermining what PAVE was originally intended to do - certify in advance that the documentation generated by industry-provided software meets an established USPS threshold. Regardless of whether the ultimate documentation is hardcopy or electronic, it would still seem that PAVE would be the correct vehicle for certifying software rather than adding yet another certification process for both the vendors and the software users.

One of the reasons the USPS created TEM was to verify that unique serial numbers were created for each piece in the mailing. Through TEM, the USPS is able to check the Piece Detail Record (PDR) of the Mail.dat output from the PAVE-certified software to determine if indeed unique serial numbers are populated. However, this same concept could certainly apply to an enhanced PAVE process.

As part of the electronic PAVE certification, a data file (known as the Universal File Format) is created containing the presorted addresses sequenced according to DMM requirements. Software vendors could simply append the IMb information to each record to clearly show that unique serial numbers are being applied. Or better yet, we could just send a Mail.dat file set to PAVE for verification instead of the proprietary UFF we are sending now. Since all of the comprehensive presort testing is already in PAVE, it would seem to make sense to drop TEM altogether and rely again on PAVE as the certification gold standard.

TEM, which will soon be expanded to include certification of mailers using the Postage Statement Wizard, has helped onboard mailers to using Full Service Intelligent Mail barcodes. However, with the requirement going into effect in January 2014, perhaps the T' in TEM should stand for temporary and we can go back to relying on PAVE as the single presort software certification program.