REDMOND, Wash., May 7, 2001 — Microsoft bCentral — the leading provider of small business services on the Web – and the United States Postal Service (USPS) today announced that they are joining forces to make everyday business processes more efficient and accessible for small businesses. In the future, certain USPS online services, such as NetPost Mailing Online, will be integrated with Microsoft bCentral services, such as Business Web Services. Microsoft bCentral will also allow co-branded versions of its services to be customized for the USPS Web site for small businesses. In addition, there will be joint marketing and promotional opportunities for both organizations to promote one anothers services.
In a conversation with PressPass, Kathleen Hebert, vice president of the Microsoft Small Business Division, and Steve Kearney, senior vice president for corporate and business development with the USPS, discuss specifics of this collaboration, how it evolved and what it will offer small businesses.
PressPass: Microsoft is a very modern technology company, while the USPS began in 1775 — prior to the signing of the Declaration of Independence. How will these two organizations work together?
Hebert: We are very different organizations, but were both very committed to providing first-rate services for the small-business sector, so aligning our efforts seemed like a logical step. The USPS is very traditional in a sense, but its also an organization that is quite savvy about technology. As more and more business transactions are conducted over the Internet, theyve innovated to meet new challenges.
Kearney: The postal service has definitely been an innovator when it comes to using technology. We were the first users of the transcontinental railroad, which helped make railroads a key form of transportation, and we were also quite innovative with the use of airplanes and the use of optical character recognition for the automated sorting of letters and packages. What brings us together with Microsoft, and what will make this agreement work, is that were both very good at providing universal services for small businesses.
PressPass: Specifically, what will this arrangement involve?
Kearney: The USPS brand is one of the most recognized and trusted brands in the United States. People put a stamp on their phone bill, drop it in the mailbox, and they know its going to get there. We are committed to taking that same brand assurance onto the Internet. By offering Microsoft bCentral services to our current customers, were providing a broader selection of services to small businesses, which will deliver some very leading-edge technologies, enabling them to conduct core business functions across the Internet, saving time and money. Examples include the ability to create correspondence with customers using bCentral services and then transfer that document electronically to the post office for printing and mailing.
Steve Kearney, Senior Vice President for Corporate and Business Development with the USPS
Hebert: The agreement consists of several components that were developed to help small businesses manage their business more efficiently. Specifically, were integrating certain USPS online services, such as NetPost Mailing Online, with Microsoft bCentral Business Web Services, an offering that allows small businesses to create a Web site, promote their products and services online and manage company communications.
PressPass: What are some of the ways that this will benefit small businesses? How will this collaboration enhance the offerings of both bCentral and the USPS?
Hebert: Fundamentally, software as a service — which is what bCentral is all about — brings new efficiencies to small businesses, services that have previously been rather costly or complex, and as a result, somewhat inaccessible. The collaboration will bring small businesses more solutions that help them be more efficient, saving time and money. By delivering software as a service to meet the core needs of small businesses, were putting the customer at the center of the equation throughout the planning and development phases. Rather than have the user click here and there, and log onto multiple sites, to complete a particular business transaction, Microsoft and USPS will be working together to integrate services that focus on the task at hand.
Kearney: I think one of the biggest impacts this will have on small businesses is that it will give them the ability to do direct mail as efficiently and easily as a Fortune 500 company. Direct mail is one of the best marketing tools around, but its grown up around big businesses. By combining bCentral services and USPS expertise, were offering small businesses the capability to use the desktop and the Internet to create and distribute direct mail. For bCentral customers, were the best connection for delivery in the physical world that you could ask for. We are the only service that delivers to every address in the United States. For the 6 million unique users who log on to usps.com every month, theyll have easy access to the most popular online destination for small businesses — Microsoft bCentral.com.
seems like a big word for most small business processes. Why are you placing such a priority on integrated solutions?
Kearney: A small business, by our definition, usually has fewer than 100 employees, so there isnt as much time to spend on learning new programs and accessing several different services to accomplish one task. For small businesses, efficiency is a key factor when they decide which services to purchase. Integration is actually what provides this efficiency by minimizing the time a business person spends entering data in multiple places, or duplicating activities in multiple applications. bCentrals commitment to integrating services is one of the things that attracted us. Together well offer a service that ties everything together, making the tools more useful and beneficial to small businesses.
Hebert: Ultimately this means that a busy entrepreneur can save time on complex tasks that would normally require data entry into several different software applications. BCentrals online services integrate in such a way that conducting e-commerce transactions and mailing invoices becomes automatic and only requires entering the information a single time. So, for example, if a small-business owner wanted to send a newsletter to her current customer base, she could come to bCentral, upload a document, pull up a list of mailing addresses of her customers, and send the document out via NetPost Mailing Online to her customer base. This would all be done over the Internet using bCentral and USPS technology.
PressPass: Why is this agreement significant?
Kearney: The significance of this agreement is that it brings together a very traditional service provider, one that delivers to every physical address in the United States, and the leading provider of software and Internet services. Our common ground is the latest use of technology to provide the latest common-sense solutions to our customers.
Hebert: This is the first time that Microsoft and the USPS have come together to serve small businesses. Since Microsoft is the leading supplier of technology to small businesses and the USPS is clearly the leading provider of shipping services to small businesses, whats significant about this is that were now going to be working together to offer improved, streamlined solutions.
PressPass: How do you envision the future of Microsoft and USPS working together?
Hebert: I think we have a great future in store. As our Microsoft .NET strategy continues to unfold, bCentral will continue to address the unique challenges faced by small businesses in new and innovative ways. And by working strategically with forward thinking and customer-driven organizations such as the USPS, our small-business customers will continue to become more efficient and more profitable.
Kearney: I believe that this service will evolve into one that provides more and more online resources for small businesses. Tying all of the online services available on Microsoft bCentral with the United States Postal Services 38,000 locations across the country is a very significant step.