Postal Service sales force shares reports

Postal Service sales force shares reports


Chuck Dickson, a Postal Service consultant, was trying to figure out if USPS should launch a service for drop-direct mailboxes'lock-up, insulated boxes that can hold things such as perishable goods for up to 48 hours'at households.

It would be an ambitious initiative, and Dickson needed to know everything about mailboxes, home delivery, peoples' choices and competition before USPS could make it a reality.

From left, USPS' John Gregory and Web administrators Marc Fink and Greg Crist crunch U.S. marketing data via an intranet.
What seemed like a wearisome task involving hours of intensive research turned out to be just the opposite. With a few clicks, Dickson accessed just about all the reports he needed.

Through MarketTracks, an application built for the service by Epicentric Inc. of San Francisco, 3,000 Postal Service sales and marketing professionals nationwide access reports, marketing analyses and customer data from any PC via the USPS intranet, said USPS marketing specialist John Gregory.

Senior vice presidents can also share detailed competitive intelligence information.

Before USPS started using the app in 1993, all reports and data were maintained on paper and stored at Postal Service headquarters in Washington. It was difficult for postal facilities across the country to get reports easily and quickly.

In 1994, when USPS switched to a client-server architecture, only a limited number of employees could access the information. By 1997, the service had begun using the Web, but initially only abstracts, not full-text versions, of the MarketTracks information were available.

'We redesigned the interface and rewrote the code in 1998,' but the service lacked a Web server, Gregory said. Finally, in February of last year, USPS approved the purchase of a portal server.

What's under the hood

MarketTracks, which runs under Microsoft Windows NT, uses Microsoft Internet Information Server as its Web server, Microsoft SQL Server 7.0 as its database and JRun Pro from Allaire Corp. of Newton, Mass., as the application server. Semio Taxonomy from Semio Corp. of San Mateo, Calif., categorizes the documents and a search engine from Verity Inc. of Sunnyvale, Calif., supports full-text searches.

Even though the USPS app currently runs only on PCs under NT, it will be accessible later for users running Unix.


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