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Need for Benchmarking the GPO Evident from Interquest Forum Keynote

December 6, 2011 By C. Clint Bolte
Interquest’s sixth annual Digital Printing in Government and Higher Education Forum, targeting government and higher education in-plant printers, was held last week at the Omni Shoreham in Washington DC. Digital printing, electronic workflows, and in-plant case studies of successful technology and management transitions—often involving newly hired, experienced private sector employees—were the reenforced themes of the forum.

Keynote speaker William Boarman, Public Printer and CEO of the U.S. Government Printing Office, emphasized the new role of the GPO as the “(federal) government digital application platform.” While printing is a vital part of GPO’s mission, the agency’s evolving expertise and skills involve facilitating digital applications and services to enhance access to public information for the benefit of government users and all citizens.

In recapping his brief 11 months in office (a term that will end on Jan. 1, 2012, if the Republicans don’t approve this Obama appointment), Boarman cited a number of GPO accomplishments. One of which involved an emphasis on receiving payments from overdue chargebacks.

In the private sector vernacular, that means chasing accounts receivable to get paid for services rendered. While cash flow is not really an issue for any in-plant, the internal transfer of debits and credits is still essential.

A side conversation with one attendee on this delayed chargeback issue was enlightening. He is a “new” federal government employee with only a couple of years of experience, but with decades of experience in the private sector printing industry in both production and procurement roles.

As a newbie, one of his first assignments was getting old GPO chargebacks approved for payment by his agency. Some bills were literally seven years old. Apparently, most of his fellow agency colleagues were aware that if the buying agency does not object to a printed piece within 90 days of delivery, there is no recourse against the printer.

Acceptability of the printed piece rarely seemed to be the issue. The often unspoken issue was that delay of payment is among the few recourses available to clients who are unhappy with GPO’s customer service. While Boarman mentioned numerous examples of satisfied federal clients in his address, it seems the underlying current included the opposite sentiment as well. This is no game. It must be corrected.

Where can the large and unique GPO go to get a candid, constructive critique on any of its systems, procedures or processes such as customer service? Printers of all sizes in the private sector turn to benchmarking their peers and, specifically, often the recognized leaders at performing nearly identical processes.
 

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