I've been reviewing my 2009 columns in preparation for kicking off 2010. As predicted, we all faced many changes this past year. We've seen paradigm shifts in our government, economy and workforces. We've been challenged to do more with less and accept no excuses. We've had to grow the top line while at the same time reducing expenses. Yes, it has been a test, but I'm convinced that the strongest remain standing! We are still here, and we will take our document community to the next level.

We've learned that consumers are shifting - look at the recent growth in electronic payments. Based on the latest quarterly report from NACHA, paper checks sent to billers' lockboxes and then converted into electronic checks had 583.8 million transactions in the third quarter, down 10.5% from 652.5 million one year earlier. At the same time, ACH Internet bill payments totaled 562.6 million, up 7.6% from 522.9 million in the third quarter of last year. Paper suppression has grown significantly in 2009 as a result of continued and anticipated changes in USPS costs and service, continued consumer awareness and education and billers' need to cut costs.

I cannot seem to pick up a magazine, surf the web or read any news source without hearing about mobile capture and mobile payments. Mobile is definitely here: Businesses and consumers alike are gravitating to mobile channels, and providers and banks are moving to make it easier to migrate to mobile options. Many traditional software companies are introducing ASP models to help billers provide these valuable service offerings to their customers with limited capital outlay.

You may be saying, "Sure, Tracy, yet another development effort for me. What does your IT budget look like for 2010? What is your marketing budget? How is your travel and entertainment budget shaping up?" If you're like most of us, budgets are not back to 2007 figures, and, frankly, many companies will continue the shoestring approach that seemed to work in 2009. We will all need to make prudent choices, but you should be aware of the changing landscape.

We all tried hard over the past year to maintain our relationships through TransPromo and targeted messaging. It's important to consider not only what you need to tell your customers, but also what your customers say that they need to become more efficient, do their jobs with fewer resources and manage on a tight budget.

It's been exciting to see how aggressive we've become and how we rally together when times get tough. I still believe that 2010 will be a year of evaluation. I also believe that companies will proceed with caution. Expenses will be kept at a minimum, and the norm, for a while at least, will be "doing more with less." Nevertheless, there are new challenges and opportunities for us. I believe that we must move beyond traditional paper input and output and seek out new technologies and venues to reach our valued customers. Remember that you don't always have to build it yourself. There are partners out there to help you, and in the long run, you will reap benefits faster and still maintain focus on your core business. I also urge you to continue to reach out to industry experts through vehicles like DOCUMENT• we are free and very knowledgeable.

I'm truly looking forward to our continued relationship throughout 2010!

TRACY DALTON [tracy.dalton@regulusgroup.com], is manager of product development and management for Regulus Group, a transaction processing solution outsourcer provider. Ms. Dalton is responsible for new products and services that meet the strategic direction of Regulus and their clients.

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