Post Office sets IT objectives with a social conscience

The Post Office sets its IT objectives with a social conscience, according to its technology chief.

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The Post Office sets its IT objectives with a social conscience, according to its technology chief.

CIO Lesley Sewell, who is leading separation of the Post Office IT estate from Royal Mail, said its Common Digital Platform, aimed at transforming a multichannel business into the 'omni-channel' model, is in sync with community objectives.

The platform will be the big ticket IT project for the remainder of 2014. It would serve a portfolio of more than 11,500 branches, including 350 directly managed Crown Post Offices.

"We cater to everyone from pensioners who prefer using serviced counters, to eBayers with an enthusiasm for self-service. We have a strong sense of community and, in line with our social purpose, we have to be digitally inclusive, too," said Sewell.

"I take inspiration from my teenage sons, who in their 30s and 40s will expect a different Post Office from what we have today. There is a wider acknowledgement that IT will enable the transition."

In the Post Office's case, this implies managing IT expectations of owned outlets as well as franchise agreements, and a claim to fame of having a service counter within three miles of 99.7% of the population.

"A retail CIO develops click-and-collect customer modules. My team also has to work on drop-and-go solutions, especially as e-commerce is seen as the driver of growth in parcel deliveries," Sewell said.

Expectations of SMEs are also evolving with e-commerce. "Their path often begins with an online sale and ends with a dispatch via the Post Office. A third of all British SMEs are our clients. We cannot afford to ignore their expectations and the 'Drop and Go' platform is a key demand.

"No CIO of a customer facing organisation can build IT, for IT's sake. Customer needs drive the pace of change," she said.

The Post Office is also opening up around 10 percent of its branches on a Sunday, with much of it being down to changing its operational batch applications.

The separation agenda with Royal Mail is still ongoing with a conclusion expected within the next 12 months. "Some of technology of course was reliant and aligned to Royal Mail. As part of the separation plans we have had to take all of the technology and bring that into the Post Office and attune it to our needs," said Sewell.

Changes have to be carried out sustainably and in a phased manner. "You can't chuck legacy IT in an instant."

Being the CIO of a retailer like none other offering everything from stamps to mortgages, makes the assignment an exciting one, Sewell said. "I fit in the government sector, I fit in financial services, and I fit in retail and I am ever conscious of that."

CIO UK's full interview with Lesley Sewell can be read here

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