by Lesley Sewell

The Post Office CIO Lesley Sewell CIO Q&A

Jul 21, 2015
CareersGovernmentIT Leadership

The Post Office remains state owned, but a key customer for the privatized Royal Mail. A major outsourcing programme, dubbed Horizon, with Fujitsu has been plagued with problems as a result of subpostmasters being accused of irregularities. CIO Lesley Sewell is guiding the company through solving issues and modernisation.

Job Title CIO

When did you start your current role? April 2010

What is your reporting line? CFO

Do you meet with and discuss business strategy with the CEO every week? As part of weekly Executive meetings

Are you a member of the board of directors? No

Does your organisation have a CDO? No

What different responsibilities does the CDO have? We do have a Head of Digital who is responsible for driving income through our digital channels.

What non-technology responsibilities do you have in the organisation? Operational responsibilities include outsourced business services for our products and clients. Information Security and Data Protection.

How many employees does your organisation have? 7000 directly employed by Post Office, excludes our subpost masters

Does your organisation carry out significant trade in the EU? No

What number of users does your department supply services to? 40,000

How do you ensure that you have a good understanding of your business and how your customers use your business’s products? Engagement with the Executives and Senior Leadership team.  However, more importantly spending time in our branches dealing and serving our customers, and experiencing the customer journeys online for products and services.  The experience of being on the shop floor is invaluable in this regard.

Technology strategy & spending

Is your organisation being disrupted by the internet, mobility or technology oriented start-ups? No

Are you empowered by your organisation to disrupt from the inside? Yes

Describe a disruptive measure you’ve led or played a major part in? Our new digital platform which is based on cloud and open source systems. Introduction of Salesforce as a tool for our  financial services sales teams.  Self service capability to service mails and retail.

What major transformation project has been recently completed, or is underway at your organisation? The Separation between Royal Mail and Post Office. Establishing a new supply chain to support the separation and internal capability of Post Office.  The transformation has necessitated procurements to the value of £800m + and introduced a SIAM model to Post Office.  Established an in-house capability and governance structure.  End user capability refresh and planned refresh of the 11.5k branches.  In addition we have a business transformation programme which is focused on lean/automated processes, digitisation of customer journeys and product simplification.

What impact will the above transformation have on your organisation? Reduce our cost base, provide omni-channel capability, improve customer journey and experience, faster to market for products and services, in part taking IT off the critical path, ability to communicate and reach our sub masters in all communities through social media, improved internal IT capability.

How has your leadership style contributed to the outcomes of the transformation project Clear vision and goals, and drive to succeed.

What key technologies do you consider enable transformation? In the context of Post Office our Digital platform will be a key enabler and at the heart of our strategy.  Building it in such a way that we utilise all aspects of open, cloud and COTs products to give us flexibility is key.  In addition, fixing the infrastructure around our end user capability.

Are you increasing the number of cloud applications or infrastructure in use at your organisation? Yes

What is your information and data analytics vision for the organisation? Excellence in terms of Management Information and Business Performance management to enable our business to have insightful and timely information for decision making.  Customer data analytics to drive incremental value.

How is mobile and social networking impacting operations and customer experience? Mobile is an area of focus for us, our new digital capability is fully mobile optimised and we have a strategy for moving more apps to mobile, and linking mobile customer experience with in store service.  This is particularly relevant given our products and service.  Example, order travel money by mobile pick up at any one of our 11.5k branches nationwide.

Describe your strategic vision towards shadow IT and BYOD. How do you influence and engage executives and employees around choice? Embrace them both but in the context of an appropriate governance framework to ensure neither bring undue risks to the organisation.  Its also about engaging the business, rather than ignoring it, and ensuring IT is supportive to enable the business, being innovative and responsive.If guided appropriately then both can create a lot of value for the organisation.  In addition, the cultural impact, particularly from BYOD in terms of engagement and empowerment can only be positive for any organisation.

What strategic technology deals have been struck and with whom? Accenture for our digital and Omni-channel platform, ATOS, Service Integrator and Service desk provision, ComputerCentre for End User Services, CGI for Finance and Reporting.

Who are your main suppliers? Fujitsu, Accenture, CGI, ATOS, CSC, BT, ComputaCentre

Technology issues

Has your organisation detected a cyber intrusion in the last 12 months? No

Has cyber-security risen up your management agenda? Yes

Does your organisation understand the potential cyber-security threats it faces? Yes

Has this led to an increase in your security budget? Yes

What is the IT budget? £100m – run cost

How much is the IT operational spend compared to the revenue as a percentage? 9%

What is the strategic aim of the CIO and IT operations for the next financial year? Reducing the cost of IT through our transformation programme, streamlining the technology landscape and business operating model. Enabling growth through new and improved capabilities, i.e. Analytics, Omni-channel Enabling business cost reduction & efficiency through digitisation and self service.

Are you finding it difficult to recruit the talent you need to drive transformation? Yes

Has recruitment and retention risen up your agenda as a CIO? Yes

Are you looking for recruits in the EU to fill the skills shortage you have? No

Does your IT organisation operate an apprenticeship scheme No

The CIO’s department

How would you describe your leadership style? Visionary, inclusive, pacesetting, clear on outcomes and goals, coaching, decisive and people focused.

Explain how you’ve supported and developed your senior leadership team to support your overall objectives and vision Senior leadership forum for my reports and the senior leaders within IT, focusing on leadership, engagement, stakeholder management and strategic planning.  Succession planning and structured development planning for my direct reports using external support.

How many employees are in your IT team? 100

What is the split between in-house/outsourced staff? 10% in house and 90% outsourced – this does not include change which more than doubles the internal capability

Does your team include key skilled workers from the EU? No