April 2021

An update from Simon Oldnall, Horizon IT Director

Thank you to the Postmasters who have contacted me since my last update. It has been really good to hear your feedback and views on IT and branch technology. 

Thank you to Geralyn from Corsham branch, who highlighted the wait times to speak to our IT Service Desk. Tim Perkins said last month that we are working hard to answer your calls as quickly as possible. Please remember, if you have any IT issues, you can report your problem to one of our support teams on Branch Hub. It is really simple, once you log-in, simply click on the ‘Report an IT Issue’ button and follow the step by step instructions. Hopefully this will be quicker for you to get back to serving your customers. 

Stephen from Cinderford branch, asked me why we can't sell stamp products by simply scanning the barcode. This is a good question, in fact this change falls into our list of over 350 improvements I spoke about last month. We are working to prioritise all these improvements and I’ll let you know when we have a go-live date.

Monitoring Horizon Performance – What we’re doing
You rely so much on the counter terminals. In the past you have reported slow performance which impacts customers in your branch. We are starting a trial in 200 branches which will help us understand system performance. For the trial, we will install a program called App Dynamics onto Horizon. App Dynamics is a software monitoring program that sits in the background and monitors how the Horizon terminal is performing. Things like how much memory is being used, how long screens are taking to load, how fast items are processing. This insight will highlight where there is any slowness in Horizon processing speed. This will help us log and track if Horizon Help freezes and causes your terminal to crash and let us know exactly why that has happened. This will then help us to be able to fix any slowness that you experience.

Let me reassure you that although this additional tool will allow us to monitor and understand what’s happening on Horizon, it won’t hold any transactional information. No Smart ID, customer details, transactional values or volumes are recorded. This will only monitor transactional speeds, system performance and allow us to use this to identify how we can fix it quickly.

I will keep you updated on how this trial performs over the next 3 months.

Prioritising Improvements – How we’re progressing
Postmasters have continued to report that they are experiencing Horizon Help freezing. I completely understand how frustrating this must be for you while serving your customers. This is another priority for us to resolve. We have put it into our list of Horizon changes, along with other similar changes, and we will work with Postmasters to help us prioritise, design and implement fixes. We want to keep Postmasters involved along the way and as we design changes and help you to test practical steps in a live branch environment. 

Based on feedback from my Adopt an Area visits and meetings, we’ve already held a National Lottery workshop to understand potential solutions to improve the experience processing these transactions. From this we’ve developed requirements and plan to come back to Postmasters to test that these will fully address the issues within the next 2 months.

Our current top 5 priorities we’re working on are Monthly Discrepancy Investigation, Paystation, Lottery, Retail on Horizon, Transaction Correction (TC) Dispute process.

You may have already seen that over the coming weeks we’re planning to remove the £150 limit for the option to ‘Settle Centrally’ if you find a discrepancy during your monthly balancing at Trading Period end. We would love to hear your feedback on this change (and how we introduced it)

Old screens on Horizon – What we plan to do after a full review
From your feedback, many of you have told me that there are a number of old screens and buttons on Horizon for options and products we no longer sell. I have asked my team to take a full review of all our Horizon Screens to identify any obsolete buttons and options. As part of this we’ll also look to update the look and feel of some of the screens. I have seen some screens have too many options and some have gaps from when we’ve removed old buttons. I need to be honest that it won’t change overnight but we’re working our way through all the hundreds of screens in the various branch types.

As I’ve said before we’ll ask for your help, as you work on Horizon everyday – you are the experts in what would work in your branch. I want to involve you in how we design and update Horizon and branch technology in the future. I don’t want this to just be a clean up and tidy up, this will be a regular review of how we can update and adapt Horizon to make your lives easier.

If you have any IT feedback or issues, please continue to report them to us either on Branch Hub or call our IT Service Desk on 0330 123 0778.