March 2021

An update from Simon Oldnall, Horizon IT Director

I’m Simon Oldnall and I’m the new Horizon IT Director at Post Office. IT is a big area and everything we do is linked to technology, but specifically I look after all aspects relating to Horizon. This includes improvements to the Horizon platform and maintaining the Horizon live service to support our branch network.

I have a lot to learn and understand, and I’m pleased that I will be visiting branches with Area Manager Chris Ball in the Lancashire and South Cumbria area over the next few weeks, as part of our Adopt an Area initiative. And I look forward to speaking to Postmasters first-hand, and hearing about issues that are important to you.

I also wanted to start this regular blog to keep you updated on some early changes and plans I’ve made so we can better support you with your branch IT.  

Since I’ve taken on this role, I’ve started by creating a new Horizon IT team. They will be able to focus on Horizon developments and improvements. They will be working through a long list of things that we know we need to improve, and we met with a group of Postmasters this week to work on Lottery improvements.

I’ve also created a new Head of Postmaster IT Experience role; this person will be dedicated to improving your IT experience. Having been a Postmaster, he will bring insights and experience to make sure we keep the Postmaster’s day to day experience at the forefront of our thinking.

Working with you to prioritise improvements
In the recent Postmaster Consultation survey, you said IT systems and processes was a top three area which requires improvement. I will work through the survey feedback in more detail in the coming days.

In parallel we have also been collating a list of all feedback, suggestions and ideas we have received from Postmasters and teams over the last few months. We now have a list of over 350 improvements. Thank you for all your feedback – this is now a very comprehensive list indeed and what we do as next steps will be critical.

It wouldn’t be right for us to set out what we want to do, this has to come from Postmasters telling us what they want. This will make a difference and we will work with Postmasters and branch teams to help us prioritise these.

Currently we fully test everything in our Model Office, (the Model Office is a branch environment we have in our London office) but more and more we are realising we need to start testing our changes in real life - in a real branch, with customers. We want to be able to test transactions and customer journeys in different sizes and models of branches. Asking Postmasters to complete our user testing will give us vital feedback about what’s working well and what we can change.

I know many Postmasters are interested in being involved in working groups so we will get this moving through the Postmaster consultation project and keep you posted on how to join an IT forum.

Counter printer issues
Every week we receive over 280 calls to the IT Service Desk about counter printers. I completely understand how frustrating these printer issues can be for you and the impact on your business. I understand many of you have been asking for new printers, this is something that is being looked at but not something we can achieve and deliver quickly but my team are working on some developments which we believe will help.

We are aware that a build-up of dust, debris and overall label quality can impact the performance of the printers resulting in issues. Post Office has worked with Royal Mail Group to make changes and they have now implemented changes to their manufacturing process to improve the quality of labels and reduce dust, that should reduce printer related issues. My team have been working closely with Royal Mail Group to resolve this issue, and they have now started new quality control checks throughout the manufacturing process to reduce dust and debris.

Please can I ask that you continue to clean your printers regularly as this helps to reduce faults and failures. Please continue to report issues to our IT Service Desk as we need to understand if the change made by Royal Mail Group is helping.

We’re also looking to update counter printer error messages. Currently you see a generic error message which isn’t helpful, this will be replaced with four new error messages which will help you to identify what is wrong with your printer. This should make it much easier to use self-help guides to help resolve your issues without the need for an engineer.

Over the next few months you will start to see a QR code attached to your counter printers, these QR codes can be scanned using a mobile phone, they will take you straight to the printer cleaning video and self-help pages for counter printers.

Developments we are currently working on
We’re continuing to look at new ways we can change to better support you and your branch team. In next week’s Branch Focus, for those of you who sell them, you will no longer need to adjust each ‘Special Stamp’ issue to ‘Ordinary’ stamps after two weeks of sale. This process change has been agreed with Royal Mail and includes the Legend of King Arthur Special Stamps that go on sale from 16 March. We’ll give you more details in next week’s Branch Focus.

We’re also working to update the Stock Adjust function soon and rename the Reason Code buttons to make them more meaningful and simpler for you to use. We’ll include more details about this in Branch Focus over the coming weeks.

As I said at the start of this blog, there is a lot for me to learn and understand, but actions are critical here. There will be some simple things we can do, but some others will take time and I want to get it right and I promise to focus my team on what makes the biggest difference to you. I want to support a sustainable future for you, and I need to start with concrete foundations.

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

Next month I’ll update you on how we’re progressing and working with Postmasters on the priority areas.