May 2021

An update from Simon Oldnall, Horizon IT Director

As I said last month, I want to involve you in how we design and improve Horizon and our branch technology. Over the past month my team and I have attended NFSP North East regional meeting, hosted a Postmaster co-creation workshop and have been in regular contact with Postmasters and Area Managers directly to hear and address your concerns. Thank you to all those who have attended these forums and shared your feedback, this is hugely valuable to us.

Special thanks to Steve from Reepham who has been in touch to provide great suggestions for how we better inform you of connectivity issues. His suggestions included on-screen warnings, live reports to show any disconnected sessions as well as clearly highlighting disconnected sessions on the Transaction log. These improvements have been added to our catalogue and we are working hard to prioritise our updates to make your day-to-day interaction with Horizon easier.

Continuing the conversation with Postmasters is a priority for me, I want to know your views and suggestions. To help us do that I’m delighted to introduce two new joiners to strengthen our Postmaster Experience team - Ozan Abujuma and Noor Stone. Previously Area Managers for Dorset, Somerset and London, Ozan and Noor will be responsible for working closely with Postmasters, actioning improvements, and working with our colleagues and external stakeholders to make sure that you receive the best possible service.

What’s happened since last month

Our focus has been on establishing a long-term Horizon improvement programme that allows us to deliver on our vision to “improve the Horizon user experience and Postmaster service, by re-establishing a level of trust and confidence in Horizon”. As part of this we are not only going to make the required fixes to Horizon and branch technology but also put in place the necessary structure, governance and longer term improvements to sustain a positive day-to-day experience for our Postmasters now and into the future.

The new dispute mechanism and approach to the way we handle and release changes to the platform are two changes that we’ve made over the last month to improve Horizon:

1. We have made further changes to improve the way we handle accounting disputes, making it easier to raise a dispute via Horizon.

As part of our ongoing efforts to transform the way we handle branch accounting disputes, we have made it easier for you to raise a dispute through the ‘Review or Dispute’ option. Behind the scenes, the investigations process has also changed so if you do choose to Review or Dispute, your discrepancy should be resolved quicker and with better communication. Our Branch Support Centre (BSC) teams are on hand to support you through your balancing issue and in instances where the BSC team member is unable to resolve your query first time your case will be handed to an Investigation team advisor. They will pick up your case, make contact and keep you informed of progress on their findings as well as offering a report at the close of the investigation.

2. We are improving the way we manage and release changes to Horizon data

Very occasionally, it is necessary for Fujitsu to make a change to Horizon data in order to resolve an issue or make improvements. This may be the case when an assisted rollover may be required, or a branch is trying to re-open but is in the wrong trading period.

When such changes are required, it is very important that we make sure the change is properly controlled, understood and approved by our internal teams so that we minimise the disruption to Postmasters. To support us to do this effectively we have a strict process in place with multiple review points. Every change must be approved by the IT Service team, the IT Security team, a Business Operations team and, where the change relates to a particular branch, the Postmaster and their Area Manager.

We make sure that all these people understand why the change is required, what will be done by when and that everyone is comfortable with the proposed plans. Each person provides their approval via email and these are stored along with the details of the change for any future audits. Once a change is complete, Fujitsu also provide evidence (in the form of log files and screenshots) showing how the change was implemented. Again, this evidence is stored, and the IT Security team reviews it to confirm that the change made was as agreed and approved.


We need your help

We are creating a pool of Postmasters for IT to support us to design and implement the right changes. Sree, Ozan and Noor will be running this as part of the Postmaster Experience team. If you would like to get involved, please comment below or you can email postmasterit@postoffice.co.uk.

As always, if you have any IT issues please do continue to report them to us either on Branch Hub or call the IT Service Desk on 0330 123 0778.