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Royal Mail hires Debra Bailey as new CIO to lead ambitious DX efforts

Royal Mail Group has appointed Debra Bailey as its new CIO. 

The former O2 CIO takes over from Group CIO Christian Herrlich, who announced his decision to leave the company in 2021 after four years. Debra Bailey said on LinkedIn: “I’m delighted to be joining Royal Mail as CIO in March and excited about working with the team to continue the customer focused transformation underway. 

The previously publicly owned postal delivery company was fully privatised in 2015. The Group consists of two principal operations. Its UK-based operation includes Royal Mail and Parcelforce Worldwide which deliver to 31 million UK addresses, and its international operation, General Logistics Systems (GLS), which is in 40 countries.

It has faced declining volumes of letters, more parcels, and growing competition from other private delivery companies in recent years – and is aiming to dramatically improve its ability to optimise its network through advanced analytics and automation, including Robotic Process Automation across back-end functions.

The shift has put growing demands on the Royal Mail’s IT team to support the transformation.

As Pooja Bagga, IT Director, Royal Mail Operations, put it in a 2021 interview with The Stack: “We’re moving from being a letters company that also delivers parcels, to a parcels company that also delivers letters. From a tech perspective, this means we need to enable process change along with digitising our business. We need [even better] pipeline and supply chain visibility; we need to support and deliver major projects like the commissioning of the two new parcel hubs containing fully automated parcel sortation machinery, giving our workforce the right digital tools to increase efficiency, to enabling more data-driven decision making across our entire network.”

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The new Royal Mail CIO has outlined some of her thoughts on digital transformation in a series of straightforward blogs while at O2, in one noting: “As CIO, I am always looking for different models to adopt to launch products more quickly. It’s why I always recommend that new CIOs do two things as early in their tenure as possible: Make an effort to really understand what drives cost in your organisation. Be completely transparent about what you are spending and why… Agility is also key.  We need to adopt new business models, or learn to replicate them very quickly, in order to compete effectively. I’m seeing the adoption of agile working occur across every industry but it involves cross-business change. Sometimes your business processes, like your procurement and approval processes, aren’t set up to be agile. With the speed of change we now experience with new trends and consumer technology integration, it is the approach I encourage for my own teams.”

She joins with the wind in Royal Mail Group’s sails: It has had a good year, reporting group operating profit of £702 million in 2021-2020, up 116% from the previous year’s £325 million; reached a landmark agreement with the Communication Workers Union in December 2020 after a long-running dispute and its 2021-22 budget included a “material increase in capital expenditure” including for “investment in automation and technology to support productivity, with currently planned capital expenditure well above £400 million” for the year.

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Ed Targett

Ed Targett is the founder of The Stack. He has served as editor of Tech Monitor, Computer Business Review, and Roubini Global Economics. He has 15 years of experience in newsrooms and consultancies. His interests span technology, foreign policy, and sustainability.

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