Singapore Post’s Digital Makeover Creates A New E-Commerce Leader

August 11, 2015
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by Peter High, published on Forbes

8-10-15

There are many examples of companies that have had a difficult time competing with digital native organizations. One-time stalwarts like Circuit City and Blockbuster are no more, but Amazon and Netflix are thriving in their place. The postal service in many countries have been hit hard by competition, whether it is through digital channels like email, or through more nimble and innovative competitors like FedEx. The US Postal Service lost roughly $5.5 billion last year, for example.

In light of this, the revolution happening at Singapore Post is all the more impressive. Recognizing that its traditional business was shrinking, the company’s leaders came to the conclusion that it needed to invest in e-commerce and digital business in order to sustain its business. Ramesh Narayanaswamy is the chief information officer of Singapore Post, and he is one of the leaders spearheading the change happening at Singapore Post. In this interview, he describes the way in which the e-commerce operation was set up, the different approaches the group has taken to hiring, different processes that have been leveraged, and the like.

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Peter High: Please describe your roles as CIO at Singapore Post.

Ramesh Narayanaswamy: Our company has a CEO for e-commerce named Marcelo Wesseler. He runs the whole e-commerce business. Dr. Bernard Leong runs our digital business. My role as CIO is to provide governance, architecture, development capabilities. There is a need for balance between doing things fast, while recognizing the change management activities necessary to move an established business like Singapore Post forward to modernity. This is not a new age company that was born digital.

We must balance between changing process, using the existing process, but then adding the right technology and automation as we transform. In many ways, we have to facilitate flexibility because often new products and services require new processes. This is an area of great joy to me because it requires that our team think creatively and to foster flexibility. So from a central perspective, the entire delivery mechanism is where I spend a lot of time with e-commerce folks, with digital folks and with the whole other line of business that we run– logistics, mail, property, the corporate IT itself.

To a certain extent I feel technology is everyone’s job in the organization—it is not restricted to just the CIO and the IT team. I think the CIO is responsible for ensuring that it is done correctly and that it is built for sustainability. Customers expect something every two months, every three months, so how do we ensure we are planning appropriately? How do we set up the APIs appropriately? The CIO needs to be at the center of these conversations, collaborating with others across the company, providing the environment for innovation.

High: It strikes me in many ways the CIO role, as you define it, is like an integrator and a networker of sorts– constantly remaining abreast of the needs and changes suggested by all parts of the business—while also understanding what technology changes are happening inside and outside of the company that are relevant to helping the organization get to its destination more readily. Is that a fair synopsis, would you say?

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