Speaker Interviews

Discover more about the topics and technologies to be discussed at this year's conference, via a series of exclusive interviews with a selection of our expert speakers

Modernizing retail at the post
Canada Post

Samantha Rahim, general manager - transformation deployment, Canada Post
Presentation: Modernizing retail at the post

What is your presentation about?

In 2019, Canada Post began a large transformational initiative to revolutionize the hardware and software at its more than 5,000 retail outlets. This initiative, aligned with Canada Post’s broad transformation, supports the evolution of the organization’s retail network. It positions Canada Post for further growth in its parcel business and ensures flexibility to adjust for changing business and consumer needs. The program prioritized the customer experience with a mandate to simplify each step of the process. It engaged more than 200 team members and leveraged an off-the-shelf software system as well as the latest POS hardware, released in January 2021. Despite the impacts of the pandemic, the project continued in agile development supported by Azure. The new solution launched in May 2021.

How did Canada Post begin to transform its retail business in 2019? What prompted this project?
The project was focused on transforming how Canada Post conducts its retail business. The ongoing shift from lettermail to parcels highlighted that many of our processes and technologies were dated and needed to be revamped. The need for new capabilities to better meet the needs and expectations of all Canadians acted as a catalyst for the program. The existing software was developed in 1998 and the user interface had been revamped in 2008. The hardware was approximately 10 years old. It made sense to modernize both the technology and the business processes together. The goal was to leverage technology for a transformation of the retail business.

What new technologies were utilized?

The project involved many new technologies, such as:
• Escher’s Riposte platform, which we used as the main software, leveraging the latest platform
• Canada Post specific retail services, built using a microservices approach
• Microsoft Azure cloud technology, which provided the infrastructure for building the solution. This was the largest cloud implementation at Canada Post and the first on the Microsoft cloud
• A combination of HP point-of-sale and mobile PDTs, which comprised the hardware
We implemented these new technologies using agile project execution, as opposed to the waterfall approach.

Did the pandemic affect this project?

The pandemic had a large impact across the organization. Canadians fast-tracked their online shopping habits by a few years, driving record parcel volumes for Canada Post. This accelerated shift to e-commerce is having a significant and sustained impact on the Canadian economy and our retail business. It has meant retailers like Canada Post must adapt to the changing needs of Canadians; it has emphasized the importance of this project and the organization’s transformation more broadly. Throughout the pandemic, we have proudly provided an essential service and helped people across the country stay connected. At the same time, we know that significant investments are necessary to continue to provide a reliable service to all Canadians and meet their needs.

For this project specifically, we acted on the principle of ‘one team’, despite having a range of team members from business, technology, Escher, Deloitte, Accenture and independent contractors. We achieved this one-team approach by co-locating all resources in an open-concept building with multiple scrum teams. When the pandemic hit, we recognized that safety had to be the No. 1 priority for everyone at Canada Post. While a shift was necessary as the team started working remotely, we were already using collaboration tools such as Teams, which facilitated the transition. Moving to remote working presented a significant challenge as we needed to leverage physical hardware and test new equipment in-person. While following all health and safety measures, we set up the machines so that team members could remote into them for testing. The pandemic slowed our pace of issue troubleshooting in multiple areas but the project continued. In the end we were happy to stay on track, meeting the plan’s target for initial deployment in May. With many health and safety measures still in place, the pandemic continues to impact the deployment of some devices but we are very happy with the project’s results to date.

For Canada Post, the pandemic’s biggest impact has been on our retail clerks and operations team members who, throughout this period, have been out in the field providing an essential service to Canadians.

How do customers benefit from the new solution?

The solution’s key benefit is a new and intuitive user interface. With faster transactions, it is a solution built for customers and their experience with Canada Post, as opposed to a solution made for employees. This difference is key. Our project puts the customer at the center, leveraging customer words and terminology, not postal terminology. A mobile device facilitates faster backroom tasks such as the storage of parcels. As with the implementation of any solution at this scale, we have encountered issues, but the team has been successfully working through them to ensure the project’s goals are reached.

Are there more developments planned?

As with any large solution, the intention is to continue to leverage the new platform to introduce new capabilities for Canadians as we move forward. We see this deployment as the beginning of a new era, not the end of a program.

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