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Maximising the potential of information systems

The Post Office is a much loved and widely used part of British life. There are currently around 12,000 Post Office branches around the UK — offering everything from stamps to car tax, travel insurance and passport applications.

Like many other organisations, the Post Office has undergone significant change over the last few decades, with more to come. Almost 85% of the company’s employees are over 35 – with an average age of 46 – so managers are keen to invest in training the next generation so the knowledge and skills are in place to take the organisation forward.

One of the immediate challenges facing the Post Office is how to maximise the capabilities and benefits of their new information systems.

While the new technology they’ve introduced has created enormous potential, some of the processes still being used were not allowing that potential to be fully reached.

"We’ve got lots of good people who are flexible, adaptable and hard working, but we needed to bring about significant change to make the most of the new system’s capabilities," said senior information services manager Kevin Lenihan.

"We knew that if we could get everyone in the team to challenge the way we’ve done things in the past and come up with innovations and improvements, we’d be able to get the system working to its maximum capacity."

What we did

Sheffield Business School was asked to develop a bespoke leadership development programme to meet the business challenges facing the Post Office. We created a flexible development programme that focuses on specialised areas such as information systems governance, data and knowledge management and information systems process improvement.

Professionally accredited, it gives Post Office staff an initial route into professional development – and the potential to continue in the longer term.

There’s a strong focus on applying what’s covered in the programme, with practical exercises, discussions and project work all focused on helping staff adapt what they learn to bring about change and improvement in the workplace.

The first part of the programme is divided into three modules, each lasting two days and offering 20 credits. When participants complete this first part, they’re awarded a University Certificate in Professional Business Practice.

The results

The first group of 25 Post Office delegates are in the final stages of completing the programme and the results so far are extremely positive.

‘It’s been fascinating for me to have been involved in both creating the programme and participating in it, and I’m confident that our approach will offer real benefits to all kinds of other organisations, not just the Post Office.’

The next part of the programme, which will focus on leadership development, has already been drafted and Kevin hopes that many more people from within the Post Office will have the chance to take part

"We didn’t want a three-month course which just came to an end – we wanted something ongoing which keeps on delivering. We’re delighted with the results so far and looking forward to seeing the learning translated into further real benefits in the workplace."

They say

My whole team, including me, has gone through the programme and it’s been really enjoyable to see the positive feedback from everyone involved. ‘It’s been thought provoking, challenging and a little bit scary for people, but we really wanted them to understand that we’re going through a changing environment and it’s vital that everyone – whatever their level and role – has the chance to play an active part in taking things to the next level.

Kevin Lenihan, senior information services manager, Post Office

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