“I hear colleagues in other companies speaking of ‘IT’ and ‘The Business’ as if they are somehow different. In DPD, IT is a central and integral part of the business,” says Colin Kennedy, IT manager at DPD Ireland.
DPD Ireland, formerly known as Interlink Ireland Ltd, is a leading parcel delivery supplier in Ireland and in Europe. With 29 years experience in the business of courier servicing, the company has evolved over the years and revolutionised how parcels are delivered. DPD Ireland has 38 depots throughout the country, handling in excess of 11 million parcels per year and currently employs 800 people.
This week it emerged the company has upgraded 800 scanners within its network of 38 depots at a cost of €1.9m to the company. The new Honeywell 99EX devices handle more than 1.6 million transactions daily, including capturing proof of delivery information that transmits to DPD’s customer website in real time.
DPD’s IT manager Colin Kennedy has more than 20 years of IT, general and project management experience and worked previously at Compupac Ireland, ACS Software and Initiative Computers. As well as being IT manager at DPD Ireland he is also international group IT manager at GeoPost.
Can you outline the breadth and scope of the technology rollout across your organisation and what improvements it will bring to the company?
IT is at the centre of what we do in DPD. Every parcel transported by DPD Ireland is scanned numerous times throughout the delivery journey for routing and tracking purposes. All of these scans travel in real time to our central system and ultimately to www.dpd.ie where the customer can trace their parcel’s movements. The upgrade to our driver scanners involved replacing each and every scanner within the DPD network (approximately 800) over a four-to-six-week period. The staggered rollout was deliberate – each driver required training on the new devices to ensure that it would be used effectively. Data drives our business; driver scanner technology confirms parcel dispatch and delivery and our routing and central sorting system provides data feeds on all the steps in between.
What are the main points of your company’s IT strategy?
Traditionally, we were a predominantly B2B carrier, collecting from businesses and delivering to other business locations. As a result, we concentrated on developing a real-time infrastructure, giving the DPD operation, and more importantly our customers, clear visibility on deliveries. This allowed us to create a more proactive and responsive system, where potential issues could be identified earlier and acted upon.
This infrastructure has served us well and provided the basic building blocks upon which everything else we do is based. In recent years, B2B remains as important as it always was to DPD, but the growth in internet shopping has led to very strong increases in B2C deliveries in our industry. DPD recognised this a number of years ago — this changed the way we thought and the focus of our strategy.
Today, everything we do is centred on giving consumers and customers more choice and flexibility in how and when they receive their deliveries. This has resulted in the success we enjoy from products such as Predict and Parcel Wizard. Launched over three years ago, Predict notifies the consumer of a one-hour window in which we will deliver. This is now a signature product for the industry and one which many of our competitors across Europe are trying to emulate. Parcel Wizard is all about choice and understanding your lifestyle and adjusting your delivery experience to facilitate this.
Can you give a snapshot of how extensive your IT infrastructure is?
With a few exceptions, DPD Ireland develops all of the systems internally. This has been an important enabler for the business and has ensured that we remain responsive to our customers’ requirements while allowing us to innovate. With regard to our infrastructure, DPD has built a robust and resilient hardware and communications platform and hosts them at our head office in Athlone.
Do you have a large in-house IT team, or do you look to strategically outsource where possible?
Our in-house team is central to providing the highest level of products and support for our customers and consumers. We have 25 experienced staff working in IT support, development and project management. Where necessary, we outsource some tasks to trusted partners. We like to work with a partner over an extended period so that they grow to understand our business and appreciate our needs.
What are some of the main responsibilities of your own role, and how much of it is spent on deep technical issues compared to the management and business side?
I hear colleagues in other companies speaking of “IT” and “The Business” as if they are somehow different. In DPD, IT is a central and integral part of the business. As such, I spend a lot of my day working with my colleagues on the management team to move the business forward. I also play a role when it comes to acquiring new customers and regularly meet prospective customers to understand their requirements and ensure that we can meet and exceed them. Coming from a technical background, I am involved in the high-level architectural design of all solutions but in truth I have a very strong team of technically excellent people who bring that top level vision to reality.
What are the big trends and challenges in your sector, and how do you plan to use IT to address them?
The biggest challenge for our industry is how to embrace the changing world of online shopping. We have a very strong network and business model but the future will be won by the company who can offer consumers and customers the most flexibility and convenience around the receipt of their parcels. This remains the focus of our attention and investment. We are currently working on several new and innovative products which will further enhance our portfolio and reaffirm our position at the forefront of parcel delivery technology.
What metrics or measurement tools do you use to gauge how well IT is performing?
Aside from the practical and measurable indicators which most companies use to ensure that they are delivering a fast and efficient service to their customers, the real win for IT, and it is where we excel, is the delivery of new and innovative solutions. Each year, as part of the management of the company, we take a fresh look at the environment in which we are operating and the values by which we run our business. This review becomes a cornerstone of our strategy.
Are there any areas you’ve identified where IT can improve, and what are they?
We never stand still in DPD. We are always looking for ways in which we can improve our products and services, either through operational improvements, new products and services or customer services. We have invested heavily in our digital channels but have a lot to do to get to where we want to be. We are always looking at ways in which we can speed up our development cycles and get to market faster and better than before. We are making changes in this regard which will help us do that.
What other projects do you have lined up for the year, and what will they contribute to the business?
This year will be very exciting for DPD. In the last quarter, we will be launching a new business offering which will bring us to a new level of consumer interaction and convenience. As part of that project, we will also be making significant advances in the digital presence space. This will be step one of a multi-level project which will transform the way we interact with consumers.
We are also just completing projects which will see our voice and live chat services moving entirely to the cloud. This project will result in many improvements in the way we serve our customers.
In addition, we have also just commenced a very large building and automation project which will see us increasing our capacity by 200pc, satisfying our growth plans for the next five years. This will be a substantial IT project.