Logistics handling is an essential part of the service for e-commerce. When the delivery runs smoothly, the online store gains another loyal customer. A transparent and customer-focused process makes you stand out from the crowd in a time when consumers are becoming more demanding. As the Manager of IT Solutions for E-commerce Logistics, I am responsible for the IT platforms behind our mission-critical logistics operation.
E-commerce is a highly competitive market that is developing at lightning speed. A wide range of parties would like to become part of this trend. The logistics behind online stores is provided by a combination of traditional postal firms and newcomers, such as Amazon and Coolblue, who partly take care of their own delivery. State-of-the-art logistics channels are essential in the fight to gain the favour of increasingly demanding senders and recipients. PostNL will also be making a difference in the future through the use of technology.
At PostNL, IT and software engineering are becoming more and more important for us to support our growth so we can provide a distinctive service. The need for change has multiplied a hundredfold compared to five years ago. In the past, we used to make a few hundred changes to our systems each year, we now make that many in a single week. And it is still not enough. The IT determines the pace at which the business can modernise.
We have divided the logistics supply chain into twelve functional components, which include planning, field services, event management and network routing. A multifunctional team, made up of business people and engineers, is responsible for each component. Whether they are internal or external, everyone plays a full-time role in the team.
Linking the long term and short term is a significant challenge in e-commerce logistics. How do all of the things we currently want to achieve for the business compare to each other? How are we going to monitor flexibility and coherence in the future? Functional decomposition helps us to analyse technical requirements and possibilities so that new solutions fit in our reference architecture. This keeps us fast and flexible.
In the past, the IT department would traditionally look first at the in-house solutions in order to address a potential business demand. Anyone who focuses entirely on business objectives often notices that the existing technology does not fit. We have updated or are in the process of updating all applications in e-commerce logistics. We no longer have any inflexible monoliths – everything is in containers or serverless in the cloud.
In a high-performance, mission-critical environment, supporting platforms need to be scalable. We use Mendix, a low-code software platform, to keep up with the fast pace of change. We want to expand our team of in-house Mendix developers so that we can retain knowledge and continue to develop.
In 2017, It was just me as the Manager of IT Solutions for E-commerce Logistics. Various teams are now active. Engineering has recently been added, which means we are making more and more things ourselves.
It is important that our teams have a clear and broad mandate. I help to shape a context for them to perform optimally through as much autonomy as necessary. In this way, teams also have to enter into a continuously accelerating cycle, where they gain and use their own freedom, just like I did.
Our Dutch background is a great advantage here: action-oriented, harmonious cooperation and relatively flat. The management is open to relevant contributions from employees, provided that we do things that benefit our customers.
PostNL is the favourite deliverer for the majority of Dutch people. To ensure that it stays this way, we have to continually adapt to the increasingly changing needs of senders and recipients. This ‘ability to execute’ requires IT and business working together as an organic whole.
We are looking for developers who want to make an impact over the long term and who are open to exciting and relevant opportunities. People who are able to fully deploy their skills and who can expand their knowledge. Developers who can advance in breadth or want to grow to lead. With these new colleagues we will create value for our customers, employees and the company.