Lessons Learned from Royal Mail's Mobile Deployment

Terry Solesbury - Royal Mail
Royal Mail's use of mobile devices

Royal Mail completed one of the largest handheld device rollouts in recent history. When we first announced the programme a few years ago, we noted that handheld devices are not just tools, but in fact are a key component of our transformation. Our success depends on customer service. Customer service depends on reliable delivery. That in turn depends on efficient field operations, including the performance of our handheld devices.

The five-year, £130 million investment puts new handheld devices in the hands of 76,000 Royal Mail men and women so they can improve service for customers. Throughout the rollout and production phases I have learned a lot about how managing mobile devices can improve the customer experience. While our system was designed to handle 4.5 million transactions per hour during peak holiday delivery times, the insight I’ve gained is helpful for projects of all sizes.

Make the Most of Your Device Investment

Most organisations do a good job of evaluating their many hardware options to find the handheld computer that best meets their needs. How well the devices will actually perform once they are used in real world working conditions depends a lot on how the devices are configured and managed. Do barcodes scan quickly? Do applications take time to load and leave users waiting? Will batteries last the whole shift on very busy days? You can’t always anticipate or answer those questions until your deployment is up and running. Even then, you need to acquire and analyse accurate performance data from the field. Reviewing occasional device failures, or collecting anecdotal stories from users will not provide the depth of information or level of insight you need to optimise your device population. The lesson here is that once your devices are selected and deployed, you need a programme to continually monitor their performance and provide the insight to improve it. That will allow you to get the best results from the devices you’ve selected.

Details Matter

In a large deployment there are no small problems. Every device setting that isn’t optimised can slow down tens of thousands of users and affect service to millions of customers. Therefore, it is valuable to look deeply into how your devices perform, so you can make your field operations as efficient as possible. As Royal Mail Director Adrian Baker said after our new system helped us win recognition as the Best Shipping Carrier Services Company: “Our front line colleagues are essential to our operations and our investment in technology equips them to carry out their work in the most effective way.”

Getting the insight that truly makes a difference for device reliability, performance and user efficiency takes more than reviewing basic downtime reports and repair records. You need to learn what causes devices to slow down or fail, and what can be done to prevent it. The more information you can get about how your devices perform and what affects their performance, the more value you can get out of them.

Find What Fits

BT helped us select our handheld computers (the TC75 model from Zebra Technologies) and provides ongoing device management support services. BT uses mobile device management and analytics from B2M to continually monitor our handheld device population, suggesting adjustments and maintenance to optimise device performance. The good news is that you do not have to operate at our scale to get the most out of your investment in mobile technology, you just need to find the right partners.

Terry Solesbury
PDA & Mobility Portfolio Director
Business IT – Operations
Royal Mail Group