Future IT: An update from Gareth Clark, Strategic Platform Modernisation Director
We’re replacing Horizon and we want you to be involved
We want to move to a modern IT system that has been designed for and with postmasters and branch teams. We have an opportunity with the Horizon contract ending, to develop a completely new system rather than seek to extend it further. To design, build and replace over 25,000 terminals and thousands of pieces of kit, across 11,500 branches, outreaches and mobile vans will take time, which is why we’re continuing to make important changes to the Horizon system in the short term while we work on developing the future IT systems.
By developing the new IT system in-house, we will have greater control over making changes and updates as well as being able to launch new products more quickly than we are currently able to. For example, as we open our network to more carriers, we need kit that can easily integrate with third-party systems, and more advanced and up-to-date hardware.
Building on your feedback
You have already told us lots about what does and doesn’t work in Horizon. We’re using this knowledge as the starting point for the design of the new system, and we hope to continue to work closely with you as we develop. I am committed to making sure your views and experience are at the heart of all of our decisions and that changes we make to IT will work for you in your branch.
Working with Simon’s team we have set up an IT working group made up of over 170 volunteer postmasters from across the country. We will use this working group and other forums (Branch User Forum, regional forums, and via your Area Managers) to ask questions, refine our proposals, test out prototypes and get feedback on the system as we develop it.
I’m incredibly grateful to those of you who have got involved so far, whether that is through the working group, hosting me or members of the team in your branches, or speaking to us on the phone - thank you for your time and your invaluable insight.
Based on what you’ve told us we have identified the following priorities:
- Creating a fast, intuitive system with simpler and more consistent transactions
- Streamlining in-branch processes (e.g. the end of month accounting process and simplifying access to different systems)
- Upgrading the hardware available to you, and ensuring you have the opportunity to test out different devices to tell us what works for you
- Ensuring that the new system gives you the information and control you need to run your business, and allows Post Office to make changes centrally with minimal disruption
- Providing you with appropriate training and support to make sure that you and your branch team feel confident and comfortable using the new system.
Answering your questions
We know lots of you have questions about current and future IT. Please do ask, you can either comment below or email futureIT@postoffice.co.uk.
A few of you have asked if we’re going to offer tablets to all branches. For now, we’re focused on replacing the Horizon counters with a fixed device. We know that handheld devices could be useful to many of you, and we are looking into whether we can offer these in future, but we need to better understand the costs and benefits to make a decision. We will discuss this more with postmasters in future working group sessions.
Some of you have also asked whether you will be able to use the new counter system to access Branch Hub. Yes, this functionality is planned for the new system – though of course we are still in the early stages and have not built this yet.
Timescales and next steps
We are at the very beginning of the process to replace Horizon. We want to take enough time to design and build the new system, ensuring it is well-tested with postmasters and matching postmaster needs. This means we will have Horizon in branches for a few more years. Our planned timelines for rolling out the new system are:
- Late 2021: A pilot and very small version of the new system will be tested in selected new branches
- 2022 and 2023: We will run pilots in branches to test the new system with different product groups and to understand how it works, ensuring we design and build with postmasters, for postmasters
- 2023 to 2025: The new system will start to become available to branches, ultimately replacing the current system in its entirety
We will provide regular updates on our progress through this blog and elsewhere. Please do get in touch on futureIT@postoffice.co.uk or comment below if you would like more information, have a question or want to get involved.
I look forward to working with you over the coming years as we develop and roll out the new system and hope to meet as many of you as possible along the way.