PostNL: high up in the clouds

With Piet-Wybe Wagter,
Chief Executive Officer at Sogeti Netherland

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PostNL: high up in the clouds

PostNL was the first Dutch company to rely entirely on a cloud system because of its strong digitalization strategy. This major transformation was managed by Sogeti, one of Capgemini’s main subsidiaries. (Visit Capgemini’s Cloud Choice).

A first in the Netherlands

In the final months of 2013, PostNL, the Dutch postal service made a decision that radically transformed its economic model: to set up a 100% cloud strategy by establishing a dedicated platform. Sogeti, the Capgemini subsidiary specializing in technology and engineering services, was tasked with carrying out this transformation. The two companies knew each other well. Sogeti had recently built several applications for the postal service. However, the new project was much more ambitious. It involved migrating most, if not all, PostNL’s IT systems to the cloud. For a company of its size—46,000 employees across 13 countries—this was clearly a first.

Decline in the small package market in the Netherlands between 2013 and 2014.

Flexibility and cost reduction

Contrasting market developments drove the decision to adopt the cloud. “On the one hand, PostNL faced a rapid decline in the letters and small packages market, while on the other, experienced substantial growth in parcel traffic due to the explosion of online commerce. The group needed to reduce costs and gain flexibility to more easily control the volume differences transported,” explains Piet-Wybe Wagter, director of Sogeti Netherlands since 2012, who worked on the account.

Cost reduction made possible by migrating PostNL applications to the cloud.

For that reason, the goal was to improve response times to “keep pace with the market,” while substantially reducing costs. The new digitization strategy had implications for the entire company, particularly the mail division. Once the transformation was complete, staff spent only half their time on costly activities such as letter sorting and distribution, and the rest of their time managing digital tools.

The cloud’s greatest advantage is that it enables access to IT resources, applications and services on demand via the internet. That fundamentally impacts investment strategies.
Piet-Wybe Wagter

The “great migration”

On a practical level, the solution involved migrating 75 applications to Microsoft’s public cloud, Azure, before entrusting the platform’s management to Sogeti. “This dual migration and management model was not very common at the time,” says Piet-Wybe Wagter. The “great migration” began in late 2013 and was completed two years later. While rolling out the 100% cloud strategy for PostNL, the Sogeti team had to imagine every possible scenario: “How to secure the data of group customers, what to do in case the entire system crashed… For this type of project, every possibility must be anticipated,” says Piet-Wybe Wagter. The Sogeti team even had to deal with a few surprises. “One day in 2014, Microsoft Azure crashed. The entire Microsoft cloud ground to a halt. The system we had developed allowed us to restart much faster than other users. Even Microsoft was impressed,” says Piet-Wybe Wagter.

The number of Sogeti employees assigned to the project.

The cloud transformation revolutionized PostNL’s operations. “It was a major upheaval for the group. The cloud offered a new level of agility by allowing the group to consume IT resources based on its needs and activity level. It impacted the entire value chain,” concludes Piet-Wybe Wagter.

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