Thursday 23 April 2020

The PTC takes UPU’s headquarters online

23.04.2020 - Staff working at the UPU’s International Bureau made a quick transition to conducting its operations almost completely online thanks to the preparation and technical backing of its Postal Technology Centre (PTC).

As COVID-19 spread rapidly across the globe throughout February, with the World Health Organization signalling its progression to a pandemic in early March, many organizations sent their staff home to self-isolate. The UPU was no different; on March 16 UPU Director General Bishar A. Hussein announced the organization’s Berne, Switzerland, headquarters would be closed immediately to protect staff from the deadly virus. For the first time, the International Bureau (IB) was forced to take its work almost completely online.
It might sound like a major transition for an organization used to bringing its 250 staff together each day under the same roof. However, experience, technology and flexibility from the PTC’s team of IT experts have kept the UPU’s operations running smoothly.
According to PTC Operations and Quality Coordinator Olivier Bernieu, the UPU’s technological arm was fully equipped to guide the switch to remote working.
“Our experience developing and operating cloud software helped us prepare a virtual environment very quickly,” says Bernieu.
He explains that the environment – which creates a portal to the user’s office desktop from their laptop at home – was implemented on the same cloud technology used to operate PTC products such as the International Postal System (IPS) and Customs Declaration System (CDS). He compares the process to registering a new client to one of these tools. This cloud environment for IPS and CDS was ISO 27001 certified in November 2019.
Quick to action
Under ideal circumstances, Bernieu says he would have set aside three weeks for his team to set-up the environment. However, he and his colleagues pulled together, working long hours to launch the solution in less than a week – including providing training and set-up support to their colleagues across the IB.
“We didn’t have as much time as we would have liked to train the users and some of them were quite nervous to work remotely, but this experience has shown us how capable and willing to change the IB staff can be,” says Bernieu.
According to PTC Director Lati Matata, a 2017 management decision to consolidate the IB’s IT competencies under the PTC has bolstered efficiency, enabling it to deliver even better IT services for UPU events, such as the UPU’s council meetings and Congress, and now for the IB’s teleworking needs.
 “I am particularly proud of the expertise, commitment and innovative focus of the PTC’s teams of IT experts,” says Matata, adding, “I can assure our UPU member customers we will continue to work to deliver quick solutions to the rapidly changing postal environment they are experiencing.”
Monitoring the situation
The PTC’s robust technologies and experience have also helped the team set up a dashboard to help the IB’s Postal Operations Directorate communicate important updates related to the virus’ impact on the postal sector.
Using the UPU Quality Control System (QCS) and big data tools, the dashboard provides real-time updates on postal traffic, displays all Emergency Information System (EmIS) messages received from member countries about mail disruptions caused by the virus, and lists new routes for transporting the post amidst mass passenger flight cancellations. The dashboard has become a critical communication centre for the organization.
Through QCS, the PTC is also able to monitor postal transmissions to detect network disruptions.
“If a country stops transmitting data we get an alert and can follow up with them directly to find the cause,” explains Bernieu.
“This functionality has always been available on the tool, but we’ve now improved and added to the existing dashboard in line with the UPU’s needs for near real-time monitoring and communicating issues related to the virus,” he adds.

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