DHL Express UAE, a global player in the logistics industry that specialises in international shipping, courier services and transportation has embarked on a Digital Transformation journey all in an effort to deliver efficient services to its broad and varied customer base. Praveen Sashi, Senior Director of IT and Logistics, DHL Express UAE, tells Intelligent CIO Middle East, how the company is insing technology to drive change, innovate and transform the logistics sector in the region. Manda Banda recently chatted with Sashi and brings this report.
Talk us through DHL Express Middle East IT setup and why it has been critical to implement digitalisation and innovation across your operations Middle East.
In the region and globally, we have a world class IT infrastructure and services that power up our physical network which includes planes, facilities, vehicles and most importantly people and connecting them all. It is our IT platform that helps us deliver a great customer experience at every touchpoint. In fact, our IT platform mirrors our physical network 24 by 7 and works in over 220 countries, that’s practically everywhere on the planet.
As an innovation leader in our industry, we have successfully implemented numerous digitalisation programmes across all business functions over the past years, despite this we believe Digital Transformation presents even more opportunities and has enormous potential for our industry. In our 2025 company strategy, digitalisation is a key lever to optimise our core business, enhancing both customer and employee experience while also creating new growth opportunities.
What were the main challenges that DHL Express faced prior undertaking these digitalisation initiatives and what IT technologies did you work with?
Over the past years a major area of focus has been around modernising our IT backbone across all business functions and countries that we operate in and migrating from legacy applications towards a state-of-the-art global application portfolio. We had numerous digitalisation solutions implemented over the past years, our next phase of digitalisation is about accelerating adoption of new age technologies across the business to achieve better speed, efficiency and flexibility that’s needed to keep pace with today’s demands.
Having looked around for suitable IT solutions currently in the market, how did you settle for the technology and vendors you selected?
We have a few important checks that go into the evaluation of any new technology. For example, one of the criteria is that any new technology or solution must integrate seamlessly with our IT ecosystem and should be scalable to support our breadth of international operations. We also have a strong governance model and process that greenlights new technologies for implementation. We work with many technology vendors and their expertise, flexibility and ability to deliver is key for a successful partnership when it comes to new technology adoption for a specific use case.
Given that DHL Express is one of the largest logistics and transportation conglomerates in the Middle East and globally, how important is it for the company to have robust and secure IT infrastructure and systems?
A secure, highly reliable and available IT platform is central to our company strategy that consists of four basic pillars which starts with motivated people – so, having the right tools and automation helps our employees stay connected while enabling them to do a great job (be productive and happy). Our IT platform mirrors our physical network that ensures critical information is available when needed at all levels within the organisation and that helps deliver a great service quality which links to the second pillar. Adding new IT capabilities reduces customer effort and keeps them loyal. Finally, a highly efficient and resilient IT platform contributes to a profitable network which is contributing to the fourth pillar.
The role of a CIO/ IT Director/IT head etc. is constantly evolving with more C-level and business line executives getting involved in making IT and technology purchasing decisions. How hard is it for you to get the correct support and buy-in from your peers at DHL Express?
Personally, I think it comes down to a few basics and due diligence. First, it’s important to ensure that adoption of any technology is aligned to a business priority. Secondly, there must be a proper feasibility study, for example, how will the proposed investment deliver returns or benefits. As an example, beginning of 2020 we launched a Blockchain enabled ecommerce platform with Dubai Customs meant to simplify the import and export clearance process for our customers. This was a major investment and first of its kind like a start-up. In fact, the solution has already simplified cross-border movements of goods for our customers that has in turn enabled them to expand and grow their business.
How is DHL Express guiding its customers on its journey of providing smart, innovative and dynamic services as the company has embarked on its Digital Transformation journey?
As a company we are focused on making our customers’ life easy as well as making DHL easy to do business with. With this in mind we are constantly engaging with our customers at all levels. Last year, we had launched a new highly intuitive online customer solution for which we had organised an event just so our customers could come and experience the new technology first hand, ask questions and give feedback which we later incorporated into the solution. During the pandemic our customer facing team has done hundreds of online trainings and webinars to guide and support our customers on our digital journey.
The Middle East has witnessed a heightened wave of cyberattacks in recent months targeting various industry verticals especially with the COVID-19 pandemic and most employees working remotely. How is DHL Express protecting its digital assets from cyber criminals?
We have a saying in our company that information security is everyone’s responsibility. Awareness and education is the first step in tackling this important topic and we are constantly reinforcing key messages on prevention and protection, both with our employees and customers. At an infrastructure level, we have a rather elaborate set of security standards and measures implemented at every level to secure our business, as you would expect from an organisation of our size and scale of operations. Again this is an area that will further benefit from our digitalisation agenda, for example we have already seen practical applications of AI and Blockchain in enhancing security.
What IT projects have you implemented in the last 12 to 18 months and how have those projects impacted DHL Express’ business in the Middle East region.
Firstly, over the years we have evolved our standard processes in most areas of our business that is adequately supported by an enhanced global application portfolio which are centrally hosted and managed. This has made us agile, it’s faster to deploy new IT capabilities and changes across the organisation or scale up fairly quickly in response to business and customer requirements or related challenges such as the ones posed by the recent pandemic. For example, overnight activation of contactless delivery, digital payment options and paperless processes to minimise physical contact. Having said that, we are also well structured in terms of IT organisation, while we have a global team managing centralised IT services, we have country IT engaged and focused on the local business and its customers. This approach has ensured a resilient IT foundation, while it also enabled us to quickly respond to massive shifts in employee work and customer behaviour patterns and drive innovation on the frontline that was required to adapt to the new normal. Thus, we were also able to successfully shift our focus from just reacting to the crisis to getting ahead of it.
What percentage of DHL Express’ business is now digital or online?
Almost all our customer facing services are available online or accessible through a digital channel. Our electronic shipment percentage is nearly 100% which means there’s no manual entry of shipment data at any stage, this reduces effort for our internal teams and helps them deliver better service to our customers.
What do you see as the biggest challenge that DHL Express faces on its Digital Transformation journey and how has working with technology vendors on the digitalisation of the logistics sector helped to bring a spotlight on this vertical?
Digitalisation in the logistics sector is happening so fast and on so many fronts, it can be difficult to keep pace. With digitalisation the goal post keeps shifting with new technologies and breakthroughs. Further, the integration of digital solutions using AI, Blockchain, RPA with real world application of robotics, IoT wearables can be quite transformational for our industry. So it’s important to stay focused, use the right vendors, prioritise and take a measured approach while also being prepared for the unknown.
What has been the main changes in terms of your overall product and services offerings to your customers ever since you started this digital journey in the Middle East?
We have already made great progress in integrating digitalisation into our core products and services over the past years and this has served us well during the pandemic, for example our customer facing solutions and simplified interfaces made it easier for customers to do business with us across all channels, data analytics helped improve operational visibility and optimise deliveries, process automation reduced customer efforts while helping our employees become more productive and happier.
What is the total workforce for DHL Express in the Middle East and how many branches does the company have across the Middle East?
DHL Express has been present in the region for more than 40 years and this gives us the capability and knowledge to respond to our customers’ needs. We offer our customers the expertise of more than 5,200 certified international specialists, 240 branches and more than 200 facilities across the region. Additionally, our robust network of more than 220 countries and territories in the world has helped many businesses grow their global footprint in the world and tap into new markets.
What initiatives are you focusing on for the rest of 2021 and beyond what does the future hold for DHL Express in the logistics given the challenging times we are experiencing at the moment?
Although we have made significant progress, I believe there are still many untapped opportunities to unlock yet with further digitalisation in particular leveraging new age technologies such as AI/Machine Learning, Blockchain, IoT, robotics etc. to augment and support our people in providing great service to our customers. With our new strategy 2025, digitalisation is experiencing a major push forward, it’s about delivering excellence in a digital world.
How do you see DHL Express evolving in the next 24 months and what will be the driving force of that change?
As the pace of change accelerates, I believe the need for further optimisation of business processes and improving employee and customer experience by establishing new digital capabilities will amplify. In many ways, the current crisis has also been a learning in terms of investing in the right technologies and prioritising and this will help businesses adapt as well as proactively address radically different market conditions. As a result, the IT mandate will stretch beyond the familiar realm of just keeping the lights on or being a business partner to that of being a change agent to drive Digital Transformation and innovation.
Yes, I am really proud of our people in every function and country, everyone is tirelessly at work, finding solutions and going above and beyond to deliver goods for our customers and keep the supply chain functioning smoothly despite the challenges the pandemic has thrust upon us. Their ‘can-do’ spirit and ‘as-one’ culture has worked wonders in delivering on our company purpose of connecting people and improving lives.Click below to share this article