Date posted: 03/04/2018 7 min read

Australia Post: Transforming in the face of disruption

Silvio Giorgio talks about how Australia Post’s Finance team evolved to meet the changing need of customers and the business through innovation and behavioural change.

In brief

  • Transforming Australia Post’s Finance function required changing mindsets and behaviour
  • Confronting digital disruption by transforming to continue providing value for customers and the business
  • Results were a leaner and more engaged values based-consultancy

Transforming the physical into the digital

Australia Post is a national icon that has helped people connect with each other in Australia and across the world for over 200 years. It’s a large and complex organisation, with assets totalling A$5.5 billion, revenues of A$6.8 billion and an extended workforce of more than 50,000 people.

In 2015, the McKell Institute identified that declining traditional mail volumes and the disruptive impact of technology had contributed to a major deterioration in Australia Post’s financial performance.

The consequences of digital disruption were predicted to reach a total loss of $6.6 billion across the whole enterprise over the next 10 years, with cumulative losses in the mail business reaching $12.1 billion, if the business continued with the same model.

Based on Australia Post’s burning need to change, Silvio said the Finance team also needed to adapt because in the next 10 years the function would look very different due to the take up of technology. He questioned how any Finance function could support an organisation embarking on change if they didn’t embark on change themselves. His philosophy for Australia Post was:

“Our aim was to prepare our people for the change ahead, and empower them to be more relevant to our business and as individual finance professionals to the market.”

The approach and challenges of transformation

The challenges Silvio discovered in approaching the transformation were two-fold:

  1. Convincing the leaders of Australia Post to transform in order to stay relevant.
  2. Getting employees to engage in innovation and embrace disruption.

Convincing the leaders from the outset was critical to the success of Australia Post’s transformation. Finance professionals have learned that the world is changing fast, but Silvio says, “They weren’t necessarily thinking about how technology was going to change how the function could work in the future.”

Silvio encouraged the Finance team to acquire deeper knowledge and understanding of their business, keep abreast of technology that will impact them, and identify practical applications for advancing technologies for our business and people. Silvio believes these are the essential factors that will help accountants achieve success.

Changing traditional mindsets

The first thing Silvio did to engage his Finance colleagues in the process of transformation was to get the team to understand and articulate their roles and purpose. And, he says, “There needed to be a balance between traditional reporting and creating new forms of value.”

Silvio explored innovation with the team through the lens of the customer. With customers being quick to adapt to new technologies to improve their experience, they needed to be able to do the same.

Silvio found using positive psychology was imperative to shift his team’s mindset. They needed to communicate the opportunity to help drive the business forward. Over a period of two years the Finance team went from a culture of data driven reporting, to a knowledge driven culture using analytics, to where they are now – a value driven culture of actioning change.

Successful outcomes

Silvio says the transformation led to a leaner and more engaged Finance team. The cost savings were reinvested into other capabilities, in particular business partnering and data science.

The Finance team became a digital and a value-based consultancy function. Even roles like the Tax function, he says, now operate in a consultancy or innovative advisory model.  This is because “the attitude has changed and it’s about using data and insights to drive value for our customers and business, not just reporting.”