SparkOptimus CEO Stories featuring CEO and CIO of PostNL

16 June 2023 3 min. read

Over the past years, PostNL has been making the transition from a traditional parcel delivery company, into an innovative logistics platform for e-commerce and mail. The two women currently leading PostNL’s strategic and digital agenda – Herna Verhagen and Jennifer Crites – sat down with SparkOptimus to discuss the remarkable digital-backed transformation journey.

Herna Verhagen is one of the longest-serving CEOs of Dutch listed companies. Now in her tenth year at the helm, she leads 22,000 employees, and also is the main responsible for the radical strategic transformation of PostNL.

In a 40-minute video interview with SparkOptimus, Verhagen explains why the company has embarked on the largest organisational transformations in its history, as PostNL prepares for a digital future and a different role it foresees at the heart of the e-commerce logistics landscape in the Netherlands and Belgium.

“There are so many ways with which the desires of our customers have changed over the last few years,” said Verhagen. “For us, it’s crucially important to serve the needs of all our customers.” To that end, PostNL is transforming every part of its business, from its commercial and operating model, to customer channels and logistics footprint.

“The only way to maintain a competitive position in the market is if you are constantly trying to stay ahead of the developments in the market,” she told Alexandra Jankovich, CEO of SparkOptimus, as part of the firm’s CEO Stories series.

Enter: IT

Underpinning its company overhaul is a massive IT transformation. This is where CIO Jennifer Crites comes in – the American joined PostNL mid-2022 with the task to continue the digital transformation journey which had been kicked off in 2013 under the mantle of her predecessor Marcel Krom.

“We’ve had to really turn our IT strategy for ‘digital first’ in mind,” said Crites. This has led to a more simplified infrastructure for IT systems and applications (“we are investing in technologies and platforms that allows us to keep our IT as simple and effective as possible) and a more standardised – and hence aligned – approach across the business.

“The fact that we now have much better IT standards and platforms for the different functions we have in the organisation, means that we enable the operation to work more efficiently.”

Meanwhile, IT is the backbone for PostNL’s ambition to embed data-driven decision-making throughout its governance, as well as in its customer services. “We’ve been investing in our data platform and our data quality for a number of years now with the intention to offer more value-based services through data to our customers,” she said.

Looking ahead, Verhagen and Crites told Jankovich that the company no longer sees its digital strategy as a standalone pillar of the strategic agenda. Instead, “it’s an essential and integral part of the overall strategy of PostNL.”

“In every part of PostNL it is crucial to further digitise, to make more use of data, to make sure that the underlying IT systems are as standard as possible, but still able to – of course – support what need to do.”

SparkOptimus is one of the leading digital strategy consultancies in the Netherlands. The firm’s long-running CEO Stories series has previously welcomed the CEOs of among others Heineken, Nestlé, and Wolters Kluwer to its show.