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DHL Express aims to deliver on flexibility

Providing customers more flexibility and variety will prove critical in current market conditions, CIO Nariman Karimi says.

Express services provider DHL Express, knows it needs to be sensitive to changing customer requirements due to the current market conditions.

According to Nariman Karimi, senior vice president and CIO of DHL Express Asia-Pacific, the company is looking to deploy capabilities, over the next 12 months, that will allow for more flexibility and variety.

The economic downturn has underscored the importance of ensuring all customer touch-points across DHL's service delivery, from courier booking to invoicing, "reflect suitable variety of choice and ease of operations".

Nariman Karimi,
CIO
DHL Express
Technological expertise is the ticket to entry to DHL, but imagination and an eye for creating real customer value are amongst the attributes we increasingly prize.

In an e-mail interview with ZDNet Asia, Karimi discussed the company's key IT projects and challenge, and explained the significance of Web 2.0 technology in his industry.

What is DHL's top IT priority for the next 12 months?
Karimi: Customer-facing products. Some months ago, we sensed a heightened need in this area and prepared plans for IT accordingly. The express business is one of the "bellwether" industries reflecting emerging market conditions, so we need to be ready with capabilities almost before mainstream needs it. And also, with customers in all industry sectors from banking to pharmaceutical and engineering, we need to offer flexibility of operations.

DHL's strength has been in being present and adaptable to local market conditions. Even for large multinational companies like us, rather than adopt a "one size fits all" approach, our IT systems will continue to reflect this in the areas of operation that matter. With the current economic turns, it is important that all of our customer touch-points in the lifecycle--from booking a courier for pickup to invoicing--reflect suitable variety of choice and ease of operations.

We are also conscious that in the light of recent global economic situation, many of our customers will be introducing different models of operations--ranging from offshoring, near-shoring, shared service centers, to more distributed and varied--depending on their market conditions.

What key IT projects is the company working on, or will be working on, over the next 12 months?
Over the next 12 months, our focus will be on rolling out a series of capabilities to allow flexibility and variety. For example, customers will be able to create shipping documents and make courier bookings without necessarily having to implement large intrusive hardware or heavy software from us on their systems. We will even cater for companies with high security restrictions on Internet access. This will be in addition to those customers who need heavy-duty, central web and EDI (electronic data interchange) connectivity.

Another example is flexibility in the way they will be able to receive and view invoices from any of their locations, and at any time, as they may be going through remodeling backoffice locations and operations. Our online track-and-trace, credit card and cash booking interfaces, will all receive a boost.

Route planning, and dynamic scheduling of pickup and delivery stops, for our vehicles is another area of focus for us that is aimed at achieving higher customer service targets. Of course, there are a number of other operations projects aimed at improving customer relationship, which we hope to talk about in the near future.

What is DHL's key IT challenge and how does the company plan to address it?
Attracting and training IT talent remains a key challenge. Our environment demands more than technology-savvy people. Technological expertise is the ticket to entry to DHL, however, imagination and an eye for creating real customer value are amongst the attributes that we increasingly prize.

What's the IT development/trend you believe will most impact DHL?
Overcoming time and space for people is the heart of our business, so mobile, wireless and omnipresent devices that are rich in applications and functionalities will impact the way we can reach out to our markets, and probably even open the way for introducing new services.

In addition, Web 2.0 developments of community-built content and "two-way Net" offer powerful platforms. Initially designed more for the consumer segment, Web 2.0 tools will progressively emerge as key channels in the mainstream business industry. Imagine being able to locate and arrange to have your delivery made available to you on-the-fly, even when you're on the move, on a business trip.

Climate-control packaging, security and authentication based on biometrics, and emerging intelligent "data" are another set of trends that will have an impact on the increasing variety of goods that will be able to be sourced from outside of one's immediate proximity--that's our business.