For consumers to be able to get the same delivery experience for cross-border e-commerce as they do for domestic online shopping, international and domestic postal operations need to be more integrated. To achieve this, timely and compliant exchange of data between posts is essential. Currently, over a billion tracked postal events are going through IPC’s systems yearly. The IPC data hub allows posts to offer an integrated delivery network.

Why is data so important for IPC’s strategy?

In today’s postal operations, data is key and has a direct operational impact on how mail items are handled. When in the past, data travelled with the postal item, nowadays data is sent in advance to determine what to do with the item. With increasingly strict security regulations – such as the US STOP Act and the EU ICS2 – data must be timely, accurate and predictable, or the item can be stopped and postal operations could be impeded. To ensure this, we put a lot of efforts in proactively managing data flows and quality coming through our systems. 

Moreover, data is crucial for the cross-border e-commerce delivery experience, as consumers expect an end-to-end view of the delivery of the parcel item. Customers want the same service level when shopping internationally as domestically. Posts need to respond to that expectation. 

When it comes to data, the biggest challenge IPC faces is having to integrate multiple data sources from across the world, while ensuring the consistency of the data, in order to provide a common view. It is this framework that is crucial. Data as such does not have any value – it only has value in a particular context. We only collect data that we need, and we put of a lot of attention to determining what data we need, for how long and how to secure it. 

New international security obligations such as the EU ICS2 represent a potential challenge for cross-border e-commerce. How is IPC helping posts to address those? 

On 15 March, the new EU ICS2 system entered into force, under which all goods imported into the European Union customs area, including through postal networks, have to be pre-registered. This new obligation represents an operational challenge for posts. IPC collaborated with its member posts to develop a solution to address this challenge. Through IPC COMETS [Centralised Operational Message Exchange and Translation System], postal data will be transmitted to the EU system in a centralised manner, considerably reducing the burden and the costs for posts. As many as 26 posts will use IPC to transmit the necessary data into the EU system, building on the data already going through IPC systems. This clearly shows the added value of IPC as this is a shared service, so it allows posts to comply with the obligation at a much lower cost. We can also adapt the system to the future requirements and changes, which would be easier and more efficient than if all posts had to create and update their own systems.

IPC received ISO27001 certification for information security. Why is it so crucial for IPC to be ISO certified?

Our members and customers trust us with one of their most valuable assets: data. We have to ensure the security of the data as we are data handler for members and customers. Our first priority is to keep data secure, available and consistent. 

What has been the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on IPC and the postal sector as a whole? 

The COVID-19 crisis had a huge impact on IPC. We had to react very quickly to move all the staff to homeworking. We managed to continue providing the same level of service to our members and customers. We delivered all the services we committed to and sometimes even earlier than planned. I think we can consider this as a huge achievement. 

The crisis also had some positive implications. Remote working has led to a shift in company culture and changed how we work together on an international level. With an international team and members across the world, this is a major asset. It has become easier to manage virtual teams and staff members who were already working remotely now feels more integrated. The crisis also accelerated the acceptance of new technologies. 

But let´s not forget the huge impact the current pandemic crisis has caused to the personal life of the people we work together within IPC, our Partners and Members. Working under the current circumstances is not “busines as usual” and we need to show the right level of empathy to the hardships caused by this extraordinary difficult time. 

What will be the main priority for the next five years? 

Our key priority will be flexibility, in order to quickly adapt to changing marketplace and requirements of our shareholders. 

Markus Apfelbeck, CIO
Markus Apfelbeck, CIO