From mail carrier to the C-suite
- By Frank Konkel
- Sep 27, 2013
Ellis Burgoyne, who will retire on Oct. 1, was the first USPS employee to become its CIO.
Ellis Burgoyne began his career at the U.S. Postal Service 35 years ago as a mail carrier in Inglewood, Calif.
He'll end his career at USPS on Oct. 1 as its CIO, having spent the past three years in the C-suite overseeing one of the largest IT infrastructures in the world.
At 19, Burgoyne delivered the mail by day and took public transportation across the projects of Los Angeles at night to take college classes, where he pursued a degree in finance. He came from a "postal family," and took the job because he needed the cash.
Back then, there was no such thing as a real-time mail package delivery tracking system. Mail carriers were not equipped with GPS, and at any given moment the carrier was the only person who knew the location of a piece of mail in transit.
Today those ideas are part of the USPS business strategy in large part because of Burgoyne's efforts.
"My parents were pushing the Postal Service on me and I didn't want a part of it until I graduated high school and needed money," Burgoyne said. "I never intended to retire here, but the opportunities came in."
The opportunities came first on the finance side, which incidentally provided Burgoyne his first exposure to IT.
"At the time, IT reported to finance, and I got more involved in IT as I moved back into operations as we became more dependent on information and information systems," Burgoyne said. "I gained a real interest in the power of information and how important the linkage of IT and operations is to business."
He rose through the ranks, serving as postmaster of Oakland; manager of customer services in southern California; senior financial analyst in the former Southern Region and several other positions before becoming USPS CIO and executive vice president in 2011.
The past three years, Burgoyne said, have been the most pressure-packed. As CIO, he was part of the C-suite executive leadership team that reports directly to the postmaster general. Yet they've been highly rewarding, even in tough financial times.
Under Burgoyne's leadership, USPS successfully rebuilt its product-tracking system with a $100 million spending program that is paying off financially as well as in customer approval. If you send a package via USPS and use the Internet to check its location or receive confirmation online that it has been received, you owe a bit of thanks to Burgoyne.
But the new systems also operate more cheaply than the old ones. USPS is now saving about 8 percent of its former legacy computing costs annually – a considerable sum given the USPS has the third largest computing network in the world.
"I tried to bring an operational experience here. We're not a tech company, but we're a big tech consumer," Burgoyne said. "My main goal was to try to leverage technology with operations platforms. My big emphasis was on transforming the last mile – once it leaves the post office for delivery, trying to create intelligence about every piece of that last mile."
Technology has also helped USPS cope logistically with the closures of many local post offices and facilities. Closures have become commonplace in the face of technological change and budget deficits in the billions of dollars.
"It's helped us improve the supply chain and help operations absorb consolidations we've had," Burgoyne said. "It helps us focus our resources, and we're using a much leaner logistical model. With this investment in IT and infrastructure, we've been able to get returns on work-hours saved."
To date, Burgoyne is the only internal USPS employee to become its CIO, but with his success in pairing operational knowhow with his tech-centric interests, USPS is looking harder at internal candidates for the job. As of yet, the agency has not selected one, though a decision is expected in the next week. Given the public climate facing USPS, Burgoyne said, the job is certain to challenge whoever takes it.
Though he's stepping away from USPS, Burgoyne said he's not ready to stop working entirely.
"I'm exploring options," he said. "I'm too young yet to sit around the house."
Frank Konkel is a former staff writer for FCW.