Shrinking postal ranks

The Postal Service will close 80 personnel offices nationwide to improve efficiency and reduce administrative expenses.

By 2007, U.S. Postal Service officials plan to close 80 personnel offices nationwide, a decision they say is necessary to improve efficiency and reduce administrative expenses. USPS employs 1,240 people in personnel positions.

USPS officials said they will open a consolidated office with about 450 employees in Greensboro, N.C., to function as a shared services center for personnel functions.

"That means we'll have to find other jobs in the Postal Service for the other 800 folks," said DeWitt Harris, vice president for employee resource management.

USPS has reduced its employee ranks by more than 20,000 workers a year since about 2001, Harris said.

For several years, Postal Service officials have been consolidating administrative functions in other parts of the agency, notably in its finance and accounting operations. Now it is personnel employees who likely will lose positions as officials consolidate offices and replace the agency's 25-year-old human resources systems with new software from SAP America.

In August, SAP won a $35 million USPS contract. The award is for $14 million in license and application fees for the MySAP Business Suite and $21 million in services from the company's professional group.

Even before awarding the SAP contract, USPS officials had been offering employees access to personnel services through self-service kiosks, interactive voice response systems and PCs.

"Those are transactions that don't have to take place in the personnel office," Harris said, adding that agency officials automated 1.8 million personnel transactions last year.

In the next year, he said, USPS information technology staff will help him automate another 700,000 transactions.

He said USPS will transform its personnel operations by creating the shared services organization, now common in many large corporations. A core group of employees, using the new SAP systems, will provide personnel services for the entire agency. It is an approach that Harris said will reduce costs, improve efficiency and increase employee satisfaction.

Changes in personnel operations will affect the size and composition of the IT staff as well, said Robert Otto, USPS' chief technology officer. When agency officials begin using SAP's software and services, they will no longer need 28 of their 81 personnel systems or the administrative support positions related to them.

But as administrative positions disappear, the need for data warehouse experts is expanding, Otto said.

"If you reduce 15 to 20 administrator jobs, you find there's need for adding 10 to 15 jobs in the data warehouse area, or for adding 10 jobs or five jobs over in the database area for better management of the data," he said.

George Wright, manager of USPS' finance and administrative systems portfolio, said adjusting to changing job priorities has almost become routine.

"We're constantly capturing back our work hours — our people — to reallocate them to new areas where [USPS] is growing," Wright said.

Using HR systems

U.S. Postal Service officials will use new human resources systems from SAP America to become more efficient by:

* Relying more on self-service applications.

* Eliminating unauthorized positions.

* Expanding Web-based training.

Source: U.S. Postal Service

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