2005 Citizen Services

Robert Otto

Brought the post office to the people by developing the USPS’s web services.


When you are in the business of delivering a service, you always want to do everything in your power to keep your customer base happy. But when your company guarantees universal service and your customer base is the entire U.S. population, that can be quite a daunting challenge. Thanks to Chief Technology Officer, Robert Otto, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) has been up to the task.

Mr. Otto has been the principle architect of the efforts to bring USPS into the digital age, and if you plan on mailing something in this coming year, chances are Mr. Otto will make your life a little bit easier. Let’s say you need to buy postage. Maybe you want to confirm if a package you mailed has been delivered. Or perhaps you can’t make it out today, and it would be a huge help if somebody could come pick up your package for you. With Mr. Otto’s web innovations, all of these things can now be done from your home or office computer.

People are already taking advantage of these new tools in record numbers. USPS.com, the Postal Service’s premier website, has more than two million visitors per day. More than 20 million online labels have been printed using USPS’s “Click-N-Ship” service, which lets customers purchase postage labels online, calculate and compare rates, pay for postage with any major credit card, pay for insurance and find a ZIP code. And in the past year, more than 10 million packages were picked up by a postal carrier at the customer’s home or business using the “Carrier Pickup” service.

Robert Otto’s internal innovations are also improving U.S. Postal Service operations and providing value for consumers. He runs one of the largest intranet systems in the world, with upwards of 175,000 computers. He helped set up a payroll network that pays out over $1 billion in employee salaries and benefits every two weeks. And he developed a shared service accounting function, helping USPS save almost $70 million annually. These savings help keep postage rates down, and everybody likes that.

Perhaps what’s most extraordinary about Robert Otto is his commitment to public service. He is widely recognized as one of the top IT specialists in the country—be it the public or private sector. He has been honored by CIO and Computerworld magazines as one of the Top 100 technology executives in the country, and InfoWorld recently ranked him in their Top 25. But despite the fact that he is at the top of his field, possessing some of the most in-demand skills by the private sector, he has remained in government for more than three decades.

If you were to ask Robert Otto why he stayed in government instead of taking a more lucrative job in the private sector, he would tell you that it reflects the values he learned growing up on a farm as one of eight children. He was taught by his father, who worked three jobs, that if you stick with something and work hard, the benefits will come. Well, Robert Otto has stuck with government for 36 years, and more than 20 promotions would suggest that his father was right.

“There was never any question as to why a career in government,” Otto said.“When I go home each night, I feel as if I’ve given something to someone; provided a service that may not have been possible without my leadership or the efforts of my staff. When I choose to end this career, I want to be able to walk away with the feeling that I have helped the Postal Service become the best organization that it can be.”

Robert Otto has certainly made the Postal Service a stronger organization. He has not only helped it run more efficiently, his online innovations have brought the post office to the people.