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Informing the UK's business technology leaders

The CIO 100 is compiled each year to reveal the most transformative CIOs in the UK business economy. CIOs that are driving business change, process improvement, enabling greater collaboration and innovating in new market opportunities join this exclusive group each year. The technology strategies of the CIOs and their achievements and ambitions towards transformation are judged in comparison to their IT sourcing strategies and vendor influence. The CIOs with the most transformative vision are also judged on their place within the business; and whether they put technology into the board level position and discussion.

CIO 100 - 2012 - #35

Play.com

CIO 100

Media, leisure and entertainment

Play.com

Francesco De Marchis , CIO

Play.com is a Jersey-based online retailer of DVDs, CDs, books, gadgets, video games, DRM-free MP3 downloads, and other electronic products, as well as clothes and accessories. Founded in 1998, Play.com was one of the first online retailers targeting the UK. It is the seventh biggest online retailer in the UK market, according to traffic monitor Hitwise, and it is in the top 50 globally. Play.com has 7,000,000 registered customers, a catalogue of over 14,000,000 products, and it employs some 250 staff.

IT Leader: Francesco de Marchis, CIO

In role since:
About one year

Reporting line:
Reporting directly to the CEO of Play.com

Board level seat:
No

IT budget: 
£10m

IT staff currently employed:
Play has 120 IT staff of which 20 are outsourced in India. Play has a strong IP tradition. We keep developing our internal technology expanding in new areas like Mobile and Digital. The IP is a key retention point for Play.

IT management team and reporting structure:  The Web Factory, the IT arm of Play.com, has a very flat organisation. We have eight direct reports to the CIO and in charge of different areas of IT. Each team has direct relationship with their equivalent business partner to facilitate the integration between Technology and Business as well to facilitate an Agile Methodology within the company.

Primary technology platforms at the organisation: An e-commerce platform is the most important component of an online retail company. Play has a strong and unique bespoken platform that integrates the Direct Business with a strong Marketplace. Our philosophy was to implement ourselves the platform according to Play business model and to work with the best in class vendors for areas we did not want to implement in house. The CMS also is a bespoken application as fit better our model. This is a critical area we are hugely investing to make it more robust and adding the features Rakuten is looking for.

Significant strategic technology deals been struck in the last 12 months: With the acquisition from Rakuten of Kobo the third biggest ebook reader Play has gained a new channel as well a two million ebooks to expand the Digital Strategy. Kobo has also an equivalent of the Kindle Fire named Vox that will be able to play video and music as well manage any Androids Tablet App. This acquisition pushes the Rakuten Group as well as Play.com back in the centre of the Digital Strategy creating an ecosystem to compete with Apple and Amazon.

Strategic aim of the CIO and IT operations for the next financial year: Improving the level of virtualization not only on servers but also Desktop. Adding more application on the Rakuten Cloud

Technologies considered by the leader to offer their organisation potential: Play is going to expand heavily its mobile investments both for phones and tablets. Clouds and virtualisation are part of the Operation Roadmap

How do you see technology transforming your organisation in the near future? Mobility is important for their employees so they can work in different environments and still access the data. To achieve this they are moving away from standardised IT and letting employee’s choose the way they work. Increasing high powered computing, which means they can test more products and quicker. The business model is vital to the partnership as every microchip gets them a royalty payment.

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