Mutual retailer John Lewis Partnership has opted for the Google Apps platform in the range of John Lewis at Home stores it is expanding across the country. In a CIO profile interview IT Director Paul Coby revealed

John Lewis is decreasing its Microsoft footprint and increasingly working closely with Google.

"People loved it for the flexibility," Coby said of the introduction of Google Apps.

For 2014 a full refresh of the desktop estate is taking place across the John Lewis Partnership. To ensure every user has the right tools for their needs, IT Director Coby and his team have studied the users and created personas of the user types, from power users that need access to complex pivot tables through to those that only need access to some collaboration tools alongside the enterprise tools they use.

"The result is a much slimmer Microsoft Office estate," Coby said. A new point of sale system is also being introduced at the department stores.

John Lewis predominantly keeps its IT operations in-house and has an internal shared services operation, while systems integrators are brought in for major builds.

"The IT isn't easy, but it is the business change that is the hardest to get right," said Coby.

In 2013 a new website was developed with integration work from Deloitte, with Cognizant partnering for the order management platform, while specialists OLR and TCS will be working on the new Oracle ERP programme Coby is currently preparing for.

As a mutual company, Coby and his team have also set out to engage the partners to define how technology will shape the organisation. In 2013 they ran PITCH – Partner Innovation Technology Challenge – partners from all levels of the organisation and from across the country pitched in ideas.

"Five apps were selected in a short list and the finalist was from a fashion advisor. Then via a hackathon with the IT directorate, we built in a day how the app works and tested it with customers. The final app is now in the hopper of projects for 2014. We want to do the same exercise again this year."