Morrisons, the UK’s fourth largest supermarket group, has announced a major partnership with Oracle to help drive a far-reaching overhaul of its IT systems.

Under the agreement, the supermarket chain expects to implement a complete Oracle retail suite of merchandising, planning and stores applications, plus the Oracle E-Business Suite for financials, HR/payroll and manufacturing. It will also roll out Oracle’s Siebel platform for CRM and Oracle Fusion middleware including Oracle SOA Suite and Oracle Identity Management – all underpinned by Oracle databases.

The grocery retailer has said it plans to phase in the Oracle systems over the next five years – much more slowly than the original three-year timetable to overhaul its systems it announced in March last year, when it first confirmed plans for a major capital investment in IT.

The Oracle deal is also departure from its original stated plan to pick and choose best-of-breed systems to support all its core functions.

Gary Barr, the retailer’s IT director, said: “We expect Oracle solutions to meet our needs, offering a breadth of functionality and a level of data that will promote a more accurate assessment of business performance. This will help us to turn information into profitable business decisions.”

The supermarket has not yet confirmed any partner to help it integrate the Oracle systems with its existing infrastructure, but Retail Week reported last month that the grocer plans to recruit more than 500 IT staff and consultants over the next two years to support its IT transformation programme.

The business transformation plan is reported to be called Project Evolve internally.

Morrisons has more than 114,000 members of staff in stores, factories, distribution centres and head office administrative functions.

The grocer is well-known for managing almost every aspect of its commercial operations in-house, including fresh fruit and vegetables, fresh food, meat processing and transport.

Oracle’s systems will expected to provide Morrisons with the operational functionality required to manage and simplify retail processes around fresh and staple produce throughout the planning process, through the supply chain and into the stores.

Oracle’s Duncan Angove said Morrisons’ verticalled integrated supply chain was “unique and helps them bring a highly differentiated approach to food retailing.”