Marks & Spencer is aiming to improve its supply chain following the agreement of an extended managed services contract with Cognizant.

The retailer said it was "more confident" about future application availability and stability, especially during peak periods, as a result of the arrangement - which expands an application and infrastructure services deal signed in 2009.

Cognizant is providing integrated applications and infrastructure management services to the SAP-based company to support areas like procurement, forecasting, sales, stock replenishment and financial management.

The Cognizant deal, for which a value was not disclosed, includes services to support applications in all lines of business at M&S stores, warehouses and its head office.

“As a result of a number of service improvement initiatives delivered by Cognizant we are now more confident about better system availability, capacity and stability,” said Damone Quigley, head of infrastructure and application services at M&S.

In addition, remote IT infrastructure management based on the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) standard is being provided by the service provider, in order to drive operational efficiencies, enhance the quality of service and enable virtualisation.

Meanwhile, M&S is working with IBM to roll out a new SAP enterprise resource planning system. Last November, the company raised IT and supply chain savings targets by a fifth to £300 million, as work progresses on an SAP rollout with services firm IBM. Under plan called Project 2020, in which the retailer said it would “transform” IT and distribution, it will aim to save £125 million from direct technology costs and £175 million from its supply chain.

It is also building a new platform for online sales, replacing an existing hosted setup from Amazon in 2013. It will introduce dedicated country websites in key markets over this year. Last month, it poached the chief executive of Tesco’s online operations, Laura Wade-Gery.

Pic: ell brown cc2.0