Tesco CIO Mike McNamara is already a prolific user of online collaboration tools so that he can communicate and carry out reviews with IT staff and users across the globe while reducing the amount he has to travel.
The collaboration is becoming increasingly important as the non-UK divisions of Tesco increase in size and influence within the company.
“The UK, from a business point of view, pushes the boundaries. But the US is now 100 per cent self-service checkout, so there will be a lot of self-service innovation to come out of the US. The transport management systems and shopfloor planning technology developed for our businesses in Asia and Europe are now being implemented in the UK.”
With the UK economy struggling to recover from the credit-crisis and hit this year by rising oil prices and an increase in VAT by the coalition government, Tesco results have benefited from its overseas operations.
“The UK is a challenged market and we are doing well. Tesco is exposed in non-foods in a way our rivals may not be,” McNamara says of the current economic environment.
Retail analysts have focused on the growth of premium retailers such as the John Lewis Partnership’s Waitrose arm and how these have seen growth and expanded their store footprints, while Tesco has, they say, stagnated in the UK.
“There is a polarisation in the market, but I do not think there is a real structural change and Tesco is insulated as we are broad globally.”
The global footprint extends to McNamara’s IT operation, which includes an in-house offshore operation in Bangalore, India. Tesco set the offshore base up seven years ago and it now employs between two and three thousand people.
“It started off as finance, administration and IT. We kept it in house as there are some very sophisticated services coming out of our Bangalore operation such as our architectural services and transport scheduling. So we are building up our capabilities there. They are Tesco people and they have the same judgement and decision-making skills as anywhere else in Tesco,” he says.