The John Lewis Partnership had sales last year of £6.4 billion, 11 per cent up on the previous year. It consists of two trading divisions, John Lewis department stores and the Waitrose supermarket chain. Both businesses are underpinned by a largely common technical infrastructure, including payroll and accounting systems. The Waitrose and John Lewis IT functions are part of their respective trading divisions and system directors Eric Gregory and Kevin Berry are members of their respective divisional management boards.In a year of record sales and profits, the John Lewis division has been driving a programme of significant changes as part of the ‘Compete to Win’ strategy, with the IT department playing a central role in delivering systems to support these changes. This includes new merchandise and financial planning systems, while within the supply chain it has implemented a warehouse management system and voice picking. The IT function at Waitrose continues to play an integral role in the development and growth of the business, with new shops and Regional Distribution Centres (RDCs) acquired and brought on stream very effectively.

“The Waitrose business has come to depend upon high reliability of its systems and is constantly looking to drive improvement in all aspects of our operations,” says Kevin Berry, systems director, Waitrose. “A number of major programmes are now close to completion, such as the rollout of a new Point of Sale system, Pick by Voice in the RDCs, and a new Demand Forecasting system.”

John Keeling has a corporate IT function, providing infrastructure and shared technical services and systems to both trading divisions. Many of the core systems run on the IBM mainframe in the purpose built datacentre in Bracknell. A high speed wide area network (using DWDM, DSL and megastream ethernet) handles the increasing network traffic to the shops and between head offices and this links to a disaster recovery site where data is mirrored in real-time. A new HR system was introduced in 2006 along with the introduction of the new online business “Our business needs a reliable and resilient technical infrastructure for its trading operation to help us deliver a high-quality service offering to our customers.

“Our business needs a reliable and resilient technical infrastructure”
– John Keeling, director of computer services, John Lewis Partnership