Somerfield is already reaping the rewards of a seven-year deal to outsource the management of its entire IT infrastructure to Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), signed at the end of last year. At the start of this year, TCS started answering all Somerfield’s IT helpdesk calls from a facility in India.

Mike Bell, Somerfield’s business systems director, says that TCS is delivering significant improvements in the helpdesk service and that all calls are answered within five rings.

A higher percentage of calls are also being resolved on the first call. Bell says that prior to the outsourcing deal, only 40 per cent of its problems were being remedied during the initial call to the helpdesk, but he expected this to rise to 60 per cent by the end of March.

Under the terms of the outsourcing deal, about 115 of the 141 IT jobs at the retailer’s Bristol IT headquarters were transferred to TCS, but Somerfield retained a 25-strong team of senior IT executives to manage the contract and oversee its IT strategy.

“We do not see IT as a core activity. We see the thinking about how technology can be used as core and we have kept that,” says Bell. He added that TCS had guaranteed Somerfield savings of several million pounds a year.

The move, which will see a mix of onsite and offshore outsourcing, is intended to reduce costs for the UK grocery chain and improve service levels.

At the beginning of 2007, Somerfield did not have an online shopping presence. Instead, its website is being used to showcase products and give details of stores and in-store deals.

“Retail is about serving consumers in the way they want, but a lot of retailers think it is about having bricks and mortar shops,” says Bell.