British retail has lost Woolworths, a once venerable name on the national high street, but although it has had difficult times, Marks & Spencer (M&S) is doing everything it can to ensure it does not suffer the same fate. As with all retailers, a dogged pursuit of multi-channel retailing and a strong supply chain are key to survival and success and taking responsibility for these is Darrell Stein. The CIO is on his second career stint at M&S.

What pushes Stein and M&S up the CIO 100 ranking is the management style the energetic Tottenham fan uses, as well as his ability to be leading IT and supply chain in one of the most significant retailers in the country. 

“The remit Stein has to change the ingrained nature of M&S is not a job for a person who is not strong,” says Mike Altendorf. “He is a blunt instrument, he is a change man and it’s the right thing  for M&S. He also scores highly at vendor relationships as they care about how you are doing as a supplier doing that change agenda and they care about the way IT has business and IT conversations.

“He has driven the culture of bringing new blood in and he has done a good job of this.”

All changes to the IT overhaul that Stein and his team are pushing through M&S must be justified by a business benefit first and foremost. Project managers have to come to Stein and be able to clearly show the business benefit before investment and integration are considered. The transformation in how the IT team view, understand and seek to discover benefits has been significant. Stein told CIO magazine in an interview that project teams now openly discuss how many additional jumpers will be sold as a benefit of the changes they wish to implement.

Stein too is putting in a major SAP enterprise resource planning (ERP) platform, despite having a career of implementing rival Oracle. This will see M&S mainframe systems decommissioned, which Stein says were cheap to operate, but were choking the business of analysis and opportunities. Further down the line Stein will shift the M&S online offering off the Amazon platform and onto its own e-commerce product as the company continues to expand globally.

“The Amazon deal was a really really poor decision that will take two years to get out of and it was nothing to do with Stein.”

Richard Sykes adds, “He seems to work with a clear strategic vision and his benefits innovation has really caught my eye.”
Ade McCormack marked the M&S CIO up highly too: “He wouldn’t last long there if he wasn’t entrepreneurial,” while Neil Ward-Dutton liked the idea that M&S brought him in to shake the organisation up and both Stein and M&S should be marked highly for that. 

In supply chain Stein and his team are moving to a new mega-shed strategy and like the IT creating single efficient operations for the whole company rather than the separate operations for food and general merchandise as it had before.
The scale of change required and going through M&S and the understanding that it will have to use technology to achieve change decided the panel on Stein’s position.

Read the CIO interview:

CIO Profile: M&S CIO Darrell Stein on benefits-driven strategies