Play.com is an online marketplace which started out in 1998 as a retailer specialising in selling CDs, DVDs, books, gadgets and video games. However, since its popularity has grown, the site has expanded its departments and now sells clothes, sports equipment, baby toys and mobile phones.

The company has also expanded its business to include a section on its site called PlayTrade, whereby third party sellers can operate through the website and pay a percentage fee to the site. Play.com has also launched their own Visa debit card whereby customers can acquire ‘play points’ for any purchase they make using the card, which can then be redeemed on Play.com.

Play.com was bought by Japan based Rakuten in 2011 for £25 million. Rakuten is an electronic retailer and internet company who also own the ebook company Kobo. The Kobo product rivals the Amazon Kindle.

IT leader: Francesco de Marchis, CIO.

In role since: January 2011.

Reporting line: CEO.

How often does the CIO meet with the CEO: Weekly.

Board level seat: Not on the Board but on the Executive Leadership Team.

IT budget: IT operational spend compared to company turnover as a percentage is 7%.

IT estate and or number of log on accounts under the control of the IT leader: Play.com has 500 employees in EU.

IT staff currently employed: 160.

Split between in-house/outsourced staff: 80% in-house, 20% outsourced.

IT management team and reporting structure: A very flat organisation with seven direct reports: Operation Manager, Chief Architect, Service Delivery Manager, PMO, three Development Managers.

Primary technology platforms at the organisation: Most of the systems are bespoken from Play Development Team. A key Partner is Autonomy for search in the Play.com website and Salesforce is another key partner.

Primary technology suppliers: With Autonomy we have a strong partnership and we offer to be the “tester” for several new products in the retail arena. In this way I’m able to influence their roadmap and technology decision according to Play.com roadmap.

Significant strategic technology deals struck in the last 12 months: Webtrends for Analytics and AB Test. New data centre for private cloud implementation.

Percentage of your applications/infrastructure run from the cloud: 30% but we are developing a private cloud were we are going to host 100% of the apps.

Major technology or transformation project recently completed and how did it transform operations, customer experience or the organisation: In the last six months we were implementing the Rakuten Model. The Implementation required a huge platform changes (150 IT projects) as well Business Process, Customer Journey and Operation. The Customer Journey went live in May 2012 and changed the way customers shop in Play.com website. The full change will be implemented within the Rakuten Model in August 2012. From a wholesaler type of site like Amazon we are going to become more shop centric with focus on our sellers. These changes required a huge company reorganisation, trained the people to new roles and new targets.

Did the above project reach its cost, timing and transformation objective: So far is on track on all topics.

Business transformation programme – beyond technology – that the CIO owns or is a major contributor to: The new Shipping and Logistics systems we are planning to offer this service to all our sellers. To offer that service we needed to redesign our shipping process not anymore with only Play.com in mind but also any Seller of Play Marketplace. IT own this process in shared with Logistics and Operations.

Strategic aim of the CIO and IT operation for the next financial year: We currently have a huge list of new projects in the pipeline that will require an increase of IT staff (in house or outsource). But we have an aim of reducing our infrastructure and operation cost by 20% and use this saving in the  budget for projects.

Strategy in the use by employees of their own technology, use of mobiles and how social networking is impacting operations, customer experiences or the organisation: The employees help to streamline the customer journey as well test the apps and the website in different devices. They also have a forum where they suggest ideas and new features based on their device and usage of Play.com.

Strategy for dealing with shadow IT and BYOD including influence and engagement with executives, to place the right controls around employee choice: We currently have just finished to address a big shadow IT issue within BI as we had too many people using tools to execute their own reporting creating a lot of performance issue on live databases. Now we have a quick turn around on Ad Hoc Report request executed by our MI staff using the proper tool. Regarding BYOD we allow user to use it but we don’t provide internal network access but only internet external access via WiFi.

Technologies being considered to enable transformation: Cloud, mobile are the main one and the heavily usage of SOA architecture.

Transformational inspiration sources: Colleagues, Friends in Technology, Forums and specialised technology websites.