This year couldn’t really have got off to a better start for retailer John Lewis than the first working day and its ability to report a 6.9 per cent increase in like-for-like sales and online sales up by 23 per cent for the Christmas period. In store sales rose by 1.2 per cent, but IT Director Paul Coby sees the increase of online sales and healthy in-stores sales as a sign of the hallowed omni-channel retail that is a key part of the digital revolution rather than a decline in physical shopping.

“The great thing was that the stores and online grew,” Coby says at the John Lewis headquarters a stone’s throw from Victoria station in London. “For three weeks up to Christmas and one week after Christmas online sales were 36 per cent of our total sales. So it was an omni-channel Christmas.

What the judges said:

“The sales are good and the business works well, but the CRM programme is old school and I don’t feel they are mobile ready,” Mike Altendorf

“John Lewis execute well, but I don’t see a lot of transformation,” Adam Gerrard.

“Paul Coby has inherited an IT operation that works well. He set out to invest in online and it’s clearly paying dividends,” Ian Cox

“They continue to open stores and the click and collect works well,” Jerry Fishenden

“They must have cornered the online wedding list market,” Edward Qualtrough.

When did you start your current role?
March 2011

Have you completed an MBA?
No

Order the following sources of advice/information by value to you:
1.    In-house
2.    Peer Group
3.    Vendors
4.    Consultant
5.    Analyst

Technology strategy and spending

What is the major transformational IT project that has been recently completed, or is underway at your organisation?
Just completed new web platform which is one third of our sales revenue
Just completed new point of sale platform for the rest of store sales
We have new Order Management underway and are starting ERP implementation

What impact will it/does it have on the organisation?
These are transforming John Lewis from a stores based company into the UK's leading omni channel retailer.

What new strategic technology deals has your organisation struck and with whom?
ERP with Oracle
CRM with sales force.com
Middleware with Software AG
Mail and collaboration with Google
In store tablets with HP and Microsoft

Name your strategic technology suppliers?
Oracle
Cognizant
TCS
Sales force.com
PCMS
Google
Microsoft
IBM

What is the IT budget?
£100m+ Capex pa
£50m Revex pa for John Lewis

IT operational spend compared to the revenue or company turnover as a percentage?
1.25%

What is the strategic aim of the CIO and IT operations for the next financial year?
Support the growth of the John Lewis business across online, mobile and shops., which depends on effective 24x7 IT operation
Enable the transformation of the business through delivering new platforms and business capabilities in the context of the retail revolution that is occurring in the UK.

Transformation achievements

Would you describe the CIO role as a transformation leader in your organisation?
Yes

Describe the transformations you have led / been involved in, how did they transform operations, customer experience or the organisation?
New online platform that has delivered over 20% growth in JL.com this year and constitutes over 30% of sales.
New mobile and tablet  apps for iOS and other platforms
Launched myJohnlewis in October which now has over a quarter of a million members

Beyond technology, can you describe a business transformation programme that you own or contribute to?
ERP programme which will transform the way JL manages it's supply chain and inventory
Roll out of tablets into stores to support our Partners in serving customers

What key technologies are being considered to enable transformation?
Oracle retail suite
Salesforce.com
Mobile apps
New products e.g. 3D printing

What percentage of your applications / infrastructure is run from the Cloud?
Small but will increase as we adopt Google

How is the use by employees of their own technology, use of mobiles and social networking impacting operations, customer experiences or the organisation at present?
It is raising expectations of the experience that our partners have at work

Do you have a plan in place for how to deal with shadow IT and BYOD. How do you influence and engage executives, place the right controls around employee choice and engage with the organisation on this issue?
Yes

Where do you seek transformational inspiration from?
Retailers in the US, CIOs in other industries, social media

The CIO role in the business

Who do they report to? CEO

Does the CIO have a seat on the board? Yes

How often do you meet with the CEO?
Weekly

Does your organisation have a digital leader and what is the difference in their responsibilities to yours?
Online director

What percentage of IT budget do you control and what percentage of IT budget does your digital peer hold?
It doesn't work like this

The IT department

How many staff make up the IT team?(What is the split between in-house/outsourced staff)
Compliment of 425 Partners plus external suppliers and  partners

Describe the CIO’s management team, do you have direct reports that develop the relationship and services between the business and IT?
I have 6 Heads of IT that report to me (IT Delivery x2, IT Operations, Architecture, Resourcing and Planning plus Head of IT Relationship who is responsible for the relationship between business and IT

How many log-in accounts do you issue across you organisation?
38,000 JL Partners

What is the primary technology platform?
This is not a sensible question.  It is how the platforms all work together to support JL customers and Partners