Retail has never been a sector for the faint of heart, and its changing landscape and the entry of kickstarters make it a more challenging place to be than ever, particularly for long-established brands. Chily Fachler, CIO for Steinhoff UK Retail, spent much of 2017 devising and implementing a digital transformation strategy that would allow the multinational company's UK businesses Bensons for Beds and furniture retailer Harveys to thrive.

In has come a 'single version of the truth' database, with data interrogation tools and dashboards for over 300 staff (to be rolled out to 2,000 in all). Fachler's team have introduced warehouse management for the five distribution centres, improving stock control, warehouse productivity, operations and visibility, and reducing operating costs, working capital, shrinkage and unnecessary stock movements.

Office 365 has been deployed to 1,350 users, videoconferencing implemented (halving the travel spend, especially amongst senior executives, and bringing teams closer together), four different intranet sites have been rolled into a single Sharepoint-based version, and a time and attendance solution implemented in 350 locations. Routing and scheduling optimisation has already made the Bensons distribution teams more efficient, with Harveys to follow, introducing customer self-service for deliveries. Yammer has been deployed as internal social network, opening up a whole new conversation and mode of communication for colleagues.

And perhaps the icing on the cake is Fachler's introduction of mobile point of sale. It will let staff carry out assisted selling, product configuration and transactions while maximising customer engagement.

As well as bringing the businesses up to date, Fachler is welcoming the future with an augmented reality application incorporating a VR room planner to demonstrate what a particular bed/sofa/cabinet would look like (in three dimensions) in a room defined by the user.