back to article John Lewis CIO commands brand-new super-group role

Iconic British retailer John Lewis has elevated its chief of IT Paul Coby to a brand-new role, overseeing the entire John Lewis Partnership. John Lewis Partnership covers the John Lewis retailer and Waitrose chain of supermarkets and employs 91,500 staff. Companywide that’s 396 physical shops; it’s a major step up for Coby …

  1. Gordon 10 Silver badge
    IT Angle

    Begs the question

    if Coby knew the outsourcing twattery that BA were planning to carry out a few years ago and bailed out early....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Begs the question

      if Coby knew the outsourcing twattery that BA were planning to carry out a few years ago and bailed out early....

      I doubt it. JL outsource their support for tech products and its awful - both employee knowledge, interest and problem ownership, but the processes are crap as well. So I suspect he's a believer in outsourcing anything difficult.

  2. AndyS

    I worked in John Lewis once...

    ...from summer to Christmas 1999. At that point, telephone sales were fulfilled by phoning the store, being put through to the department, talking to a member of staff who would go and pick up the things you wanted from the shop floor. They would then run it through the till, take a card payment over the phone (no credit cards accepted, debit only), and carry it down to the loading bay in the basement where they would personally wrap it, hand write the address on the outside and leave it in a cage, which usually already had one or two other orders in it, to be taken to the warehouse and posted from there. Postage was free within the UK (including overseas military post codes), but international shipping got a bit more complicated.

    Times have changed a lot, in what is really a very short period of time. It's astonishing, really.

    1. Nigel 11

      Re: I worked in John Lewis once...

      I recently moved house and needed a new fridge. I needed it as soon as possible. It's not an appliance that one can easily do without. This used to be John Lewis territory, but they couldn't do today. Nor tomorrow. Not even when I asked what models can you do tomorrow?

      Then I found a much smaller online-only company that could. Thank you Mark's Electricals.

  3. This post has been deleted by its author

  4. Notional Semidestructor

    Hope it works out for JLP.

    We use their Waitrose grocery delivery service, mostly.

    It's a very good service indeed, but some numpty tends to fiddle with their web store site every so often, causing us varied problems when ordering. You really don't want that.

    I tend to go all Victor Meldrew if the weekly shop goes titsup.

    Concerned that this chap Coby may be implicated in these online problems we've seen.

    The service from our local Waitrose store (which picks and delivers the groceries) is immaculate.

    Problems are very rare, and are sorted out immediately.

    Good people, one and all.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Hope it works out for JLP.

      Sadly I doubt it. The last time a big retailer put a bloke from the server room into the big chair, it was Tesco appointing CIO Phil Clarke as CEO back in 2011.

      We all know how that ended up: his resignation, SFO investigations, sacking of the auditors, serial profit warnings, customer losses to the discounters, vast reputational damage, a massive fall in the share price, and a huge turnround challenge for his successor.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I know that place

    That's a nice pic of MP1 in Milton Keynes, It was built for internet order fulfilment and meant to last a decade before expansion. After 3 years MP2 was going up, 3 years more and MP3 was going up and now there are plans for MP4 with MP3 having only just gone live. Each of these is 1,000,000 square feet.

    They massively underestimated the online demand that John Lewis would get, before this internet accounted for only a few percent of orders. They are now saying that there will be no more department stores built.

    I hope this new bloke does what he says on the tin, we have some bloody awful systems splashed across the entire partnership.

    Yes I do work for them, quite a number of years as well.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There may be less to this than meets the eye..

    I stopped working in John Lewis / Waitrose IT in 2013 and haven't seen any internal comms about this from former colleagues, but it doesn't quite ring true to me.

    From 2009 to 2014 there was a strong push to centralise IT across John Lewis and Waitrose. It failed. The two operating divisions already share a lot of infrastructure (one mainframe, yes they still have one; single Financials and HR system) but have always - almost wilfully - taken divergent paths on strategy, tools and software that directly supports trade (e.g. separate e-Commerce platforms). The argument (that I can buy into) being that it's more important to have the best fit for a particular trading division than to benefit from centralisation. As a result the new Shared Services IT division set up around 2010 never really took off, and the more strategic "Group IT" function that was established around the same time was laughably ineffective at getting the two operating divisions to co-operate on IT. One of the key agitators for keeping as much control as possible within the individual operating divisions was Paul Coby.

    Given that the divisional IT directors will continue to report into the Managing Directors (CEOs) of John Lewis and Waitrose it's hard to discern the difference between Coby's new role and the old Group IT Director role that the operating divisions have cheerfully ignored since it was created.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: There may be less to this than meets the eye..

      I worked at JLP from 2008 - 2012 on various IT initiatives and am no longer doing any work there. The work that was done on Commerce / Web Store was very good and has made an incredible difference to the business - I think it was a landmark example of IT leading a transformation.

      The current ERP platform replacement is a real mess, with incumbent suppliers not delivering any value and the business just not wanting a solution. JLP is a very difficult place to get things done, the partnership structure and the people who work there's feeling of entitlement and passive aggressive behaviour is, well, an embarrassment.

      One thing is for certain Mr. Coby and his IT teams have been asleep on the job for the last 4 years and the business involved in this transformation has lost its ways and forgotten it's priorites - Lets hope that they don't end up like BHS.

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