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How Super Retail Group is dealing with digital disruption

Nadia Cameron | April 24, 2014
Super Retail Group is undergoing big changes as its commitment to the customer extends from its stores to the online world where digital channels dominate the shopping experience.

The next step was a one-year gig with NRMA as acting CIO, followed by a CIO's post at Brisbane City Council.

"The Lord Mayor at the time, Jim Soorley, had great ideas about a virtual city supporting the physical city," Hesketh says of the role. "There were very diverse requirements - from the traditional kind of roads rate and rubbish to social investments and digital."

An offer with New Zealand's multi-billion dollar supermarket giant, Progressive Enterprises, popped up and Hesketh jumped at it. After two years, the group was taken over by Woolworths in 2007.

Hesketh switched to the NZ Ministry of Health as deputy director general for the Information Director, which covered a broad portfolio of projects worth billions, including health IT policy. A government change put paid to that role, and Hesketh was approached by the Super Retail Group and moved back to Brisbane.


Given his focus on business-led technology investment, it's not surprising Hesketh has spent four years already with Super Retail Group. When he joined in 2010, the group had 35 IT staff and turned over $900 million. At the end of last financial year, the group reported just over $2 billion and IT's headcount exceeded 70.

A major contributor to this rapid expansion was the acquisition of Rebel Sport in late 2011, swelling store numbers to 620 and staff to more than 10,000. The growth also presented a much more complex supply chain and significant IT change was necessary, Hesketh says.

To meet the needs of the bigger organisation, as well as the rising demand for omni-channel capabilities, the first step was centralising information flow.

Historically, Super Retail Group's IT team provided 24-hour updates to the core systems, then pushed down any new price and product range changes to a store level. Data latency was a huge issue as a result.

Customer details were also held at a store level, meaning an individual who shopped in more than one store in one day wouldn't be recognised.

The answer was a centralised core platform managed by the IS team. "Where we're talking about something specific to the [sales] channel, such as data about a customer in the call centre or team member experience in-store, we do that in a way we can distribute and target specifically for those different requirements," Hesketh says.

"Our point-of-sale terminals are in essence a checkout function. From head office, we deliver all of our store managers their daily sales and stock positions, and the pricing and customer details, using a single system."

Thanks to the new infrastructure, data latency has gone down to less than 20 minutes, Hesketh says.

"As sales happen in the store, they're fed back into our core systems so they update both our supply chain systems and the data warehouse we use. This allows us to get real-time sales information throughout the day and on-stock position."


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