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Inside Coles' technology transformation

Nadia Cameron | July 10, 2014
Coles CIO, Conrad Harvey, is an advocate for helping your business peers see technology as an opportunity to drive transformation.

The second priority is better leveraging unstructured data to gain new insights, and Coles is trialling solutions such as Hadoop to do that, he says.

The third pillar is putting information in the hands of team members. To do this, IT has invested in application reporting capabilities to give regional store managers and leaders drillable reports and dashboards on their iPads.

"This keeps them in the conversation and in the moment, but using the report as a way of informing the conversation on the shopfloor," Harvey explains.

"Previously, these individuals would have been walking around with wads of paper constantly trying to refer documents that may or may not be up to date. Because of the back-end technology, we're able to deploy this information in very easy-to-use, graphically intuitive front-ends on tablets to people in our shops and at work."

Coles has been running the insights applications for eight months across 1200 iPads in-store and the Coles Store Support Centre, and is rolling out a similar application for Coles Express. Information includes sales data, stock availability, store remuneration, markdowns and waste.

"The more exciting thing is we're actively using Agile in this area as a way of prioritising and working with a group of stakeholders to give them the best product as we go through the project, within the scope and timeline, to give them the best possible outcomes," Harvey adds.

"Having the stakeholders lead this means every day they are helping set and adjust the priorities based on the technical realities being encountered by my team."

That need for real-time connectivity is apparent in the wider range of mobility projects Harvey has been working on too. Having run a corporate BYOD program for the past three years and maintained thousands of devices in its network, the latest step has been bringing BYOD to store managers.

"We are getting exceptional high take-up of that, and it's an example of a win-win for both Coles and our store managers," Harvey claims. "It's also good for customers as it means our store leaders are out more on the floor."

Other current mobility projects are trialling a tablet ordering solution for produce, and a mobile-based picking solution for online. "Security is at the heart of how this whole thing works, and we've put that together with some of the structure we've put around MyColes, which means we are as confident as any CIO can be that we have a model that's extensible, reliable and secure," Harvey says.

A question of ownership

Through all of his work, Harvey says innovation and ideas have come both from within IT, as well as across the organisation. What's vital is that people receiving and implementing the technology own the project and want the outcome, he claims.


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