Transformation on track, says Coles Myer CIO

Despite early upheaval and a much-scrutinized supply chain project, Coles Myer CIO Peter Mahler has assured industry watchers that all's well at Coles Myer IT.

The Australian retail giant is two and a half years into its IT transformation project, which will set common strategy and priorities to link disparate IT groups from the many Coles Myer brands.

"The transformation is underway, and is going well," Mahler told delegates at the CIO 2005 conference in Sydney on Tuesday.

Mahler has wrestled control of IT departments away from respective brand managing directors to run a raft of projects, not least of which is its supply chain revamp.

Coles Myer's e-technology group is delivering the closely-watched project, as well as B2C and B2E (business to employee) projects, on one suite of software, Mahler said.

"A lot of the middleware integration has been done now. We had to impress [to management] that if we don't put in EDI, we aren't going to deliver."

Coles Myer's supply chain project will provide a single point of entry for suppliers as well as a common view of the system.

The company is currently working on related areas such as transport and yard management, and warehouse replenishment.

"Most of these projects are in the $100 million to $180 million range," Mahler said.

One system in development, Itrade, will be integral to supply chain operations for businesses like Target.

"Itrade is a system that helps bring inventory from China, through Customs, and we track it all the way," Mahler said.

The company's application deployment and support group is also playing a crucial role.

"Note the word deployment, not development," Mahler told attendees.

"I had to convince the board that I cannot support Coles and build software.

"We've had to retrain a lot of people. We've had to find systems analysts, business analysts and project managers.

"But we're not a software development organization."

Another of Mahler's target is to standardize technology throughout the organization by 2008. Business functions across Coles Myer brands such as merchandising and point of sale will share the same platform where possible.

The company's point of sale operations, for example, use 14 different platforms.

In particular, finance, human resources and marketing systems will be completely standardized with one such project, finance and administration operations on SAP systems, already under way for 18 months.

"We're currently operating five different versions of SAP," Mahler said.

"We can't have common financial reporting."

This would be achieved by winter, he said.

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