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IT director Jonathan Vardon keeping Boots in good health

Mark Chillingworth | April 12, 2013
In the wake of one of the worst starts to a year for the retail sector, Boots the chemist chain, remains - no pun intended - in good health. Its stores remain popular with customers, it has a presence in all the key channels, it fared better than some in the ongoing corporate tax scandal and it continues to grow as an international brand.

"Boots has been with Infosys for five years and now we have gone over to Cognizant for application management and maintenance, coupled with Steria, who we continue to work with. IBM is also our managed service provider across the UK, Ireland and the international online business.

"These are the two big contract changes and they gave us a great opportunity by offering better value for money; to be more responsive and more proactive in taking the organisation forwards with growth," says Vardon.

"How our partners work and engage with us is my key decision-making process. We have 12 business processes that our partners support and there is a lead partner for each of these giving us one point of contact when there is an issue or a question.

"We do a lot of work on where the organisation is going that involves partner forums. At these we score partners and they score us and we recognise and reward those that are doing well," he says.

Not only has Vardon been busy changing the outsource services model, he has been reshaping internal sourcing too, including creating an IT academy as part of Boots' apprenticeship scheme at the company's HQ in Nottingham.

"I hope to get to a 50:50 sourcing model through the academy and we are working with colleges and universities to up-skill these graduates. They will provide the flexibility and agility Boots will need.

"Historically we have gone too far with the outsource model and that had made us too reliant on our partners. Having an in-source service means I can get the business close and at every level. We are already seeing small and medium changes becoming easier," he says.

Vardon has also been recruiting more skilled IT personal with deep technical expertise to meet internal demands.

"We have some fantastic capabilities that have been with us over a period of time, and bringing in some very high calibre people into the business has made a massive difference. The evolution will be to break out of a complex legacy to be a platform for growth," he says of the important human factor in technology transformations.

The human factor will remain important as the company's online offering grows to complement, not replace, its core in-store business.

"Boots is the one organisation that won't see a shift to online like others. We have a fantastic store network that our customers like as it offers a real opportunity to try out the products and experience them.

"We do see an online growth and especially mobile as well. Over Christmas Boots had a gift app combined with video gift tags which was popular."

Not to be sniffed at


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