Sainsbury’s new IT boss might not have come from the retail sector, but his background makes him a shoo-in for a business grappling with the rise of mobile commerce.
Phil Jordan will join Sainsbury’s in January next year as chief information officer, reporting directly to group chief executive Mike Coupe.
He joins the grocer from O2-owner Telefónica, where he has spent the past 17 years in a variety of roles, culminating as group CIO.
Jordan has earned his stripes in the telecommunications sector and spent 12 years in various IT roles at rival Vodafone prior to joining Telefónica.
Sainsbury’s is Jordan’s first taste of the retail world; however, Practicology’s principal consultant Antony Welfare points out there are some crucial similarities between the retail and telecommunications sectors that will serve him well in his new role.
“He’s done global integrations and Telefónica is a really complex animal. I think someone like that will be able to oversee the Argos integration”
Antony Welfare, Practicology
“It’s a good CIO appointment to get someone who can oversee the integration of many different styles of IT,” says Welfare.
“He’s done global integrations and Telefónica is a really complex animal. I think someone like that will be able to oversee the Argos integration.
“When you look at the Sainsbury’s Argos merger, they’re bringing together old-school and new. Sainsbury’s is better than it was but still fairly old-school, whereas Argos, IT and tech wise, is by far a retail leader.”
A single customer view
Sainsbury’s does not have a flawless track record in terms of seamless technology integrations – its failed warehouse automation project cost the business £260m in 2004.
What’s more, this integration will have far-reaching implications across the vast group, which spans Sainsbury’s grocery, banking and ecommerce, as well as Argos.
According to a source close to the grocer, tying the separate divisions of the business together to get comprehensive insight into its customers will be a key part of Jordan’s role.
“That single view of customers across many different areas is something retailers are striving to achieve, so pushing together these three business units and also driving cross-customer synergies is going to be really important,” he said.
Welfare reiterates the importance of obtaining a single customer view as a means of bolstering Sainsbury’s business.
“I would hazard a guess that that is completely impossible in that business at the moment and that accomplishing it will be a big job that will take between three and five years,” he says.
Welfare adds that Jordan’s comparative outsider status could give him an advantage when navigating the wide-reaching IT transformation needed to integrate Sainsbury’s and Argos respective infrastructures.
“Compared with telecoms, which has moved so quickly from an old infrastructure, he’ll have a different perspective on how it works”
Antony Welfare, Practicology
“Compared with telecoms, which has moved so quickly from an old infrastructure, he’ll have a different perspective on how it works,” he says.
“Retail CIOs can be stuck in the old physical store infrastructure, not mobile and digital-first. You need people who understand the old importance of getting into the store as well as the whizzy website interface.”
Jordan may also be looking at more future-focused technologies for Sainsbury’s, as a source close to the retailer says it is “looking to invest heavily in artificial intelligence”.
Whether he’s dealing with the nitty gritty of IT integrations or adding to the grocer’s arsenal of innovative tech, Sainsbury’s will hope Jordan can get it closer to the holy retail grail of the single customer view.