Coles trials BYOD with retail store managers

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Coles trials BYOD with retail store managers

Builds custom apps.

Supermarket giant Coles is trialling a BYO device policy for store managers that it hopes will enable them to spend more time out on the shop floor.

The trial is the latest in a number of mobile device projects at the company, including a rollout of around 200 iPads and iPhones to regional managers, group general manager of IT, Conrad Harvey, told attendees at the Dreamforce conference in San Francisco.

"We're trialling at the moment bring-your-own device for the store managers because we have a view in mind of potentially getting the store team members out of the back office and onto the shop floor with the right devices," Harvey said.

"The idea of store managers having easy access to reports, availability information on the shelves etc on their phones is a huge unlocker of value for them, because it saves them time."

Harvey told iTnews different types of BYO devices would be afforded "different levels of service". Some devices would be limited to consuming data through the device browser.

Coles has also built custom apps "for some platforms that we'll make available for team members as they sign up". Harvey confirmed the custom apps will connect to and exchange data with systems in Coles' data centre.

Harvey said balancing security and usability in a corporate BYO device environment was a key challenge.

"The problem with security is if you come only with the mindset of 'how do I keep it safe?' then that's where IT quickly gets pigeonholed into 'we're a barrier'," he said.

"It's hard. It's one of the most scary things you agree to as a CIO is 'let's let store managers bring their own devices' or 'let's let people bring their own devices'.

"You kind of know the chances of something going wrong probably aren't that great given the security postures that you've got in place. But if it does go wrong you just know that's going to be a really bad conversation."

Harvey expects to have "north of 1000 BYO devices in the field" before the end of Q1 next year. Already, Coles Group has "thousands" of people at its head office bringing their own devices to work.

Office 365 expansion

Coles Group is already a user of SharePoint Online, one of a suite of online services that sits within Microsoft's Office 365 software-as-a-service platform.

The retail giant uses SharePoint Online as the foundation for an internal portal housing payslips, rosters, training resources, calendars and other tools for its 100,000 staff.

SharePoint is also the foundation of an "internal social platform" Coles has recently launched, garnering take-up rates of "almost 60 percent".

"We're very excited about using 'social' internally because if you think about it in a supermarket business, a lot of your team members actually don't interact with technology as much as other industries. They pack boxes onto shelves or operate checkout, which by itself is a computer but in terms of its use is actually fairly constrained," Harvey said.

"We believe as we enable social features on that platform, we think we can create connections between them that don't exist today.

"For example, we can get the deli managers across Australia to collaborate and understand from each other how to get to best practice, and just share experiences and frustrations with the [Coles] support centre."

While Office 365 is underpinning an expansion into corporate social media, Coles has no immediate plans to start using hosted productivity tools or the Lync unified communications system.

"You'd say that it's a logical extension at some point but we're not quite committed yet because we're fairly recently refreshed our Office suite," Harvey told iTnews.

"There's not really a huge compelling case to move [to online productivity services] yet."

Rival Woolworths announced earlier this year it would shift 26,000 staff from its national and state offices onto Google Apps. Woolworths similarly has a program aimed at store managers that has furnished 890 of them with an iPad and an app for logging support requests.

Ry Crozier travelled to Salesforce's Dreamforce conference in San Francisco as a guest of Salesforce.

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