Poundland chooses Microsoft Office 365 as it overhauls IT infrastructure

Poundland is implementing Microsoft Office 365 to enable staff to collaborate and communicate more efficiently.

Poundland is implementing Microsoft Office 365 to enable staff to collaborate and communicate more efficiently.

The retailer, which sells all of its products for £1, has chosen the Microsoft 365 cloud suite to improve its communication methods and scale as it expands its fleet of stores.

Poundland has 490 stores in the UK and Ireland, and has plans to open an additional 1,000 stores as the business grows.

“We are doing very well and have substantial growth plans,” says IT director Mike Gray. “As the business continues to grow from an IT point of view we need support this infrastructure. We also need to also deliver amazing value in IT as well as in-store.”

Gray says Office 365 allows the store to improve the productivity of the business as well as communication among colleagues, at a lower total cost of ownership.

He says implementing Office 365 coincided with upgrading their legacy IT. The retailer is currently upgrading from Windows XP to Windows 7, but it was also running Novell and Lotus software, which wants to consolidate.

Via Office 365, it now delivers Microsoft Office apps to Poundland stores, which it hasn’t been able to do in the past.

Matthew Sparks, IT services manager at Poundland says moving to the cloud allows IT to rapidly scale alongside the business.

“As a value retailer it’s important we use space as efficiently as possible,” says Sparks. “A cloud service is the right direction to go in.”

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He also says the reason to choose Microsoft as their cloud service provider was part of a wider holistic approach to IT.

“We need a holistic environment that we could operate and retain quantities of scale,” he says. “Along with addressing the end of life of XP and having a single administration centre for desktop environment, it bought all of the elements together to create the strongest offering.”

Windows on the move

The cloud solution also benefits employees who work on the move. Poundland has around 100 employees in the field, including business managers, human resources, business partners and trainers. In the past those people relied on BlackBerry mobile devices and laptops, which they logged into once a day from home, or via VPN when they could.

“I think the challenges around that were multiple in terms of cost,” says Sparks. “BlackBerry wasn’t cost effective and we weren’t able to give it to as many people as we wanted to.”

Poundland is now moving to Windows mobile handsets, with plans to distribute 230 handsets over the next 4-6 weeks.

We're becoming less and less reliant on traditional computing desktops as time goes by

Mike Gray, Poundland

Sparks says using Windows devices completes the suite of services, by allowing employees to access emails on the go, Microsoft Lync for communications and work within Sharepoint via a mobile device.

“We’re becoming less and less reliant on traditional computing desktops as time goes by,” he says. “And we will see evolutions into this space as time goes forward.”

A tablet offering?

But Poundland has no immediate plans to deploy tablets – Windows or otherwise. Sparks says that this option has been investigated recently with the migration to Windows 7 and deploying new mobile devices, but tablets are just not cost effective at the moment.

“In our judgment, a traditional keyboard and screen device is still the most efficient way to interact with business information. Unfortunately with some tablet devices, which are detachable, the pricing tends to be in an area we are not comfortable with.

He says that as the industry gets more and more tablet-style functionality on mobile handsets, they may consider a move into a tablet environment, but at the moment providing tablets to employees would be like “providing a solution to something that hasn’t been asked of yet.”

Additionally, when the company considered its options to upgrade from XP to either Windows 7 or 8, it chose Windows 7 because it felt 8 was more suited to touchscreen devices.

“We didn’t want to put touchscreens into all of our stores and head office, we felt it wasn’t the right time to do that at this point,” says Sparks.

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