CIO Interview: Dustan Steer, IT director, Ted Baker

Dustan Steer, IT director for clothes brand Ted Baker, talks about upgrading the company's enterprise resource planning system

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Designer clothes brand Ted Baker began as a men’s shirt specialist in 1987 and has since grown to become a multi-national brand both on and offline.

The company is run in the UK, but has 2,000 employees worldwide, in regions such as the US, Asia and Europe. Operating on this wide scale, it was becoming difficult to support employees in other countries.

HP and OCSL will provide Ted Baker with a new enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. It will improve operations and reduce the amount of work done by employees by providing back-office operations including hosted ERP infrastructure, operating system and database.

HP will provide managed services to reduce the amount of employee-intensive processes. Ted Baker’s Dustan Steer says this is one of the largest decisions he has made as the firm’s IT director.

“We made the decision between 18 and 24 months ago that we needed to change our ERP solution,” says Steer.

He says that although Ted Baker is run from the UK, there are numerous franchise partners around the world that take part in running the brand.

When choosing an ERP system to solve this problem, Steer says there were three routes the organisation considered, and it soon realised the best was to outsource its ERP system to a bigger player.

“We looked at three options: hosting it ourselves internally, hosting it with some existing hosting partners that we had relationships with or looking at bigger enterprise players in the market that fell into that category. We followed the process and decided to use HP," says Steer.

Implementing Microsoft Dynamics

Earlier this year, Ted Baker selected Microsoft Dynamics AX as its enterprise software system, which is accessed constantly across all regions of the business.

“We have the solution built up in a couple of data halls in their HP Swindon location, which is giving us a failover resilience solution for Microsoft Dynamics AX," says Steer. "Because AX is being accessed 24/7 from our operatives in Hong Kong and in north America, we need to keep downtime to a minimum."

Steer explains that any issues arising overseas need to be addressed by the team in the UK, on a different time zone.

“So the solution needs to be running 24/7, access provided, with all of the HP support services, we would be able to get the right people monitoring the server 24/7 so when an incident occurs in the middle of the night, I don’t have to have my guys effectively on call to pick up on all of those issues,” says Steer.

“This AX implementation is going to be taking us up to the next 12 to 18 months to complete, around the world, and then, following on from that, we will be looking at moving on to the customer interaction.”

But, although the new ERP offering enables picking from warehouses seven days a week, Steer admits his biggest challenge has been running the IT of a multi-national business from a UK location.

“I think one of my biggest challenges is making the decision to have everything come out of the UK, being able to deliver a good service to all of my regions – getting a usable service over to people in Hong Kong has been challenging. I think the amount of change going on in the market space is becoming a challenge in itself,” says Steer.

“Keeping on top of everything new by having this platform in place should make it easier for us to explore these avenues further in the future.”

Addressing the omni-channel offering

With many retailers moving into the omni-channel space, the IT department becomes more important in ensuring organisations can cope with a digital push.

There are a lot of retailers where the technology these days is becoming more important because the technology is the brand

Dustan Steer, IT director, Ted Baker

Ted Baker is no different and, with its online traffic up, the next step is to branch out into other areas, and offer a more consistent multi-channel experience to users.

“There are a lot of retailers where the technology these days is becoming more important because the technology is the brand. As people move to a digital world, the brand often is the website that people access or it’s an app on a phone and therefore having stable IT, good IT, innovative IT is absolutely crucial to supporting brand,” says Steer.

“You need a stable platform to move into the omni-channel piece. I need to have a good foundation, a solid view of where my stock is at any one point in time, so this is what we’re putting in place with this project.”

This omni-channel offering, as well as extending the services available to customers both on and offline, is what Ted Baker is aiming for in the future.

“We want to make more of an online offering to our customers, just in terms of services we can deliver online,” says Steer.

“The long-term goal is obviously to move completely into the omni-channel space. We’ve got a piece of stock anywhere in the business that marries up with a customer we want to be able to bring the two of those entities together.”

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