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Asda bags ex-Marks and Spencer CIO

Carl Dawson, who has been CIO at department store M&S for six years, is leaving the retailer to become CIO at Asda

Marks and Spencer’s CIO, Carl Dawson, is leaving the company after six years to take on the CIO role at supermarket Asda.

Dawson will be a full-time replacement for Asda’s previous CIO, Phil Tenney, who left the retailer in December 2020.

Asda’s chief operating officer, Anthony Hemmerdinger, said: “We are delighted to welcome Carl to Asda as chief information officer. Carl has strong retail and digital experience having previously worked at Tesco, Shop Direct and Thomas Cook, and this experience and expertise will be invaluable to us as we navigate our separation from our Walmart systems.”

At the end of 2020, it was confirmed that Walmart would sell Asda to Issa brothers and TDR Capital, offering a possible explanation for the need to separate from Walmart’s IT systems.  

Asda has a history of innovation, most recently including projects such as introducing Müller’s shelf-edge digital marketing displays in 35 stores and trialling delivery management from tech platform Sorted to make it easier for customers to track online orders made through its George brand.

At the beginning of 2021, the grocer announced the creation of 4,500 online operations jobs within the next year as part of plans to expand its “in-store pick” model to deal with consumers’ increased reliance on online shopping.

As stated by Hemmerdinger, Dawson has a history of IT management in the retail sector, having previously been CIO of internet retailing at Tesco and group CIO for Shop Direct and Thomas Cook.

Hemmerdinger also praised Anna Barsby, who has been acting as interim CIO for the supermarket since Tenney’s departure in December, helping with the technical aspects of the firm’s transition away from Walmart.

“Anna has done a fantastic job in steering us through the early days of this critical project and we are grateful for her continued efforts on our future business planning, as well as support in welcoming Carl,” he said.

M&S’s chief technology officer, Mike Yorwerth, who began his role at the beginning of 2020, claimed in a LinkedIn post that he would help M&S “continue the transformation to a digital-first business” that puts customers at the forefront.

In the past few years, M&S has been working to make up lost ground in digital adoption after admitting in 2018 that it was “well behind” its competitors when it came to online shopping.

The retailer has been working on several projects, including partnering with Decoded to teach its employees data science skills and introducing a photo search capability to its mobile site to help people find products they might like.

M&S has also partnered with a startup called ChargeUp to introduce battery charging banks in its stores for customers to use while shopping, and has worked with Founders Factory, a network for entrepreneurs and startups, to gain access to new innovations with the possibility of building new joint retail ventures.

In 2020, M&S and Ocado began their online delivery partnership, which saw M&S take a 50% share of Ocado’s UK retail business as part of a £750m deal that makes M&S groceries available for delivery through the Ocado online shopping platform.

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