How Specsavers is setting its sights on global IT

Specsavers' European IT director Karl de Bruijn on Google Apps, open source and mobile working

...numerous opportunities for the technology organisation to improve the business and assumed his current role in February 2010.

After working in similar roles for Bank of Ireland, Legal & General, Merrill Lynch, Nationwide Building Society and Virgin Mobile, de Bruijn has experience in dealing with large-scale IT operations so is well prepared for the demands the tech refresh will put on his team.

Going global with Google

According to de Bruijn, one of the key areas for Specsavers to address as part of this project is the communications and collaboration technology being used across the business.

About six months ago, Specsavers started to work with IT services provider Ancoris to determine the best approach for modernising this part of the technology infrastructure.

The company decided to pilot Google Apps including email, Google Docs and the Google Sites project-management technology with the expansion of the company as one of the main reasons for choosing cloud-based email.

Following a pilot at the company's factory in Hungary, Specsavers decided to roll out the technology region by region, to make sure staff were available to deal with the change management and training involved with the move to the new platform.

"So we're doing a lot of staff communications, workshops, training sessions and really working through that at a pace that suits the organisation really rather than just migrating everything [at the same time]," de Bruijn said.

The rollout has been completed in Australia, New Zealand and Hungary and the company will implement the technology across Europe in the spring, aiming to complete the work by the middle of the year.

The newer markets were chosen for the rollout first, partly due to the more extensive legacy infrastructure in the UK: "We picked to roll out in Australia - it's one of our newer markets - where in the UK we have 20 years of data. So each step in the process is assessing people's take on of the product. What do we need to migrate? What's usable? It's a continually improving process really," de Bruijn said.

Australia in particular was seen as a good place to start, with 300 stores established just three years after Specsavers started to operate there.

"Australia has been a great success story for us - it's grown very rapidly. And with the growth there, rather than ongoing investment in other platforms and scaling those platforms up, it's an opportune time to replace that with Google and it's very cost-effective to do that at this point in time," de Bruijn said.

The company has set up an innovation team for Google Apps to work out what...

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