Paul Coby is stepping down from the CIO role of one of the UK’s foremost retailers, the John Lewis Partnership. Victoria, London headquartered John Lewis has given the CIO role to its Group Productivity Director, Andrew Murphy.
Coby joined John Lewis in March 2011, initially as IT Director. Murphy will take on the leadership of technology at John Lewis in February 2018, thus ensuring that Coby’s experienced hand is at the technology tiller through Christmas 2017. Paul Coby told this author recently that Christmas Day is one of the busiest days of the year for the retailer, demonstrating the rise of online retail on a day when you can guarantee the physical stores are closed.
Coby has worked closely with startup early stage investors L Marks to operate the JLAB, an incubator that helps startups work with the John Lewis Partnership to “shape the retail experience of the future”.
Sir Charlie Mayfield, Chairman of the John Lewis Partnership, said in a press release: “I want to take this opportunity to thank Paul for his outstanding contribution to our business and the legacy he has left. Paul was the architect of the IT strategy for John Lewis, which helped to transform the business into a leading omni-channel retailer.”
Coby is leaving the John Lewis in April 2018. He joined the mutual retailer having been CIO for British Airways since 2009. Coby has been an influential CIO in the travel sector, sitting on the board of air travel technology specialist SITA, cross channel ferry operator P&O Ferries and OnBoard a Swiss in-flight technology supplier.
Murphy has been with John Lewis since 1992 in a variety of roles, including MD of flagship stores in Aberdeen and Edinburgh, Scotland. He entered senior management with John Lewis in 2009 in an operational director role (COO) before becoming Retail Director in 2010. In 2015 Murphy took on his current role of Group Productivity Director, a role that included leading the John Lewis change programme.
Murphy taking control of technology at the John Lewis Partnerships can be seen as a technology going under the wing of the COO. A number of CIOs have taken on the role of COO during their career, including David Henderson, now CIO with Global Radio and Richard Warner, COO at insurance firm LV=. Murphy’s deep experience at the frontline of retail in leading flagship stores, directing the retail experience and more recently the company wide transformation indicates that John Lewis understand that technology is intrinsic to the entire retail offering and cannot be seen as a silo or service.
During a number of conversations I had with Paul Coby during his career at John Lewis (he keynoted the first CIO conference I organised), Coby made it clear that John Lewis did understand that technology was central to all elements of the retail and customer experience.
Coby has developed a strong technology team within John Lewis, ensuring Murphy has the skills and talent he needs to continue with the major retail challenge of online giants like Amazon.
2018 will see two of the UK’s major retailers have new technology leaders. J Sainsbury’s has appointed former Telefonica Global CIO Phil Jordan as its Group CIO. Jordan recently spoke to the Horizon CIO podcast about the challenges and opportunities facing retail. Listen here.