Specsavers CIO explains his vision

"Should have gone to Specsavers" runs the slogan, and with branches opening on more high streets in more countries than ever, customers are realising that they can indeed buy their new frames or lenses from the world's largest privately owned opticians.

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Specsavers is in a period of growth powered by an IT strategy aimed at producing a common customer service through global partner agreements like the services deal signed with Fujitsu Siemens Computers Infrastructure Services (FSC) in October.

The deal with FSC, established eight years ago to cover the UK, Ireland and the Netherlands, was extended in October to support Specsavers' further global expansion. The agreement effectively creates a standard deployment model for Specsavers stores the world over, and covers procurement, commissioning, installation, management and ongoing support for both hardware and software.

By producing this standard deployment model for Specsavers' IT, the FSC deal lets Specsavers open a new store in less than 11 weeks, anywhere in the world.

"We've just rolled out 100 stores in 100 working days in Australia," says Specsavers' CIO Michel Khan. "We couldn't have done that unless we had a really highly geared process. It's Specsavers-in-a-Box, a complete set of applications covering merchandising, finance and distribution. It's a global framework for expansion."

With new stores opening in Australia, New Zealand, Finland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Spain in 2008 alone, the FSC package is giving the firm a head-start on rivals. Because of varying legal, financial and healthcare requirements in the different territories, the boxed models are slightly different, but as these differences are incorporated into the systems before distribution, it doesn't delay expansion.

"I have an IT team in the UK with retail system skills. They build software, implement it and are a SWAT team that goes straight into new countries and identifies what we need to do to migrate to that country," says Khan. "The Finnish application, for instance, may be very different from the Australian application, but it does have the core Specsavers business process to service the customer."

The system means that every one of Specsavers' 1250 stores offers the same level of service and range of frames and lenses as the next. It covers every aspect of the buying process from the eye test and choosing frames to checking the availability of lenses and, down the line, issuing a reminder that your next eye test is due.

"We spent a lot of time analysing the business process before building Specsavers-in-a-Box," says Khan. "The real selling point isn't the hardware, it's the business process. We've got that right, and that's what we're delivering everywhere. Customers will get a consistent service level, and a consistent business process, whichever Specsavers they go into."

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