100,000 Coles staff get SharePoint Online


news National retailer Coles yesterday revealed it had deployed SharePoint Online, a component of Microsoft’s software as a service-based suite Office 365 to some 100,000 Australian staff, in the latest indication that the cloud platform is gaining traction amongst large Australian enterprises.

“Coles, a leading national food, liquor and convenience retailer in Australia has today announced that it is adopting Microsoft Office 365 for its 100,000 Australia wide team members,” Microsoft said in a statement issued yesterday. “Under the terms of this new agreement, Coles will deploy Microsoft SharePoint Online throughout the company helping to deliver on its goal to give the people of Australia a shop they trust, delivering quality, service and value.”

“Development this year will aim to provide the 100,000 strong team members with anytime, anywhere access to the Coles portal through any web-enabled device. The Coles portal will increase employee engagement by removing communication barriers across its large team member base delivering on Coles’ vision to be the retail employer of choice.”

Coles IT Group general manager Conrad Harvey said Office 365 would provide the company’s employees with what he termed a “digital identity”, with security protection that would allow them to create and share ideas and learnings in a “less structured way” wherever they chose to do so. “For Coles, the Microsoft Cloud was the only choice for such a progressive project of this scale,” Harvey said in Microsoft’s statement. “It integrates with our existing on premise environment and its familiar interface will ensure our team members can interact easily with the new platform.”

According to Microsoft, the Coles portal will be able to automate many functions that previously required team members to be on-site, such as holiday requests and approvals. The portal can be personalised to encourage interaction across the workforce while giving everyone 24/7 access to pay slips, rosters, holiday calendars, team member special offers, training, blogs and corporate social networking .

The news comes as Office 365 continues to grain traction across Australia. Qantas last week reportedly revealed plans for a mass deployment of Office 365, in a landmark move which will mark one of the first major Australian rollouts of the software as a service platform in a private sector entity. In addition, last month, home appliance rental chain Mr Rental revealed that it had deployed Office 365 to more than 90 stores across Australia and New Zealand.

Twelve months ago, Fortescue Metals chief information officer Vito Forte revealed that the company was then working on a plan to migrate to Office 365, for example, and Microsoft has also won substantial contracts with a number of major universities to deploy the software to students and sometimes staff. In addition, non-profit Australian organisations such as charities are adopting Microsoft’s Office 365 Software as a Service platform in large numbers, according to non-profit technology enablement group Infoxchange, which has recently helped 20 such organisations shift into Microsoft’s cloud.

However, like fellow SaaS player Google with its Google Apps offering, Microsoft has struggled to convince large corporations and government departments and agencies of the case to switch from a desktop software deployment model to Office 365, which is hosted outside of Australia.

“Coles joins Qantas, Coca-Cola Amital, Spotless Group, Special Broadcasting Service (SBS), Origin Energy and Fortescue Metals Group moving to the cloud using Office 365.” said Oscar Trimboli, Director of Microsoft Office Division, Microsoft Australia.

Microsoft has attempted to play up the “Office 365” angle pretty heavily in its press release announcing this deployment at Coles, but the truth appears to be that what Coles is doing appears to have very little to do with what most people think of as being Office 365 – the Word, Excel, Powerpoint and Outlook/Exchange portions of the suite – and more to do with redeveloping its intranet and allowing Microsoft to host it.

Given the complexity of Coles’ employee needs, it is hard to disagree with the company that Microsoft’s ubiquitous SharePoint was the only real option to be chosen here, and it does make sense for the platform to be hosted by Microsoft, given the huge employee base which will access it.

Having said that, the deployment by Coles still does represent a substantial initiative in terms of Microsoft’s ‘cloud’ platform, and it will create waves throughout other major private sector organisations. If Coles can trust Microsoft with this huge amount of internal data, the argument will go, why can’t other organisations as well?

Image credit: Microsoft