Tesco checks out UK best practice for global success

Supermarket chain Tesco is working on an ambitious global project to utilise UK IT best practice to replicate the mainframe-like capability of a key supply chain application without having to incur the cost or complexity of implementing mainframes in local territories.

The retail giant is working with business software specialist Micro Focus on the project and is aiming to switch on the technology in its Izmir data centre - which powers a eight hypermarkets in Turkey - later this year, in advance of a US launch of the brand in California by the end of the year.

Tesco's continuous replenishment (CR) application keeps track of items sold so that the shelves can be refilled quickly and easily.

Micro Focus will modernise the application on the UK-based IBM System z mainframe and ensure it can be ported to IBM System p servers running AIX UNIX around the world so that the supermarket only has to maintain one source stream.

"Elements of our common operating model are already in place and benefiting some of our businesses," said Colin Cobain, Tesco's group IT director.

"Micro Focus' modernisation expertise is not only helping us maintain the momentum behind this strategic IT project, but is also playing a key role in the development of our US presence. This project will help us meet our goal of opening our first store in 2007."

In addition to leveraging the best practice of the company's home country, it is likely that Tesco will also be able to fine tune the UK system as a positive by-product of the project, according to John Rogers, the Micro Focus account director working with Tesco.

"Tesco has a very successful continuous replenishment inventory system which pretty much accounts for the majority of MIPS (million instructions per second) on the mainframe," he said.

"It wanted to clone that by migrating it to cheaper AIX p server boxes in another 13 countries. It's all part of the plan to have 'Tesco in a box' with one operating system globally that effectively replicates the best of the applications regardless of where they originate from.

"The UK mainframe will become a global hub that allows Tesco to continue to do what it wants while porting best practice to other operations and conducting synchronised upgrades. If goods are replenished quickly the customer won't know any different, but if fast-selling goods are not replenished quickly enough, they will certainly notice the difference."

Micro Focus originally approached Tesco to help it with its UK-based legacy systems as most applications use COBOL and will need updating at some point.

Maggie Holland

Maggie has been a journalist since 1999, starting her career as an editorial assistant on then-weekly magazine Computing, before working her way up to senior reporter level. In 2006, just weeks before ITPro was launched, Maggie joined Dennis Publishing as a reporter. Having worked her way up to editor of ITPro, she was appointed group editor of CloudPro and ITPro in April 2012. She became the editorial director and took responsibility for ChannelPro, in 2016.

Her areas of particular interest, aside from cloud, include management and C-level issues, the business value of technology, green and environmental issues and careers to name but a few.