You can always tell when we’ve entered the heart of the ‘golden quarter’ by the slowdown in activity
in the jobs market. At an executive level at least, the market has paused for breath as retailers put all
their focus into delivering the kind of Christmas trading performance that can turn a poor year into a
moderate year and a good year into a great year.
One move has caught the eye this week, however, and that’s Andrew Murphy’s appointment as
chief information officer at the John Lewis Partnership.
Murphy succeeds Paul Coby, the architect of John Lewis’s IT strategy and a key player in its
transformation into a leading omnichannel retailer.
Murphy, a JLP lifer who joined the organisation straight out of university in 1992, has played a
similarly integral role in the business’s recent development having spent the past two and a bit years
as group productivity and change director.
Don’t be fooled by the rather abstruse job title: Murphy has been a driving force behind the delivery
of JLP’s manifesto for change, set out in its 2016 annual report, which supports the new business
strategy and aims to make the organisation more dynamic and agile. His task has been to implement
plans that support JLP’s productivity improvements, financial strategy and future organisational
structure, and with finding efficiencies across both the John Lewis and Waitrose brands.
Productivity is a buzzword in business circles at the moment, in part because the UK performs so
poorly on this measure against other developed economics. Retail productivity is particularly
problematic (the government identifies it as one of five sectors that make up the majority of the
UK’s productivity shortfall), however, JLP has long been ahead of the curve in this respect and has
acknowledged that its long-term financial health relies on maximising productivity and linking it with
performance, pay and progression.
It is notable that Murphy’s own progression has taken him into a CIO role where the ability to think
strategically is such a desirable attribute. CIO is a vitally important role for JLP and one that appears
well suited to Murphy’s skillset.
With the jobs market winding down, this will be my last article of 2017. I’d like to wish all readers a
very merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous 2018.