Retailer Halfords has signed a three-year IT maintenance and support deal with Fujitsu, part of an IT transformation project at the bicycle and car parts retailer.
Halfords CIO Anna Barsby told Computing that Fujitsu was chosen ahead of the retailer's incumbent Barron McCann - as well as other suppliers who she declined to disclose - citing its long-term commitment to cost cutting and improving services.
She said that Fujitsu was placed on the shortlist, partly because of her prior experience of using the IT services firm in her previous jobs.
"I had used Fujitsu before when I was working for what was then the Financial Services Authority (FSA), and when I worked at Whitbread. At Whitbread they had a very similar service of managing break-fix for the restaurants and Premier Inn, so I had experience with them and put them on the shortlist, and after a rigorous tender process they were the winners," she said.
"It was also about the breadth of services I know they could offer us," she added.
Fujitsu took over IT maintenance and support for Halfords' 465 stores across the UK & Ireland in November 2013. This was the biggest challenge of the switch to Fujitsu, because it was at a peak time for the retailer, in the run-up to Christmas.
"It was quite a risky time to do it, but it was the right time for us. We had to be incredibly sure that they were the right partner and that their engineers would know exactly what we needed.
"As Fujtitsu has a large number of retail customers, it did give us the comfort that they understood what a peak period for a retailer at Christmas meant. They did a good job over Christmas, getting through the peak period in a very strong way. We're now embedding that service long-term, and putting all of the service reviews in place," said Barsby.
Barsby said that Halfords would be rolling out Lenovo tablets to store managers this month, following a rollout of laptops over the Christmas period. These will also be supported by Fujitsu. The retailer is also looking at HP tablets as part of an ongoing review into other devices it can provide its employees with.
However, although both Lenovo and HP tablets run Microsoft Windows, this is not something that was a determining factor for Halfords.
"At this stage, we were less concerned about the operating system. The reason we are rolling out tablets is to access an extended range online so that they can talk to customers about it.
"What we really needed was access to the web and access to our own apps. However, if we decide to invest in mobile tills then that would be a bigger operating system decision," said Barsby.
Halfords is currently reviewing its IT suppliers with the aim of moving to a smaller set of strategic relationships. And Barsby suggested that Fujitsu would be considered for future projects at the retailer.
This includes a review of its network, a data centre consolidation project, and a focus on end-user computing, said Barsby.
However, she added that Halfords has a number of other partners who are also interested and that all of the projects will involve a competitive tender process.