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Paul Smith IT chief Lee Bingham ahead of insourcing trend

Mark Chillingworth | April 26, 2013
Fashion house Paul Smith has long taken classic British style to the wider world. Now head of IT Lee Bingham is helping deliver the same quality to online shoppers

Important as the e-commerce shop clearly is to the Paul Smith business, Bingham is also operating IT platforms that streamline the full process of design, fabric procurement, commissioning of manufacturing and distribution. To simplify these he has recently gone through an exercise to rid the company of silos.

Bingham, like the company and Paul Smith himself, is a Nottingham boy and operates the global IT operation from the East Midlands city. Paul Smith has two head offices in Nottingham and London with around 250 people on each site.

Three tiers of demand

Bingham describes the business as having three tiers of IT demand, tier one being the two head offices, branch offices in the "fashion capitals" with showrooms and creative sales spaces constitute the second tier, and the third tier is the Paul Smith shops themselves.

Bingham's team has grown from 16 people to 26 as he has recruited and brought the web development and design sides of the business in-house.

"We are very agile and we like to work towards latest and greatest," Bingham says, not of the suits and fashions Paul Smith creates, but of the attitude and appetite it has towards technology. As fashion leaders Paul Smith and Bingham pride themselves on being trend-setters in business technology adoption.

On entering Paul Smith's London office I was expecting to be surrounded by iPads and other glitzy Apple products, so was surprised to learn that Microsoft is the preferred technology for stitching Paul Smith's operations together.

"We have a good Microsoft partner, Risual. I thought it would be a short-lived relationship, but as we take a broad part of the Microsoft product set, so they have continually sponsored projects at Paul Smith and we receive higher levels of support because we sit closely to the Microsoft release schedule," he says.

Cloud computing, thin clients and the integration of Exchange have all been introduced in partnership with Risual and Microsoft.

"There was very much a view of technology as a vertical stack," Bingham says, admitting that the board were initially concerned about being a Microsoft shop. But in fact the relationship with Microsoft helped move IT up in the organisation, and he explains how significant levels of service from Microsoft during the data centre virtualisation project gave the company peace of mind.

Bingham says Paul Smith was one of the first organisations in the UK to adopt VoIP, which it introduced in partnership with BT and Cisco. The company is now working with the same partners on a move to global video conferencing.

"My focus has always been to concentrate on tier-one vendors and choose them wisely and to standardise with them," he says of his key suppliers.

 

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