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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

"We tend not to step outside of these key relationships. We don't do that to the cost of the market -- it is always about which solution is the best fit," he says.

"The big ticket moves have been around Microsoft and all built on an initial engagement. It works really well for me with our partner and to have a direct relationship with Microsoft," Bingham explains.

Long-term projects

The IT leader is proud of the strong relationship his team has as part of the business and its ability to be a part of business projects.

"Technology and project alignment is in a very good position and as result my budget is predominantly capex. Our capex is high due to the number of projects we run, for example last year there was a headquarters relocation in Nottingham and a move to two new data centres, both of which were the culmination of a long-term five-year project."

The new data centres, like the move to bring the web development team in-house, are strong seams in a strategy to in-source at Paul Smith.

"We like to retain the ownership and we have had challenges such as data loss with the cloud and off-premise systems in the past, and we really see the value of in-sourcing IT," says Bingham. He isn't belligerent about in-sourcing, which he sees as fitting Paul Smith perfectly. The CFO that he reports to agrees, and Bingham describes their strategy as a "shared mentality".

"We have served the business well. The cost of ownership has always been seen as an element of value. I do appreciate it's a luxury, but it has to demonstrate value," he explains.

Bingham agrees that intellectual property ownership is a value that runs deep across Paul Smith and that culture is mirrored by the business's IT function. As a result sponsorship from business leaders is generally strong.

Next on Bingham's agenda is a new point of sale (POS) solution that will tie into the company's CRM solution and, he says, that will push the infrastructure Paul Smith uses as it interconnects customer accounts, RFID, mobile POS, in-store Wi-Fi, use location services, videos and even IP-CCTV.

"We are doing this with an eye on the future," Bingham says.

Core consumers

Despite the heavy investment in Microsoft solutions Apple Macs do have an inevitable place within Paul Smith's graphic design teams, but Bingham and the organisation were considering removing Apple devices from the business a number of years ago as the US giant was almost outside of the business in terms of support.

"Apple then caused a change in significance and it was a fight we couldn't win," he says of the launch of the iPad. Paul Smith himself is a personal friend of Apple's design chief Sir Jonathan Ive and receives Apple gifts, so Apple has been accepted over the last two years as part of the general consumerisation trend affecting IT.


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