Business challenge

HR processes at Co-op had become complex and time-consuming, with business units operating in different ways. How could Co-op simplify and streamline HR to release time to serve members and customers?


Co-op is accelerating and simplifying its HR processes, working with IBM Services on the UK’s largest Oracle HCM Cloud deployment, to help teams focus on member and customer service.



company-wide HR processes will make it easier for teams to manage issues

Frees up

valuable time for colleagues to spend with customers and members


costs with streamlined processes and by refocusing the HR operating model

Business challenge story

Making a change

Following a period of rapid organic growth and acquisition, the financial storms of 2008 brought a sober new reality to the Co-op. In a short space of time, priorities shifted from expansion to consolidation, with the emphasis on streamlining operations and reducing costs.

In particular, multiple acquisitions had brought with them an array of inconsistent and sometimes duplicated systems and processes. To re-generate the original spirit of the Co-op as a single organization, owned by its members committed to excellent service and a different way of doing business, the senior leadership team created a transformation program designed to unify and “Rebuild” the business.

Fiona Inglis, OneHR Programme Lead, explains, “The Co-op Rebuild transformation program identified HR as a core area for development. The merger with the United Co-op and acquisitions such as Somerfield had brought around 30,000 people into the business, and our HR systems struggled to keep up.

“Our Programme vision is to be a simple, reliable and more efficient HR function. We aim to fundamentally change how colleagues and managers experience HR by creating better self-service, giving easier access to information, enabling managers to take greater leadership accountability and ensuring colleagues feel supported. This will help reduce operational costs, and release colleague time for their essential customer-facing work.”

The Co-op team planned to move the newly acquired business units onto the existing core solution, provided as a service—and immediately hit a bump, as Ioannis Boutaris, HR Technology Manager, describes, “Our HR policies and processes were so fragmented that it was impossible to reorganize the existing solutions into a single service. Where we had introduced a shared services model, there were so many exceptions that we were not gaining the benefits we expected, with high levels of admin activities and consequent high costs.”

The Co-op set out a series of HR objectives that would put the business first, designed to release employee time to serve customers and members, and make HR easier and simpler for colleagues and managers. Additionally, the Co-op aimed to gain greater insight and value from its HR activities, helping to cut costs by improving recruitment, and by streamlining management and employee retention programs.

Ioannis Boutaris continues, “We chose the shared services model to provide HR activities that are easier to access and navigate based on a single user experience. An integrated approach would enable greater insight into the workforce, with robust analytics capabilities that would help us identify the trends that are impacting our people and their talent needs. This would enable the Group to take better decisions faster, driving competitive advantage in the marketplace.”

By adopting a shared services model, the project also aimed to reduce the HR administration workload and cut operational infrastructure, reducing the overall cost of HR to the business. Additionally, the Co-op team determined that a “No Customizations” principle should become the default way of working, to help maximize the benefits of integrated working.  

The combination of Oracle HCM Cloud and IBM Global Business Services contributes directly to our ongoing recovery and growth.

Ioannis Boutaris, HR Technology Manager, the Co-op

Transformation story

Taking to the cloud to transform HR

Within the larger transformation program, the Co-op established its OneHR project. The team considered possible implementation options, from on-premise to fully cloud-enabled solutions, and reviewed HR software offerings from the major vendors.

Simon Locke, Head of IT for Enabling Functions, takes up the story, “Early on we realized that cloud was the right route for us, and we looked for the best fit. The Co-op uses Oracle solutions and databases for general business management, and the potential integration benefits merited closer examination. When we assessed offerings against our criteria, Oracle HCM Cloud solutions provided the breadth of functionality we required and offered the cloud model we felt was best for the Co-op.

“One of the key factors was the ability to implement the Oracle HCM Cloud solutions in a modular fashion, learning as we went along. Naturally, the interfaces were best-placed for co-existence with our existing Oracle environment.

“From a cost perspective, moving to the cloud may not initially seem to provide savings, but once you take infrastructure capital and renewal costs into account, as well as the costs of change and maintenance, there are significant opportunities to save.”

Ioannis Boutaris adds, “From an HR point of view the Oracle HCM Cloud solutions offered standardized and simplified processes, which will enable harmonization of our working practices. In the past we allowed each business unit to specify bespoke requirements, which resulted in a very complex in-house system. The Oracle HCM Cloud solution embodies many best practices that we now share throughout the Co-op, which for the first time makes a highly cost-effective shared services model possible.”

To execute the transition, the Co-op looked for an implementation partner that provided suitable experience and scale to carry off the UK’s largest single Oracle HCM Cloud deployment. Using the modular approach, the ultimate solution would include the UK’s largest payroll go-live, and the Co-op wanted a partner capable of designing, managing and completing the project efficiently and effectively.

Simon Locke comments, “Around one year into the program, we reviewed our progress and started dialogue with IBM Services. We had great experience of IBM on other HR projects within the Co-op, and IBM had demonstrated experience in payroll design and simplifying existing processes. Additionally, it was clear that IBM understood the value of the Oracle HCM Cloud solutions to the Co-op, and the opportunities that they could create. Given the new technology, we are all learning as we progress on this journey, and we feel that IBM have partnered us well so far.”

Following a very competitive tender the Co-op engaged IBM as the prime systems integrator, working on business processes, technology design, integration, system design and self-service portals. IBM also helped with the deployment of Oracle Taleo Recruiting Cloud Service and Oracle Performance Management, and the Oracle Platform-as-a-Service elements. The Co-op continues to work with IBM to deploy further Oracle HCM modules.

Simon Locke continues, “The centralized solution based on Oracle HCM Cloud removes the multiple local exceptions that many business units formerly requested—a change that is not without pain! However, we are managing the changeover and the associated cultural shift, and we are now starting to see the benefits of unified HR operations throughout the Co-Op.”

Results story

Simplifying to enhance productivity and service

Moving to the Oracle HCM Cloud solutions is transforming processes and systems at the Co-op—and most importantly, contributing to a change in culture and community.

Ioannis Boutaris explains, “Our colleagues and managers, who are busy serving customers in stores, need services and support that can be provided efficiently and effectively, yet many still have to complete paper forms. Colleagues in Funeral services follow different HR processes from the retail stores, and if a colleague moves location or business unit they effectively become a new starter all over again.

“With Oracle HCM Cloud solutions we are removing the paper-based admin work and can capture employee data securely and reliably, allowing colleagues to spend more time with our customers and members. The vision, through this program, is to simplify the interaction between the HR team and our teams in the stores, enhance the service offered by HR, and reduce the time spent by employees and managers on admin-related matters so that they can focus on sales and member support.”

Simon Locke adds, “Transforming to a fully digital way of working will also deliver benefits around employee engagement and satisfaction. There is a relationship between profitability, customer loyalty and employee satisfaction—happy colleagues will tend to communicate positively to customers, to their benefit and the Co-op’s as well.”

The revised, integrated approach to HR management will result in tangible benefits based on an improved and consistent service for all Co-op colleagues. The program is designed to deliver faster and more-efficient service with HR processes that are easier to access and navigate based on a unified user experience. At the same time, the solution will enable performance measurement and tracking, with standard measures for all business units.

For example, by moving towards integrated reporting, the Group will gain insight into the employment trends affecting colleagues, their talents and training, and how they move between the various Co-op businesses. HR managers will be able to take informed decisions about staffing needs and training programs, helping to boost productivity and driving competitive advantage.

The Co-op is also in the early stages of implementing IBM Watson® solutions, the first element of which is to collate and cleanse data from the former HR estate. Watson will ingest the historic data and connect it to the new Oracle HCM Cloud solutions, providing cognitive analytics that will help the Co-op to determine how best to shape its future HR services.

Ioannis Boutaris concludes, “The Co-op Group is focused on turnaround and transformation. By centralizing HR administrative work and delivering it in a more efficient and effective way, we will be able to invest in our value-added activities.”

“These lower-cost enablers include the selection of Oracle HCM Cloud as our single HR systems provider, which offers totally integrated solutions with minimum dependency on IT infrastructure. The flexible model enabled by cloud solutions, being implemented and enabled by IBM Services, will provide low total cost of operations and the ability to adapt to future demands.

“The combination of Oracle HCM Cloud and IBM Services is a key component of the wider consolidation and reorganization project at the Co-op, and will contribute directly to our ongoing recovery and growth.”

business logo

Co-operative Group Limited

The Co-op is one of the world’s largest consumer co-operatives, with interests across food, funerals, insurance, electrical and legal services, and has a clear purpose of championing a better way of doing business for you and your communities. Owned by millions of UK consumers, the Co-op operates a total of 3,750 outlets, with more than 70,000 employees and an annual turnover of over £9 billion.

Solution components

  • Consumer Centric Retailing
  • GBS AD&I - EA - Oracle
  • GBS AD&I - EA - Oracle - Customer Experience
  • GBS AD&I - EA - Oracle - Other Business Applications
  • GBS AD&I - EA - Oracle - PeopleSoft
  • IBM Global Business Services
  • Oracle Cloud
  • Oracle PeopleSoft Enterprise - Human Capital Management (HCM)
  • Retail: Digital Operations