Transformation chief leaves Asda amid Walmart divorce IT projects

After 28 years' service, Mark Simpson departs 'by mutual agreement'

The UK's third-largest supermarket chain, Asda, has parted company with its digital transformation chief amid delays in separating IT systems from former owner Walmart, the US retail giant.

In an internal communication seen by The Register, Asda's joint owner Mohsin Issa said Mark Simpson, who has served as chief transformation officer, would leave with immediate effect.

Thanking Simpson for his 28 years of service, Issa said he had "been reviewing the executive team to ensure we have the right structure to support our strategic objectives and excellent delivery plans."

An Asda spokesperson said: "We can confirm that Mark Simpson has left the business today by mutual agreement. We would like to thank Mark for his years of service with Asda and wish him well for the future."

At the start of this year, The Register revealed that Asda had extended its deal with Walmart to support backend ERP and other systems after a project to replace them was delayed.

The supermarket, which Walmart sold to Bellis Finco for £6.8 billion ($8.65 billion) in 2021, signed a contract with SAP to move the on-prem legacy ERP systems to the cloud and its latest S/4HANA software under the German company's flagship RISE with SAP program.

In February 2021, the group embarked on a program called Project Future, designed to separate its IT systems from Walmart's, with an initial budget of £189 million ($240 million). At the same time, it created a "Transitional Services Agreement with Walmart for an initial period of three years," according to the annual report for the year ended December 31, 2022.

The business now aims to finish the transition before the end of the calendar year.

One insider close to the IT team told us Project Future was over-ambitious from the start, and said Simpson had a track record of completing projects successfully.

Former CIO at rival supermarket Morrison, Matt Kelleher, joined Asda this month as chief digital officer. The leadership team said it planned for Kelleher to take charge of the Asda technology team on completion of the Future Project, but those plans had been brought forward. Carl Dawson, chief information officer, is reporting directly to Kelleher, who will take responsibility for the delivery of the remaining elements of the separation and transformation project.

The news follows Asda's decision to transfer more than 100 internal IT workers to Indian outsourcing company TCS. A collective consultation for a staff transfer under TUPE – an arrangement by which employment rights are protected under UK law – kicked off in June and staff are set to transfer in September.

Earlier this month, the annual report of Bellis Finco said it had spent £430 million ($544 million) on its IT separation from Walmart – accounting only for the time period up until the end of December 2023. ®

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