4-page Case Study
Posted: 1/13/2014
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Coles Food Retailer Empowers Workforce, Drives Business with Online Communication Tools

Coles is a major food retailer in Australia with approximately 100,000 team members working across the country. Coles wanted to enable the spontaneous, free-flow of information among team members to unleash latent talents and spark innovation. It built an employee portal called mycoles by using Microsoft Office 365. mycoles is a productivity and engagement portal that empowers all team members to connect and collaborate—spontaneously, anywhere, anytime, and from any device—to share their expertise and ideas. mycoles is driving a sense of allegiance and pride in Coles that translates into superior customer service and increased business.

Coles has been a part of daily life in Australia for 100 years. Today, the company operates more than 2,300 stores and sites across Australia. The entire enterprise is supported by 16 distribution and five support centers across the country.

“Coles has been on a turnaround journey and we have emerged a transformed company that has seen double-digit growth over the last five years,” says Hamish Aikman, General Manager of HR Services at Coles. “We got here by putting the customer first—providing the quality food, products, and service that customers want—and by driving operational efficiencies in the business.”

Team Members at the Center
According to Conrad Harvey, the Chief Information Officer at Coles, the company’s recent ascendance is directly attributable to its approximately 100,000 team members. “We only exist as a company because our team members work hard to deliver positive shopping experiences for each one of our customers every day,” says Harvey. “So to build and sustain our momentum in the marketplace, we need to nurture our workforce.”

* We are empowering our team members to share their expertise and serve our customers better with Office 365 and the mycoles portal. There’s a real opportunity for Coles to take sales to entirely new levels. *

Conrad Harvey
Chief Information Officer, Coles

The positive and inclusive nature of the company’s approach to its people means that the average tenure for a team member is 5 to 10 years. “Our people programs foster inclusive work communities where everyone is treated with the same respect and value,” says Sharnee Stones, mycoles Program Manager at Coles. “We are always looking to empower our workforce.”

Coles believes that empowering its team members has direct business benefits. “Enabling our team members to engage with each other drives a sense of belonging and pride in Coles that translates into superior customer service and increased business,” says Harvey.

Opportunities for Better Communication
Despite the company’s team-oriented spirit, global communications were a challenge. Coles provided email service for about 20 percent of its team members, typically those working in support centers and management in its stores and sites. “More than 80,000 team members in our retail outlets lacked a corporate digital identity,” says Stones. “Once a corporate email reached the store manager level, it was disseminated through in-store meetings, posters in the lunch room, even using note books and pre-recorded phone messages. We never could be sure everyone was getting the full story.”

Coles wanted a communications platform for team members to share expertise and drive innovation through an open and easy-to-use forum for idea sharing. “I remember seeing team members in the supermarket taking photographs of the milk case on their cell phones so that they could go back to the store room and use the photo as a reference for re-stocking the shelves,” says Harvey. “I realized then that we needed technology that was personal, device-oriented, and user-friendly so that people can consume and share information in a way that makes sense to them, when and where they want.”

Paper-based communications compromised the efficiency of completing many HR administrative tasks. Team members had to phone or visit the HR office and fill out forms for common tasks, such as applying for a transfer, arranging for a vacation, or checking payments.

“We recognized a huge opportunity for reducing operational costs, providing time and efficiency gains to our team members and improving the service level by bringing these forms online,” says Stones.

For HR to realize these incentives, the Coles IT department came forward with an ideal solution that would put team members at the heart of the business.

Coles selected 103,000 licenses for Microsoft Office 365. With Office 365 and Yammer, Microsoft unites familiar Microsoft Office applications with the power of Microsoft Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Lync Online, and enterprise social networking into a seamless user experience.

“Office 365 came along at the right time to accomplish two key goals,” says Gemma Bailey, IT Project Manager at Coles. “From the IT perspective, we could introduce this fabulous new cloud computing model into our IT framework so that it would be ready to support any cloud initiative going forward. From the HR and operations side, we could build an easy-to-use collaboration portal that would engage the entire workforce consistently and take us well beyond the bounds of traditional corporate communications.”

Microsoft Cloud Vantage Services provided deployment planning and lifecycle management assistance. “Cloud Vantage brought a lot of experience to the table and provided excellent guidance around building the supporting structures that we needed to make cloud computing work from a holistic perspective,” says Bailey. “Our partner Kloud Solutions also played a key role in helping deploy and design our solution; the expertise they provided was integral to the success of our collaboration portal.”

Listening to Team Members
As the basis for its new employee collaboration platform, HR envisioned a new corporate communications and team member services portal, dubbed mycoles. The mycoles portal was developed with input from team members throughout the company, quite literally putting, as Aikman says, “team members at the heart of the business.”

Everything that is in mycoles is a result of team members expressing a desire for it to be there. “Office 365 and mycoles bring a huge change to how we work because it is so natural and reflects how our team members function outside of their work lives,” says Stones.

In November 2012, the first mycoles pilot launched in Victoria, Australia. The portal delivered pay slips electronically for 2,000 team members at 14 Coles Supermarkets, and store managers began posting their work schedules online.

“We launched to 7,000 team members in the state of South Australia,” says Bailey. “We were super excited about the adoption rate: 87 percent activation across South Australia three weeks after going live.”

Coles is also deploying Yammer so that team members can quickly collaborate with coworkers, share information, and work on projects. “With Yammer incorporated into mycoles, the portal will be a one-stop shop for everything that team members need to form connections around the business,” says Stones.

Making it Easy to Work at Coles
The mycoles portal is both a communication channel and an online portal for employee services designed to simplify how team members manage their work environment, including online access to store deals; digital work schedules, pay slips, and other HR forms; corporate news and discussions; career development opportunities; and information to help team members in their personal lives and their communities (Figure 1).

Infographic of the Coles Microsoft Office 365 deployment
Figure 1. Coles used Microsoft Office 365 to deploy mycoles: an intranet portal that
provides everything Coles team members need to enrich their work lives.

“I’m proud of what we have accomplished, delivering tools and a mechanism for our team members to engage with Coles in a way they never have before,” says Aikman. “This is a game changer for us: the end result is a happier, more productive workforce.”

Coles is using Office 365 and Yammer to continue on its transformation journey, increasing customer satisfaction and sales. Thanks to mycoles, the company has a pervasive platform for empowering its workforce to maintain focus on the customer. “mycoles is a combination of social sharing and learning, training, and online administration: all the tools for our team members to get their jobs done to the best of their ability,” says Harvey. “It’s a productivity and engagement portal that supports our belief that working at Coles is genuinely better than working anywhere else.”

Improves Customer Service, Increases Business
Coles is using mycoles as a powerful tool to help team members deliver a “feel-good” shopping experience. “We are empowering our team members to share their expertise and serve our customers better with Office 365 and the mycoles portal,” says Harvey. “There’s a real opportunity for Coles to take sales to entirely new levels.”

Provides a Voice to Drive Innovation
The portal is a key strategy to increase the knowledge capital and unlock the potential of a vast workforce by providing a forum for sharing ideas and driving innovation.

* mycoles is an extremely powerful tool that encourages idea exchanges that lead to innovation. We like to call ourselves a listening organization, and with mycoles, anyone can speak up and be heard. *

Sharnee Stones
mycoles Program Manager, Coles

“mycoles is an extremely powerful tool that encourages idea exchanges that lead to innovation,” says Stones. “We like to call ourselves a listening organization, and with mycoles, anyone can speak up and be heard.”

Coles team members are sharing ideas any time of the day or night from their own devices, or from store PCs, creating a flow of spontaneous brainstorming and problem-solving that’s making a difference in how Coles manages its retail operations. “The majority of our team members don’t work behind a desk, so for me, the biggest advantage of Office 365 is the connections and communities that can be formed with each other anywhere at any time,” says Stones. “Office 365 is a powerful tool for any business.”

For example, store managers are using Yammer to share ideas with colleagues across the country about how they run their departments and Store Support Centre. “It could be about a new store layout, how to stock the aisle ends, how to decorate for holidays, or problems cleaning a meat cooler, the possibilities are endless when it comes to Yammer helping us unleash the potential of 100,000 team members,” says Ed Tollinton, General Manager of Stores and Team Member IT at Coles.

“When we put Yammer and Office 365 into the hands of our workforce, it has the latent capacity to drive change and improvement at an unprecedented level at Coles,” says Harvey.

Reduces Costs, Simplifies Work Life
With Office 365, Coles is simplifying and improving manual processes. “We’ll be able to free up team members from the back of the store onto the floor, which should drive customer engagement and sales,” says Harvey. “And because we have so many team members, if we improve retention by even a small amount, it will make a significant difference in resourcing costs.”

“More than 80,000 team members didn’t have a digital presence before, and now they do,” concludes Harvey. “We use Office 365 to help support what makes Coles unique: a singular focus on supporting our team members so that they can make those moments of interaction with the millions of customers who come through our doors every day a special one.”

Microsoft Office 365
The new Office provides anywhere access to your familiar Office applications—plus email, calendar, videoconferencing, and your most current documents—on almost any device, from PCs to smartphones to tablets.

For more information about Microsoft Office 365, go to:

For More Information
For more information about Microsoft products and services, call the Microsoft Sales Information Center at (800) 426-9400. In Canada, call the Microsoft Canada Information Centre at (877) 568-2495. Customers in the United States and Canada who are deaf or hard-of-hearing can reach Microsoft text telephone (TTY/TDD) services at (800) 892-5234. Outside the 50 United States and Canada, please contact your local Microsoft subsidiary. To access information using the World Wide Web, go to:

For more information about Kloud Solutions products and services, call (61) (3) 9912 6163 or visit the website at:

For more information about Coles products and services, call 1 800 061 562 or visit the website at:

Solution Overview

Organization Size: 100000 employees

Organization Profile

Owned by Wesfarmers, Coles is a leading Australian food retailer. Approximately 100,000 Coles team members collectively service more than 19 million customer transactions each week.

Business Situation

Coles did not have an online communications solution for the majority of its team members. It wanted an online portal—accessible anywhere, anytime and from any device—to drive employee engagement and deliver better service.


Coles chose Microsoft Office 365 and Yammer to build mycoles, a portal that offers online services and enables near real-time communications so that all team members can have a voice in the business.


  • Improves customer service, increases business
  • Provides a voice to drive innovation
  • Connects approximately 100,000 team members nationally
  • Reduces costs, simplifies work life

Software and Services
  • Microsoft Office 365
  • SharePoint Online
  • Yammer
  • Microsoft Consulting Services
  • Cloud Vantage - O365
  • Microsoft Services

Vertical Industries
Retail and Consumer Goods



Kloud Solutions