Arriva plc, one of the leaders in total transport solutions, found that moving to a complete Windows NT client/server solution immediately resulted in increased productivity
Arriva plc, one of the UK's top 200 companies and a market leader in "total transport solutions", specialises in passenger services, contract hire, fleet management, vehicle sales and repair, and bus and coach distribution. Employing a workforce of over 20,000, with an annual turnover in excess of £1.4 billion, the company is split into four main divisions: bus operations, distribution, company car management and motor retailing. Arriva Automotive, Arriva plc's company car management division, employs over 300 members of staff with headquarters in Birmingham and six other UK offices.
During 1997, the company undertook a rebranding and reorganisation exercise to reinforce its continuing commitment to becoming a major provider of transport solutions. This included rationalising Arriva Automotive Solution's IT equipment and network infrastructure using preferred supplier, Berkshire-based corporate IT solutions provider, Ultima Business Systems.
Prior to investing in an organisation-wide network infrastructure and desktop equipment, Arriva Automotive's 300 staff were using dumb terminals running a number of disparate systems on an HP3000 server, with just 35 users connected to a small Novell NetWare network. "Although the HP3000 was very robust and reliable, it could not support increasing customer requirements or the rapidly changing marketplace," comments Nick Bennett, technical services director for Arriva Automotive Solutions. "We wanted to be able to respond quickly to customer demands for increased reporting facilities on automotive services, and improve our invoicing and internal communications. However, the HP3000 and dumb terminal-based system could not support these increased demands," he adds.
After undertaking a site survey and detailed customer research, it became apparent that customer invoicing, internal communications and reporting processes needed vast improvement. "The results to our research clearly showed that we needed to completely overhaul our internal communications processes, speed up invoicing, reduce duplication of effort and provide more detailed service reports for customers," says Bennett.
Following the research, Arriva Automotive took the decision to implement a company-wide client/server solution, based on Microsoft NT, flexible programming facilities for internal IT personnel and an internal communications strategy, including Internet email facilities, resulting in a total system rebuild with an estimated cost of £700,000 for hardware and software.
"We invited around 12 suppliers to tender for the project," recounts Bennett. "Ultima responded immediately and discussed our requirements in detail. After supplying them with a detailed specification, Ultima recommended using Digital hardware, a Microsoft NT 4.0 network and Microsoft Office 97 on the majority of the desktops."
Arriva Automotive selected Ultima based on the company's fast delivery times, commitment to the project and competitive pricing. "We felt very secure in picking Ultima," says Bennett. "As a greenfield site, we wanted to make sure we not only chose the right hardware and software, but selected a supplier that could provide consultancy and support throughout installation, user training and ongoing on-site services, to support our internal IT staff. Ultima met all these requirements."
Ultima's solution included seven Digital Prioris servers running Microsoft Windows NT 4.0, over 350 Digital Venturis FX-2 PCs running Microsoft Office 97 and on-site consultancy and installation support. Five servers have been installed at the Birmingham headquarters, with one as a primary domain controller, a second as back-up and the remainder running Microsoft Exchange, SMS and SQL. Two other servers have been installed at Arriva's Sunderland office.
Phase one involved the installation of 45 users on a flat network at Birmingham headquarters, a second roll-out for the remaining Birmingham-based staff, and phase three linking all other UK offices over the wide area network. Ultima's consultants provided detailed advice on how to build and structure the network, helping Arriva Automotive to design a highly resilient infrastructure.
"Installation ran very smoothly," says Bennett, "Ultima's consultants have provided a highly professional and committed service and there were no major problems in installing and configuring the equipment. We're now fully live with over 300 users and our internal and customer communications are vastly improved." he adds.
As one of the largest Microsoft "Zero Administration" sites in the UK, using the Zero Administration Control (ZAC) functionality within NT, Ultima has also enabled Arriva's IT department to "lock down" PCs to limit user access to specified areas of the network, to facilitate easier network management and control, increase security across the company's seven sites and keep user maintenance costs to a minimum.
As part of the solution, Ultima's education and services personnel delivered two on-site training courses for Arriva's internal engineers; a bespoke networking course designed specifically for Arriva, and Microsoft Windows NT "Core Technologies" training. "The training was excellent," continues Bennett, "As our IT staff had not managed a company-wide network before, receiving basic training on the benefits of a networked environment and how to manage the network infrastructure was very useful."
Since going live with the new equipment, Arriva Automotive has seen a vast improvement in internal communications, can now provide a more flexible and responsive service to customers and has greater control over the company's IT equipment.
"We're already getting very positive feedback from our customers," said Bennett. "Using Internet email we can provide a fast, efficient and cost effective communications channel for our customers and now that all our users are networked, our internal operations are a lot more streamlined."
Arriva plc will be moving to new headquarters later this year, and the company plans to network a further 350 staff.
Compiled by Ajith Ram
( 1998 Ultima Business Systems UK