Drinks logistics firm Tradeteam is able to deliver a high-quality IT services to its users with the help of Computacenter
- Business description Tradeteam is a logistics provider to the drinks industry
- Business challenge Optimise current technology to ensure that drink deliveries remain productive and profitable
- Solution Source additional IT skills, resources and remote management capabilities from an outsourcing partner that can also help reduce costs
- Services Capacity management, installation, request and change management, incident and problem management, planning and design, remote management and fulfilment
As the role of technology within organisations has grown, so have expectations over performance and service levels. Like other business functions, IT departments increasingly have to demonstrate how they deliver value to their organisations.
Customer satisfaction surveys, key performance indicators and operational level agreements are now becoming commonplace.
Delivering efficient services across the entire IT spectrum, however, requires access to numerous resources and skills. For many companies it is simply not practical or cost-effective to fulfil all these requirements in-house.
Instead, they opt to selectively outsource some IT services to a trusted partner. Drinks logistics company Tradeteam has employed just such an approach since the late nineties, when it began outsourcing IT services, such as server administration and desk-side support to Computacenter.
As a result of the partnership, Tradeteam has been able to transform its IT service delivery and drive up the quality of its services to end users. It also has made significant savings, with the current cost per seat now nearly 10% less than it was two years ago.
Tradeteam provides logistics services to the drinks industry, and makes more than 50,000 deliveries across mainland UK every week. A joint enterprise between supply chain management provider Exel and brewers Coors, Tradeteam works with a range of customers, including brewers, independent pub retail groups and social club associations.
As Britain’s largest independent drinks logistics provider, Tradeteam employs 3,200 people at more than 48 sites. Like most of today’s companies it - and its staff – are extremely reliant on technology, as Jim Davies, IS Support Services Manager at Tradeteam, explains: “Our IT infrastructure is absolutely critical to the business, and will become even more so as we roll out new technology, such as our warehouse management system.
"The business expects IT systems and services to be reliable and dependable, and to be delivered when and where they are required.”
The suite of IT services now demanded by businesses such as Tradeteam has become increasingly complex, and covers a range of technology and disciplines, such as asset management, remote support and server administration. Delivering such a broad range of IT services requires a comprehensive set of skills and resources, which are often impractical to provide in-house.
As Jim explains: “To provide the full range of IT services in-house, we would require additional resources, which would mean extra management, personnel and training responsibilities for the IT department.
"By outsourcing a number of IT services to a trusted partner, we are able to access a pool of quality staff and skills, thereby freeing up our own time. We are also able to cope much better with peaks and troughs in demand than if we were relying just on internal resources.”
Since the late nineties, Tradeteam’s chosen outsourcing provider has been Computacenter, and in 2003 the two companies extended their partnership with a new two-year contract. Under the contract, Computacenter provides a range of IT services, including a helpdesk, desk-side support, server administration and technology sourcing.
These services are delivered using Computacenter’s dedicated IT management facilities, such as its Service Support Centre and Service Operations Centre (SOC).
The remote management technology available at the SOC enables Tradeteam to cost-effectively monitor the capacity of its 40-strong server estate, the performance of its backup systems, and manage the availability of its infrastructure. Computacenter’s Technology Support Group is also heavily involved in the management of Tradeteam’s infrastructure, and provides a range of critical services.
As David Carroll, Enterprise Consultant at Computacenter, explains: “Email, is a vital communication tool for the business, and any downtime can impact its operations. Therefore it is essential that there is effective capacity management, and anti-virus procedures in place. We help Tradeteam manage the lifecycle of its email communications, ensuring that there are suitable archiving and backup processes, and remotely monitoring file sizes.”
First and second line support is also co-ordinated remotely via a dedicated team of six agents at Computacenter’s Service Support Centre. This team deals with around 250 incidents per week, by either solving the queries direct or passing them on to relevant third party resolver groups.
Utilising such remote service capabilities enables organisations to address a number of IT service delivery challenges, as Neil Meddick, Computacenter’s Remote Services Director, explains: “The remote management and monitoring of systems enables businesses to get more for less, which helps safeguard precious IT funds and drive down operational costs.
"At the same time, remote services can help minimise employee downtime and ensure critical applications are available to critical people at the right time.”
Access to skills
Knowing it has IT services it can rely on is essential for Tradeteam as it prepares to embark on a major technology refresh. The company will be upgrading both its server and desktop/laptop estate to Microsoft Windows XP, and refreshing some of its hardware during 2004. “The breadth of Computacenter’s expertise meant we were quickly able to scope both the technical and cost implications of the refresh,” comments Jim.
The new operating system will give Tradeteam greater reliability and compatibility with current technological products. It will also enable more cost-effective support of its infrastructure. Computacenter, which implemented the company’s last technology refresh, will provide a range of services for the roll-out, including installation, project management and disposal.
Tradeteam’s ability to draw on a pool of skills and resources for specific project work is just one of the benefits of working with Computacenter, according to Jim. “Computacenter’s multi-vendor relationships mean we have a better understanding of the product roadmaps and licensing arrangements of key vendors. Computacenter also helps to manage specialist third party suppliers, which removes this burden from the IT team, and as a result frees up internal resources for more strategic activities.”
The management of these third party providers can prove critical to Tradeteam’s business continuity, as Computacenter Service Delivery Manager Dave Jordan explains: “Each Tradeteam depot has printers for producing delivery notes for the drinks being distributed that day. Deliveries are unable to leave without a delivery note, so it is critical that the printer maintenance service, which is provided by a third party and overseen by Computacenter, is responsive and reliable.”
Transforming IT service delivery
Due to this criticality, Tradeteam and Computacenter are careful to ensure that the company’s IT services are founded on industry best practice and guidelines, such as ITIL (IT Infrastructure Library).
“We are constantly striving to make the best use of our IT resources and to deliver continuous improvement in the quality of service to our customers,” comments Jim. “As Computacenter is fully conversant with guidelines, such as ITIL, it means we speak the same language and service definition is much simpler. We are also able to provide feedback on Computacenter’s services through its dedicated user groups, which help the raise the bar for effective IT service management.”
He adds: “Computacenter’s services are critical. If the IT systems fail, the business fails.”
Embracing IT service management best practice is a shared goal, and has led to a number of joint activities outside the remit of the contract, such as workshops on IT service delivery. “We take a very common sense approach to IT service management, and believe it is up to individual organisations to mould the ITIL principles according to their environment,” comments Jim, who is a leading regional figure for the ITSMF (IT Service Management Forum).
In addition to improving IT service management, Tradeteam has enjoyed a range of value and cost benefits during its eight-year relationship with Computacenter. As Jim explains: “The services from Computacenter are demonstrably cost-effective. The cost per seat is less now than it was two years ago, without any degradation in service.
"Computacenter helps bring quality and best practice to IT service delivery, and is flexible both in its approach and resourcing. We view it very much as a partnership.”
This article was part of Computer Weekly's managed services business channel, sponsored by Computacenter
This was first published in August 2004