Feature

Computacenter makes it happen THUS

Computacenter's OneDesk service helps ensure that IT at communications company Thus runs smoothly

  • Business description THUS is a provider of data, telecoms, Internet and contact centre services to corporate and SME customers
  • Business challenge To reduce IT operating costs while still retaining high-performance systems and customer service
  • Solution Outsource the end-to-end management of the company’s desktop environment to a trusted IT infrastructure services provider
  • Services Managed desktop service, encompassing systems installation and systems support
        

It’s a long time since the first desktop computer was used by businesses in the late 1970s - since then, more than 1bn PCs have been shipped across the globe, according to analyst Gartner.

Trying to conduct business without desktops or laptops would be unthinkable for most companies, which means it is essential that the hardware deployed to end-users is reliable, scalable, and supported round-the-clock.  Making such provisions can quickly eat into the IT budget and tie up valuable internal resources.

To combat these challenges, many companies are opting to outsource their desktop management requirements to external providers. This trend towards managed services is growing to such an extent that researcher Total Romtec predicts that by 2004 the UK corporate desktop and network outsourcing market will be worth more than £700m – compared to £565m in 2002.

When THUS opted to embrace this model in 2001, it awarded a five-year managed services contract to Computacenter for its desktops and some of its network PC servers.
 
The company was established by Scottish Power in November 1994 to provide telecommunications services to customers in central Scotland. THUS has since grown into one of the UK's leading providers of voice, data, internet and contact centre services, with customers from Aberdeen to Brighton.

Most of the company’s customers come from the business community, with its contact centre services being used by a variety of organisations such as Compaq and the US Embassy. Through its Demon brand, it is consistently recognised as the quality leader in the ISP market having built a reputation for first-class customer care and product innovation.

THUS, whose revenue exceeded £268m in 2001/2, split from Scottish Power in early 2002 to become one of Scotland’s leading PLCs. THUS employs more than 2,200 staff at a number of sites throughout the UK, all of whom require access to state-of-the-art, reliable technology. Managing this technology presents IT departments with a range of challenges, as Bob Baxter, architecture and standards manager at THUS, explains.

“Businesses in general are relying more on technology for mission-critical processes, and for gaining competitive advantage. So not only do IT departments have to cope with the day-to-day management of their infrastructures, they also have to be looking at strategic ways to enhance the use of technology. Plus, there is a constant need to find ways to reduce the total cost of ownership of IT systems.”

At one with technology

To help alleviate these pressures on internal IT resources and reduce its IT overheads, THUS decided to outsource the management of its desktop estate and its file, print and e-mail servers. “We were looking for a partner that could work with us to control and manage our costs effectively,” comments Baxter.

 “This meant we needed someone who would be open and transparent about what they were doing, and how they were doing it, as well as being able to demonstrate the benefits to us as an organisation. We needed a scheme that allowed flexibility, and tapped into the intelligence of both organisations.”

Computacenter already had a 10-year relationship with Scottish Power, and thanks to its ability to demonstrate flexibility and scalability, THUS decided Computacenter was the right partner to deliver a managed desktop service.

“Computacenter was able to prove that it had the resourcing capacity and expertise to scale its services according to the needs of the business,” adds Bob.

The five-year contract started on April 1, 2001, with the OneDesk service going live across THUS. OneDesk is the umbrella heading for all the services delivered by Computacenter, which fall into four broad areas: helpdesk; installations, moves and changes; end-to-end desktop management and file, print and e-mail server support.

OneDesk draws on a range of Computacenter’s core skills, as David Patrick, service delivery manager at Computacenter, explains: “Computacenter has extensive experience in delivering desktop and server managed services, and tailors every contract to ensure it provides cost savings and business benefits that are relevant to each customer.

Our multi-platform experience and end-to-end technical expertise means we are able to advise on how new technology and processes, such as using remote software distribution tools, can help customers improve the efficiency of their IT and enhance their return on investment.”

Maximising efficiency

The 2,800-plus desktop and laptop estate is currently based on a range of both Compaq and Dell models, running a variety of operating systems. One of Computacenter’s responsibilities as THUS’s desktop services partner will be to assist with a standardisation programme.

"By the end of the year, we expect most of our desktops to be running Microsoft Windows 2000. Windows 2000 will provide us with a more stable platform, along with various tools for remote support,” says Baxter. “We are taking a gradual approach to the transformation, which will enable us to benefit from greater control over our infrastructure and the associated costs.”

Standardisation is just one element of THUS’ strategy for enhancing the management of its desktop environment. Rationalisation of the estate has also been identified by THUS as a key way to help improve the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of its IT Infrastructure.

“OneDesk gives us a framework where we can continually identify and implement changes that will enable us to take advantage of new technology and streamlined processes. For example, we have already been able to reduce the number of helpdesk calls and support costs, by introducing more remote fixing capabilities,” comments Baxter.

 “However, OneDesk isn’t just about reducing IT costs, it’s also about using technology to make our processes more efficient, whether through an online IT procurement system or the remote distribution of software.”

OneDesk has been structured to encourage best practice beyond just the desktop estate, as Michelle Baer, service delivery analyst at THUS, explains. “We are also looking at consolidating our server environment, which is quite heterogeneous at present, and becoming what you might consider legacy.

As THUS is also in the throes of consolidating its properties, there is quite a lot of change within the business. Computacenter has been very flexible when responding to these changes, and has been able to provide additional services as required.”

This has included taking on the support function for THUS’s production servers, which run various internal applications, in addition to managing the 35 Compaq and Dell print, file and email servers.

A commitment to succeed

To ensure the IT department can respond to the changing needs of the business, there are regular reviews of OneDesk and the service levels achieved by Computacenter. “It is very much a living agreement, with services currently being delivered by a 24-strong team from Computacenter,” comments Computacenter's Patrick.

This team is complemented by Computacenter’s extensive support service centre in Milton Keynes, which acts as THUS’s IT helpdesk. “There have been a number of new application roll-outs within our contact centre, and the helpdesk team has been very proactive in ensuring that they can provide the level of support required by our users,” comments Baer.

“Before OneDesk we had individual teams for different business units which made it difficult to deliver the same level of service throughout the company. Under OneDesk the support function has been enhanced and unified.”

Thanks to the success of OneDesk, THUS expects its relationship with Computacenter to go from strength to strength. “Obviously the property consolidation is going to necessitate a lot of IT moves and changes, but we are confident that Computacenter will rise to this challenge,” says Baxter.

“Computacenter has made a clear commitment to helping us achieve best value from our IT, and the unique structure of OneDesk gives us variability, visibility and value, which are key factors for the business as it goes forward.

"Computacenter has successfully managed to reduce our IT costs, but at the same time helped us build an IT strategy that is stable and flexible, and can respond to the changing needs of the market.”

This article was part of Computer Weekly's managed services business channel, sponsored by Computacenter.


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This was first published in August 2004

 

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