Centrica gambles on big-bang move to HP

Services firm aims to achieve £12m savings and gain better network control.

Services firm aims to achieve £12m savings and gain better network control.

Services firm Centrica is implementing network management software to give it better control of its infrastructure, help implement new business processes and reduce total cost of ownership as part of a company-wide transformation programme.

Centrica is using Hewlett-Packard Openview Service Desk management software to help it standardise on ITIL (IT Infrastructure Library) business processes - a set of best-practice guidelines to help organisations build an IT service management framework.

The firm has also implemented BMC Patrol enterprise management software. The whole transformation project will cost £14m but the company aims to save £12m a year in service delivery costs. It has already saved £6.3m. It also expects a 20%-30% reduction in downtime.

Last year Centrica, which encompasses British Gas, roadside support firm the AA, telco One.Tel and financial services firm Goldfish, began a four-part transformation project to implement business processes, automation tools, enterprise management software and reduce staff.

"Our aim is to improve internal customer satisfaction, reduce downtime on mission-critical systems, enhance our ability to absorb large projects and acquisitions, give clear guidance to staff and reduce our service delivery costs by £12m a year," said Karen Gillespie, Centrica's service delivery strategy and development manager.

Gillespie said the reduction in downtime will be largely down to the close integration between the HP Openview Service Desk software and its BMC enterprise management system. The BMC system will generate an incident "trouble ticket" and channel it via the HP system, where it will be picked up by IT staff.

"That is where we are taking a lead - getting the HP Service Desk software so fully integrated with our enterprise management software. Benchmarks are few and far between," said Gillespie.

Centrica has 35,500 staff in the UK. It logs 400,000 incidents a year, relating to such things as broken PCs and call centre downtime, and carries out 40,000 changes. The HP system will capture, monitor and escalate alerts and incidents and support the subsequent change and problem management.

Gillespie said the HP system is more intuitive than its predecessor - an incident management system from Peregrine - and the number of screens used to report an incident has been cut from four to one, which should save between five and 10 minutes on each report.

The company aims to implement as much of the HP Service Desk software as possible "out of the box" to avoid the problems it encountered with its highly tailored Peregrine system. "It became so complex it wasn't upgradeable," said Gillespie. To compound matters, when Centrica was looking to replace the system, it found that Peregrine had recently filed for Chapter 11 protection under the US bankruptcy code.

Centrica was also keen to get away from the people-based approach required by the old system - especially it was trying to reduce its headcount. "Every time we did a project we had to keep adding people," Gillespie explained.

The company aims to go live with three HP Openview modules - Incident Management, Change Management and Problem Management - in August. A fourth module, Service Level Management, is due to be implemented in the second phase of the project.

The project is not without its problems, however.

"For us network management software is absolutely essential. It is what we run the IS service delivery on - it underpins the whole business," said Gillespie. "This project is complex and it is high-risk. We will have to go big-bang when we swap over from Peregrine to HP in August, otherwise we would have to duplicate all the data."

What is Centrica doing?   

Centrica aims to implement HP Openview software across its business to help manage its IT environment and implement ITIL business processes. Openview software has a range of different functions, including application management, network management and device availability.

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