FirstGroup drives global business transformation with IT overhaul

FirstGroup, which runs rail and bus services in the UK, has signed a £47m infrastructure deal with a BT-led consortium as part of a major business transformation programme.

FirstGroup, which runs rail and bus services in the UK, has signed a £47m infrastructure deal with a BT-led consortium as part of a major business transformation programme.

The new infrastructure will save about £15m in support costs compared with FirstGroup's current infrastructure, said group IT director Darin Brumby.

The consortium, consisting of BT, MegaPath Networks (US) and HP, aims to transform FirstGroup's communications infrastructure at 700 sites in the UK and 300 in North America.

The project to provide a flexible, commoditised infrastructure is part of a wider effort within FirstGroup to transform the way IT supports the business.

The process began with a change in IT governance and also includes an application rationalisation programme, said Brumby.

"We had been IT-led before my arrival," said Brumby, who instituted changes to link IT deployments more closely with business units. "We had to change governance and say to the business units 'it is your money we are spending' - without a business sponsor there is no IT project. These investments are business decisions."

The BT consortium engaged in a rigorous 18-month process to create the infrastructure specifications. "They were prepared to play the long game," Brumby said.

Following the transfer of the data services to BT, FirstGroup will get a new wide area network for both the UK and North America. In addition to the management of FirstGroup's current data services, the contract includes the provision of two new datacentres and a central, around-the-clock service desk able to respond rapidly to business requirements for bandwidth.  

Under the company's application rationalisation programme, applications will be deployed across the network to thin client devices for 80% of the firm's desktops. The remainder will be PC-based.

This infrastructure will allow business teams bidding for new contracts to deploy new systems rapidly while knowing the IT costs from the start, Brumby said. "This puts the bid teams in a strong position. In our industry, margins are really tight."

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