Unilever is to outsource the management and provision of its global firewall infrastructure to BT Global Services.
The six-year, £10.5m contract extends the consumer goods firm's existing strategic relationship with BT. Under the terms of the agreement BT will take over full management responsibilities for Unilever's 256 firewalls spread across 68 countries.
BT will transform Unilever's regionally managed firewall model into a single, consolidated global management structure in line with the rest of its networked IT services, which can be remotely managed.
The firewall contract follows the extension by three years of Unilever's seven-year strategic relationship with BT, which began in 2002.
The strategic nature of the BT contract has led Unilever's global chief information officer, Neil Cameron, not to take the traditional route of putting the firewall contract up for tender.
Instead, explained Cameron, "We used companies like EquaTerra [an advisory business] to find out the state of the market, the natures of the deals being signed and whether the market was changing in such a way that Unilever could miss a trick".
Cameron described the move as "a bit of due diligence," to ensure BT's service was competitive.
Unilever's decision to outsource its firewall is part of a strategy to develop deeper online links with smaller retailers and distributors, which account for 75% of its business.
Cameron said, "The value to us is to connect to [these businesses] so we can see what they sell, when they are selling it and to whom.
"This will help Unilever to see what factors are driving sales and the margin during a sales promotion and so generate more volume."
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