Whitbread has set up a shared services centre for its IT operations to help it achieve cost savings of £25m across the business over the next two years.
Whitbread-owned brands include Premier Travel Inn, Costa Coffee, David Lloyd Leisure and Pizza Hut. The shared services operation covers all of its head-office functions.
Some of the cost savings in the IT function are being achieved by reducing the headcount.
Ben Wishart, Whitbread's group IT director, said, "We lost about 20 IT roles: some contractors, some natural wastage and some redundancies." The company's IT team now numbers about 100, he added.
The shared services centre for IT has been divided into three areas. One team of IT staff manages the systems and applications used by the company's outlets. Any system that runs in a coffee shop, hotel, leisure centre or restaurant is supported by this team.
A small group within this team is dedicated to the Costa Coffee and David Lloyd Leisure brands because of specific systems used by the businesses.
A second team runs the Oracle-based systems that support Whitbread's business, such as human resources and finance. This group also manages the company's IT infrastructure.
The third arm of the shared services centre has been set up to manage customer data.
Wishart said, "We work with [loyalty card company] Nectar in some of our brands, but not all of them. We are going to consider what is the right way to move forwards in terms of capturing information across the brands at Whitbread."
The company plans to establish a strategy to manage its customer information in the first half of 2006, he added.
Whitbread has outsourcing contracts with Computer Sciences Corporation and Fujitsu. Under its contract with CSC, which runs until 2010, Whitbread's legacy systems are being replaced with Oracle 11i applications.
By moving almost all of its IT operations to the shared services centre, Whitbread expects to save money on its outsourcing arrangements.
Wishart said, "We are making the suppliers more accountable, enabling us to save costs. This is being done by creating good visibility about how the service is delivered and managed."