Centrica looks to save £2.5m with consolidation

Centrica says it is on course to save £2.5m over five years after migrating to a consolidated intranet infrastructure based on Microsoft Sharepoint 2003.

Centrica says it is on course to save £2.5m over five years after migrating to a consolidated intranet infrastructure based on Microsoft Sharepoint 2003.

The utility firm and owner of British Gas expects to make the savings after rebuilding its existing corporate-wide intranet and replacing previous best-of-breed legacy components, while also updating the site's usability. The new site went live to 32,000 employees and more than 20 sites operating across the UK, the US and Europe just over a month ago.

Alistair Bain, Centrica's chief architect, said the firm's original intranet was based on technology that was proving too costly to maintain.

The cost of migrating to Sharepoint 2003, the current version of Microsoft's collaboration platform, was cheaper than upgrading the older technology versions of the intranet with extensive customisations.

"The cost of upgrading would have been too much and the migration path was not easy for some of the technology the old intranet was based on," Bain said.

"And Sharepoint was a good fit with our programme to standardise on Microsoft technology for our desktop, collaboration and productivity tools."

The old intranet platform was based on a mix of Plumtree, Oracle, Interwoven, BEA and Webtrends technologies. But Bain added that, given Centrica's desktop technology roadmap, the workflow integration benefits of committing to Sharepoint were "compelling".

Bain said that the new platform was also less costly to support, with the yearly licence costs for intranet software reduced by £11,000, and 25 servers having been reused in other parts of the business.

The new system also means that password resets, which previously accounted for 70% of calls to the helpdesk, are no longer needed, while disaster recovery time has been reduced to minutes rather than the previous 18 hours. In total, all these benefits have created more than £2.5m of net profit forecast over the next five years.

Bain said, "I describe the £2.5m as net profit because it is the cost reduction [as a result of the migration] minus the capital expenditure. The intranet itself also incorporates more self-service capability for users. We plan now to extend the search facility to all corporate documentation."

According to Bain, the various user groups welcomed the improvements to the site, given the lack in improvement in the previous site's usability.

Bain also said that the transition period had been a smooth one because much of the functionality had been carried over or improved.

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