Rail franchise suspension proves cloud concept for operator Go-Ahead

The suspension of bids for the Thameslink rail franchise acted as proof of concept for operator Go-Ahead’s move to cloud-based collaboration

The suspension of bidding for the Thameslink rail franchise acted as a proof of concept for operator Go-Ahead’s decision to move to a cloud-based collaboration platform.

The incompetent handling of the bidding for the West Coast rail franchise, which Virgin Trains lost to First Group only for the decision to be reversed after mistakes were revealed, led to the suspension of other ongoing bidding processes for rail operations, including the Thameslink rail service.

One of the bidders, Go-Ahead Group, said its recent decision to move to Huddle’s cloud-based collaboration platform has proved a good one in the light of the suspension.

Retaining data with cloud-based collaboration

Kevin Goodman, head of business excellence at Go-Ahead Group, says that, before using Huddle, when the group bid for a franchise it would have a group of people working separately on collecting all the information required. Bidding teams would be put together for short periods of intense work. These people would communicate via email and store important data on their own computers. Traditionally, all the data garnered would be dispersed at the end of the project and lost to the business.

“We would get to the end of a bid process and people and data would then be dispersed,” said Goodman.

The information in bids will include reports as well as data from the Department of Transport and information such as the results of passenger surveys.

The use of Huddle’s cloud-based collaboration software means all the work done by the team, including the latest version, is centrally stored and retained by the company. The suspension of the Thameslink bidding in the past would have meant releasing consultants from the project and losing all the work done. Today, the consultants can be released and come back to the project when bidding restarts without any information lost.

“We had to scale back our bid team in less than a week,” says Goodman. The expense of keeping consultants on for an indefinite period of time was not an option, due to high costs. “We would normally not have been able to disperse the team so quickly and would have lost all the information.”

“Now when the bidding restarts, we will just be able to pick it up where we left off.”

Collaboration saves time for bidding teams

Goodman says that, while bidding project teams have remained the same size, with the Huddle service they are able to get bids up and running much quicker. The cloud-based collaboration ensures that anybody, regardless of location, can get involved and all participants know when they are working on the most up to date version of the bid.

Go-Ahead is an operator of rail franchises including South Eastern and Southern and runs numerous bus services.

Goodman said the rail division of Go-Ahead specified a requirement to retain corporate knowledge after a bid was over and the IT department, which itself used Huddle, recommended the cloud base service.

Goodman says the improvements to processes, not taking into account cost savings, are substantial. “The efficiencies we have seen already comes more from the fact that we can retain information.”

Hundreds of thousands of US public sector workers have access to cloud-based collaboration software from UK IT firm Huddle after two major US government departments signed up.

A version of Huddle used by the UK government, recently became available to the US government. The US government will start using the public cloud version, which is available to any business in the world.

Read the interview with Huddle CEO Alastair Mitchell

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