The UK's largest independent car parts supplier Unipart is undergoing a large-scale IT overhaul as part of the company’s business turnaround strategy.
Suffering devastating network outages on a regular basis, and with no alignment between the business and IT, in 2012 the failing business’s executive board recognised that it needed a shake-up. CIO Dominic Ruscillo was brought in and IT services provider Getronics was tasked with rebuilding and rationalising the estate.
Ruscillo, who was previously head of IT at luxury yachting firm Fairline Boats, told ComputerworldUK: “Major issues were around performance of the infrastructure and that IT was not engaged in the business in any way. It was in an ivory tower running its own agenda and not contributing. Because they [the board] were on a very aggressive turnaround plan they found that IT wasn’t just a poor enabler, it was actually a hindrance to that turnaround.”
Problems escalated to recurring outages, at a huge cost to the company, whose clients include the AA and Kwik-Fit.
Ruscillo said: “An outage is pretty severe. If we cannot connect to those servers we cannot make a sale. An independent motor trader needs a new battery, they will come into our brand and if we cannot execute that sales stretch they will go to a competitor. Any small disruption to the service to our end-users is a loss in sales. It was happening for a multitude of reasons and we were in a position where we didn’t have the correct SLAs to measure that either.”
Following a refinancing deal to bring the company back from yearly losses, Unipart has drawn up a five-year IT transformation plan, which began last year and hopes to cut 20 percent of IT costs. The plan has been split into four components, with the first part - outsourcing to Getronics - completed this month.
As part of this first phase, Unipart merged its four datacentres to the Getronics cloud, a single, tier three datacentre in Runcorn, rationalising 147 servers down to 27. The datacentre houses the company’s Citrix farms for its ERP and invoice matching systems.
Moving to the cloud and adopting Getronics Desktop-as-a-service has already begun to benefit business users.
“Workspace-as-a-service allowed us to get login times of a minute or less so we have seen massive productivity gains just on logon times,” said Ruscillo.
Previously, Unipart was suffering from 20-minute logon times. Some employees across the 170 branches were coming in to the office at 5:30am just to log in.
“It was down to bad network, and the server topology was inefficient,” said Ruscillo. "They were hopping between Citrix farms to get at one application and every hop slows them down. The client devices were not fit for purpose. It was a whole combination even to the extent where databases weren’t properly being administered, therefore, there were performance issues.”
Next, Unipart is embarking on a rationalisation and efficiency programme, so the company can regain full visibility of systems, thin clients, audits and licenses. This will be followed by improving business critical applications, one of which, its new bespoke EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) - a core system for order management - will be delivered next week.
Unipart has defined its commodity systems to outsource and bring core competencies back in-house to give a competitive edge and better align IT with the business. Previously the IT team’s lack of skills were covered by outsourcing to a third party, decelerating IT and separating it from business goals.
Ruscillo said: “We don’t want to be an expert in Citrix server farms or VMware, but do want to be experts in supply chain management modules in our business critical applications and business process design.”
Similarly, digital travel guide publisher Lonely Planet moved its infrastructure onto the cloud to focus on its core products, it revealed this month.
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