Centiq helps Midlands Co-operative Society hit business targets with Power7 server infrastructure and system support.


Business need

Midlands Co-operative Society is one of UK’s largest independent retail society’s in the UK, employing over 7,000 people across the Midlands. The Society is a member of the global co-operative movement, operating nearly 200 supermarkets and convenience stores in addition to funeral homes, fashion and home retail outlets, motor dealerships and garages, as well as having an interest in the UK’s largest retail travel business.

In 2010, Midlands appointed a new leadership team to push the Society’s performance to the next level. The Society hoped to grow rapidly and the new senior management team looked to its IT department to help facilitate this planned expansion with minimal disruption to the business units and the smallest possible overhead cost.

For the society’s IT team, this meant a complete redesign of its IT systems to facilitate the demands of the rapidly growing business units. The Society had a successful relationship with Centiq, receiving support directly from their dedicated helpdesk. Through this relationship Centiq was engaged by Midlands Co-operative as a service provider who could aid  successful delivery of operational goals.

Solution

Centiq, which is dedicated to delivering smarter infrastructure and optimizing IT systems, began working with the Midlands Co-operative team to redesign its systems, benchmarked against the Society’s commercial goals.

Built around the upgrade of Midlands Co-operative’s Power5 servers to the newer, faster incarnation, Power7, Centiq designed a new IT estate aimed at virtualising the Society’s server environment to facilitate growth at no extra strain on the systems’ capacity and minimising ongoing operational costs. Cost was a major issue for the Society’s IT department, which had already committed to a major investment in its system and was wary of exceeding the planned budget.

To combat this concern, Centiq created a fully costed business case demonstrating the savings that its system redesign would create across the next three years, including savings in power, cooling and hardware maintenance costs. Combined with the ability to utilize a flexible support contract for additional on-site days, Midlands Co-operative’s IT team were able to present a solution with a low risk of running over budget to the board.  This created a flexible relationship between Centiq and Midlands Co-opertive from the outset: IT team efforts could be redirected quickly and without unnecessary administrative strain throughout the project.

In addition, Centiq took over procurement of servers and management of contracts surrounding their maintenance. The company’s long standing relationship with IBM coupled with its technical understanding of the Power servers Midlands Co-operative was acquiring allowed it to purchase the most effective equipment and organise much lower acquisition costs than the Society  would otherwise have faced.

Implementation

Centiq’s design aimed to minimise long-term costs by virtualising the Society’s server environment using the Power7 servers’ new capabilities, underpinning low cost growth in system capacity. It also centralised the hosting of critical applications to minimise longer term software licensing renewals: this was likely to become a cost issue as Midlands Co-operative grew. Centiq recommended that the Society pooled its software in the virtualised environment, increasing the number of users served per license.

Once the project design and business case had been agreed, Centiq began the process of procuring the required hardware for the project. To minimise the risk associated with the installation of new technology, and consequently its associated costs, Centiq’s experts worked alongside Midlands Co-operative’s team to install the IBM servers. This allowed the transfer of Centiq’s specific knowledge of the new platform to Midlands Co-operative’s own team, allowing them to better support their infrastructure moving forwards with less time and money being spend on external resource. Mark Woodyatt, Head of IS Operations for Midlands Co-operative, commented; “Centiq’s approach throughout the installation was essential for us to gain the essential knowledge needed to support our systems into the future. They provided the additional 20% on top of our own knowledge which allowed to project to succeed”

Following the installation, Centiq’s helpdesk services are working with Midlands Co-operative to deliver ongoing consultancy and support. Through this service, the in-house personnel’s queries are handled by the same contact each time, which has shortened Midlands Co-operative’s time to resolution on both Hardware Maintenance issues and on more complex requirements. The company’s helpdesk team has built a very close relationship with the Society’s IT department  enabling Centiq to provide a tailored service for individual enquiries based on a comprehensive understanding of the Society’s IT systems and long standing service requirements.  When asked about Centiq support Mark Woodyatt again commented; “we see Centiq as an extension to our own IT staff, their knowledge and experience of both the technology and our systems is a real value add to our Society.”

Benefits

Centiq’s deep knowledge and experience of technical implementations such as that undertaken with Midlands Co-operative delivered clear cost savings from the outset. In the planning stages, Centiq’s experience of implementations and understanding of the IBM technology allowed the Midlands Co-operative IT team to build a strong case for its upgrades and placed the project on a firm footing both with the new executive team and financially.

Centiq’s flexible ‘token’ service approach and its ability to minimise procurement costs allowed Midlands Co-operative to contain the costs of the installation and adopt a knowledge transfer approach to the implementation. This allowed Midlands Co-operative to begin filling a skills gap within its in-house team and allowed the Centiq team to concentrate on fine tuning the installs.

Centiq’s virtualisation approach to the redesign of Midlands Co-operative’s systems meant software licensing costs could be controlled and growth in the Society’s IT systems could be increased at a minimal cost, according to the needs of the company.

Mark Woodyatt commented; “I deal with 10-15 suppliers and in terms of support, Centiq is certainly one of the best. Centiq’s work has enabled us to realise a major systems overhaul on a tight budget and with the best possible results.”

The Future

Midlands Co-operative Society has already expanded its working relationship with Centiq by moving its Hardware procurement to the company in order to consolidate further contracts with Centiq and simplify its procurement and management processes. In addition, Centiq has agreed a five-year support contract to service Midlands Co-operative’s full IT estate.