Imperial Tobacco case study: business IT support services

A FTSE 100 Company, Imperial Tobacco is a leading international group with a presence in over 160 countries, operating 47 manufacturing sites and employing 37,000 people.

“We’re a decentralised operation in terms of IT, with standards that apply across all sites,” says Katherine Brough, global IT procurement manager. “Our IT community and the various businesses need to follow a number of policies and guidelines, along with a compliance process ensuring standards are adhered to. Governance is a major part of what Group Information Systems deliver.”

Ensuring consistent practices is important given the vast size and spread of Imperial Tobacco’ operations. In terms of good governance and mitigating enterprise risk, another essential component is highly responsive nationwide support should a hardware failure occur.

“End users want to come to work, use their systems and get the information they need to do the job. Group Information Systems exists to support that,” Brough says. “Our supplier relationship with BT works; what more could you want?”


Since 2002, BT has provided hardware break/fix cover for 200-plus HP ProLiant servers in Imperial Tobacco’s UK datacentres; the contract was successfully renewed and updated in 2011. “We have sites in Bristol, Nottingham, and a vending arm in Wolverhampton, all supported by BT,” says Brough.

Support is underpinned by rigorous service level agreements (SLAs) with a range of fix windows, depending on the importance of the equipment involved. For example, the contract includes: business-critical servers on a 4 Hour Fix, development servers on 8 or 16 Hour Fixes, Cisco switches on 4 to 16 Hour Fixes, 3Com switches are also covered, as well as Printers on an 8 Hour Fix.

If incidents occur, technical specialists at each site call BT’s Service Desk. Brough says, “We also purchase server hardware through BT, as it’s a HP nominated supplier and Gold Partner. If we want extended warranty or continual service, BT is already fully aware of the equipment, when we bought it, and usually what is required. So it’s a simple flow, a continuation of service– one that enables our technical staff to manage warranty and ongoing requirements as life can quickly get complicated - and there’s usually a cost to that complication.”

Why BT?

Brough continues, “Our relationship with BT has developed over time – and has been of great benefit to Imperial Tobacco. Most recently, we’ve been able to tailor our contract to take into account business changes planned for December 2012, combining three sites.” This involved extensive reworking, additions and changes to contractual arrangements with, Brough says, BT showing exceptional flexibility. “Both sides really focused on what we wanted to achieve. The high degree of flexibility we were granted by BT was great. We went in with one idea and came out with a better solution. So it really worked well. We wanted a continuation of supply, to limit the contract so we weren’t tied-in to three or four years when we knew we’d have to break it – and we wanted to work with BT to achieve that continued level of service.” The figures show, on average, 90% of calls responded to, fixes delivered and calls cleared within SLAs.

"BT has been exceptionally flexible, and is very good at delivering the services we require - but what’s outside the cost, and the service delivered, is the knowledge we are important to BT."

Katherine Brough, Global IT Procurement Manager, Imperial Tobacco

“This was a win all round: we achieved a cost saving, we removed some equipment without penalties and we secured our contractual commitment. Other organisations out there could doubtless provide a similar service, but what’s outside the cost and the service is the knowledge that we are important to BT.”

Group Information Systems was so impressed it named BT Supplier of the Month for the UK: “And we don’t award that every month, only if there’s a worthy recipient.”

In terms of overall service, Brough knows the support is good: “Our reporting system gives absolute clarity around, for example, calls logged and their resolution, exceptions if things fall outside the SLAs, and if they’ve been pulled back in, as such can’t be classed as a penalty - through our own choosing, we might have declined delivery, and so on. There are also chargeables outside the agreement. The insights provided by those reports are fundamental to our supplier relationship with BT, because we can see what’s working, and areas for improvement.”

In fact, a Service Improvement Plan was initiated a few years ago, administered and monitored by BT, to drive higher service levels. “Reports, regular meetings and plans are so important - and that improvement plan was a real success.”

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