Flexible five-star IT maintenance for five-star retirement builder
Britain’s only five-star retirement builder, providing 40,000 homes for 45,000 buyers in the last 30 years, McCarthy & Stone depends on reliable IT.
Since 2006, the business has benefited from a flexible approach to break/fix maintenance from BT - with coverage recently extended to include hardware and software support for 50+ business-critical servers.
“As a national builder, we specialise in providing accommodation for private ownership by elderly and retired people. We go through the complete cycle of buying land, seeking planning permission, and then building and selling complexes of 40-60 apartments,” says Mike Healy, head of IT operations, McCarthy & Stone. From its Bournemouth head office, five regions provide coverage across England, Scotland and Wales.
Mike Healy’s department is responsible for centralised IT purchasing, hardware and software management and maintenance of IT for the entire company. “We build and deploy PCs to regional offices, and to our rotating pool of construction and sales sites,” he says. “Reliable IT is very important, particularly in the provision of specialist software tools covering everything from land prospecting, architectural design and submission of planning proposals, through modelling costs to examine return on investment and potential selling price, to the building process itself - organising purchasing of materials and ensuring suppliers are paid. We also support property sales and, increasingly, after-sales service, including long-term management. Significant downtime can have an impact on business operations at a time when efficiency is paramount.”
Our core business is ‘bricks and mortar’ - but IT facilitates the building process, enabling communications across the organisation and giving us specific software tools we depend on.
BT has provided break/fix maintenance services UK-wide since 2006. This contract was successfully renewed for a three-year period in late 2011, with server break/fix maintenance and software support added. "Timely support is particularly critical at our regional office sites", Mike Healy says, "with downtime potentially having an impact on multiple staff and key business processes, such as ensuring planning applications are submitted within deadlines."
Underpinned by realistic service level agreements (SLAs), the contract includes: 50-plus Servers UK-wide on an 8-hour Fix; Server Software Support; 3Com (HP) networking equipment on a 4-hour Fix; Desktops, Laptops, Workstations on Next Business Day Fix; and Printers and Peripherals on a 16 Hour Fix.
Calls are handled initially by the internal Helpdesk, and passed to BT’s Service Desk if hardware support is required. Mike Healy says, “Server support fulfils both manufacturer warranty and repair of servers running beyond the life of their initial warranty. There’s also an arrangement for pre-purchased software support, where we have an element of the infrastructure misbehaving – be it Microsoft components, backup or antivirus.”
And now we’re growing again, BT’s services are also growing alongside us. BT continues to provide us with value for money in its tender responses, working with us to find a satisfactory point of service and cost.
Mike Healy continues, “We’ve traditionally held break/fix contracts with third parties, going to tender every three years. BT was successful in winning our business by giving us both a price point and, significantly, a real feeling that national coverage would be consistent, whether it was Scotland, London or Coventry. Under previous arrangements, I felt colleagues in Scotland received poorer service levels. My ambition was to improve matters so, if we had a hardware failure, we could redress it predictably and reliably anywhere in the UK. This was a key factor affecting my decision in favour of BT.” The business benefits from the UK-wide resources and economies of scale provided by BT, enabling delivery of more efficient and cost-effective IT support than could be provided in-house or via a regional provider.
With the addition of server support, Mike Healy’s reasoning was clear: “I charted the calls placed with incumbent suppliers, on software support in particular, and felt we were paying a disproportionate ‘insurance premium’ for the number of incidents happening. The expertise of my people and the standardised software platform we’d developed meant the actual number of outages were relatively modest. Lining up the incidents we did have, their severity and complexity, we then evaluated them against tender respondents’ capabilities. We assessed the costing model versus technical ability and engineer distribution, and decided BT showed the capability we needed.”
In 2009, in common with many other companies, McCarthy & Stone was affected by the recession in the construction industry. “BT demonstrated a high level of flexibility as we had to reduce our costs fairly severely, and met with all our suppliers to explain that we needed to reduce our business engagement with them substantially and find economies within existing contracts."
"BT rose to the challenge, renegotiating our contract mid-term to provide a financial model more palatable to us given the changed circumstances. We really appreciate that willingness to engage, and accept the business reality of a company that had to economise. And now we’re growing again, BT’s services are also growing alongside us. BT continues to provide us with value for money in its tender responses, working with us to find a satisfactory point of service and cost. That meant they won the contract again, and actually expanded it, in the face of a truly competitive tender.”