Utility Supplier Benchmarks IT

Published in ComputerWeekly

Gas supplier Wales & West Utilities (WWU) has benchmarked its in-house IT operation and external services agreements to keep its cost, service levels and processes in line with the best on offer in its sector.

When the organisation was set up in 2005, after taking over the licence to supply gas to the South-West of England and Wales when the market was liberalised, it had no IT infrastructure.

As a result of the need to get its IT up and running quickly, the organisation is heavily outsourced, with only nine in-house IT staff supporting 1,500 employees. The company outsources its IT infrastructure to Serco and its application support to Enzen.

Time for an IT review

After six years it was time to for an end-to-end review of its IT, according to Phil Pike, IT and procurement director at WWU.

“We wanted a wide-ranging benchmark because our current IT set-up was about six years old and many of our outsourcing contracts were coming up for renewal,” he said. “We decided to conduct an independent benchmark review because we wanted to get an expert-led, thorough examination of our entire, enterprise-wide IT environment, from servers and telecoms networks to desktop applications. In addition to our in-house processes, we also wanted a detailed cost and quality report on our various service partners.”

Specialist IT benchmarker ImprovIT was chosen to carry out a detailed benchmarking exercise, which took about eight weeks to complete.

Pike said ImprovIT was chosen because it offered more in-depth analysis than some of the larger, more traditional benchmarking firms, such as Gartner. “Traditionally, benchmarkers offer metrics such as cost per user, but we had a lot of that information already. Rather than a straightforward comparison, we wanted a wider look at how we compared to other companies in our sector.”

After eight weeks of data collection and analysis, the company was given a report, which goes into detail for each part of IT.

Pike said the initial findings compared the company favourably to other utilities companies, but the detail will mean it can work on small-scale improvements. For example, WWU found that it could improve its service desk’s ability to solve problems after the first call.

The statistics will also be used as part of a business plan that has to be submitted to the gas and electricity industry regulator Ofgem.

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