Outsourcing for success: Managed services partnership lets Italian manufacturer focus on growth
Compared to North America, European manufacturers are sometimes slow to see the merits of the wholesale outsourcing of their IT infrastructures. But specialty pump manufacturer Askoll Group has done just that—outsourcing to Hewlett-Packard the responsibility for server and desktop hardware provision, software integration, maintenance, operations, and even some of its IT consulting needs.
Compared to North America, European manufacturers are sometimes slow to see the merits of the wholesale outsourcing of their IT infrastructures. But specialty pump manufacturer Askoll Group , headquartered in Povolaro di Dueville, Vicenza, Italy, has done just that—outsourcing to Hewlett-Packard the responsibility for server and desktop hardware provision, software integration, maintenance, operations, and even some of its IT consulting needs.
It hasn’t been an overnight change—far from it, in fact, stresses Alessandro Beaupain, shared services manager responsible for information systems, human resources, financial management, administration and logistics at Askoll Holding , the central holding company for the nine businesses in the group.
Having decided a decade ago that shared services offered the most efficient way to provide the 550-employee, [euros] 130 million company with capabilities such as IT, administrative support, financial management, and logistics, he explains, HP plays an increasingly central role in managing the IT infrastructure of the business.
“Outsourcing to a partner with the right skills and capabilities made a lot of sense,” says Beaupain. “Not only would it free us to focus on helping the group grow, but we could avoid the burden of a large and expensive infrastructure.”
As a matter of policy, explains Beaupain, 15 percent of group revenues are ploughed back into research and development, and while this has helped the business build bridgeheads in new application areas for its technology, the capital available for IT investment has been constrained.
The move to an outsourcing relationship with HP in 1997 immediately eased such concerns, Beaupain relates. Not only did the IT giant manage the existing IT infrastructure, but it also undertook various projects to upgrade it—reorganizing the server farm, for example, including an upgrade to Microsoft Windows 2003; and implementing a corporate Storage Area Network (SAN) based on the HP's own StorageWorks 3000 Enterprise Virtual Array product.
Today, says Beaupain, the contract with HP covers an inventory of more than 260 desktop machines—including 40 that are CAD-enabled, about 30 laptop computers, and a server farm including two Microsoft Windows 2003 clusters joined to the corporate SAN, and a further 20 HP ProLiant servers subdivided between the central head office and the peripheral offices.
In addition, says Beaupain, dedicated HP personnel not only manage the environment, but stay close to the company’s changing needs.
“As they’ve worked more closely with us over the years, they’ve helped us redesign and adapt our IT infrastructure,” Beaupain explains. “In effect, they’re delivering not just a service, but a form of ongoing consultancy.”
An example of this, he points out, was Hewlett-Packard’s close involvement in the implementation of the Microsoft Dynamics NAV ERP suite, progressively implemented over Askoll Group's associated companies between 2004 and 2006. The whole migration process was monitored and coordinated by the Hewlett-Packard staff, which enabled Askoll to reduce the impact of the change on the business while maintaining the highest possible system service levels.
“When we decided on NAV, it was important to choose the best possible consulting and implementation firm to implement it,” says Beaupain. “Hewlett-Packard was the closest to us, and had participated in the software selection process.”
And the closeness of the working relationship between the two companies has now been endorsed with the signing of a new outsourcing contract—one that recognizes Hewlett-Packard as a Mission-Critical Partner, says Wolfgang Wittmer, HP enterprise server and storage VP for Europe.
“Designed to help meet companies’ most demanding service-level agreements, Mission-Critical Partnerships support the business solutions that have a crucial impact on their bottom-line success,” says WIttmer. “Hewlett-Packard professionals work closely with their staff for effective downtime risk reduction, while a senior service relationship manager oversees the delivery of the services that the business requires, and looks for ways of improving ongoing performance and service quality.”
At Askoll, Wittmer adds, IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) guidelines are being applied with a view to prepare for the challenges of substantial anticipated growth over the next few years.
“Hewlett-Packard HP is a partner that remains a firm and substantial focus for all our future developments,” concludes Beaupain. “Our IT infrastructure is a nerve center for the company, and must not fail, or cause critical situations. Choosing a partner like Hewlett-Packard gives us the ability to rely at all times on highly qualified, competent, and proactive support, guaranteeing us a highly available and reliable infrastructure.”