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May 2021
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How Bull supported Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council to Revolutionise its Approach to IT

In a rapidly moving digital economy and globalised world, governments and local authorities operate in an environment characterised by rapid economic change, rising security concerns and a more demanding electorate. As a result, they face an unprecedented challenge to deliver better and more cost-effective services to both citizens and businesses, providing the public with greater levels of accountability.

In the UK, these pressures are particular intense because of the current squeeze on public sector spending. In line with the digital inclusion agenda, councils and public sector authorities are having to deliver high-quality IT services and solutions not only to their citizens, but also to business and schools across their local area, while at the same time driving efficiencies and keeping costs low.

Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council (BMBC) is one of the trailblazers in successfully striking this difficult balance. Much of the council’s success as an IT pioneer has been due to the strength of its on-going partnership with solutions provider, Bull Information Systems, a great example of a public-private partnership working positively to create opportunity for the local community.

The original decision to opt to work with Bull followed a best value review of BMBC’s IT provisioning. Having assessed the results, the council decided that to enhance the service it offered to the borough’s businesses and residents it should seek a partnering arrangement.

By outsourcing its IT function, the council was aiming not only to minimise the increasing costs of the ICT function but also to provide a more reliable, secure, responsive and robust IT infrastructure. Further, it was looking to enhance the local economy through the attraction of additional employment into the borough as well as promoting and supporting the use of ICT within the local economy.

After an extensive tender process, the council decided that furthering these objectives would best be achieved by signing a partnership agreement with Bull. The partnership, which is set to run until 2021, involved the establishment of joint venture company, Tuscan Connects Ltd (Bull TCL), which is 20% owned by the Council and 80% by Bull. Running core ICT services, such as desktop and network support, and data centre services, Bull TCL has been created to reduce costs and increase employment.

Partnership in Action

One of the crowning achievements of the partnership so far has been the establishment of a state-of-the-art Tier 3 data centre to replace the council’s existing centre. The previous Tier 1 facility had not had significant investment for more than 20 years and was suffering from an inadequate technical environment with IT equipment that was rapidly becoming obsolete.

In addition to funding the new data centre with a capital investment of £1.5 million, Bull has worked alongside BMBC to create an environment which delivers business agility, flexibility and scalability to companies across the region. This has helped foster the development of a broad range of organisations from start-up entrepreneurs to leading banks to government organisations and schools and colleges, including the Building Schools for the Future programme. It is another excellent example of the benefits of the partnership approach to IT.

For many start-ups in-house IT systems act more as a brake on progress than a catalyst for development. Businesses that grow quickly on the back of a major contract win, for example, will need to take on additional staff and upgrade their office space at short notice. Traditional IT infrastructures invariably struggle to keep pace and small business staff regularly find valuable time is consumed dealing with IT maintenance and upgrade issues.

The quality of the technical infrastructure underpinning the Barnsley data centre provides local business with a much more flexible platform. The state-of-the-art cooling system and the fail-safe/reduction measure have improved the reliability and resilience of the council’s systems.

-Helping drive business success is certainly one of the guiding principles of Barnsley data centre, and IT systems are key to achieving this core goal,” says Philippe Vannier, chairman and CEO, Bull Information Systems. -Bull and BMBC share a belief that IT systems should be a positive enabler for businesses. Ideally, they should offer companies an environment which allows organisations to improve operational processes, drive workforce productivity and support innovative business models. By working in close partnership with BMBC, we are helping to put this important principle into action.”

The purpose of IT in public sector organisations is often to facilitate different and more efficient ways of working and at times, as is the case in Barnsley, this can mean acting as the catalyst for change. For example, to reduce the cost of having staff based permanently in the office requires an infrastructure that is location-independent and provides a platform to allow for working behaviours to change. Bull TCL plays to this by providing a platform to the BMBC data centre that enables business customers to achieve consolidation, automation and transformation of services without loss of flexibility and control.

Building on the Legacy

The centre now provides a cost-effective, reliable and secure ICT infrastructure which has laid the foundations for improvements in both council services and further economic development in the borough. To date, successes include substantial cost and energy savings under the government’s efficiency agenda as well as the securing of commercial contracts worth several million pounds.

Critically, the centre demonstrates Bull’s commitment to invest and bring innovation into the region, to support local skills enhancement, community regeneration and create business opportunities as the borough embraces digital technology. The centre has excellent telecommunication links including direct connections into the Digital Region network, the first major regional deployment of ‘Superfast Broadband’ in the United Kingdom, which is actively attracting new investments and jobs into the South Yorkshire region.

The pioneering partnership has also attracted much attention from other UK councils who now have the ability to utilise the data centre facilities established. Data centre tenants also benefit from a highly-skilled support team from Bull, acting here as an end-to-end value added service provider, which includes staff working on an accredited service desk all the way through to third line support.

Managing the Journey

In setting up the data centre, Bull is effectively looking to guide local businesses on a journey from in-house, owner-managed IT architectures to hosting, co-location, virtualisation and full cloud computing. Ultimately, this will help transition IT from a cost to a driver of added value for the business. From the IT perspective, there are a range of key benefits for Barnsley’s businesses â€- from virtualisation and rationalisation of IT services to reduced server sprawl and from easier back-up and archiving to reduced time to meet business needs.

Bull’s presence in Barnsley also acts as a platform for another public sector partnership. Bull recently delivered a hybrid managed storage solution to Coventry University. Critically, the University was attracted by Bull’s proposal to split the storage capacity and manage it across two sites: not just at the Coventry campus but also in Barnsley: an approach which the university saw as the best option in terms of efficiently managing risk.

BMBC has been a pioneer council in recognising that high-quality information services and adopting a strong partnership-based approach are vital to operational transformation. With government cuts and an associated scaling down of services across the public sector increasingly impacting councils, it is likely that many more will see IT and partnering with private sector providers as a catalyst for business change.

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