The CIO of Avanta, the welfare to work and training provider, has said that its one-year rolling contract with IT outsourcer Civica ensures that they work together as partners.

Avanta, which is three years into a five-year contract to operate the government's £5 billion Welfare to Work programme to get jobless people back into work, has outsourced all its IT, from infrastructure to service desk, to Civica. It awarded Civica the £1 million-a-year contract for the IT services in 2011.

The rolling contract "is so powerful", Jon Quick, CIO of Avanta said at the Civica Annual Conference in Manchester.

"It gives me the right to turn round and say 'if you don't work with me as a partner, I can go somewhere else'. What's been very surprising is that it has worked very well."

According to Quick, Avanta's IT "wasn't in a good state" three years ago.

"The Work Programme was coming up and there was a significant risk we couldn't deliver the IT part," he said.

"I decided the only way to do it was outsource all the infrastructure, hosting, networks and service desk. They were all semi in-house in multiple locations. Hosting was outsourced minimally."

Quick wanted an IT outsourcing contract that reflected the dynamism of Avanta, and gave the company the flexibility to scale the capacity up or down.

"As a business, we're very dynamic in size. When we started the Work Programme, we had 1,000 people in 100 branches. In a year, we were down to 500 staff and 40 branches. What I didn't want was a long-term contract where the costs were static," he said.

Instead, with Civica, Quick has fixed costs (data centre and hosting) and variable costs, where he pays per branch, per user.

"I've got controlled costs," he said.

Quick said that the way he works with Civica is "quite flexible" compared with other providers.

"We have a service catalogue that describes all the services that Civica provides. That is a working document, changed every year. I have a provision in the contract that says if it doesn't meet the fundamental KPIs, we have the right to change any of the services. That flexibility is quite unusual for managed service providers," he said.

This means that when Avanta adds new sites or businesses, it has "tremendous" agility to provide IT into those areas rapidly.

According to Quick, the initial focus of the Civica contract was to migrate from "a really bad place" to business as usual. This meant that the first year involved moving and cleaning all the applications and infrastructure to get it into a good state.

"The second year was nailing business as usual," said Quick. "Minimising the amount of activity, improving the resilience of the infrastructure and apps, and tuning the service provisions."

Now, three years in, Avanta is having more conversations with Civica around innovation and adding value. The aim is to spend less time on 'business as usual' and more time effecting a "step change" to the business.

For example, Avanta has just done a "massive" technology refresh, which involved upgrading 500 PCs and laptops and migrating 650 devices from Windows XP to Windows 7.

The next stage is to migrate 750 devices used by Avanta customers from XP to Windows 7.

Furthermore, the company is looking to transform a telephony solution it implemented two years ago into an integrated Voice-over-IP (VoIP) solution across its estate, which would allow new sites to be set up quickly. It is hoping to implement this after upgrading its network last year, and once the cost-effectiveness of the solution has been proved.

"Previously, we couldn't implement VoIP because we didn't have the bandwidth. The network has now been upgraded to allow for this," said Quick.