Turnover was also up by an impressive 12 per cent.

The company operates in a number of markets, which may have helped the buoyant results – civil engineering and services (especially in the gas and water sectors) as well as rail services and construction. The firm lost business when Network Rail took maintenance back inhouse, for instance, but in transport the company is at the centre of such projects as the West Coast main line and London Underground track renewals, as well as a big infrastructure project at Heathrow’s new Terminal 5.

Technology is playing a big part in the company’s success, according to its CIO Ajey Sharma. “We have moved from niche solutions and players to larger suppliers, as we were worried about risk due to the possible under-capitalisation such smaller players can suffer,” he says.
The company had ironically narrowed its candidates down to just Oracle and JD Edwards before the former absorbed the latter, making the choice moot.

ERP is now a prime mover at the company, though Sharma says he is aware of other ERP “disasters”, such as being unable to raise invoices or pay people, which his team is taking great pains to avoid. “We have invested £32 million in this project as a way to move the business considerably forward via electronic procurement and electronic invoicing, linking to other systems including the clients’ own ERP systems,” he adds.

The company is implementing the finance, project, HR, payroll and purchasing functions in Oracle eBusiness on an Oracle 9i database running on Sun Solaris servers. There are some three years to go before the system is fully rolled out.

Other technology initiatives have included a significant investment in document management and collaboration technology across 150 construction projects to try and minimise the risk of delays due to bad version control or lost information. Such technology also allows the construction giant to work more closely with partners and third parties, says the company.