Bus and train operator FirstGroup has had a fantastic year, according to
Darin Brumby, group IT director. It has won important new rail franchises, like
First Great Western and Capital Connect, and is now the largest rail operator in the UK, carrying around 250 million passengers each year.

“The pace of change has been very fast this year. We have won more new rail and bus business, so have been juggling these additions as well as handling our larger strategic plan,” says Brumby. “We have
had to adjust a few things to our infrastructure plan and although it is behind the original schedule, we are making great progress.”

This progress includes reducing overall IT maintenance costs from 60 per cent of budget down to 40 per cent, and turning around project execution so that projects are completed on time and to budget.
FirstGroup announced a five-year infrastructure deal, worth £46.9 million, with BT and HP last December. The deal includes the company’s global network, a refresh of its servers and desktops, thin client architecture, and a service desk for
the global organisation. Brumby says it represents a huge cultural change for the organisation. It is based on a very strong business case, which will allow FirstGroup to concentrate on shared services and its applications roadmap.

It is carrying out a SAP unification programme. “We use SAP for many parts of the business – engineering, maintenance, finance, HR and payroll – so we are laying a path that fits the business,” says Brumby. “We are looking at shared services, common business processes and systems rationalisation, which will all lead to improvements in service. In the UK organisation supply chain management is high on the agenda with excellent end-to-end procurement working really well.”

Brumby says he is constantly looking for cross-divisional synergies. “Getting group-wide licensing agreements without losing flexibility is important. We are very strong in negotiating skills and managing partner relationships. Getting more creative and growing productivity and revenue through business-led innovation is increasingly important.” He says the company is still ungluing its legacy architectures, but its infrastructure will now no longer be an impediment to its business.