FirstGroup is in the middle of an acquisition. Laidlaw International, the yellow school bus operator and owner of Greyhound, is being bought by FirstGroup for £2 billion and, assuming the buyout goes ahead, it will make FirstGroup the largest bus operator in the US, with less than 20 per cent of the American market and giving it ample opportunities for growth.

It will also require a very big IT integration exercise, according to FirstGroup’s group IT director Darin Brumby. Growth has certainly been on the agenda for the company, while at the same time the technology function has been carrying out a programme of consolidation and rationalisation. “At the same time we are still executing a large portfolio of rail franchise projects, for both bus, rail operations, and the US it has been a really busy this year as well,” says Brumby. “Activities include incorporating First Capital Connect and Great Western franchise wins and carrying out new bid activity. All of these are innovative bids and technology plays an important role.”

This year application rationalisation for the rail and bus business has continued and the SAP consolidation has also progressed, although the Laidlaw acquisition will add a extra dimension to it, according to Brumby.
“Even when transformation plans are very good and consistent, two to three years is a very long time in business, so technology and business strategies have to adapt,” he says. “We have had great success, but the stress has to be on sticking to the core goal, even if the periphery is changing.”

There are more than 200 major projects being carried out currently. Brumby’s team are also delivering projects using managed services partners and he believes offering a much better service. “It is a good strategy, but represents a large cultural change for the organisation,” he says.

“Four-fifths of the programme has been achieved on target and we will be adopting similar strategies if the acquisition in the US goes ahead.”

“We have had great success, but the stress has to be on sticking to the core goal, even if the periphery is changing”
– Darin Brumby, IT director, FirstGroup