What is Speedy Hire?

We are a tool and equipment hire firm that hires out specialist construction equipment.

We have complementary businesses specialising in portable accommodation, lifting, surveying and power generation equipment. We have nearly 3,000 staff in 300 UK depots, with our main base at Haydock near Liverpool, servicing around 60,000 customers a year, from big groups like Kier and Mowlam to much smaller operations. Speedy Hire is a listed company with £250 million turnover.

How does IT support your business?

The IT role is undergoing fundamental change here. We are made up of 11 separate companies but operate as one group. Up until about five years ago IT management was very sporadic – each local IT person tended to do their own thing. We introduced a more cohesive IT operation but that in turn has changed. Six months ago the board decided IT needed to take on a more strategic role, it had to stop being transactional and reactive and become more of a true business partner

What is your role and contribution in this transition?

I have been promoted to be the first CIO of the company from a financial background, having had previous FD positions in the other companies. I now sit on the executive management team reporting directly to the board.

What has been the main achievement in all this change?

We knew we had to have a system that could better unify our business. As we try and operate autonomously we have ended up often working with the same customer more than once, which is inefficient. We wanted a system that would give us one central customer file and asset file instead of duplicating information so we can better negotiate and do business with them.

The goal is to provide customers with a more streamlined, efficient service, to reduce our transaction costs and improve access to management information. We started the project 18 months ago and will eventually have invested a total of £4.5m in the system, which is Microsoft’s Enterprise Rental System, working with IT services company Touchstone to implement the software.

What can the new system do?

Customers will be able to rent equipment in a much more flexible way, including online ordering, as well as providing a more efficient financial management information system, cutting the need for paper-based billing and reporting.

There is now a single interface for staff to check availability of equipment across all depots, so we can also have a more accurate view of stock requirements across the whole business.

Why that particular technology?

We looked at a number of the niche providers in the tool hire industry but were worried that they couldn’t deliver systems with the level of flexibility we required. We have to keep nimble – it’s a fast changing business. Since the project started we have acquired two other companies.

We thought the Axapta system could match those kind of requirements. We also liked the implementor’s approach, such as the way they spent the first three months workshopping and getting down the business needs for exactly how we wanted the depots to work in the new structure. We expect to install the system group-wide in September 2007, though head office and many core branches are already on-stream.