Boosting flexibility and keeping IT costs low with SAP as a Smart Managed Service

Founded in 1905, Ideal Boilers is a leader in the domestic and commercial heating markets in the UK. Previously part of the Stelrad Group, it was acquired by Groupe Atlantic in 2015, and is now the French rm’s largest UK business unit – employing around 730 people and selling approximately 350,000 Ideal brand boilers per year. As a long-term user of SAP ERP applications, Ideal is now playing a leading role in Groupe Atlantic’s group-wide SAP initiative.

Business challenge

To maintain our low cost base, deliver a managed service without increasing head count , whilst mitigating future risk with a comprehensive disaster recovery plan . We needed to ensure a seamless transition that had zero impact on the customer.

Risk Free Transformation

We wanted to upgrade to the latest version of SAP without being restricted by the demands of the day to day application management and maintenance. Having our data in the UK gives us peace of mind.

“Most businesses of our size have IT costs of around 1.7 or 1.8 percent of turnover. We’re able to keep ours at less than one percent, and that’s partly due to the cost efficiency of CSI’s Smart Managed Services.”

John Glanville, CIO, Ideal Boilers

Company

Founded in 1905, Ideal Boilers is a leader in the domestic and commercial heating markets in the UK. Previously part of the Ideal Stelrad Group, it was acquired by Groupe Atlantic in 2015, and is now the French rm’s largest UK business unit – and the number two in the domestic market. As a long-term user of SAP ERP applications, Ideal is now playing a leading role in Groupe Atlantic’s group-wide SAP initiative.

Vision

Creating a more flexible landscape for SAP

Prior to its acquisition by Groupe Atlantic, Ideal Boilers’SAP applications were run jointly on a shared environment with Stelrad Radiators on an on-premise infrastructure at its Hull- based data centre. To Provide both businesses with the flexibility to change ownership in the future, it was vital to separate the SAP landscape from this communal environment.

John Glanville, CIO at Ideal Boilers, comments: “In addition to just splitting the businesses from an SAP stand point, it also made sense to mitigate risk by reducing the complexity of our IT landscape. The aim was to secure a smooth transition with minimal downtime and disruption, and zero impact on our customers.

“We wanted to keep things as simple and flexible as possible, which meant we were reluctant to set up a second data centre or purchase new hardware – that would have been a major expense, and might not have aligned with our future plans. If we needed to relocate and move all the infrastructure to a different office, that would add another level of complication and risk.

“We also realized that if we split our existing SAP Basis team in two, we wouldn’t have enough people to support both environments – but we wanted to avoid hiring more Basisexperts if at all possible.”

“Finally, we wanted to upgrade to the latest version of SAP ERP, and get our operating systems and databases up-to-date as well. Although we’ve been strict about not introducing any custom code into our SAP landscape over the years, performing upgrades is still a significant effort, and we would prefer to focus on our core business rather than operation and maintenance tasks.”

All of these requirements pointed in one direction: instead of building a separate SAP landscape on-premise, Ideal Boilers decided to find a partner that could provide SAP as a hosted managed service.

Why CSI?

Finding the right partner

Ideal Boilers began looking for a partner that could help it separate its SAP systems from the existing infrastructure, move them into a hosted environment, and provide ongoing application management and support. Following a competitive tender, the company selected an SAP-as-a-service offering from CSI’s Smart Managed Services portfolio.

CSI is an IBM Premier Business Partner with the hardware expertise to provide enterprise-class hosting services. More importantly, it is also an SAP Platinum Partner, and one of the first companies in the UK to gain certification as an SAP Business Hosting provider. This combination of skill-sets made CSI the perfect partner to provide not just hosted infrastructure, but the full SAP application suite as a service for Ideal Boilers.

John Glanville comments: “SAP is a special technology, so we needed demonstrable proof that our new partner could provide high-quality SAP Basis support. We were impressed by CSI’s Basis team, and we also liked their helpdesk and technical support procedures.

“Above all, CSI had clearly delivered this kind of project successfully before – they had good references, and that gave us a lot of confidence.”

Harnessing an enterprise-class infrastructure

John Glanville says: “On the infrastructure side, the Node4 data centres that CSI uses to host its systems are level-three facilities, and they are much more robust than any data centre we could afford to build for ourselves.

“The connectivity is excellent, and the high-availability is well-designed. Moreover, both data centres are here in the UK, which gives us peace of mind that we can get to our systems easily if we need to.”

Solution

Ensuring a successful migration

CSI and Ideal Boilers worked together to design a disaster recovery plan, and ran a successful disaster simulation before the migration itself began. They also agreed a comprehensive set of service level agreements to measure performance both during the project and on an ongoing business-as- usual basis.

CSI then migrated Ideal’s existing SAP applications and databases to the new data centres, and upgraded the environment to the latest versions of the software. As part of the project, Ideal has switched from a two-tier model (with development and production environments) to a three-tier model (with a quality control environment sitting between development and production) – helping to improve quality management and reduce the risk of defects finding their way into production systems.

John Glanville comments: “The project was as much about cultural change as it was about technology – moving to a managed service model means that services are delivered in a different way, which means that people and processes need to adapt too. Naturally for a project of this scale, we had a few teething problems, but nothing that had any real negative impact on the business. CSI did a very good job, and scored highly in our post-project partner evaluation.”

Benefits

Cost-effective, strategic cloud platform

The CSI Smart Managed Service strategy offers Ideal Boilers a flexible commercial model, avoiding the need for up-front capital investment in infrastructure, and enabling the costs to be spread over 36 months.

“Cost savings weren’t the main objective of this project – it was more about reducing risk, increasing flexibility, and preventing IT from placing constraints on business growth,” comments John Glanville. “Nevertheless, the CSI Smart Managed Service offers much better value than paying for data centre space, hardware and electricity ourselves.

“Most businesses of our size have IT costs of around 1.7 or 1.8 percent of turnover. We’re able to keep ours at less than one percent, and that’s partly due to the cost efficiency of CSI’s Smart Managed Services.”

One of the most important benefits of the new strategy is that it frees up Ideal Boilers’ in-house team to focus on higher-value activities, such as business process engineering.

John Glanville says: “CSI handles all the day-to-day application management and maintenance, as well as periodic patches and upgrades – so we don’t need to worry about low-level systems management any more. It’s difficult to measure, but we already feel like we’re delivering more value to the business.

“CSI also help us with our strategic direction – we’re very goal-orientated, and we want partners who are proactive about helping us achieve those goals. We have regular meetings with the CSI team to discuss our roadmap, and they are always keen to help us take the next step.
He concludes: “For example, there’s already a plan to move some of the other Groupe Atlantic companies into our SAP environment later this year, and after that, we’re considering a move to SAP HANA. It’s great to be able to call on CSI’s expertise as we continue on this journey.”

“The CSI Smart Managed Service offers much better value than paying for data centre space, hardware and electricity ourselves.”