Clear Communications sees outsourcing its IT operations to Unisys as achieving far more than saving money.
The $50 million deal over five years, which was signed earlier this month, will enable Clear to tap Unisys’s expertise in specialist areas, says Clear IT director Graham Walmsley – and sometimes the flow might be reversed. “It gives us access to a broader skills base," he says.
“We have always had expertise in IT internally,” he says but there are always gaps that another party can supply – as well as knowledge that Unisys has derived from carrying out similar outsourcing exercises for other partners.
“It also gives us access to global best practice,” he says. Clear already has that through its ownership by British Telecom, but it is useful to have two points of view available on such questions – which may contrast with each other, or back each other up, he says.
Unisys has acquired the hardware assets – mainframes, midrange and desktop with LANs and WANs – for Clear’s corporate IT. “They will handle the set-up and operation of the boxes,” Walmsley says. As for the timing and selection of hardware upgrades, Unisys will assist, “but we will ultimately retain the call.”
Clear and Unisys are building on an existing relationship, he notes. Clear has previously used Unisys to provide it with software on an ASP basis. This is one example of an area where Unisys has expertise that Clear lacks.
Outsourcing hardware operations “allows us to focus on applications and IT planning – the things that add value to the business.”
Why do it now, particularly? “Elements like management of desktops have become more standardised, more commoditised over the past few years,” and that means it matters less which company performs them, he says.
Clear also expects to “rationalise” costs on licensing of software. It may wish to use a piece of software for which Unisys already has a licence, “and we can simply come in as a user.”
What was Clear looking for in an outsourcer? “We were looking for someone who was prepared to offer roles to our people.” Unisys will take on 40 internal Clear IT staff that have been displaced by the outsourcing deal.
A wide range of skills, and flexibility were also sought, Walmsley says. The latter is pertinent in an industry like telecommunications, where needs may change unpredictably and lead a previously established course to be abandoned. Unisys has indicated it can roll with those punches.
“Cultural fit is also very important.”
The $50m does represent a saving on what it would have cost the company to run IT internally for that period, Walmsley confirms, but he declines to specify what the latter cost would have been. “As I’ve said, that’s not the sole important aspect anyway.”