When Lend Lease, one of the world’s leading construction and project management companies, was awarded the contract to deliver Birmingham’s ambitious Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme, it also took on the responsibility for equipping the new and refurbished schools with the latest ICT systems for pupils and teachers.


The Birmingham Lend Lease Partnership is still on course to deliver 17 new and updated schools for the city. As each new school nears completion, Lend Lease must equip the premises with state-of-the-art IT systems to ensure the best learning outcomes for students of all ages.


To this end, the company appointed Stone in November 2010, the IT services provider to UK public sector and education which, fortuitously, is based just 25 miles from Lend Lease’s Birmingham hub.


Stone specialises in the supply and support of ICT and audio-visual solutions to schools, colleges, universities, local government and the broader public sector. Its solutions are particularly popular in the education sector because of the comprehensive and flexible wrap-around services that are provided from its local UK service centres.


It was these differentiating qualities that brought Stone to Lend Lease’s attention a year ago. “After taking on the ICT contract, we needed to set up a supply-chain partnership to address the various elements involved,” says Chris Dickinson, ICT Programme Director at Lend Lease ICT.


“We approached Stone based on the highly complimentary conversations we’d had with some of the schools in Birmingham.” Although Lend Lease also contacted a number of other key players in the market, including some big tier one names, it soon became clear that Stone was the only provider that could address all of its requirements.


“Stone offered a full range of professional services that could flex and change to meet our needs,” Dickinson comments. Some of the tier-one players in the marketplace simply provide off-the-shelf solutions and therefore just couldn’t offer the level of flexibility we needed.”


Delivery to desk

Lend Lease ICT had been contracted to equip 13 schools with computing equipment against tight targets and deadlines, so it was crucial that it found a supplier that would assume responsibility for the delivery and performance of its products. Stone agreed to provide an end-to-end service with special terms.


Dickinson says. “We wanted to be able to specify the same five-year warranty for both desktops and mobile devices; this is something that tier-one suppliers could not offer.


“This included a warranty service with a ‘hot-swap’ element to it. That meant that included in any bulk buy would be a quantity of spares to ensure that pupil productivity was not impacted in the event of an issue.”


In addition, Lend Lease specified that the chosen vendor should use its own couriers. Dickinson adds, “It’s always a challenge with a new-build environment to get into a campus. Stone also committed to a delivery service with one hour scheduling – rather than the more typical morning or afternoon, which they are very good at working to.


“Importantly, they don’t just drop off the products at the door, they have technical couriers that offer a full delivery-to-desk service. They fulfil devices to the end-user location, connect them and go through simple acceptance tests. It is an end-to-end service, in that they hand over to us a ‘live’ system that is fully operational.”


The fact that Lend Lease can source all of the equipment and ancillary services from a single company has saved the company a lot of time, money and complexity, Dickinson notes. “We can simply ask Stone to deploy and commission 400 desktops in a particular school by the end of a given week and know that the devices will be there, fully commissioned. Before, getting to the same point might have involved three different suppliers.”


Crucially, the relationship between Stone and Lend Lease is a relationship rather than a sub-contractual arrangement. This has created a culture of trust and balance, ensuring that the job gets done because everyone is emotionally invested in making it work.


Stone has proven its commitment to Lend Lease and reliability many times over. Although Lend Lease aims to provide 8-12 weeks notice of new requirements, internal pressures during the early months meant that the goalposts could change weekly or even daily. With the ink still wet on the initial instruction, Stone was charged with equipping its first school within weeks.


“Stone proved they could deliver within extremely tight time frames; and in some cases we really did push them,” Dickinson admits. “But this demonstrates just how valuable the arrangement has been. We really needed Stone at that time and they were there for us, and now the young people and teachers within Birmingham are reaping the rewards.”


More choice, better service

To date, Stone has supplied and commissioned some 1,500 desktop and portable devices across five schools and three campuses. Not only does Stone assemble and configure its own wide range of desktop and mobile devices, including specialist products with small form factors, rugged PCs and optimised features for teachers and pupils, it also offers a broad portfolio of popular brands including Samsung and Lenovo.


“We were extremely impressed with the breadth of systems Stone was able to offer, and we are currently deploying the latest StonePC Lite desktops, Stone All in Ones, and Classmate netbooks,” Dickinson says. “It was fantastically valuable to be able to source everything from one company. No one else was able to offer such a wide product set, even the tier-one players. Stone was able to offer everything on our list, including the latest technologies and specifications. “Dickinson explains, “We are now looking to take advantage of Stone’s partnership with Lenovo, by rolling out Lenovo products in addition to Stone’s existing range. Lenovo’s reputation for innovation will ensure that we remain at the forefront of providing pupils access to leading edge technology.


“What’s more, even when Stone provides other vendors’ equipment, it is still covered by the same professional services and support-wrap,” Dickinson adds.


“The extremely low failure rate of the technology as a result is demonstrable, and this in turn ensures education continuity. What has impressed me most about Stone is the company’s ability to mould its products and services to meet my business requirements,” Dickinson asserts.


“They have listened, adapted and created a solution set to meet our business needs. That sums it up in a nutshell, because no other vendor in the marketplace could offer that. They really do take care of everything. They’re providing 10 years support, and will take away our old systems and recycle any of our assets at no extra charge, which gives us environmental benefits too. This has been a huge win for us, plus, the carbon footprint of delivering equipment from Stafford to Birmingham is minimal.


Dickinson concludes, “Stone’s ability to provide local support and response is very important to us. If there is an issue with any product, they can get something to us in half an hour, not the next day.”