The University of Nottingham is committed to providing a truly international education for its 42,000 students, producing world-leading research and benefiting the communities around its campuses in the UK, China and Malaysia.
Nottingham is ranked in the UK’s top 10 and the world’s top 75 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU) and the QS World University Rankings. It was named ‘Europe’s greenest university’ in the UI GreenMetric World University Ranking, a league table of the world’s most environmentally-friendly higher education institutions, which ranked Nottingham second in the world overall.
During 2009 as part of their Savings and Efficiency initiative, the University decided to request a tender for a sole supplier to provide computers. It developed a strategic partnership with Stone, embarking on a £13m, three year contract with an option to extend for a further year, for the supply of over 6,000 Stone desktops, over 2,000 Samsung notebooks and other IT equipment.
Prior to this partnership, The University of Nottingham ran a six-monthly tender for suppliers to provide desktops, notebooks and other IT provisions. Dan Stapleton, Administration IT Support Team Leader, who has been at the University for over a decade, recalls how this process was time consuming and a constant drain on people’s time and resources.
Keeping up with change
The transformations witnessed in higher education and the demands required of universities over the past 10 years have changed almost as fast as the IT equipment used within them. To keep pace with these changes The University of Nottingham had a policy in place to conduct six-monthly tenders for suppliers to bid for its IT provision. Whilst this was beneficial in the sense that the University could keep pace with the latest technological developments, the Savings and Efficiency Task Force at the University, identified that money could be saved through implementing standards for IT procurement across the University and through grouping together the infrastructure and associated IT support.
Looking back to before April 2010, Dan Stapleton recalls: “Prior to implementing Stone as our sole supplier, we would have an auction every three months which proved to be unrealistic in terms of getting the equipment delivered, installed and in use within a reasonable time frame.
“It was impractical both for us and for suppliers; therefore we decided to undertake the auction every six months. However, despite increasing the time frame between auctions, this process required a lot of dedicated time and resource. For example, although staff and departments were happy to procure their IT equipment, it resulted in approximately 20% of the University buying a wide variety of hardware from disparate vendors, which still required the IT department’s assistance for installation.”
This level of ad-hoc IT support led to large increases in support costs for imaging and installation. Dan and his team identified that the University needed to adopt a standardised approach to allow them to take control of their IT equipment supply and support. It was at this point where the University started its search for a sole supplier of IT equipment.
In April 2010, Stone and The University of Nottingham agreed a contract in the region of £13m over four years resulting in over 6,000 Stone desktops and over 2,000 Samsung laptops being supplied to the University to date. The contract also includes a support service for a full-time on-site Stone engineer available to assist with any installation or operational issues.
Dan explains how the partnership has been performing over the past two years: “The initial supply and installation process was smooth and we have developed a good working relationship. I am in regular contact with my account manager to discuss specific requirements and to address any challenges we are facing. We still have requests for specific equipment for individual research projects, which need tailoring to each separate case. We always approach Stone first to see if they can fulfil our request and if for some reason it is not in their remit, our account manager will explore alternatives and keep us fully informed of our options along the way. I’m really pleased with the two-way relationship we have built.”
The decision to base a Stone engineer on-site was a result of the size of the contract and the amount of equipment that Stone supplies to the University. Dan explains the rationale and the benefits this has brought: “With the amount of equipment we have on-site, it makes perfect sense to have an engineer here with us. We perform installations over the summer months and it is really beneficial to have an engineer helping coordinate the installation process and who fully understand our needs and requirements. Our managed service from Stone covers delivery, installation and removal of equipment and we take full advantage of Stone’s recycling capabilities.”
“We are ranked the second greenest University in the world overall according to the UI GreenMetric World University Ranking” Dan continues, “and during the tender process Stone was the only supplier to offer a dedicated in-house recycling service. This, along with competitive pricing, was a key factor in our decision-making process. By having the same vehicles collecting our old PCs at the same time as dropping off our new ones is a key contributor to the University’s on-going commitment to carbon reduction.”
Planning for the future
In 2014 the supplier contract will be put out to European tender which will be a large amount of additional work for Dan and the Procurement Team. Dan concludes: “We start working on our tender request at least one year in advance to ensure that we get the best possible value and service. Moving from a six-monthly to a four-yearly process has certainly allowed us to realign our focus on resources and the support services we provide to students and staff at the University. It has been a positive experience going through this period of change with Stone.”
The initial supply and installation process was smooth and we have developed a good working relationship. I am in regular contact with my account manager to discuss specific requirements and to address any challenges we are facing.