Stanley Gibbons Plc sets out its strategic IT direction
Stanley Gibbons Group Plc is an international leader in the dealing, auctioning and online trading of collectables, fine arts and antiques. The Group’s collectables business includes Stanley Gibbons, the world’s longest established rare stamp merchant and AH Baldwin & Sons, one of the world’s oldest dealers in rare coins, tokens, medals and bank notes. Its furniture and fine arts business includes the prestigious Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auctions and Mallett Antiques.
ERA Client Partner Andrew Beer met with Anthony Gee, COO of Stanley Gibbons, several times over the course of nearly two years to fully understand how the business worked, and its future direction. During these discussions it became apparent that the Group needed some external assistance to help reshape its IT function to best support its fast-evolving business strategy.
Stanley Gibbons wanted to develop into the premier online marketplace for collectables trading as well as grow its core businesses. The management had identified a need to crystalize and articulate the requirements of the different parts of the Group with regard to what future IT solutions must deliver and the responsibilities for making it happen, so Andrew introduced Anthony to Michael Hully and Chris Brown of ERA.
“The business had grown by acquisition and we needed to use technology to support and enable an effective integration process” explained Anthony Gee, the Chief Operating officer. “We also knew that experienced, independent expertise would be very beneficial to help us pull together the thoughts and views of the Senior Management team and provide guidance on what our future IT resourcing and initiatives should look like.”
“Michael Hully and Chris Brown at ERA put forward a clear proposal that demonstrated how their expertise as CIOs, Business leaders and IT Cost Management experts would help us” said Anthony. “They identified that an IT Strategic Framework was required that clearly defined how IT direction could be effectively governed in the future, that linked business strategy to an IT strategy and defined programmes of IT change that could be agreed by the Board.”
The ERA consultations with senior managers and the IT Team and review of existing processes took place over a two month period, with the result that a Strategic Framework was delivered and approved by the Stanley Gibbons Plc Executive Committee.
“Our senior team were particularly impressed with how quickly ERA understood what we were needing to do as a business and then translate that into clear IT strategies whilst avoiding confusing IT jargon” said Anthony.
Now there is one clearly defined view and a clear direction on how future IT needs will be identified, decisions taken, funding allocated and then procurement, delivery implementation and support effected.
A review and restructure of the Group IT function is underway with assistance from ERA and a range of prioritised strategic IT work programmes are to be initiated across areas such as Data Analytics and Business process and IT solutions standardisation.
One of the first programmes of work will be to consolidate and integrate IT infrastructures, telecommunications, office systems and support services within the Group and ERA have been engaged to help define, procure and manage delivery of this important change programme.
“Our senior team were particularly impressed with how quickly ERA understood what we were needing to do as a business and then translate that into clear IT strategies whilst avoiding confusing IT jargon.”
STANLEY GIBBONS PLC MOVE TO INTEGRATE AND CONVERGE IT INFRASTRUCTURES
Stanley Gibbons Group Plc is an international leader in the dealing, auctioning and online trading of collectables, fine arts and antiques. The Groups collectables business includes Stanley Gibbons, the world’s longest established rare stamp merchant and AH Baldwin & Sons, one of the world’s oldest dealers in rare coins, tokens, medals and bank notes. Its furniture and fine arts business includes the prestigious Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auctions and Mallett Antiques.
Following a consulting engagement in which Michael Hully of Expense Reduction Analysts (ERA) worked with the business to develop an IT Strategy, one of the first programmes of work initiated was to consolidate and integrate IT infrastructures across the Group. This included Datacentre, Voice/Universal Communications and Data Networks, IT Service Desk and Support functions, Email and Office Automation consolidation and cloud migration for 200+ users across four main locations.
The change also included the restructuring and development of the IT function and its capabilities to provide the services and expertise proposed in the new IT Strategy. Michael was asked to manage this programme.
The first step required Michael to work with internal business and IT staff and external suppliers to identify the current situation across many aspects of the IT infrastructure, resulting in an Initial Study Report. This was a challenging exercise.
“As we had a number of businesses that had been acquired by integration it was extremely difficult to build an accurate picture of where we were.” noted Anthony Gee. “Not only did we have different systems, technologies and suppliers but we had experienced a number of changes in IT staff”
Michael helped Stanley Gibbons identify what information was important and he coordinated the collection and analysis of that information into a report that clarified the overall IT Infrastructure situation in the business.
The Initial Study Report detailed what was in situ, how much was being spent, the IT services and service levels being provided and the gaps that existed between what was being provided and the business need. The report also outlined the different elements of a proposed, converged IT system procurement and related change programme, providing initial cost estimates.
‘Once we had this report we had for the first time a clear visibility of where we needed to go, the path to get there and the likely costs and benefits” said Anthony.
Following the agreement on the Initial Study the project moved to a procurement phase. Michael used the detailed information collected to run a structured procurement process over a two month period. Suppliers who had been carefully selected by ERA as having the proven capability to successfully deliver these very strategic and business critical services to a businesses with the profile of the Stanley Gibbons Group were invited to tender. The different lots tendered were carefully chosen by Michael to get the best value from the market by offering opportunities to some smaller niche suppliers while also limiting the risks associated with implementing a converged IT solution using many suppliers as opposed to a large, single vendor.
ERA completely handled the procurement process, liaising with suppliers and evaluating in detail the written responses to tender. The detailed evaluations and scores, together with a recommendations on which suppliers should be shortlisted to present their proposals, were delivered to Stanley Gibbons in a Recommendations Report.
‘The Recommendations Report made it easy for us to see the strengths of each IT vendor and the options open to us” said Anthony “the level of detail and insight was far beyond anything we would have had the ability to produce ourselves.”
Michael then set up the detailed demonstrations for the Stanley Gibbons team, having closely briefed the vendors to make sure they understood what to concentrate on during the time allotted.
“The short list demonstrations made apparent just how well Michael Hully had done his job during the procurement. The vendors and different options were all extremely strong and understood our position and business needs very clearly.” said Anthony. “In those sessions Michael’s experience was again invaluable in ensuring the suppliers answered challenging, and sometimes uncomfortable questions.”
With the assistance of ERA the group was able to move forward this strategic business critical project and select an external IT vendor who could deliver this complex IT transition and integration project, while being confident that they are getting best possible terms and value.
“ERA’s expertise has helped us identify how best to deliver converged Cloud, Data Centre, Connectivity and Voice solutions to our business and help us select the right IT vendors.”