The Works Case Study

Requirement: Fully-Managed Network Infrastructure, Unified Communications and Colocation

Retailer The Works turned to GCI to provide it with a number of fully-managed Infrastructure and communications solutions in order to support its ongoing expansion plans.

The Client

Established in 1981, The Works has grown to become the UK’s leading value retailer of gifts, art and craft materials, hobbies, stationery, toys and books, with over 400 stores across the UK and Ireland. The company offers a range of over 40,000 products both in-store and online, enabling its 22.5 million customers to shop 24/7. This multi-channel proposition includes a free Click and Collect Service, and the business is supported by 3000 employees who are proud of the company they work for and passionate about the customers they serve. With customer numbers increasing and the popularity of online sales more dominant than ever before, The Works are expanding quickly, opening 50 new stores every single year. This growth has recently been supported by a new 200,000 square foot warehouse and HQ in Sutton Coldfield that opened in February 2017.

With a turnover of £180 million and new stores opening every year, The Works’ rapid growth has the retailer on target for reaching its ambitious goals for 2020. These include achieving a turnover of £300 million, having an estate of over 600 stores and, most importantly, becoming a nationally-recognised multi-channel retailer and employer of choice in the retail value sector. However, as it grows year-on-year and the uptake of e-commerce increases, The Works needed a scalable and flexible IT solution to efficiently work towards these aspirations, as well as addressing some key existing challenges. The company already had a 10-year trusted partnership with GCI, who provide its WAN (Wide Area Network) to all sites. However, the huge challenge of running network services across 400 stores and online was catching up with The Works’ ageing connectivity. Therefore, it required a complete upgrade to support the evolution of the organisation and provide the flexibility that was necessary for a future-proof and scalable IT system. The Works also required a comprehensive monitoring solution to ensure maximum efficiency in the network, and placed emphasis on having the capability to comfortably double in size without any significant architectural changes. The company also wanted to ensure that its infrastructure was scalable to support future requirements and robust enough to support increasing capacity on the network. Most importantly, however, is that its “Dual Datacentre Policy” required it to have a second location to store all data as a backup. This solution would need to provide complete redundancy for mission-critical data, applications and hardware to keep it secure in the event of a disaster. Finally, The Works wanted to utilise Cloud-based services, further reduce hardware costs and improve call handling, as well as requiring a scalable communications solution in conjunction with a robust network that could support high call volume and reduce waiting times.

Technical Solution

In conjunction with the pre-existing WAN to all sites, GCI provided The Works with a fully-resilient RA02 circuit from BT and a wireless solution from partner Metronet across the company’s new HQ and Warehouse in Sutton Coldfield. This would be the hub of The Works’ nationwide operation and therefore required resilience, scalability and flexibility. While the site was under construction, GCI installed a 4G router and DSL service to site as a temporary measure to ensure business as usual and no disruption in connectivity. In order to support their “Dual Datacentre” policy, GCI provided The Works with Colocation alongside their primary in-house solution hosted in Manchester. This reliable and cost-effective Business Continuity solution will achieve minimal downtime and data loss - imperative as the company increasingly relies on a 24/7 multi-channel operation.

Fulfilling The Works’ need for reliable Business Continuity and diverse connectivity, GCI also provided 3G routers which were deployed within 24 hours. This premium service means The Works is always covered in the rare event of any downtime in the primary WAN; crucial in the retail sector where connectivity is heavily relied upon for business as usual activities, such as online transactions, processing payments and replenishment. This is also invaluable during peak periods such as Christmas, where the retail sector experiences consistently high demand both online and in store. To ensure maximum network efficiency, GCI also provided The Works with Highlight - a fully-configurable, comprehensive and real-time performance monitoring service. This will allow The Works to see how its network is performing, with instant updates giving greater visibility and control over its IT infrastructure. The result is greater time efficiencies through quick diagnostics, deeper application visibility and granular reporting. 

To ensure scalable and robust communications solution that could handle increased call volume at all sites, GCI installed SIP Trunks across The Works’ MPLS network. SIP Trunking is a method that allows business phone systems to operate using an internet connection instead of a traditional phone line. Benefits include scalability (easy to add more lines), complete redundancy (instant call re-routing in the event of failure), cost savings (only pay for the lines you need) and lower maintenance, as physical hardware is eliminated. The Works and GCI are rolling out a new fully-operational DR site in the event that the Head Office is inaccessible. This consists of Fibre-based connectivity and GCI’s hosted VOIP solution, which will be blended in to the SIP extensions to enable a seamless handover of calls to the DR site in the event of a disaster.

Success and Company Benefits

The Works now has a robust, reliable Network Infrastructure and communications solution which can scale to match the company’s needs. Colocation also means that The Works can adhere to its own “Dual Datacentre” policy, and it is anticipated that the enhanced connectivity, Business Continuity solution and SIP Trunks will make online traffic and call handling much more streamlined and reliable.

Tom Scott, IT Director at The Works, said: “With the ambition to have 600 stores by 2020, we needed to know we had a reactive partner that could provide a seamless and scalable IT solution to match. A trustworthy partner who have the experience and expertise to fulfil our requirements and support our expansion plans, GCI are exactly the right fit for our business. Their support enables us to move forward as a business and remain ahead of the game in the competitive retail sector.”

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