How Transport for Greater Manchester improved communications

Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) is responsible for implementing local transport policy in Greater Manchester. It owns, manages and builds much of the city’s transport infrastructure. It is currently delivering a £1.4 billion expansion of Manchester’s tram network. It also pays for buses in areas where no commercial services are provided. It is a vital component in the efficient running of the largest regional economy outside London. It is a round-the-clock, all-year organisation and its effectiveness is reliant on robust, secure and reliable communications.

At a time of public sector funding squeezes, Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) needs to ensure value for money in all its supply contracts. These pressures explain why, in 2012, TfGM signed with a new mobile supplier and moved away from Vodafone. The new incumbent promised cheaper call rates and according to Mat Clayton, TfGM’s Service Manager, that was the beginning and end of its proposal: “There was no hardware upgrade plan, the financial system was a pain, it took an age toresolve faults… and there were lots of service issues. “Accounting for the cost of upgrading our devices -and most of our devices would have been end-of-life within 12 months – the total cost of service turned out to be more expensive. And that wasn’t even factoring in the management time wasted in chasing and escalating issues.”

Clayton oversees 15 supplier contracts: “There were delays at every turn. For every 10 orders, it was losing two, and there was no real time ordering facility. When I told the company that we wanted to leave they said ‘no bother, you’re only a small customer’.”

Right device, right people

TfGM began preparing the case for a return to Vodafone: “What we didn’t want to do was simply fix the problems we had with the incumbent. We wanted to reframe our expectations for mobile.”

There was broader context for a return. Through TfGM’s Urban Traffic Control team, it operates 2,160 sets of signals, around half of which communicate via mobile SIMs. Vodafone provide the connectivity for these along with specialised devices for ticket checks and surveys, so there was a strong case for a single mobile telephony provider across its operations.

“Network resilience was a non-negotiable,” says Clayton. “Communication is vital to the smooth running of the transport network across Greater

Manchester. If there is a transport issue, senior managers need to respond quickly. Vodafone holds a number of ISO standard accreditations which were a deciding factor in choosing to work with the company as they are key to reducing risk.”

The transition would be helped by TfGM coming to the project with a wealth of user data. It was able to show Vodafone every device, every user and usage rates across the entire estate.

This saved a huge amount of time and allowed Vodafone to start mapping out the transition process immediately.

TfGM has 400 mobile users, from C-suite to bus station managers. “Our CEO and all the directors need to be in contact at all times,” says Clayton, “and they need access to email and data. Across all users, around 30% don’t really need data. This is not a one-size fits all business.”

The Vodafone solution involved a complete hardware refresh from day one, with Nokia Lumia devices for all data users as well as Apple iPad and 4G connectivity for C-suite users. The entire set-up from ordering new devices to checking billing, can be managed by TfGM through a single online portal, Vodafone Corporate Online.

The devices and SIMs were delivered in advance; with Nokia trainers and a Vodafone Transition Manager on site at go-live to walk through device functionality. Technical issues were resolved on the spot, with Vodafone keeping spare hardware on hand in the event of any failures.

“We realised just prior to go-live that the Lumia phones didn’t come with any cases as standard,” says Clayton. “No problem. The Vodafone Account

Team stepped in to help and sourced cases for all phones and supplied these as a value added activity. This example of proactive account management was much appreciated by senior people here. We had the certainty of the project plan with the assurance that Vodafone could react quickly to unexpected events if needed.”

Appreciation beyond the service team

Vodafone’s consolidated billing and online ordering systems have greatly reduced management involvement and delivered contract transparency. There are no delays, no misplaced orders, and invoice errors are eliminated. Orders are fulfilled with next day delivery.

In addition, Vodafone has trained TfGM’s frontline support staff, enabling more support calls to be fixed in house, meaning less need to swap out faulty devices. Around one in three devices returned to Vodafone from enterprise customers each month are due to user error so could be fixed with a software upgrade. TfGM now self-fixes more issues, cutting administration and keeping fully functioning devices in the hands of users.

“Taking control of our ordering has transformed management efficiency,” says Clayton. “When we look at total cost of ownership, it’s clear we’re now getting far more from our mobile estate. We have the right devices for the right staff.”

The transition, he says, was viewed as a success across the wider business. Service remained virtually continuous throughout the transition, meaning minimal disruption for users. “This is one of the most well-managed transitions I’ve come across in 15 years of service management. Vodafone understood our business requirements, appreciated the urgency of some requests and resolved any issues very quickly. Throughout there was the reassurance that things were being managed.”