AvantiGas, the UK arm of an international supplier of liquefied petroleum gases (LPG), worked with Six Degrees on implementing a multi-cloud platform. This platform delivers security, hosting and voice and data services to streamline delivery operations in the UK and is being rolled out across Europe. By consolidating its IT infrastructure, this leading energy supplier has achieved a reduction in IT operation costs while enabling it to deliver faster, more consistent and higher quality services across the UK and Europe.
AvantiGas provides a range of energy products and service solutions including off-grid LPG Bulk Gas, LPG Bottles, Aerosol Propellant, Biomass Renewables and more recently, an on-grid Mains Gas division for business customers. AvantiGas is part of the UGI Corporation – a holding company that through its subsidiaries distributes, stores, transports and markets energy products and related services internationally.
As a top energy supplier, AvantiGas’ core aim is to provide a consistent, professional and safe service to all of its business and residential customers via its network of distribution centres – two inland gas terminals and a UK-based emergency centre that delivers 24/7 maintenance, service and aftercare support. The UGI group is comprised of approximately 3,000 employees serving 580,000 customers, manages 19 million cylinders via 68,000 distribution locations and is continuously expanding through acquisitions. With bulk sales included, UGI International sold approximately 930 million gallons of LPG throughout Europe in the fiscal year 2017. All services, support care and products are underpinned by the company’s IT infrastructure, making it crucial that IT systems remain available 24/7, without compromise.
The consumerisation of business means that for many of us, our expectations around service and delivery have changed. Precision delivery procedures are increasingly seen as a benchmark across b2b markets too. Applying these processes on a global scale is a huge undertaking that requires significant investment in an organisation’s entire IT infrastructure – from billing and stock control to the website and the whole Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP).
AvantiGas initially began its journey with Six Degrees through a complex re-deployment of critical business applications across its UK ERP system, JD Edwards, from a private cloud. Six Degrees had worked closely with the AvantiGas team in the UK to create a solution that was flexible and had a consistently high-quality of service, fixed pricing and which helped to drive AvantiGas’ UK growth and objectives. Feedback from the AvantiGas UK HQ soon reached Steve Jones, Head of IT at UGI International North, who saw an opportunity to create a shared platform with common standard policies and uniform service levels by expanding Six Degrees’ role across 15 European countries.
As a continuously growing company with ambitious goals, AvantiGas required a pan-European cloud infrastructure partner to transform its business operations and critically, ensure that the technology in place integrated seamlessly and there is no room for error.
Steve Jones explained: “After seeing the work Six Degrees was doing in the UK, we decided we wanted to use the same partner across the other 15 European countries to create a hybrid methodology across Six Degrees’ UK data centres and European Azure data centres through the Microsoft platform. The UK deployment had essentially worked as the proof of concept – at this point, Six Degrees had our trust that it could align its resources to our current, intermediate and future plans. Six Degrees felt like a good fit and after an intensive pricing exercise it was a no-brainer – it was the technology partner we needed and wanted.”
AvantiGas was looking for a true technology partner to provide advice and support to guide them through a complex IT landscape and create bespoke solutions suited to its requirements. As an acquisitive company, being able to speed up the integration process was key to enabling a quicker return on investment – a driving factor for the business’s digital transformation. The scale and geographical diversity of the solution meant this would be a challenging solution deployment with a long onboarding process.
The multi-cloud solution Six Degrees devised consists of four main components: managed workspace, managed hosting, voice and data, and security across Six Degrees’ data centres and the Microsoft Azure platform. Within these four components, Six Degrees supplies and manages disaster recovery and backup, voice over IP, licensing, communications, migration services and interconnections between Azure and Six Degrees data centre platforms. The solution is designed to enable AvantiGas to focus on its core competencies of distributing, storing and transporting products and services rather than managing the IT.
An integral part of the solution is the Six Degrees helpdesk. AvantiGas does not have any large IT teams in the EU, instead relying on the Six Degrees helpdesk to support the whole environment, monitor it and ensure the backup and connectivity remains constant. As well as maintaining this constant support, Six Degrees implemented a monthly helpdesk meeting for AvantiGas as a way of keeping in touch and running over any existing support tickets to ensure everything remains on track and on time.
Steve Jones said: “The helpdesk support Six Degrees offers is a cut above other IT service providers. Any IT provider can deliver the technology and go through the onboarding process – that is about planning and organisation. In the end, the distinction comes down to people – it makes all the difference to my staff to know that when they have a problem, there is a familiar voice on the end of the phone who understands the related challenges and anxieties and is going to work hard to fix it quickly – Six Degrees is the concierge of IT.”
The success of the UK implementation created a confidence in Six Degrees – we knew that they understood the objectives AvantiGas is working to achieve and there was a great methodology between the two businesses which could be built upon.