Founded in 1983 by three families who were struggling to find quality childcare, Busy Bees has grown to become the largest childcare provider in the UK. Having recently acquired the Treetops Nursery Group the organisation now owns over 300 nurseries nationwide, employs over 9,000 staff, and provides childcare for 35,000 children.
Initial rapid growth posed risks for a relatively small IT team of six, around management, control, support and security of systems and networks, control of Internet content, providing staff with IT and communications support, identifying, controlling and reporting costs to the business.
IT Manager, Paul Creaser, has worked for Busy Bees since 2004 and is responsible for IT and communications. He talked us through some of the challenges they have had to overcome.
The majority of growth has been through a series of acquisitions resulting in Busy Bees taking over nurseries with communications services from a number of different providers. Services and costs could not be rationalised and duplication could not be eliminated.
Acquisitions can be significant; 77 Leapfrog nurseries acquired in 2007 more than doubled the size of the business at the time and more recently the acquisition of Treetops added a further 61 nurseries.
Every nursery requires IT and communications support and a strategic decision to increase IT skills training for the children makes secure web content control even more critical. Whitelists were loaded on to all computers to avoid inadvertent access to inappropriate material and managing this, together with the provision of general communications and IT support, presented the IT team with an increasingly onerous remit as the estate grew to over 200 nurseries.
As the business grew so did the national support centre which became located across two sites incorporating a call centre.
Partnering with MPS
MPS supplied and installed a number of small telephone systems in Busy Bees nurseries during 2003 and 2004. The Busy Bees group were impressed and consequently commissioned MPS to provide voice and data cabling infrastructure and a telephone system when they opened a new National Support Centre in late 2004.
From a base of fewer than 30 nurseries in 2004 Busy Bees had big growth plans. The IT team knew they would need support from a communications partner capable of designing, delivering and supporting solutions for Busy Bees voice and data networking requirements as the business developed. MPS was given the opportunity to deliver against this remit and quickly took control of all aspects required.
All telephone systems and network infrastructure (PSTN, ISDN, SIP Trunks, Internet, MPLS Access Circuits and WiFi) are now managed and supported under formal contract by MPS. This includes systems installed by MPS as well as those inherited through acquisition. Systems installed at the National Support Centres are networked using VoIP. A call centre at one of the Support Centres benefits from call sequencing, ACD, recording, reporting and carrier level TPS.
MPS has analysed and consolidated network services as Busy Bees has continued to acquire competitors. Migration of these services to MPS has resulted in a consistent level of service and support whilst costs have been reduced through rationalisation as well as the benefit of MPS rates. The introduction of SIP trunks at National Support Centres has enabled further rationalisation of ISDN, further cost reduction and increased resilience. Billing is bespoke, transparent and clear across all Group Companies.
Having deployed a managed MPLS WAN to support converged voice and data networking between the National Support Centres, MPS then managed the phased migration of all nurseries from Direct Internet Access to the MPLS WAN, in turn providing a secure private network where all sites can only access the Public Internet via a centralised managed firewall. The firewall controls all Internet access and content eliminating the need for whitelists on devices. The MPS WAN enables the IT team to support users and manage internet access and WiFi remotely, in a secure environment.
The telephone system at the National Support Centre has been upgraded to Panasonic’s latest NSX1000 IP Voice Server with Mobile UC, enabling the integration of existing Android and iOS devices. The NSX1000 is providing for National Support Centre expansion as well as telephony requirements in new and acquired nurseries. At the National Support Centre, expansion has been dealt with by fixed IP phones and SIP clients for mobile integration via wireless. The NSX1000, a pure IP server, is networked with the legacy Panasonic KXTDE Hybrid IP-PBX on site which is used as a gateway for digital and analogue devices; thus protecting the customer’s investment in this area. Telephony requirements at nurseries, which have previously been addressed by the installation of autonomous telephone systems, are now dealt with by deploying IP phones networked to the National Support Centre NSX1000, over the QoS enabled MPLS WAN, delivering cost savings as well as the enhanced and standardised functionality of the NSX1000.
The MPS solution at Busy Bees now includes over 100 telephone systems, more than 800 PSTN, ISDN and SIP trunks, VoIP between the National Support Centres, an MPLS WAN networking nearly 300 sites, a managed firewall to provide centralised Internet access and web content control, managed WiFi and Mobile UC.
Asked about the financial impact of MPS taking over services at acquired nurseries Paul said, “By identifying the services being used, eliminating duplication and providing more competitive tariffs, MPS typically reduce our billing at each site by 60%.”
• Reduced communications costs
• Improved cost control and reporting
• More efficient integration of new acquisitions
• Increased security
• Enhanced teaching and learning
• Streamlined supplier management
Busy Bees is able to outsource the management of its voice and data networking infrastructure to MPS as a trusted “partner” effectively operating as an extension of Busy Bees’ own IT resource; a relationship which has enabled Busy Bees to operate with a lower IT headcount than would otherwise be required.
Paul summed up his experience of partnering with MPS by saying, “MPS provides everything we want, how we want it when we want it. You can’t ask for any more than that.”