3173 Limited is the independent pension group that includes consulting actuaries Spence & Partners and Dalriada Trustees, the UK’s second largest firm of Professional Trustees.
The group’s work sometimes includes pension scheme wind-ups following the insolvency of the employer. These situations require the company to quickly ramp-up resources at short notice for periods of intense activity as the firm takes on decades of records. As Chief Technical Architect Alan McBurney says, “We need to show we can scale and dynamically adjust to the volume of incoming work. With an on-premises footprint, that meant capital expenditure — either procuring new hardware very quickly or trying to right-size it in advance, which is always a guess.”
Ensuring the 160 staff of consultants, trustees and actuaries can be productive is essential.
“Every minute of productivity counts,” McBurney says. “Our group has some of the best people in the pensions industry and we need them to be able to direct their expertise to client work with the least possible distraction.”
3173 last procured on premises IT infrastructure in 2014 and as the equipment neared the end of its scheduled life cycle, the group’s plan has been to end any dependence on on-premises infrastructure by adopting a cloud-first strategy.
The group spans seven offices across the UK and has operated a paperless environment since 2009. “We operate as a single team” McBurney says “so it was crucial for us to have an agile solution for securely sharing very large quantities of documents within our own team and externally with our clients and other service providers.”
McBurney worked with Gold Citrix Solution Advisor HTG to develop and deploy a cloud-first strategy built on Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops and Microsoft Azure.
“HTG really delivered for us. I knew what I wanted and HTG, using their industry expertise and experience, helped us deliver that,” McBurney says.
“With Citrix … we consume, we don’t maintain.”
“Moving to Citrix cloud [services], Microsoft Office 365, and Azure gives us an evergreen service where we consume, we don’t maintain,” McBurney says.
“Refreshing our datacenter kit would have been a £million investment. That just doesn’t make sense in today’s world. If you own the infrastructure, you’re responsible for the hardware, servers, storage, networking and so on. We are happy to entrust this to Microsoft and Citrix now – we see managed services providers on whom we previously relied as legacy.”
With a cloud-first infrastructure, 3173 Limited can now instantly scale up and down to meet business demands. New or temporary staff can be provided with a virtual desktop within minutes, delivered to a company MacBook, iPad, phone or Microsoft Surface notebook depending on the preference and needs of the user. McBurney goes on to say, “The precise device is irrelevant because we have the proper security policies and controls in place to protect business data.”
Instead of being a high, fixed cost, IT costs are now in-line with business activity.
“With Citrix on Azure we just consume what we need.”
Improving performance and productivity
User experience was an important consideration throughout the design and deployment. McBurney recalls a time when staff would switch on their PCs, then go and make coffee while the machine booted up and signed in.
“The daily login storm at 8.30 a.m. has ended and now, with the Citrix / Microsoft desktop we have a very slick user experience where the average login time is just 23 seconds.”
The new desktop protects income as well. McBurney continues, “The majority of our 160 staff are fee-earners and we want them to be able to work productively from the moment they sit down at their device.”
Leveraging the Citrix-Microsoft partnership
The collaboration between Citrix and Microsoft has made it simpler to provide staff with single sign-on across the network — “one credential to rule them all,” as McBurney puts it. Citrix Gateway integrates with Azure Identity and multi-factor authentication to streamline the user experience.
“We now use Citrix Content Collaboration for all our external sharing,” he continues. “[Citrix Content Collaboration's] tight integration with Office 365, SharePoint Online, and OneDrive for Business makes it a natural fit.”
“With the Citrix/Microsoft desktop, we’ve fast-forwarded from where we were previously. We’ve got to a point where IT works the way it should, enabling productivity and promoting collaboration,” McBurney states. “People just want to come in and do their work and they’ve found the new system hugely beneficial. The productivity boost has really hit them. They take for granted that we now have a slick, responsive user experience. And, we’ve seen a massive reduction in help-desk tickets.”
HTG’s Chief Technology Officer Kevin Howell adds, “At HTG we use our experience and expertise to select best-in-breed products to provide the optimal solution for our customers. Using [Citrix] with Microsoft Azure enabled the 3173 Limited group of companies to deploy a cloud-first strategy in a secure, efficient manner whilst delivering a first-class user experience.”