Specsavers Launches New Business with CSC Cloud – A Case Study
- Scale IT to support rapid growth in new market
- Comply with strict healthcare information governance and security requirements
- Move systems to the cloud
- Improved IT agility and scalability
- Rapid deployment of business processes
- Low upfront costs
Optical Retailer Sees Growth in Hearing Aids
How do you accelerate growth when you’re already the world’s largest privately owned optical retailer? If you’re Specsavers, you do it by launching a new business.
Guernsey, U.K.-based Specsavers operates some 2,000 retail outlets in 10 countries, along with an end-to-end supply chain of 10 manufacturing and warehouse sites to serve them. The retail outlets — operated by independent owners but supported with accounting, HR and other services from Specsavers’ central office — offer a full range of optical services and products, including eye tests and prescriptions, eyeglass frames and contact lenses. Now, more than 30 years since opening its first store, Specsavers has more than 30,000 employees and annual revenue exceeding £1.8 billion (approximately $3 billion).
As those numbers indicate, Specsavers management has focused on growth, mainly by adding stores, expanding into new countries and adding services. But recently, the company has pursued even more growth by expanding into a new but closely related business: hearing care. The business took off quickly. In 2012 alone, Specsavers retail outlets provided some 78,000 hearing aids.
Becoming a Qualified Provider
The next step for Specsavers was to further expand its hearing business by becoming a qualified provider under the U.K. National Health Service (NHS). Since early 2012, the NHS has offered its Any Qualified Provider (AQP) scheme, which lets British citizens obtain selected health services for free from approved providers, including qualified hospitals and retailers. Providers must apply for and gain NHS approval before they can be included on the AQP list.
For Specsavers, this new line offered a new growth opportunity. The NHS already offered free hearing tests, hearing aids and aftercare to adults aged 50 and older. Now, Specsavers’ existing hearing-care business could expand to meet the NHS requirements and become a new option for patients.
Yet the NHS opportunity was also fraught with challenges. For one, there would be no single, standard contract; each region of the U.K. would be handled separately. Also, as a qualified supplier, Specsavers would need to comply with NHS information governance requirements and differing data requirements with each regional contract. The hosting locations, security controls and level of integration with NHS systems and networks were undefined and essentially unknown.
And in perhaps the biggest challenge, Specsavers had no idea how many patients it would serve — or how fast the number of patients might grow. “There was very little visibility,” says Karl de Bruijn, Specsavers’ group IT director. “So there was a need to provide a service that was scalable and flexible as to demand.”
A Solution in the Cloud
Specsavers’ IT infrastructure solution to support the new business involved moving, with help from CSC, to the cloud. The cloud offered Specsavers several important benefits. On-demand capacity meant Specsavers could add compute and storage capacity as the number of hearing patients grew. Costs would match demand, too, since the cloud offers a pay-as-you-go pricing model. CSC’s CloudCompute® service offered two additional benefits: high levels of governance and security, and CSC’s prior experience working with the NHS. By contrast, Specsavers’ previous hosting provider had no experience at all working with the NHS.
“The CSC cloud offering checked all the boxes for us,” de Bruijn says.
For security — which de Bruijn describes as “paramount in our environment” — CSC CloudCompute offered several important benefits. Access control questions could be resolved through careful design, multifactor authentication and other measures. Availability could be ensured by both rigorous disaster recovery measures and the ability of Specsavers to keep data copies in its own data centers. Issues over data ownership could be addressed with the right contractual terms, and malicious cybersecurity threats would be defended against.
A Winning Combination
With CSC’s solution and help, Specsavers applied for and won approval for a place on the NHS list of hearing providers under the AQP scheme. Now, by moving to the cloud, Specsavers can flex capacity to meet the unpredictable levels of demand.
CSC was also able to shorten the lead time needed to integrate Specsavers’ IT systems with the NHS network; this was important because the NHS requires that data on AQP hearing-aid patients resides on its (not the provider’s) systems, and integrates with the NHS “Choose and Book” system. This also helped to provide an enhanced customer experience for Specsavers’ hearing-care customers. Together, these benefits helped Specsavers achieve its goals in a few short months, and with no upfront costs.
Looking ahead, de Bruijn says Specsavers plans to move its private hearing-care business into the cloud as well. “Whereas previously, we’d be buying new hardware and have significant lead times, now the entry is purely data migration and a few setup instances,” he explains. “Going forward, more and more of our applications and systems will be run from the cloud.”