Abellio is a Dutch-based international public transportation company that owns and operates multiple rail franchises across Europe with 14,000 employees. Founded in 2001 as NedRailways and re-named in 2009, Abellio entered the UK market in 2004 as part of a joint venture and has grown its business by winning bids for rail franchises from the UK government.
As passenger volume on the UK rail system grows at around six percent annually, and is expected to double over the next 25 years, railway lines brace for increased congestion. Railway operators such as Abellio know they need to distinguish themselves through innovations that drive efficiency if they are to manage traffic and win bids.
Mobile devices are a critical part of the vision. Station staff can easily improve the customer experience and swing into motion if a passenger’s smartcard doesn’t scan, or if a passenger has a question. Safety improves when workers use phones to communicate about unattended packages and dangerous objects on tracks. And repairs are easier when engineering staff can locate schematics faster.
Railway operations in London, Birmingham, and Scotland had previously provided employees mobile devices to help them more connected and productive. But the small railway IT teams were spending too much effort deploying and maintaining the fleet of devices, even as many users decided not to use the devices.
IT morale suffered. Traditional deployment required numerous manual steps to configure and enroll devices, especially because each user role required a different configuration. Once the devices were out in the field, IT issues multiplied. Sometimes users didn’t update their devices, other times they would download a new operating system prematurely and break access to apps. This inconsistency kept IT teams busy and created the potential for operational issues. One example: A train driver without a functional phone couldn’t move the train.
Away from IT and out in the field, Abellio’s mobile empowerment strategy ran into additional issues.
“The mobile arena was of particular importance to improve the customer experience and make sure our frontline staff and our colleagues have the tools to do their job," says Himesh Patel, head of IT at Abellio Greater Anglia. "One of the biggest challenges we had was that we’re a relatively small team and obviously with a small IT team, it’s very difficult to manage a big mobile estate."
The franchises wanted to reap the rewards of operational efficiency and minimize the effort to deploy, manage, and support the tablets and smartphones at scale. Railway IT teams, meanwhile, wanted to focus on other initiatives.
To free its IT team from time-consuming device management and maintenance, Abellio turned to the Samsung UK team for a managed service subscription program that included high-end mobile devices, software tools, help desk support, and repairs across the entire device lifecycle.
Abellio franchise IT administrators now have a single point of contact within Samsung to help them mobilize users and support devices across broad geographic areas. Samsung stages all devices for the railway franchises. This includes unboxing, adding a screen protector, and configuring the phone or tablet according to the user profiles for that franchise.
With its Knox Configure solution, Samsung can customize devices for franchises and different user roles:
"It is literally an end-to-end process," says Himesh Patel of Abellio Greater Anglia, "deploying the devices, managing the devices, answering end-user queries."
What we were looking at from the outset was a business partnership, somebody that could be flexible but also adapt to our changes, and I think we found that in Samsung.
As a result of moving to a subscription model using high- quality Samsung mobile devices supported by Samsung’s powerful management tools, Abellio has helped transform its business.
With efficiency gains and Samsung support, Abellio’s franchise IT teams track deployments executed by the Samsung Managed Services team. This enables them to focus engineers on larger infrastructure improvements that have the potential to improve service reliability.
By moving to a Managed Service subscription model, Abellio changes to a simpler per-user cost that includes device, service, and repairs. The railways now pay for devices as an operational expense over three years.
Abellio controls all devices based on custom profiles that include unique apps. It can add or edit device features with minimal effort as the company strategy changes, allowing work to proceed in a controlled way without introducing risks to the business. The franchises can easily add or subtract devices as its business changes.
Improved device deployment rate of more than 99 percent reduces investment waste. Lost or stolen devices shut down within minutes of being reported.
Abellio franchises now boast more than 30,000 devices in use across England and Scotland, all managed using Samsung tools and the Samsung Managed Services operation.
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