IT frozen out in Birds Eye deal

IT frozen out in Birds Eye deal

Food manufacturer was left with “effectively no IT” after acquisition

Birds Eye Iglo Group (BEIG) has been forced to build a new IT infrastructure after a private equity buyout from consumer goods giant Unilever left the firm with “effectively no IT systems”.

The group still has “a couple of months to go” until its main project, a Europe-wide SAP installation, is complete. Project teams are under “absolutely huge time constraints”, said a source close to the project.

BEIG had historically depended on its former parent’s infrastructure. But after the acquisition by Permira 18 months ago, it was given a deadline to put its own systems in place, say insiders.

The food company hired chief information officer Tania Howarth to manage the process last April, with the rollout of an SAP system across its entire European operation as the key objective.

The initial action plan for IT involved outsourcing the group’s software support function to Fujitsu “under very demanding time limitations”, said another source.

Consultancy Capgemini was also awarded a contract last year to manage the company’s telephony and hardware infrastructure, but the agreement only lasted for a month before “project issues” arose, prompting BEIG to switch to Indian supplier Satyam partway through the main systems integration project.

The changeover is understood to have caused more challenges, as negotiations had to be completed under an even tighter deadline so Satyam could begin work.

Despite the pressure, Birds Eye “can deliver a lot quicker” since the acquisition, as the group no longer needs to report to its former parent, according to insiders.

BEIG recently hired 12 staff to boost its IT team, including applications and infrastructure directors, as well as other senior positions managing different aspects of the new technology.

Private equity buyouts present major challenges for IT, said Mark Raskino, research vice president for emerging trends at analyst Gartner.

“These firms may not have the opportunity to improve their underlying functionality because they keep having to freeze systems to move them to the next owner,” he said.

BEIG declined to comment.