THE Co-operative Group has signed a £ 21 million communications and networking deal with BT to connect its 70,000 staff in about 3,500 locations across the UK.
The five-year deal means BT will implement a single wide area network (WAN) to connect the Group's range of businesses, including its food retail, travel, pharmacy, funeral and farming operations.
The WAN will unite the Group's business divisions, which had previously used different networks, making working together difficult.
Ian Stringfellow, the Co-operative Group's head of infrastructure, said: "Over time the different businesses within the Group had developed their own networks and systems. This created difficulties consolidating our infrastructure as each business unit was disparate and required different services.
"We wanted to pull the networks together into one, and BT has helped us achieve that. It now means our staff can be in a Co-op supermarket in the Hebrides, or a Travelcare branch in Devon, and log into the same network. Our businesses can work together much more easily and more efficiently than before."
Colin Mattey, BT director of Commercial and Brands said: "This project is the latest element in BT's ongoing relationship with the Co-operative Group, having worked with them for several years to implement innovative retail solutions.
"Having an effective communications network is a must in today's digital networked economy. Now we are ensuring the Group can not only improve efficiencies across its business, but accommodate future growth, acquisition and merger strategy."