Africa Nigeria Wema Bank
Nigerian Bank Grows Business and Reduces IT Cost by 20 Percent with Focused Support
Thursday, October 04, 2012

Before it could grow its business, Nigeria's Wema Bank knew that it needed to modernize its IT infrastructure. It turned to Microsoft Services for strategic and operational support. By using Microsoft Premier Support services, the bank was able to quickly support and deploy many new software solutions that helped it create innovative new banking services, attract new customers, stabilize IT services, and reduce IT costs by 20 percent.

Business Needs
Wema Bank is a large financial services provider in Nigeria and the country's oldest indigenous commercial bank. In 2004, the Central Bank of Nigeria set an ambitious goal to strengthen the capital base of all Nigerian financial institutions. To hit these growth goals, Wema Bank knew that it would need to grow its market share and increase profitability.

Meeting the business goals of attracting new customers, increasing profitability, and reducing costs led straight to the IT department. Wema Bank management realized that creating new Internet banking services, making bank systems more reliable, and introducing productivity-enhancing employee services required a modern, flexible IT infrastructure.

"Because we are an older institution, most of our IT systems were stuck in the past, and our customer base was aging," says Olayinka Oni, Divisional Head of IT and Operations at Wema Bank. "We needed a dynamic and flexible IT infrastructure on which we could build new services that would boost employee productivity and attract younger customers."

When Oni took over as the bank's IT chief in 2009, he wanted to gain control of the existing environment to understand how to move it forward to meet the bank's business objectives. He engaged with Microsoft Services to gain both strategic planning assistance and ongoing support in building out a new infrastructure. "A significant portion of our technology was Microsoft software, so it made sense to partner with Microsoft," Oni says.

He hired Microsoft Services for a 10-day Microsoft Services Impact engagement called a Business and IT Strategy Briefing, during which Microsoft worked with Oni to understand the bank's current infrastructure, worked with business stakeholders to understand which services they would like to see, and created a strategic roadmap.

Wema Bank relied on its internal staff to deploy the solutions specified in the strategic plan, which started with a private cloud environment of virtualized HP blade servers running the Windows Server 2008 R2 Datacenter operating system with Hyper-V technology. Wema used Active Directory Domain Services in Windows Server 2008 R2 to create a new directory structure and deployed Microsoft System Center data center solutions to automate most IT management tasks. It also deployed Microsoft Forefront security software to enhance network protection.

To improve employee communication and collaboration, the bank deployed Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 for email messaging, Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 for collaboration, and Microsoft Lync Server 2010 for instant messaging and videoconferencing.

To guide these deployments and align them with IT operations, Wema Bank took advantage of an Operations Strategic Review from Microsoft Services Premier Support. Through a series of discovery sessions, Microsoft Services helped Wema Bank identify specific IT problems, validate the desired environment, and come up with a roadmap for reaching the desired state.

A Microsoft Technical Account Manager was onsite several days a month to answer questions and quickly connect the Wema IT team to Microsoft resources. His deep understanding of the Wema environment helped ensure that any issues were resolved quickly. Wema Bank also used Premier Support workshops to train its IT staff on specific new tools.

By engaging Microsoft Premier Support, Wema Bank has been able to quickly deploy a new IT infrastructure, create new services, grow its business, improve service availability, and reduce costs.

Faster Rollout of New Bank Services
By using Premier Support, Wema Bank was able to get its new environment deployed in eight months and quickly progress to building new solutions on top of it. In about three months, Wema Bank created a customer contact center for providing more knowledgeable 24-hour customer service. It also launched Internet banking services such as a mobile banking solution that lets customers send cash from their mobile phones. "Many of our new services would have been impossible without our virtualized infrastructure and the help of Premier Support. We are now able to very quickly respond to business needs," Oni says.

Ability to Meet Growth Goals
With its new technology infrastructure and Premier Support, Wema Bank has made good progress toward meeting its growth goals. "In the first month of launching our new public website built on SharePoint Server, we had more than 1,000 active followers on our Facebook page," Oni says. Wema also reduced its inactive customer rate from about 50 percent to 30 percent.

Higher Availability of IT Systems
Today, the bank's IT services are more stable, which improves customer confidence and employee productivity. Availability of channel applications, such as ATMs, is more than 90 percent today, up from 65 percent. Email service availability is 99.99 percent versus 70 percent previously.

Significant Decrease in IT Overhead
By modernizing its IT infrastructure, Wema Bank has reduced IT costs by at least 20 percent. This includes a 50 percent reduction in IT staffing, a 45 percent reduction in data center footprint, and the elimination of third-party virus and email filtering programs.

Staff reductions come from a highly automated IT infrastructure that "practically manages itself," says Oni. "We've reduced our server provisioning time from more than an hour to 10 minutes," he says. "We are doing far more with fewer people. Our staff is not absorbed in firefighting, so it can spend time on things like architecting new solutions. We are also solving problems much faster with Premier Support."

In summary, Oni says that he feels the IT department is "one step ahead," instead of constantly playing catch-up. "With Premier Support, we know that our deployments will be successful, and we won't waste time and money on things that will fail," he says. "We have more than a just a vendor relationship with Microsoft; we have a strategic partnership where Microsoft continually focuses us on how technology will add value to the business."

Microsoft Services
Microsoft Services is a global team of professionals who are dedicated to helping customers maximize the value of their investment in Microsoft software. Microsoft Services touches customers more than 715 million times a year, helping them plan, deploy, support and optimize our technologies. They also work closely with Microsoft Partners by sharing their technological expertise and product knowledge on a regular basis.

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