Crédit Agricole S.A. is Europe’s leading banking group in terms of retail banking revenues. The bank has over 9,089 branches in France and operates in 70 countries with 161,800 employees worldwide. Using the improved conferencing capabilities in Microsoft® Office Communications Server 2007 R2, Crédit Agricole plans to facilitate enhanced collaboration, helping financial experts share information more easily and make better business decisions. The company expects to reduce travel by ten to twenty percent and estimates that annual conferencing costs could decrease by €150,000 (U.S.$205,177) for just one subsidiary with 5,000 employees. For Crédit Agricole, these cost reductions are critical to support cost-control efforts motivated by the 2008 international financial crisis.
Headquartered in Paris, France, Crédit Agricole S.A. is Europe’s leading banking group in terms of retail banking revenues. The bank serves 26 million private customers through more than 9,000 branches in France. Crédit Agricole has a worldwide reach to more than 70 countries that is strongly supported by its status as France’s leading bank, serving 28 percent of all households in France.
With the international financial crisis of 2008, the bank has increased its focus on containing costs. In order to maintain its position as a leader in retail banking, Crédit Agricole must continue to control growth in expenses. The bank also wants to be sure that it effectively manages the risk of its portfolio of assets.
One area of operational cost for the bank is its travel expenses, because many bank employees travel frequently.
- Executives travel for many reasons, including attending meetings to make operational and strategic decisions.
- Financial experts travel to exchange information related to business regulation, standard practices, and new products.
- Training instructors frequently travel to several branches weekly.
In addition to the cost of transportation and hotels, the cost of productive time lost due to travel can be significant. Yannick Flégeau, Senior IT Architect, IT Research and Development Team, Crédit Agricole S.A., explains, “We have many branches that are spread out. Even just within the Paris region, it may take 1.5 hours to get from one branch to another.”
The bank also wants to help employees work together more effectively and efficiently. IT is aligning its technology strategy to support the bank’s business strategy. The bank will use unified communications to support its cost-control efforts and realize business value through effective collaboration. “Our focus is on collaboration,” says Flégeau. “We plan to use our unified communications infrastructure to share expertise throughout our network, regardless of location.”
Crédit Agricole currently depends on several vendors and tools for audio conferencing. However, its current solutions lack tight integration with their e-mail and calendar client, the Microsoft® Office Outlook® 2007 messaging and collaboration client.
Crédit Agricole has deployed Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007, one of the cornerstones of unified communications solutions from Microsoft, providing instant messaging, presence, voice communications, as well as audio, video, and Web conferencing. Employees also can make, receive, and manage phone calls from their computers by using the Microsoft Office Communicator client.
||For most video conferencing needs, we will use large high-definition monitors, Microsoft RoundTable, and Office Communications Server. This solution is more cost effective than other video conferencing solutions on the market.
Senior IT Architect, IT Research and Development Team, Crédit Agricole S.A
The bank takes advantage of the Web conferencing capabilities of Office Communications Server 2007 using the Microsoft Office Live Meeting client. Jean Philippe Blanchard, IT Research and Development Team Manager, says, “Live Meeting has been very effective for scheduled meetings when all users are on Office Communications Server.” However, the bank wants to improve the ability to utilize Web conferencing for quick meetings and exchanges, in addition to external meetings or meetings with users without access to Office Live Meeting.
Crédit Agricole decided to participate in the Microsoft Rapid Deployment Program (RDP) for Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 R2. The company has deployed the upgrade to 250 users with a minimal investment compared to its return. The total cost of the pilot deployment is estimated to be €55,000 (U.S.$75,168).
Office Communications Server 2007 R2 supports audio conferencing bridges on the server. With this capability, bank employees will be able to participate in both audio conferences and the audio portion of Office Communications Server Web conferences from a mobile or home phone if they are out of the office. IT also can open up audio conferences to external users. All of the new capabilities are hosted internally.
Flégeau explains how conferencing will improve. “The added value is the sharing of information. With Office Communications Server 2007 R2, we can maximize use of Live Meeting or desktop sharing through Office Communicator for quick meetings or exchanges.” He continues, “In addition, when participants can’t access Live Meeting, they will still be able to access the meeting through audio conferencing.”
The bank has defined several scenarios that show how it plans to use Office Communications Server 2007 R2 to collaborate, boost productivity, and save costs.
In the first scenario, a meeting of financial experts share information on the topic of inheritance management. Since the deployment of Office Communications Server, the ten geographically dispersed team members can stay in their offices and conduct the meeting via Web conference, instead of traveling. Thanks to this new means of communication, they can still effectively exchange information on their business: regulation, finance law, standard practice, new products, and so on. Newly appointed team members are profiting greatly from these meetings. The more experienced employees communicate with and train the new ones.
The second scenario is ‘three-way banking,’ which includes the client, the agent, and the expert. An individual accounts agent meets with a wealthy client in a branch. The client asks a complex question about estate tax that the accounts agent cannot answer. Through integrated presence, the accounts agent can see that an estate tax expert is available. Even though 50 km. away, the expert can join a video conference through Office Communications Server 2007 R2 to answer the customer’s questions.
The third scenario involves international employees. Blanchard explains, “We have thousands of people working outside of France who need to talk to colleagues in France on a daily basis. In the past, they had to incur large international phone charges for these conversations or, even worse, spend time and money on travel.” With Office Communications Server 2007 R2, employees have the ability to make calls over the Internet or corporate Wide Area Network (WAN) for free instead of using the phone system and paying toll charges.
Additionally, the bank is using Office Communications 2007 R2 in sales coaching, training of branch employees, and the review of the risk in an asset portfolio by multiple team members who work in different locations.
In all of these cases, business users benefit from the tight integration of Office Communications Server 2007 R2 capabilities with Office Outlook and Office Communicator. Blanchard says, “The tight integration allows employees to more easily schedule meetings.”
||The tight integration of Office Communications Server 2007 R2 allows employees to more easily schedule meetings.
||Jean Philippe Blanchard
IT Research and Development Team Manager, Crédit Agricole S.A.
“For most video conferencing needs, we will use large high-definition monitors, Microsoft RoundTable, and Office Communications Server,” explains Flégeau. “This solution is more cost effective than other video conferencing solutions on the market.” Microsoft RoundTable™ communications and archival system delivers an immersive meeting experience to all involved, providing a real-time, 360-degree panoramic video of everyone in a conference room and automatically focusing on the current speaker. Even more, it can record the audio and video of the content, synchronizing it with presentation content, so Credit Agricole employees can quickly fast-forward or rewind the recording to review the most relevant content. Flégeau adds, “People like RoundTable—it is very efficient.”
With the deployment of Office Communications Server 2007 R2, Crédit Agricole expects to improve its communications capabilities with little additional investment. The bank will use it to optimize processes and realize economic savings, notably by reducing the need for travel and reducing audio conferencing costs. By realizing these goals, the bank will move further toward its goal of reducing its cost-to-income ratio.
Reduced Conferencing and Telephony Costs
To save money and benefit from easy scheduling, Crédit Agricole is progressively implementing the internally hosted audio conferencing service through Office Communications Server. In just one subsidiary of 5,000 employees, the annual expected cost savings from audio conferencing could be €150,000 (U.S.$205,177). The bank would gain this savings from reducing its dependency on external audio conferencing services.
Flégeau also points to significant savings for the thousands of workers outside of France who call France on a regular basis. “The cost can be thousands of Euros every month for those working in a country such as Ukraine, if someone has to call France regularly.” By using the capability in Office Communications Server to make calls over the Internet or WAN, this cost could drop to zero.
Credit Agricole views the video functions in Office Communications Server 2007 as a good way of improving the range of services available to customers in its regional banks and local branches. With its video conferencing solution based on Microsoft technology, including Microsoft RoundTable and Office Communications Server 2007, Crédit Agricole is saving thousands of Euros on video conferencing, compared to costs of competitive products
Reduced Travel Costs
Blanchard offers a simple cost-benefit justification for implementing Office Communications Server 2007 R2. “We did a simulation of ROI and found that if each employee that gets Office Communications Server reduces travel by one trip—even just within France—it would cover all of the costs of the infrastructure.” For most employees, the bank expects a much greater reduction than one trip per year—possibly a 10 percent to 20 percent decrease attributable to using Office Communications Server.
In the Inheritance Management scenario described earlier, employees use Office Communications Server Web conferencing capabilities to help to eliminate travel. In this scenario, each participant can eliminate two to three hours of travel with each meeting by Web conference. Travel within France can normally cost hundreds of Euros and international trips can be greater than €1,000.
Better Business Decisions and Faster Reaction
Flégeau describes a typical situation for a meeting that brought together managers from different regions. “Before, they may have had one in-person meeting every other month. Now, with Office Communications Server, we can reduce the number of in-person meetings to two per year and have virtual meetings on a more frequent basis, such as every month.” Because individuals can reduce work time lost due to travel, overall time spent in meetings can increase, without sacrificing overall time spent on the project. Flégeau adds, “With the new process, staff can react faster to changing conditions and make quicker business decisions.”
“With Office Communications Server 2007 R2, we will experience better project management and faster decision making, especially where employees are working in different offices or at remote sites,” says Flégeau. “It can be used by teleworkers, mobile users, and remote users with a personal disability, and provide a richer communication experience.”
Significantly Increased Employee Productivity
By implementing unified communications, the bank can support new ways of working for financial experts and make possible what Flégeau describes as “a new leap of productivity” for information workers. He estimates that by using Office Communications Server 2007 R2, he saves several minutes per day that was previously wasted switching between applications or making follow-up calls to colleagues who were not at their desks.
Employees experience better productivity when able to work even when away from the office. “This morning I was making phone calls without being in the office,” Flégeau says. “I was working at home using all the communication tools available to me in the office— such as a fixed line, e-mail, instant messaging, video conferencing, and audio conferencing—from a single interface. If everyone used Office Communications Server, we would see a real culture change within the organization.”
Blanchard adds that this technology provides a teleworking solution. In fact, Credit Agricole now uses Office Communicator for a disabled employee working from home. This increases the integration with the enterprise team and decreases the isolation remote employees can experience.
Simplified Network Infrastructure Management
In the pilot program, the bank used Office Communications Server 2007 R2 to create a simplified and easier-to-manage network infrastructure that is cost-effective, flexible, and scalable, and provides the bank with automated provisioning. “It delivers unification on the systems side, consolidation of a client with a familiar toolset for users, and unifies the network layer,” says Flégeau.
Flégeau continues, “With Office Communications Server 2007 R2, it is possible to integrate data and voice. We will be able to greatly reduce operational costs by consolidating and integrating communications technologies.”
Flégeau concludes, “Office Communications Server is a new productivity tool—simple and effective. But it’s also an amazing tool that changes the way people do things—creating a completely new paradigm. We have shown conclusively through the pilot program that Office Communications Server is suited to different user scenarios in the retail banking sector. It is one of the best unified communications solutions for the core business of the bank—improving services and generating more income from retail banking customers.”
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