FTN Financial Group—a division of First Tennessee Bank National Association—based its extranet, Internet, and intranet sites on a variety of technologies, including a homegrown system and a third-party offering. The company sought to offer better performance and greater functionality to users. FTN Financial adopted a solution based on Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 and now finds that it can enhance user experience, deliver more powerful search functionality, satisfy requests for new features, and provide faster access to up-to-date information. The company also benefits from enhanced business and IT agility, increased employee productivity, and lower total costs for its Web implementations.
||In terms of organization, architecture, and extensibility, we’re finding that SharePoint Server 2010 has a hands-down advantage over other solutions.
Senior Vice President, Application Development, FTN Financial Group
Reaching out to potential customers and keeping existing customers happy is paramount to business success in just about any industry. Changes in the global economic climate have put members of the financial services industry in even greater competition than before, so providing high-value service is more important than ever.
The FTN Financial Group is an industry leader in fixed-income sales, trading, and strategies for institutional clients in the United States and abroad. FTN Financial also provides investment services and balance sheet management solutions.
FTN Financial serves its customers through its extranet, where customers can log on through a secure portal and obtain economic updates, view publications, perform analyses, and handle their portfolio accounting. In the past, the company relied on a portal engine from an external vendor to provide extranet functionality.
However, that solution was six years old and showing its age. “We’d made the strategic decision not to upgrade that technology because it seemed as though the vendor was moving away from the core functionality that we wanted, but that meant we were using an outdated product,” says Tommy Wright, Senior Vice President of Application Development for FTN Financial Group. “Its page rendering just wasn’t fast enough, and the system also made it difficult for us to create a fresh look or add functionality for our users.”
But it wasn’t just the experiences of extranet users that FTN Financial wanted to improve. The FTN Financial Internet site was built in-house and was also in need of a refresh. “Although the Internet site didn’t require a lot of maintenance, it did involve extra effort to provide certain content elements,” recalls Wright. “For instance, content had to be duplicated and updated in multiple locations. We also wanted to be able to refresh the look and feel of the site more frequently, without a lot of coding.”
Helping users find relevant information on both its extranet and public-facing Internet site was another area where FTN Financial saw room for improvement. The company’s extranet offered the limited search functionality available in the vendor system, and its Internet site used indexing capabilities available through the older Microsoft Internet Information Services 6.0 technologies.
“Searching our extranet was very slow, and we had little control over the search results, so we couldn’t prioritize information that we knew would be of particular interest to customers,” says Jason Parrish, Senior Developer for FTN Financial. The company’s intranet site, which also needed to be reworked for better usability, had no search capabilities at all.
Additionally, FTN Financial found that managing content, such as adding new information, updating older content, and removing out-of-date content, was more time-consuming than it should be. The company’s multiple content managers had to ask the IT staff to post information on the extranet and Internet for them. “Updating the sites demanded about half a full-time IT staff member’s time,” says Wright. “We wanted to enable the content owners to take greater ownership of the extranet and Internet information.”
Adds Parrish, “Updating something on our extranet could take several hours, but the financial markets change by the minute, and we knew that we could help our users if we provided more-current information faster.”Solution
FTN Financial set about finding an answer to its portal and Web site needs. It evaluated a number of technologies, including various leading vendor solutions, some open source offerings, and Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007. Pleased with the Microsoft offering, FTN Financial then learned about soon-to-be-released Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010.
“When we saw that we were right on the cusp of the new SharePoint Server rollout, we decided to get ahead of the curve,” says Craig Estes, Senior Developer for FTN Financial. “In addition to all the functionality that impressed us in the previous version, there were several new features that we were interested in, such as native taxonomy and cross-browser support.”
FTN Financial also determined that the newer product had an even better workflow engine—something that it plans to take advantage of in the future. “We’re in a highly regulated industry, and with SharePoint Server 2010, we’ll be able to automate a lot of required processes without adding a lot of management overhead,” says Wright.
In September 2009, FTN Financial undertook a large-scale project using SharePoint Server 2010 and SharePoint 2010 For Internet Sites. As soon as the product’s beta code became available, the company began loading the code and acclimating itself to the new environment.
As of February 2010, FTN Financial developers had designed and built the company’s Internet site and were making strides toward completing the new extranet portal.
||We’ve found the integrated tools easy to use, even though the world of SharePoint is new to us.
FTN Financial Group
Developers also used a pre-release version of the Microsoft Visual Studio 2010
development system to automate back-end tasks, such as creating user accounts and setting up secure areas for each customer. The company also is using SharePoint Designer 2010 as an administrative desktop application to edit pages and set up lists. “We’ve found the integrated tools easy to use, even though the world of SharePoint is new to us,” says Estes.
FTN Financial is relying on five IBM BladeCenter HS22 blade servers to run its extranet and Internet sites, and, soon, its intranet site. Two of the servers are dedicated to running SharePoint Server 2010, one is a development server, one runs the Microsoft SQL Server 2008 data management software, and another is a backup database server. The company plans to launch its new extranet and Internet sites at the end of March 2010, leaving it to focus on its new intranet portal, which is expected to go live in May 2010.Benefits
FTN Financial is using SharePoint Server 2010 to deliver more up-to-date information, better search functionality, and the flexibility to alter its extranet, Internet, and intranet sites as necessary. The company expects its new solution to boost employee productivity and lower its total costs for Web implementations.
“In terms of organization, architecture, and extensibility, we’re finding that SharePoint Server 2010 has a hands-down advantage over other solutions. We now have a richer set of tools than our competitors do, so we can add sophistication to both our information and our means of delivering it,” says Wright. Improved Value
The extranet and Internet sites have page-rendering times that are more than 12 times faster than before, and overall site navigation has improved. “We’re aiming for ‘one-click’ navigation so that customers can get to the right information more quickly,” says Parrish.
FTN Financial also is using SharePoint Server 2010 functionality to make it possible for extranet users to update their own profile information and subscribe to specific publications, which will be automatically delivered as soon as FTN Financial content managers post them. “Because SharePoint Server 2010 is so easy to work with, we can satisfy requests for additional functionality, which we haven’t been able to do up to this point,” says Estes.Enhanced Search Capabilities
By including a comprehensive search component in its solution, FTN Financial has enabled its users to find the information they are looking for much faster than they could with the company’s previous limited search capabilities. It also gained control over the search taxonomy, which will allow FTN Financial to enhance the search features even further.Greater Flexibility
FTN Financial has been impressed by the extensibility of SharePoint Server 2010. “We appreciate that we can add more graphical elements and change the whole style of our sites so quickly,” says Wright. “In addition to taking advantage of the useful out-of-the-box functionality, we can choose to substitute components with our own elements for a more customized look.”
And thanks to the cross-browser capabilities of SharePoint Server 2010, the company no longer has to require customers to use a particular browser for the extranet to operate properly, thus making it more accessible.
Ease of Use and Increased Productivity
||If you can edit a Microsoft Office Word document, you can easily handle updating our Web sites hosted on the SharePoint Server 2010 platform.
Senior Vice President, Application Development, FTN Financial Group
The company anticipates that its content managers will require minimal training to properly upload and manage information on the new sites. “If you can edit a Microsoft Office Word document, you can easily handle updating our Web sites hosted on the SharePoint Server 2010 platform,” comments Wright. “Even though we’re making a cultural change in adopting a new solution, we anticipate a lot of user acceptance because it’s such a straightforward product.”
FTN Financial expects that its IT staff will no longer have to spend hours each day dealing with content because content owners will manage it for themselves. And for content owners, keeping the sites up-to-date will actually take less time. Content owners can upload the information right away and ensure that it appears the way that they want it to. The proper approvals for content updates also can be automated using SharePoint Server 2010.
IT staff also will benefit from rapid solution development with SharePoint Server 2010. “When we build custom Web parts, we can use them on all three sites, which is a huge advantage,” says Estes. “For example, getting the extranet ready for a new publication could take a whole day, requiring different people to contribute to the process. Now with SharePoint Server 2010, it might take a single person a couple of hours, if that.”
Continues Estes, “It’s important to note that we’ve had six years of experience in working with our previous systems. We’ve only had a few months with SharePoint Server 2010 and we’re already able to do things more quickly than we could before.” Lower Total Cost of Ownership
FTN Financial appreciates the lower costs of the SharePoint Server 2010 solution, as compared with its previous systems. “The pricing model proved to be better for us,” says Wright. “With our previous vendor solution, we had to pay per seat, which even extended to our external users. As a result, we couldn’t afford to make our extranet available to all our customers. With SharePoint Server 2010 and SharePoint 2010 For Internet Sites, we’re not limited in terms of the number of customers that we can bring onto the extranet."
“With SharePoint Server 2010, we’re anticipating a lower total cost of ownership based on the purchases we’ve made so far and our expected maintenance versus what we had to spend with the previous vendor solution and our homegrown system. And we’re getting so much more for that lower cost,” adds Wright.Better User Retention
By increasing the speed of its sites and the timeliness and relevance of its information, FTN Financial believes that it will reach new audiences.
In addition, the company will know which customers are viewing what specific information because SharePoint Server 2010 makes it easy to gather site-usage metrics. “In the past, we had to put together site-usage information manually, which was a significant effort,” says Wright. “But now we’ll have easy insight into which areas are the most popular and which perhaps need to be changed.”
Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010
Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 is the business collaboration platform for the Enterprise and the Internet.
For more information about Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010, go to:For More Information
For more information about Microsoft products and services, call the Microsoft Sales Information Center at (800) 426-9400. In Canada, call the Microsoft Canada Information Centre at (877) 568-2495. Customers in the United States and Canada who are deaf or hard-of-hearing can reach Microsoft text telephone (TTY/TDD) services at (800) 892-5234. Outside the 50 United States and Canada, please contact your local Microsoft subsidiary. To access information using the World Wide Web, go to:
FTN Financial Group, FTN Financial Capital Markets, and FTN Financial Portfolio Advisors are divisions of First Tennessee Bank National Association (FTB). FTN Financial Securities Corp (FFSC) and FTN Financial Capital Assets Corporation are wholly owned subsidiaries of FTB. FFSC is a member of the FINRA and SIPC: www.sipc.org. FTN Financial Group, through First Tennessee Bank or its affiliates, offers investment products and services. For more information about FTN Financial Group products and services, call (800) 456-5460, or visit the website at: