Saudi steel firm Al-Ittefaq Steel Products Company (ISPC) wanted to use a systems upgrade as a catalyst to improve IT services. In 2009, the firm signed a Microsoft Services Premier Support agreement, with a three-year extension in 2010. This
enabled a technical account manager to work onsite as a technology guide, hold technology workshops to train the IT team, and engage operations consultants to re-engineer IT service processes. As a result, IT projects deliver anticipated cost benefits and
IT issues are quickly resolved.
The IT Team at Al-Ittefaq Steel Products Company (ISPC) has to support a wide mix of IT needs at 10 factories and six sales and administrative offices across Saudi Arabia. To save costs during the global financial crisis, the firm delayed updating its
Microsoft business productivity and email software. As a result, when business confidence returned in late 2009, the IT team faced a major upgrade challenge.
“We needed to skip a few versions of Microsoft Office, Exchange, and Windows systems, but before proceeding, we wanted to rethink our IT,” says Hammad Amjad, Senior Manager for Information Technology Services at ISPC. “We wanted to provide a faster, more
responsive service to the 1,100 IT users who use Microsoft solutions. To achieve this, we didn’t just want new technology; we wanted to improve our technical skills and IT service processes too.”
“It is our vision to maximize the automation of information technology processes to increase human productivity,” says Shabir Rafiqi, Head of Information Systems and Service at ISPC. “That will enable us to focus on improving IT services and help in further
enhancing efficiency in operations.”
In line with this vision, Amjad identified three key areas where he wanted to change the way his IT team worked. First, he wanted to make the firm’s IT environment easier to manage so that his colleagues could be more proactive in addressing problems. This
meant acquiring good system-management and monitoring tools, and making sure his staff knew how to use them.
Amjad also wanted to improve his team’s technical capabilities. He believed that many existing availability incidents stemmed from systems being either misconfigured or inadequately updated. He wanted his staff to receive expert training so that they could
become system-support specialists.
For Amjad, improving IT services procedures was the third key objective. “IT issues took much too long to resolve; we needed to respond faster,” he says. “We needed smarter processes so that our IT service desk and engineers could collaborate quickly and
In 2010, ISPC commenced a three-year strategic partnership with Microsoft, under an agreement called Microsoft Services Premier Support. This agreement provides ISPC with a highly experienced technical account manager (TAM), who works directly with Amjad
to align IT with business objectives, address IT issues, and ensure goals are achieved.
||Technical account managers are enablers. They bring the benefits of technology into our company, not just the technology. As guides, they help us focus on what’s most important to our business.
| Hammad Amjad
Senior Manager for Information Technologies, Al-Ittefaq Steel Products Company
“The first step was to use our Premier Service Delivery Methodology to create a long-term roadmap for improvements,” says Ahmad Al-Mohamed, Senior Technical Account Manager at Microsoft. “This roadmap sets out the key steps we had to take to improve the long-term
health of ISPC IT systems, and to improve skills and optimize working processes.”
Over the subsequent three years, the TAM provided the practical and technical help the ISPC IT staff needed to deploy a succession of upgrades. These included Microsoft Exchange Server 2010, Microsoft Office 2010, Microsoft Lync Server 2010, Microsoft SharePoint
Server 2010, and the Windows Server 2008 R2 operating system. To ensure each system was properly configured, the TAM used health checks and organized Premier Support field engineers to come and conduct risk assessments, followed by remediation engagements.
As part of the IT Service improvement roadmap, the TAM arranged an onsite Microsoft Operations Foundation workshop. This was designed to help foster better alignment across the IT team. Attended by 25 to 30 IT staff members, the workshop was an opportunity
for the firm’s IT staff to adopt concepts of IT service management improvement and learn from Microsoft experts how to run IT services more efficiently.
To automate routine server and system tasks, TAM and ISPC senior IT engineers deployed the Microsoft Services Roles and Knowledge Management (RKM) solution. This systematically defines all IT service tasks, assigns them to specific roles, and establishes
clear lines of service responsibility. With each issue and action logged by the Service Manager component of Microsoft System Center 2012, ISPC IT was able to create a service desk that works quickly, logically, and transparently. The team also learned how
to proactively monitor systems using Microsoft System Center 2012.
With sustained assistance from a Premier Support TAM, ISPC has smoothly reengineered its technology, improved its IT skills, and streamlined its IT service processes. As a result, new systems are stable, highly secure, and easier to maintain, while 1,100
users receive a faster IT service.
Practical Technology Guidance
Besides ensuring that new systems worked, ISPC IT and the TAM worked together to achieve specific business goals. One example is an auto-archiving feature integrated into Exchange by a field engineer that now saves SAR200,000 [US$53,000] in storage costs.
“Technical account managers are enablers,” says Amjad. “They bring the benefits of technology into our company, not just the technology. As guides, they help us focus on what’s most important to our business.”
Efficient Business Processes
With defined roles and responsibilities for each member of the IT team, systems are rigorously monitored and maintained. According to Amjad, everyone from service desk workers to IT engineers now knows exactly what jobs they need to perform each day,
each week, and each month.
“All our updates happen on time, and we respond to incidents much faster,” he says. “As a result, the average time for incident resolution has dropped from about 40 hours to just 5 hours. With the new System Center tools, I now know about any major IT incident
in our steel plant, before it has any effect on the business.
Proactive Service Culture
With the aid of advanced workshops, proven methodologies, and Microsoft specialists, ISPC has improved IT skills and engineered a change in service culture.
“Now we are a service-driven team, with the skills to be highly responsive,” says Amjad. “This culture change is spreading across the company, which is very important. Creating a service culture is how a specialist company like ISPC Steel can embrace tomorrow.
What we do keeps us in business, but how we do it—that’s what gives us an advantage.”
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