Middle East–based Arab African International Bank (AAIB), with its head office in Cairo, wanted to reduce costs and improve productivity with a new unified communications and collaboration solution. AAIB chose Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 R2 and Microsoft Exchange Server 2007, with Windows Server 2008 replacing Lotus Notes on IBM AS/400. By standardizing on Microsoft technology, the infrastructure is easier to manage, and integrates well with other line-of-business applications.
One of the fastest expanding banks in Egypt, AAIB is a joint venture between the Central Bank of Egypt and the Kuwait Investment Authority, incorporated in 1964.
From its early beginnings in commercial and investment banking, AAIB has diversified into retail financial services. The bank has a growing reputation for its expertise in using technology to deliver products and services to its customers.
As part of a review of its communications infrastructure—both at branches in Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East—AAIB approached Microsoft Services for advice on implementing a unified communications and collaboration solution. The company faced several challenges—a central one being high bandwidth and communication costs for fixed lines.
Dr. Ashraf Sabry, Chief Information Officer, Arab African International Bank, says: “Our previous internal system relied on Lotus Notes with external e-mail hosting using Microsoft Exchange Server 2003. We wanted to improve the IT support service to our 2,000 users by giving them a single standardized messaging and collaboration suite with the added benefit of unified messaging and presence features.”
AAIB was also concerned with achieving a low total cost of ownership, but with the reassurance that its new communications and productivity suite would be supplied by a vendor that was highly committed to providing excellent service. Existing applications would remain on AS/400, but all new in-house developed solutions would be built in the new environment.
AAIB specified a suite of integrated products capable of supporting collaboration technology, such as calendaring, e-mail messaging, Web conferencing, and instant messaging. AAIB also wanted to ensure that its new system was resilient and included a disaster recovery solution.Solution
The bank decided to consolidate external and internal e-mail messaging into one system using Microsoft Exchange Server 2007. As a result, it moved the external e-mail system—which was previously handled by an Internet service provider—in-house. The bank also signed a Microsoft Enterprise Agreement for Volume Licensing and standardized on the Windows Server 2008 operating system.
The deployment included Microsoft Office Outlook 2007 messaging and collaboration client, and Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 R2 for unified messaging and presence awareness. The bank also implemented Microsoft Office Live Meeting for Web conferencing. These products use the Active Directory service for simplifying password administration, ensuring single sign on, and improving overall security.
Other technologies include Microsoft SQL Server 2005 data management software for non-core banking applications such as human resources, Hyper-V virtualization technology for the disaster recovery site, and Microsoft Forefront Client Security for protection against viruses and malware. AAIB has also deployed Microsoft Internet Security and Acceleration (ISA) Server 2006 to complete its security portfolio. In addition, Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 has been deployed and internal sites created.
Nile.Com—a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner and solution provider of infrastructure and security engineering services—managed the systems integration, with the solution going live in 2009. Mohammed Abdel Wahab, Unified Communications Technical Consultant, Nile.com, says: “We took around a month to deploy presence, instant messaging, and conferencing. And we now have 200 users enjoying unified communications. Use is increasing as employees become familiar with a new way of working.”
Sabry says: “We enjoyed good support from Microsoft Services in the design phases, and Nile.Com did a great job with the systems integration with our line-of-business applications. It completed the deployment within a challenging timeframe.”Benefits
AAIB is making significant savings on its communications budget, having standardized on the Microsoft unified communications and messaging technology. Sabry says: “Productivity gains made possible with Microsoft unified communications technology are already apparent, as are the features that help us respond more efficiently to customers. However, the principal benefit is reduced costs. It’s too early to give specific figures, but the savings are significant.”
Ongoing technical support from Microsoft Premier Support Services. With its Microsoft Services Enterprise Agreement, AAIB receives ongoing technical support through Software Assurance, which cuts the need for expensive third-party services. Previously, Web site administration was outsourced, whereas now it is internally managed.
IT team freed for higher value work. The team of 20 IT professionals at AAIB no longer has to cope with performance and usability issues, so it can concentrate on development projects. These include desktop virtualization, migration to Windows 7, and Hyper-V server consolidation.
Familiar Microsoft user interfaces speed adoption. Employees were already using other Microsoft technologies, so the familiar look and feel of the interfaces means they require little training, reducing costs and increasing productivity.
Microsoft commitment to unified communications encourages confidence. Sabry says: “The investment by Microsoft in research and development into unified communications is impressive. It gives AAIB the confidence that Microsoft has a long-term commitment to unified communications.”
Applications developed in Microsoft environment. Previously, applications were developed for AS/400, but now all new applications are developed using the Microsoft .NET Framework.
Office SharePoint Server adds new collaboration features. AAIB is continuing to develop new collaboration features with Office SharePoint Server 2007, including document management and blogs.
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