Amlak Finance, the largest real estate financier in the Middle East by market value and total assets, needed to cut the time spent approving internal staff requests. As a rules-based organisation, it wanted to integrate any new technology with existing applications. The organisation chose a system based on Microsoft® Office SharePoint® Server 2007 workflow management technology, involving an initial 54 automated business processes.
Established in 2000, Amlak Finance transformed into a public entity in 2004 and is currently the largest publicly owned Islamic finance company in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), with an estimated 30,030 shareholders, as of March 2008. The company’s primary activity is offering medium to long-term financing solutions for residential and commercial properties in the UAE. While real estate finance remains the core business of Amlak, the home finance provider is constantly developing innovative products. It strives to meet customers’ demands and market conditions by offering Islamic financing solutions, real estate management, and the management of sales.
Amlak is a highly sophisticated finance house that—due to security requirements—has many policies, procedures, and rules governing its internal processes. Until recently, its business processes were largely manual and paper based, resulting in inefficiencies and high costs for the organisation and its shareholders.
Khaled Khaled, System Administrator at Amlak, says: “Several workflows have been built with various degrees of complexity. For example, in procurement a form first goes to different levels in the finance department to check budget—then to the manager, head of department, and finally chief executive. We wanted all of this to happen online without having to move the original paper form.”
Amlak already used a custom-built portal to store and share documents, but did not have a business process automation system. Sameh Bushnaq, IT Infrastructure Manager at Amlak, says: “Previously, there was no system for workflows, and, as a result, our staff were not working to their full potential. We wanted a paperless working environment and documentation of all processes.”
A leading solution provider for Microsoft Office SharePoint Server, Ramco, has allocated a team of its business experts along with assistance from Microsoft Gulf to support the business case for using Microsoft technology.
Vigorous presentations, analysis, and a proof of concept showing how business processes could be re-engineered drove Amlak to choose a system based on Office SharePoint Server 2007 workflow management technology. Three technology specialists from Ramco helped Amlak staff deploy the solution.
Nohad Abbas, Branch Manager—Business Solutions, Ramco, says: “The client expected just 54 processes in phase one between April and August 2008, but this was exceeded. We have now started phase two for 70 more processes covering all departments. Phase three will automate even more processes and set up a dashboard for all pending approvals.”
Hussein Taher, Technology Specialist, Ramco, adds: “Office SharePoint Server 2007 is an out-of-the-box solution, but it’s easy to customise. We used the Microsoft Office InfoPath 2007 information-gathering program for developing XML-based user forms for integration between the existing Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 collaboration technology and Office SharePoint Server 2007. We also created Web Parts using the Microsoft Visual Studio 2008 Professional Edition development system.”
In addition, the e-mail system using Exchange Server 2007 sends escalations and alerts, so tasks are delegated automatically. And built-in security in Exchange Server provides permissions and privileges for users. Khaled adds: “Hussein and his team were very supportive—quick deployment and ease of customisation were key features for us.”
Amlak expects the turn around time for online request approval to increase dramatically after the completion of phase three of the Office SharePoint Server 2007 implementation. With a paperless office, senior managers will benefit from greater visibility of operational processes.
- Senior managers no longer deal with unnecessary or trivial requests to review paper documents. They have clear visibility of all processes within the company.
- Workflows for procurement are now intelligent and result in faster and more accurate decision making in line with the company’s rules-based policies.
- Managers have peace of mind concerning compliance with company procedures in a fast-moving business environment.
- Workflow delegates key decisions to the correct stakeholder within the enterprise, ensuring requests go to employees with the appropriate level of responsibility.
- The workflow system is scalable and can be rolled out to the company’s international operations.
- The technology is user friendly for staff—only one day’s training was required for each user.
- Office SharePoint Server 2007 can publish documents in languages other than English, including Arabic.
- The workflow system integrates with other core business applications and Web-supported systems, which are accessed through Office SharePoint Server 2007.
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