The Greater Amman Municipality is responsible for delivering public services to a largely urban community in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. The Mayor of Greater Amman H.E. Omar Maani leads an organization with 22,000 employees—including a highly experienced senior management team—working from 130 separate sites. The authority’s business needs are mostly focused on supporting the delivery of front-line services to citizens.
Given pressures on public spending in the current global economic climate, Mayor Maani and his executive team were concerned at the rising travel budget for staff and the growing burden of communications costs. The authority as a whole is highly dispersed and public expectations for service delivery have been rising in line with directives from central government.
Mayor Maani—who has been in the post since 2006—brings a wealth of private sector business experience to his role. He was keen to support a restructuring of the authority’s management and improve efficiency with an investment in innovative technologies. The project started with the top layer of management, including the Mayor’s office and the executive directors responsible for particular public services.
Sakher Al Khreisha, IT Executive Director, Greater Amman Municipality, says: “Previously, our senior managers were obliged to travel for face-to-face meetings by car through congested traffic because there was no alternative. Internal communication was by phone and paper, using fax machines and letters. External communication was expensive and time consuming and video conferencing was not an option.”
The authority is part of the Secure Government Network (SGN) and the Mayor’s ambition is to improve communication both within the organization and with 58 other government entities linked to the SGN.
The authority initially piloted a Cisco unified communications solution. It then switched to Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 R2 with Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 and Microsoft Office Communicator 2007 R2 for the client side. Al Khreisha explains the reasons for choosing Microsoft. “It offered us a lower total cost of ownership, more agility, and improved ease of use compared to other tools available on the market,” he says.
The authority is committed to playing an active role in helping Jordan achieve the objectives of His Majesty King Abdallah II, who wants to make the country an information and communications technology hub for the region. Microsoft Jordan, which is staffed entirely by Jordanians, is well equipped to support those ambitions. The Jordanian government has a Microsoft Enterprise Agreement for Volume Licensing, so the authority was able to save money on licenses.
With the new tools, users can now communicate with instant messaging, voice, and video-conferencing features, and are able to switch seamlessly between different communications channels. When users log off their office networks, calls can automatically go to their mobile devices without having to set up manual call forwarding. Al Khreisha says the aim is to extend the solution authority-wide to 2,000 users in 2010, and a further 2,000 in 2011.
Microsoft Gold Certified Partner Professional Advanced Infrastructure Solutions (PAIS), which is a Microsoft Voice Specialized Partner for unified communications, is managing the systems integration work at the authority. Wajeeh Al Mesherky, Chief Executive Officer, PAIS, says: “We handled the first deployment of unified communications in Jordan and have brought our specialized knowledge to the implementation for the municipality, which is the largest in the country so far.”
The Greater Amman Municipality will experience a significant cut in telephone and travel costs when the solution is fully implemented. By starting with senior managers, there is now complete buy-in from the Mayor’s office, which will help with employee adoption. The pilot project—with 35 users, including the Mayor and his senior management team—was highly successful and resulted in productivity gains by all senior managers. Mayor Maani says: “Unified communications are already resulting in a culture change within the authority. With better tools for collaboration, we’ve improved decision making and service delivery to citizens.”
- Authority saves on travel costs and telephone charges. The estimated reduction in travel costs is 45 per cent of the annual budget, while telephony charges are forecast to drop by 35 per cent.
- Video conferencing saves travelling time. The pilot project showed significant time savings for the senior management team, with video conferences replacing meetings that previously involved directors travelling between locations. Al Khreisha says: “Traffic congestion in the capital can get pretty bad—senior managers’ time no longer needs to be wasted on the road.”
- Carbon foot print is reduced. The authority is making a contribution to cutting the carbon footprint of the public sector in Jordan, in line with government policies. Lower mileage results in less fuel consumption and fewer carbon emissions.
- Instant messaging helps improve internal communication. The pilot project showed how features of unified communications such as instant messaging and presence have improved performance. Al Khreisha says: “When the Mayor, for example, asks the City Manager a question on the phone and he doesn’t know the answer, he can use instant messaging to get the information from a colleague without having to call back later.”
- Foundation for wider collaboration within the public sector. Greater Amman Municipality has pioneered unified communications in the public sector in Jordan. The authority expects that it will eventually use Office Communications Server 2007 R2 to link with 58 government entities once they have the appropriate infrastructure.
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