Intent on keeping its position as one of the top four leading Lebanese banks, Fransabank decided that leveraging the newest technologies, paricularly Microsoft technologies, would be part of its IT strategy. Embarking on a strategic collaboration to integrate Microsoft technologies with its systems allowed Fransabank to gain significant benefits in terms of resource optimization, higher productivity, cost-savings, and enhanced security.
In 2007, Fransabank, the oldest bank in Lebanon, decided that leveraging the newest technologies was essential for keeping its position as one of the top four leading Lebanese banks. Although Fransabank, established in 1921, continued to experience strong growth and had the largest network of branches in Lebanon, its systems were showing signs of inadequacy to meet the demands of business growth and customer expectations. Khaled Dankar, Fransabank Head of Alternative Delivery Channels, remembers, "From the business perspective, we couldn’t readily give what our staff wanted; if they had a requirement, it would take time to get it done. Without adequate tools, it was difficult to meet staff needs." As well, the increasing threat from viruses and malware prompted tighter controls and systems. "It was a hassle in terms of maintaining the system because of a lack of centralization. There could be viruses," said Khaled. Adding to the difficulties was a lack of infrastructure that integrated and connected the bank’s more than 1,000 computer machines. As a result, fixing PCs and dealing with technical issues at the bank was problematic.
The need to leverage the newest technologies was also becoming more apparent to Mrad Mrad, Fransabank’s Deputy Head of the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Division. He said, "I sensed that, given Microsoft’s pioneering strength in ICT, deploying Microsoft technologies should become part of Fransabank’s IT strategy." In 2008, Fransabank started a series of meetings with Microsoft Services Lebanon to discuss how to put the proper IT infrastructure in place at the bank and how the bank’s IT infrastructure could be optimised. Michael Sengakis, Account Technology Strategist - Enterprise & Partner Group of Microsoft Services Lebanon & Indirect Markets, suggested a roadmap for Fransabank that established priorities, best solutions, and best business practices in IT for the bank. Michael and the Fransabank IT team agreed that they could do something for the coming years, and scope something that is scalable and could be upgraded later to help business operations.
In 2008, Fransabank decided that Microsoft technologies would play a central role in the bank’s operations. The bank reached the decision after the ICT team headed by Mrad built a business case on how Microsoft technologies - considered superior and more responsive to customer needs - would benefit Fransabank. For the deployment and implementation of Microsoft technologies, the bank chose Microsoft Services Lebanon over Microsoft partners, despite the higher cost. Fransabank considered that working with Microsoft Services Lebanon would give them the highest levels of expertise and experience, and ensure that implementation and deployment would be faster. In addition, said Khaled, "Microsoft Services Lebanon had what we wanted; if we asked them for something, they were easily in a position to deliver."
The initial engagement started in 2008 with the deployment of Microsoft Exchange 2007 and Microsoft System Center 2007. Microsoft Exchange 2007 provided Fransabank staff with secure and reliable email, calendar and contacts on their PCs, phones and web browsers. Microsoft System Center 2007 provided the tools to detect, diagnose, and correct problems in the bank’s computing environment and automate common management tasks. Subsequently, Fransabank deployed Microsoft Active Directory for better network administration and security. That same year, in order to improve server utilization and reduce costs, Fransabank also deployed its infrastructure on Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2008 R2, a hypervisor-based server virtualization that allows workloads to be consolidated into fewer physical servers. In addition, to ensure that it had access to customizable, expert support 24/7 that proactively addressed risks, minimized downtimes, and streamlined business operations, Fransabank signed up for Microsoft Premier Services in 2010.
"With more Microsoft technologies embedded in Fransabank’s infrastructure, the relationship between Microsoft Services Lebanon and Fransabank has been one of strategic collaboration, involving the smooth integration of Microsoft technologies with Fransabank systems," said Mrad.
Embedding Microsoft technologies in its operations have significantly benefitted Fransabank in terms of resource optimization, higher productivity, cost-savings, and enhanced security.
The use of Microsoft technologies has allowed Fransabank to optimize resources and reduce costs. For one, Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 allowed Fransabank to consolidate its 150 servers onto only four physical servers. In addition, Microsoft Systems Center Configuration Manager allowed easy deployment and configuration of computers and applications across Fransabank’s many offices, as well as virtual support and maintenance of Fransabank’s PCs and workstations.
"Higher productivity is being able to do more, making lesser mistakes, and facing fewer technical issues," said Khaled. Because of the Microsoft technologies in place, there is less downtime and higher availability of systems, permitting Fransabank users to do their jobs unburdened by system issues. Fransabanks’ technical support team also spends less time working on the same problems and responding to frequently asked questions. As well, the use of Microsoft Dynamics CRM enables Fransabank staff to quickly and effectively communicate with customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders.
Optimized resources and fewer system errors are not the only reasons for cost-savings at Fransabank. "By working on fully-integrated solutions with Microsoft, such as Microsoft Enterprise CAL, Fransabank," said Mrad, "acquires a bundle of Microsoft products at a discount. For instance, Fransabank no longer has to purchase services like Lync or RMS since they are part of the Microsoft Enterprise CAL."
Being a financial institution, Fransabank views security as vital. The use of Microsoft technologies, such as Microsoft Active Directory, has enabled Fransabank to control computer user privileges and permissions as well as the modification of files and applications. Said Khaled, "Before, it was difficult to enforce security because we had limited means to enforce it. This is no longer the case with the enhanced security capabilities from Microsoft technologies."
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