To lower operating costs and improve customer service, Marafiq needed to optimize its IT environment. The company turned to Microsoft Services Premier Support to assess critical business systems and incorporate best practices for enhancing management of these systems. Now, Marafiq has reduced its operating costs by approximately 25 percent and strengthened alignment between IT capabilities and business goals.
Marafiq is a private utility company that serves residential and industrial customers in the cities of Jubail and Yanbu in Saudi Arabia. Since the company's founding in 2003, executives have stressed the importance of using innovative technology to reduce operating costs and provide affordable, reliable service. Marafiq has largely standardized on Microsoft technologies for desktop productivity, collaboration, and system management.
The fast-growing company wanted to augment its internal resources to optimize its IT infrastructure. Specifically, the IT team wanted to improve its process for distributing software updates to enhance the security of its network.
Marafiq also wanted to further define IT roles and responsibilities to make it easier to plan IT projects and boost the efficiency of the company's help desk function. IT staff responded to incidents as they occurred. "But we wanted to take a more proactive approach to managing our environment," says Helal Abufarha, IT Planning Specialist at Marafiq.
In 2009, Marafiq engaged Microsoft Services Premier Support, which combines technology assessment and professional training services with accelerated problem resolution-all managed by a Technical Account Manager (TAM). "We worked with internal and local partner resources before," says Murshed Shaarawi, IT Solutions and Operations Section Head at Marafiq. "We wanted to take a more holistic, long-range approach to optimizing management of critical business systems. And we decided that Microsoft offered the total support solution we needed."
After meeting with IT leaders to gain deeper insight into company priorities, Ahmad Al-Mohamed, the assigned TAM for Marafiq, used the "Value Triangle" approach, an integral part of the Premier Service Delivery Methodology, to create a detailed service delivery plan. Through the Value Triangle approach, Premier Support strategically aligned with Marafiq business and IT goals and delivered added value to Marafiq. During the first phase of its scheduled three-year engagement, the Premier Support team assessed the company's Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 and Active Directory environments to identify and remediate risks to system stability. In subsequent months, the team provided a series of workshops on managing Exchange Server, including optimizing disk usage to avoid slow system performance.
Next, the TAM for Marafiq focused on strengthening the company's network security posture. Consultants from Microsoft delivered the Microsoft Services Software Update Management offering, which included a complete assessment of Marafiq's existing PC management tools and processes. At the same time, the Microsoft team worked with Marafiq to properly configure Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager to ensure consistent, automated distribution of software updates to its PCs and mobile devices.
The Premier Support team also helped Marafiq implement Microsoft Services Roles and Knowledge Management (RKM). This solution is designed to help companies apply best practices and documented procedures in administering Microsoft technologies. Through a portal based on Microsoft SharePoint 2010, Marafiq IT staff can now access a centralized repository of prescriptive guidance on roles, responsibilities, and step-by-step maintenance tasks. This information is delivered in the form of content packs specific to Microsoft technologies, including Windows Server, Exchange Server, and Microsoft System Center Operations Manager. In early 2012, Marafiq implemented RKM for Exchange Server. The company has since applied the principle of centrally documenting roles and tasks to shape how it manages non-Microsoft technologies, such as its Cisco networking equipment.
By engaging Microsoft Services Premier Support, Marafiq is experiencing the following benefits:
Improved reliability of business-critical applications. Based on a thorough risk assessment and remediation of core infrastructure components, Marafiq has significantly improved the reliability of its email service. "For more than two years-ever since we started working with Premier Support to improve the health of our IT systems-we have not had a single downtime incident with Exchange Server," says Shaarawi.
Reduced IT operating costs by approximately 25 percent. The company has been able to structure its support costs as part of its comprehensive managed services. Also, as the company's IT staff members apply the skills learned in workshops and through access to knowledge management resources, Marafiq will continue to reduce dependence on support from external vendors. "As a result of higher staff productivity and fewer reactive support incidents, we've lowered our operating costs by approximately 25 percent within the past year," says Thamer N. Al-Otaibi, IT Manager at Marafiq.
Strengthened alignment between business and IT goals. With help from Microsoft, Marafiq has improved the health and security of its IT infrastructure that helped Marafiq IT to highly contribute to business goals such as improving customer service. "Now, 80 percent of the tasks we complete are related to planning and maintenance, so we're able to partner with the business to get more done," says Shaarawi. In 2012, Marafiq won two prestigious Awards; King Khalid Award for Responsible Competitiveness for its commitment to improving customer experiences and the best Saudi company to work for. "To know that we played a role in the company receiving this high honor gave us all a tremendous sense of pride," concludes Al-Otaibi.
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