The Ministry of Health in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia wanted to better support its remote sites and mobile users by introducing a new unified communications platform. After evaluating various products, it decided to deploy Microsoft Lync 2010.
When fully implemented, the ministry expects productivity gains of up to 30 per cent for key operational employees using instant messaging, desktop sharing, video conferencing, and presence information.
To increase productivity and improve communications, the Ministry of Health in Saudi Arabia wanted to connect all the health directorates, public hospitals, and polyclinics to the ministry. The initiative is part of the government’s new Patients First program
for healthcare, as directed by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. The government also needed to ensure closer working of regional healthcare agencies during the annual hajj pilgrimage. Until recently, the ministry relied on expensive private branch exchange (PBX)
Basem Abdullah AlAngari, Operations and Data Center Dept. Manager, Ministry of Health, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, says: “During the hajj season, we wanted the public health directorates to communicate directly with the ministry’s head office. In addition,
we’d just finished work on new customer call centers to cover all Ministry of Health entities. We wanted the benefits of unified communications technology throughout the kingdom.”
The ministry was particularly concerned with the communications needs of operations managers at remote sites, who often found it difficult to get quick answers from corporate head office. New employees also needed better office systems to understand their
roles and reporting structures. AlAngari says: “We wanted to make it easier for IT and engineering staff to multitask by using instant messaging and desktop sharing sessions. No one should have to sit through a face-to-face meeting to answer just one question.”
In a country the size of Saudi Arabia, many ministry staff are continually on the move. AlAngari says: “We needed to reduce the cost of travel and help our key employees hold meetings in different, more cost-effective, ways—for example, audio and video conferencing
for training sessions, instead of having to travel to the ministry head office in Riyadh.”
Microsoft Partner Arabic Computer Systems designed and deployed Microsoft Lync 2010, integrated it with two PBX systems—Cisco and Ericsson—and provided full knowledge transfer to the Ministry of Health IT team. The project team included unified communications
consultant Ahmed Hashash and systems consultant Mohammed Mansour.
The solution used Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 for messaging, Hyper-V virtualization software for the implementation, and Microsoft SQL Server 2008 for the database. In addition, the ministry made use of Microsoft SharePoint 2010, giving employees at remote
sites easy access to documents via the network.
Hassan M. Hassan, Services Business Manager, Arabic Computer Systems, says: “Deployment to the first 2,500 users took two months, starting with the ministry head office and remote sites. The solution can be scaled up to accommodate 15,000 users. The ministry
has a strategic plan for improving customer service and Microsoft Lync 2010 is a critical part of it, bringing together all solution components.”
The ministry chose Microsoft Lync 2010 because it offers a reliable communications infrastructure based on instant messaging, presence information, audio and video conferencing, and enterprise voice—from virtually anywhere with Internet connectivity. In
addition, these functionalities can be accessed by workers using different platforms—Windows, Android, and iOS. The deployment was also cost-effective thanks to the government Microsoft Enterprise Agreement for volume licensing.
AlAngari says: “Compared to the earlier version of Microsoft unified communications, Microsoft Lync 2010 offered improvements in topology, deployment, and management tools. We also needed a solution that would work well with our existing Microsoft desktop
and server solutions. We now have a roadmap for future development and plan to upgrade to Microsoft Lync 2013.”
The Ministry of Health expects to boost productivity by up to 30 per cent when Microsoft Lync 2010 is fully deployed. It will make significant savings from reduced travel. In addition, internal communications throughout the ministry will be enhanced at peak
business periods, such as when the annual hajj pilgrimage takes place.
Productivity is boosted by
up to 30 per cent. AlAngari says: “Microsoft Lync 2010 will get users to think about how they can do their jobs better with technology. We expect a 20 to 30 per cent increase in productivity for several groups, including operational managers
and new employees.”
Costs are cut through reduced travel and by retiring PBX systems. AlAngari says: "With Microsoft Lync 2010, they can connect remotely through desktop sharing and video conferencing.”
Better communication during hajj season helps manage pilgrim influx. During the annual hajj pilgrimage season, the ministry needs to communicate with its representatives in the two holy cities and mobile medical units. AlAngari says: “We’re
planning to position Microsoft Lync 2010 as the communications platform between the ministry and our representatives in the holy cities.”
Ministry benefits from interoperability. AlAngari says: “We’re now providing a more dynamic unified communications solution for our employees. For example, presence information is incorporated into applications people use every day, such
as Microsoft SharePoint and Outlook.”
Ministry backs next-generation desktop. AlAngari says: “Microsoft understands how to take collaboration and communication and make them part of an overall platform. It is blending solutions on the desktop so they work for any user—information
workers, remote groups, mobile employees, or people who work from home.”
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