How may we help?

Emirates Bank Group is nearing completion of Tibco middleware project. When finished it will play a core role in enabling EBG compile a single image of its customers across all its business units.

  • E-Mail
By  Greg Wilson Published  October 31, 2001

|~||~||~|It doesn’t matter how customers approach Emirates Bank Group — through a branch office, the Internet, e-mail, call centres or through one of its separate business units — it wants to be able to tell who they are, and the exact status of their relationship with the group.

Over recent years, EBG’s business interests have diversified and the number of customer contact points has multiplied, resulting in an explosion of customer information. With competition in the banking sector intensifying, the ability to manage information to accurately identify customers and then cross sell products across the group is critical.

EBG has transformed itself from “a bank to a financial institution,” says Abdulla Qassem, chief manager, information technology department, Emirates Bank Group. With that change, “information is one of the biggest assets we have. If we can’t utilise that, as we weren’t able to at an earlier stage, we’re going to be missing opportunities,” he adds.
The expansion of the group’s business interests has resulted in multiple operating systems running different industry-specific applications. But as the heterogeneous environment evolved, the group lost the ability to build a comprehensive view of its customers across its business units. “In every industry there are specialised software [packages], and they commonly run on different platforms,” comments Qassem.

With each additional system, the IT department within the bank faced the headache of integrating the platform into the existing infrastructure, usually through time consuming and complex enterprise integration application work.

“With [the addition of] having a real estate business, an insurance company business and a third party processing [business], we realised that our systems were scattered,” says Qassem.

“We needed a medium that could connect these systems together, enabling us to communicate as a group, rather than five or six separate entities, where we don’t know each other’s customer information,” he adds.

To rid the IT environment of the ‘spaghetti junction’ of application interfaces and middleware layers, Emirates Bank Group has embarked on a group-wide rollout of Tibco middleware architecture, resold locally through Reuters.

||**|||~||~||~|Beginning development in November 2000, with what was initially a proof of concept project to connect the core trade & finance system (T&FS), the group has followed a systematic process of connecting its applications to the overarching Tibco middleware architecture.

“[Tibco] is one of the strategic platforms that we have selected and it will have an affect on every single system that we have in the group,” predicts Qassem.

“[Tibco] is our mandate and our strategic direction. Any system that we acquire from now on, we will ensure that the Tibco element is covered.”

Strategically, Tibco plays a core-enabling role in the sharing of customer information between the group’s separate applications. Greater customer data availability is critical to the group’s customer relationship management (CRM) strategy going forward. “Tibco publishes the data from the systems, and it’s up to the other applications if they want that customer data or not,” says EBG’s project manager, Ghinwa Baradhi.

“Independent of whether I have an NT box, a Sun box or an AS/400 platform — it doesn’t matter what the platform the application is sitting on. I want every single system to be connected to Tibco [architecture] so I can access some information from it. With every application connected to the Tibco [layer] I should be able to access the information if I need it,” explains Baradhi.

Qassem adds, “we have this heterogeneous environment, yet we have a medium that can connect all these [systems] together, so data is seamless for the end user community — the people in our branches, using the point of sales systems.”

Theoretically, the ‘seamless’ flow of customer data enables customer-facing agents in the real estate business to know whether a particular consumer already banks with Emirates or not. This also delivers obvious opportunities to cross-sell the group’s other financial products & services. “We can cross-sell more effectively — if the [consumer] comes into the bank for a car loan, we can also offer him insurance,” says Qassem.

EBG is also consolidating customer databases and amalgamating its customer information, as part of broader data warehousing project, based around NCR’s Terradata architecture. Running in parallel to the data consolidation work, EBG is also introducing unique customer IDs.

With an accurate picture of the customer, EBG can quickly identify its more profitable customers and then target sales and marketing campaigns accordingly.

“Previously it was impossible to see what the exposure of one customer was. If a customer had three accounts in branch A and another in branch B it was impossible to tell because the core banking application doesn’t reflect this information,” says Baradhi.

||**|||~||~||~|“We have unique IDs for the customers… so we know how many accounts [they have], how many Visa cards, how many MasterCards… we have a full picture. All this information is available in the data warehouse,” she adds.

EBG is also integrating its data warehouse and the initial wave of CRM products with Tibco. EBG is currently upgrading its call centre as part of an ongoing CRM drive. “We have started on one of the components of CRM [customer relationship management],” comments Baradhi.

Within a matter of weeks of connecting the T&FS (trade & finance system) to Tibco in April of this year, the group was able to terminate the existing ‘problematic’ middleware layer. Development work immediately began again to link the Reuters treasury system Kondor + to Tibco.

At the time of going to press the group was expecting to retire the Kondor middleware in a matter of weeks. “We’re ring-fencing the applications with Tibco so that we can then plug in the applications when necessary,” says Qassem.

Over the next few months EBG has a rolling schedule to ‘ring-fence’ and link its core banking applications to Tibco. The branch automation application Quester, the ATM management application Base 24, the credit card system, the Equation core banking suite and the dealing room application have already been connected.

The Brokat-based Internet banking platform, the interactive voice recognition software and the NCR call centre solution, currently under implementation are all due to be linked to the overarching middleware architecture in the near future.

“There are no phases to this project, it just keeps getting bigger and bigger… this project is more of an evolution… we have already proved Tibco,” says Baradhi.

However, Tibco also provides the group with the ability to adapt the architecture to accommodate other existing middleware platforms. EBG is preparing to link its Brokat Internet banking platform to Tibco. Brokat, which only recently went live at the start of the year, has a series of accessors, which talk to different platforms and enable the platform’s engine — Twister — to pull information from the backend to present if at the Internet layer. Consequently, it would be easier to tweak the accessor components rather than attempt to recreate the business logic embedded in the Twister platform. “If we got rid of Brokat we would have to rebuild the business rules in Tibco — this is possible, but not a focus yet,” explains Baradhi.

Adds Qassem, “our first priority is connecting all the systems to Tibco, and then [later] we can look at Twister co-existence… especially as the need for integration grows.”

||**|||~||~||~|To deliver the Tibco solution, EBG has had to work very closely with a team of Reuters consultants to ensure that the group obtained the necessary knowledge transfer.

For the initial four months of the project, a Reuters/Tibco architect was stationed full-time with EBG to ensure that the original business rules for the architecture were implemented correctly.

“To get the most out of Tibco you have to get the fundamentals right, including the original design,” says Ian Evans, sales manager, EAI, Reuters.

Other human resources were also brought in from EBG’s partially owned development house, ICICI. Reuters also use the same development house to supplement its HR needs.

Armed with a ‘fundamental’ understanding of the platform arrangement, the development team also embarked on a rapid learning curve to build the necessary ACT expertise to code the middleware adapters. Development team members attended a two-week workshop to learn the necessary ACT skills.

The team has also made extensive use of Java and C++ during the development phase of the project. “We didn’t go for comprehensive training, we installed the product here and then soft-trained our own staff [alongside the] Reuters staff,” says Baradhi.

“We also needed to learn the message broker, which [enables us to] map fields between one system and another,” she adds.

Reuters’ product portfolio also provided another vital tool in the integration of applications to the Tibco framework. Integration
Manager enabled the development team to map out both the coding and the workflows in a diagrammatic form.
The clear illustrations of business logic within the system accelerated efforts to connect applications to Tibco.

“As a developer, if you want to go and see exactly what has to be done if you want to [deliver a balance to a customer] or give a salary details. To read the code is very complex if you don’t have the right documentation. With Integration Manager, you can just see it as a diagram — you see it go this way and that way,” explains Baradhi.

The Integration Manager tool also helped the development team to document the processes and workflows of the development work. When the initial application was connected to Tibco, it was cause for celebration, says Baradhi.

||**|||~||~||~|However, linking the other applications has almost become a matter of routine. “When the first application was connected with thought ‘wow.’ When we connected the second application we didn’t feel anything. For the most part the hard work is over… it’s just a case of connecting the other systems,” comments Baradhi.

For example, towards the middle of last month EBG was due to connect the trade & finance system of banking subsidiary Middle East Bank (MEB) to Tibco. The project, which is very similar to the initial T&FS project, has been much quicker.

“We’re building the adapter for MEB using Integration Manager… it’s taken three weeks to do this. However, it took me nearly two months when were working at [Emirates International] just to code the adapter,” says Baradhi.

EBG is likely to continue adding applications to Tibco, as it strives to makes its own services as flexible and virtual as possible.

The middleware project is also part of the bank’s efforts to centralise a lot of its computing processes in one location, enabling branch outlets to concentrate on sales and marketing, backed up by solid customer information delivered by an integrated infrastructure.

“The idea has always been to enable our customers to have their branch and financial services that we are offering at their fingertips. The middleware project is one of those projects that will help us achieve that vision,” predicts Qassem.||**||

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code