IT Managers of The Year

ACN looks back on the marquee projects completed during 2004, acknowledges the men and women behind them and announces its IT managers of the year.

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By  Matthew Southwell Published  December 30, 2004

|~||~||~|The Middle East’s chief information officers and IT managers are driving their organisations forward, or at the very least giving tech-savvy CEOs and board members the tools they require to achieve their business objectives. This is shown not only by the list of magnificent men and women listed below, but by the shifts in IT spending taking place across the region. No longer is it all about basic hardware and infrastructure, but today software is scaling the enterprise technology agenda and customer centric applications that make a real difference to service levels are more common than ever before.

Whether it be World Trade Organisation (WTO) pressures, increased competition or simple market maturity, the exact cause of this shift is irrelevant. What is important is that during 2004 CIOs and IT managers have taken the first steps towards emerging from the data centre as a dominant force among their business peers. Furthermore, they have shown that IT can now be trusted. It is no longer a modern, fangled resource that a business must have because everyone else is looking at it. Instead, it is becoming the lifeblood of many entities in the Middle East. And, as the ACN IT managers of the Year 2004 show, the successful deployment of the right technology can make a real difference when it comes to boosting the bottom line or streamlining operations.||**|||~|Al Tayer.jpg|~|Evan Powell, group IT director, Al Tayer Group.|~|

Evan Powell

Position: Group IT director
Company: Al Tayer Group
Project overview: Powell has overseen a company-wide implementation of PeopleSoft EnterpriseOne, the roll out of ProClarity’s business intelligence solution and created a storage area network.

Al Tayer Group has implemented JD Edward’s OneWorld ERP application in all of its business units, except Al Tayer Motors. The solution, now known as PeopleSoft EnterpriseOne and owned by Oracle, has automated the Dubai-based conglomerate’s back office activities and increased efficiencies across the board.

In addition to deploying OneWorld, Al Tayer has armed its fashion companies, which cover everything from jewellery through to shoes and lingerie, with ProClarity’s business intelligence (BI) application. Chains such as Jimmy Choo, Janet Regar and Ghadeer have been given the tool to help them analyse customer data so they can better identify clients and ensure the stores are carrying and promoting the products and brands customers really want.

The data analysed with ProClarity is both historic information - for those chains that have it — and detail garnered by sales staff on the shop floor and entered into Al Tayer’s smart point of sale (POS) solution. It is then sliced, diced and crunched by users at the group’s head office to generate the appropriate promotions and reports.

The roll out of ProClarity to Al Tayer’s fashion houses built on its use within the organisation’s retail arm. For example, cosmetics and perfume chain Areej initially used it for simple promotion generation, before using it for more business-focused tasks.
The maturing of Al Tayer’s cosmetics business has inspired this usage shift. During its rapid growth, the development of promotions and marketing was key, but now the company is entering a period of consolidation and has to focus on streamlining activities and wringing maximum value from purchasing, logistics and inventory.

To store all the data Al Tayer Group’s OneWorld ERP app and ProClarity BI tools generate, as well as the information held within its shared files, Exchange databases and PeopleSoft databases, Powell has overseen the implementation of a storage area network (SAN) from IBM. The DS4400 solution operates as a company wide resource.

Indranil Guha

Position: Head of network services
Company: Dubai Municipality
Project overview: Guha has helped build and expand the government body’s network so it can effectively handle the demands placed on it by thousands of internal and external users. He has also ensured his team stay up-to-date with the latest technology trends by advocating the need for regular training.

Dubai Municipality’s e-government portal recorded its 300,000th online transaction during March 2004, just five months after passing the 200,000 e-transactions milestone and little more than two years since it unveiled its first batch of online services. The municipality’s most widely used online services were those provided by Dubai Central Laboratory (DCL), which had recorded 85,981 online transactions.

While the number of transactions carried out over the Municipality’s web sites has grown at a phenomenal rate, its network infrastructure has also grown quickly. Back in 1998 the government body had just 700 users on the network, seven remote sites and a local area network (LAN) for its headquarters. As of this summer, Dubai Municipality had 97 remote sites and almost 3000 users, 1600 of whom are connected to a wide area network (WAN) made up of leased lines, Frame Relays and ISDN connections from Etisalat. It also uses technologies such as free space optics (FSO).

It is this infrastructure that has made it possible for the Municipality to provide the Emirate’s citizens with a range of e-services and internal users with mission critical apps such as e-mail and financial software. This boom in network usage and the expansion of the infrastructure placed an increased amount of pressure on the Municipality’s network services team in terms of additional monitoring. While perfectly acceptable for a dedicated team of engineers, such demands began eating into the team’s primary role of overseeing network expansion.

To rectify the situation, Dubai Municipality recruited Gulf Business Machines (GBM) early last year and asked it to design a network operations centre (NOC). Located at the Karama-based DCL, the NOC uses IBM’s Tivoli Enterprise Systems Management solution, which runs on IBM servers. The Municipality deployed the software suite’s Management Framework, NetView, Enterprise Console and Tivoli Decision Support (TDS) modules. Combined, the tools monitor the Municipality’s critical systems, identify the root cause of problems and summon engineers to fix them. However, rather than simply focus on network components, the Municipality set the Tivoli suite up from an application perspective because they matter most to its users.

The NOC has already delivered a number of benefits for Dubai Municipality. For one, it allows the government body to fix network problems faster as they are identified more quickly and engineers can be deployed to correct them immediately. In addition to proactive support, it allows Dubai Municipality to plan its network capacity more effectively and measure the quality of services it provides to both internal and external customers. It also allows the Municipality to prioritise traffic. For example, if an internal e-mail with a large attachment is clogging up the network and preventing an external user from completing a transaction, the latter can be given the right of way.

In addition to improving its network infrastructure and monitoring capabilities, Dubai Municipality also sought to improve the overall abilities of its IT department during 2004. As such, the government body has bought into the need for blended learning programmes that combine short bursts and longer, more intensive courses. For example, it has purchased approximately US$145,000 worth of face-to-face training from Fast Lane in the past three and a half years to train its seven core IT workers on the network applications that run across its 97 local area network (LAN) and wide area network (WAN) sites.

Finally, Dubai Municipality has also led the way in terms of marketing its IT-based services over the past 12 months, something many public and private organisations fail to do once they have invested in their initial creation. To this end, the municipality has used a variety of mediums to promote its portfolio of 76 online services. It has run full page newspaper ads, held seminars, created focus groups and sent mail and fax shots to the business community. The municipality has also worked closely with the local business community to create local reference sites. Not only have companies been used to market online services, they have played a vital role in designing and improving them.
||**|||~|ADIB.jpg|~|Adel Al-Zarouni, senior vice president of IT, Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank.|~|

Adel Ahmed Al Zarouni

Position: Senior vice president of IT
Company: Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank (ADIB)
Project overview: Al Zarouni has overseen the implementation of a customer contact centre and a document management application, as well as taking the first steps towards the greater use of outsourcing within the bank.

ADIB unveiled its contact centre in April 2004 to automate more of the services it offers its customers. The centre, based in Abu Dhabi, is built around Altitude’s UCi 7 contact centre solution and is a key element in the finance house’s desire to provide as many services as possible to their customers. In addition, the centre was built to reduce traffic in physical branches, and encourage customers to use other channels instead.

Through the contact centre, customers can replace ATM and credit cards, order new cards, complete telex transfers, pay orders, demand drafts and carry out utility payments. The bank can also help customers fill out financial applications via the contact centre, saving customer time before visiting the branch to finalise.

The contact centre is located at the Khalifa branch and shares the building with ADIB’s card centre. All ADIB networking infrastructure is built on Cisco technology. The building contains two Cisco routers (primary and back-up), with Cisco switches serving each floor. ADIB uses 10/100 Ethernet cabling throughout, except in the computer room, where it utilises Gigabit cabling, with fibre for the backbone between the switches.

On the software side, the Altitude solution takes care of call management. The product has three elements, with UAgent the interface in which the agent views customer data and deals with calls and messages. Altitude UCi sits at the back end and holds the routines and logics to conduct transactions. The third component is Altitude’s IVR. This includes the Computer Telephony Interface (CTI), which allows customer information to be brought up on the call agent’s screen once the customer is validated and routed to the agent. The Altitude software also communicates with the back-end banking systems, such as the core banking, trade finance, card and ATM systems through Sybase Financial Fusion middleware.

The contact centre move is part of ADIB’s ongoing commitment to use state-of-the-art IT products to help provide a competitive service to its customers. One year ago the bank started to rollout Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), and it anticipates that by the end of 2005 the implementation will be complete.

The finance house has also deployed a comprehensive document management (DM) solution from Filenet, which in the first instance was used to digitise the bank’s financial vouchers and cheques. The biggest hurdle faced by ADIB during the implementation was clearing its immediate backlog of more than four million historic documents while attempting to deal with the thousands being generated each working day. To help address this issue, ADIB outsourced its scanning to a third-party, which scanned all branch documents centrally at head office.

In spite of this challenge, and the sheer cost involved in digitising millions of documents, the bank is already reaping benefits. Not only does the fully indexed and Arabised database facilitate easier report management, internal auditing, financial monitoring and back up, but it also helps ADIB adhere to international banking standards and mange its workflow more effectively.

The introduction of outsourcing to ADIB’s IT department has also stretched to its support, as the bank handed over its IT helpdesk operations to Seven Seas at the beginning of 2004 in an attempt to reduce costs and improve end user support. The two-year, US$100,000 plus deal also allowed the finance house to focus the efforts of its technology team on initiatives that add value to the bank.

The onsite outsourced IT helpdesk is manned by one Seven Seas helpdesk agent and two technical support staff. It replaces ADIB’s existing set up, which consisted of non-technical staff that logged calls and passed them onto the bank’s technology team. This was not only an inefficient use of resources, but it also delivered low user satisfaction.

As outsourcing within the banking sector remains rare, ADIB’s technology team focused on two key areas when pitching the solution to the bank’s decision makers — the nature of the task it was looking to hand to a third party and the business benefits it would provide. The helpdesk uses HP’s OpenViewService Desk software to facilitate end user support. It allows the team to drill down into the bank’s information systems and identify where a user’s problem stems from. Furthermore, the solution logs calls, tracks the action taken and monitors how quickly the support staff turn problems around, which in turn allows ADIB to keep tabs on the outsourced team’s performance.

Amira Greis

Position: IT manager
Company: Khalda Petroleum Company (KPC)
Project overview: Greis has overseen the complete overhaul of KPC’s hardware and network infrastructure, as well as the rollout of Oracle’s E-Business Suite.

KPC went live with the procurement module of Oracle’s E-Business Suite in early 2004. When activated, the module represented the final stage of an implementation that began back in June 2002 and has seen the Egyptian oil & gas giant overhaul it entire IT environment. The motivation for the project, which was been carried out by an inhouse team and consultants from KPMG Egypt, was to improve KPC’s day-to-day management and cut costs.

Before implementing the Oracle application, KPC built a comprehensive network to connect its headquarters and remote locations to a single backbone. Completed in early 2003, the network comprises both local area network (LAN) and wide area network (WAN) elements.

In addition to building a network from scratch, KPC upgraded its hardware environment to accommodate the Oracle ERP suite. Two servers from Sun Microsystems were installed for production and testing, while the Egyptian energy firm also chose to change its core operating system from NT to Solaris.

The majority of the E-Business Suite, including the projects, financials and inventory modules, went live in July 2003. They replaced KPC’s legacy applications, which had been running for nearly two decades.

Although the Oracle modules were deployed as is, the KPC technology team created its own reports for the E-Business Suite as those provided by the vendor were unable to accommodate the parameters required by the Egyptian firm.

Data from the legacy applications was migrated to the new ERP application over a four-week period last summer. All historical data for KPC’s fixed assets was transferred, as was the opening balances for the general ledger.

To ensure the oil & gas company’s 60-plus users were able to use the E-Business Suite from day one, the IT department and KPMG Egypt trained key users as the implementation was carried out. In turn, these users were responsible for transferring knowledge to their own teams.

So far, the Oracle suite has delivered on its promise to improve management and cut costs for KPC. For instance, the finance department is able to close the month’s accounts within a week rather than the two it took in the past.

Mohammed Kabbani

Position: IT manager
Company: Saudi Fal Company
Project overview: The Saudi firm has carried out a mammoth ERP implementation to gain a clear view of the stock it holds across the Kingdom and tighten its supply chain. The software has also reduced the company’s operating expenses.

Saudi Fal Company completed a mammoth enterprise resource planning (ERP) implementation last year that saw it install a suite of products from IFS at its Saudi Fal Controls Division, which acts as a representative for Fisher-Rosemount’s process-automation products in the Kingdom, and Albilad Fire Fighting Systems, a company specialising in integrated fire fighting systems for large organisations such as Saudi Aramco and Sabic.

At Albilad, the Saudi Fal Company IT team worked with IFS consultants to roll out a number of modules, including project management, service management, financials and distribution. Following IFS’ implementation methodology, the team started by documenting Albilad’s business processes before mapping them to the ERP suite. The actual deployment was carried out in two phases, with phase one witnessing the implementation of finance and distribution and the second stage covering the outstanding modules.

The first phase of the project began in September 2003 and was completed in early January 2004. The second stage was completed at the end of March and is already delivering benefits to the fire fighting equipment firm and the 15 concurrent users who access the ERP app over Albilad Fire Fighting Systems’ local area network (LAN).
For example, it has allowed the Saudi company to standardise its operational procedures and information throughout departments and business units, which in turn has created a greater level of transparency. In particular, it has helped Albilad gain a clear view of the stock held by the company across the Kingdom and facilitated a tightening of the Saudi firm’s supply chain.

In addition to sharpening the company’s competitive edge, the IFS system has reduced the company’s operating expenses. Key to this has been the separating out of Albilad Fire Fighting Systems’ IT budget from its usual operating costs, which in turn has allowed the company to carry out detailed cost analysis and highlight the hidden expense of running its collection of standalone and manual systems.

Reduced costs and improved access to information have also been achieved at Saudi Fal Controls Division, where the IFS application has replaced a number of standalone legacy applications that operated in isolation within each of the firm’s departments. For instance, the finance department ran an MCBA application while the sales division used an inhouse programme developed on Visual Basic for SQL server.

The Saudi Fal Controls Division project began concurrent to the Albilad project. A new ProLiant server from HP was added to the company’s hardware environment to run the ERP application. IFS consultants assisted in the data migration processes and ensured that the legacy data matched the new formats. In addition to handling the data migration, the implementation team carried out a business process review to match the one carried out at the fire fighting equipment company.

The project team also spent time with the business users to find out what they wanted from the system. In fact, Kabbani himself carried out the one piece of customisation required by the Saudi Fal Controls Division and wrote a programme so that entering items into the ERP application was made easier for a back office team that has to deal with millions of parts.

As the IFS solution has been live at Saudi Fal Controls Division for longer than at Albilad, the benefits of the system have been more widely felt and the smooth processes facilitated by the ERP application well bedded down.
||**|||~|DWTC.jpg|~|Brent Pienarr, IT coordinator, Dubai Women’s College.|~|

Brent Pienarr

Position: IT coordinator
Company: Dubai Women’s College (DWC)
Project overview: Dubai Women’s College (DWC) has provided each of its 2200 students and staff with notebooks and campus-wide wireless access, following a five-year long project. To capitalise on its tech-savvy focus, the educational institute is now building other tools into its computing environment, such as Microsoft Exchange 2003 and Sharepoint server 2003.

Five years since the initiative began, Dubai Women’s College (DWC) finally provided each of its 2200 students and staff with notebooks and campus-wide wireless. The last Centrino laptops were issued November 2003 and during the last 12 months productivity has risen across the board, with many students spending up to twelve hours a day online.
Building on this success, the college has since delivered a Microsoft (MS) Exchange upgrade to all of its laptops, with a long-term view to extend internet and e-mail access to mobile devices.

Having run basic e-mail for six years, DWC decided to harness the latest technology to make student and staff collaboration more effective. In autumn 2003, MS Exchange was rolled out to the entire population; by mid-2004, the college had enabled everyone to access the upgraded functionality of MS Exchange 2003 — full calendars, full tasks, shared scheduling — via notebooks.

DWC’s infrastructure was primed for the switch to a fully collaborative computing with the gradual installation of hardware, software and services. The college system comprises clustered IBM xSeries 440 servers, plus two each of IBM’s x345 and x335 servers; MS Exchange server 2003; MS Office Sharepoint server 2003; MS Live Communications server 2003 and mostly IBM ThinkPads with MS Windows XP.

The MS Exchange rollout has enabled students to arrange appointments online with lecturers, improve appointment scheduling by making free and busy time visible on the network, deliver realtime online meeting capacity, and allow students to access the college’s course information on the network.

Pienaar has also implemented Sharepoint portal, which includes an enhanced shared drive to enable restricted team versioning, so that different teams can protect their content. The new application will also control what goes onto the workspace, so that it’s not just a free-for-all for students to post DVDs, music files and suchlike. Sharepoint provides granular control over who can access what within a group.

In addition to enhancing collaboration, MS Exchange 2003 has also enabled students to access their full e-mail set up over a normal internet connection from home, so they can view sent items and access their calendars, for example.

Looking ahead, the college campus is being extended, so Pienaar plans to make wireless even more pervasive throughout the college with more Cisco AeroNet points.

Shuman Zaman

Position: Group IT manager
Company: Bukhatir Group
Project overview: Zaman has built a shared services centre at the Bukhatir Group, rolled out Oracle’s E-Business suite and overseen the development of a number of applications for the Sharjah-based conglomerate’s numerous business units.

Bukhatir Group created a shared services centre (SSC) and implemented Oracle’s E-Business Suite 11i enterprise resource planning (ERP) application across a number of its business units during 2004 as part of an ongoing project to centralise and streamline its core accounting, human resources and procurement functions.

The implementation was carried out by the Sharjah-based trading conglomerate’s own 15-strong technology team and has reduced administrative costs, enhanced data visibility and improved financial control. The Oracle app replaced Bukhtair’s legacy environment, which had developed in an ad hoc fashion with each business unit implementing its own technology of choice.

Due to the fragmented nature of Bukhatir’s existing IT set up, the Oracle implementation was approached as a greenfield project. As such, the Sharjah conglomerate installed a new hardware infrastructure based around HP ProLiant servers, connected its business units with leased lines from Etisalat and deployed thin clients from Citrix to facilitate remote site access.

On the software side, the financial, distribution and payroll modules of 11i deployed at a number of units, including Bukhatir’s real estate, investment, construction, block making and hiring companies. In each instance, historic data was left in the company’s legacy systems and existing business processes were reviewed and mapped to those within the Oracle application wherever possible.

Where there were gaps, the conglomerate’s own development team, which operates under the title of Intelligent Corporate Solutions (ICS) and is headed by Zaman, built additional forms or functionality to allow the company to still use the Oracle solution. This additional development work saw Bukhatir’s proprietary construction application integrated with the ERP solution, as well as the development of an Oracle-based human resources application.

The Bukhatir team also used its development skills to build a school management system for the School of Creative Science (SCS) in Sharjah, which it owns and operates. The system covers everything bar the schools core back office functions, which are carried out on Oracle. For example, it addresses pre-registration, registration and student management. A portal has also been added for web access and teachers can use it to interact with parents by e-mail and SMS.

The ability to create more comprehensive reports helps SCS identify any problems a child may have, whether they be academic or social. It also allows teachers and parents to see the child’s education in its entirety, rather than a number of standalone statements from different staff.

So far, user feedback for Bukhatir’s entire SCC and Oracle project has been good, and the Sharjah-based conglomerate is already realising a number of benefits. For example, financial control for both inter-company and external transactions has improved and users now have the ability to drill down from the balance sheets to the transaction level. This, in turn, means processes are running more efficiently and incomings and outgoings can be tracked more effectively. In addition to improving internal controls, this means the Sharjah-based conglomerate is in a stronger position to negotiate with customers and suppliers and Bukhatir’s senior management can make better-informed decisions about where the group is heading. In fact, as of September last year, Zaman claimed to have saved Bukhatir Group over a quarter of a million US dollars.

In addition to saving money, Bukhatir Group has been better able to track its own finances since the SSC and 11i went live. For example, a single chart of accounts has been created that allows the firm’s books to close seven days after month end rather than the 21 days it used to take.

Elie Choueiri

Position: Group IT manager
Company: Chalhoub Group
Project overview: Chalhoub Group has implemented an ERP system from SSA-Global, as well as rolling out the vendor’s BI and CPM tools. The former has allowed Chalhoub to review the activities of its 100 retail stores and distribution channels more effectively, while the BI solution helps the company consolidate its data and the CPM apps facilitates greater analysis of transactional data.

The Chalhoub Group, which provides luxury goods in fourteen regional markets and enjoys strategic alliances and joint ventures with brands such as Louis Vuitton and Puig, has overhauled its enterprise resource planning (ERP) system by deploying a solution from SSA-Global. The motivation for the project came from Chalhoub wanting to rapidly and easily review the activities of each of its 100 retail stores and local distribution channels, so it could meet the demands of an extremely competitive fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) environment. These requirements were important both for the general management of the company and its 2400 employees, who needed to have a high level view of all the activities.

Prior to signing the contract with SSA Global, Allied Enterprises went through a 10-day proof of concept, during which company data was evaluated and organised. Within five days, the system was in place and capable of analysing the most complex data. Analysis was set up for several units. It took four months to complete the implementation of the first pilot site and then three weeks for other sites. The Chalhoub Group’s IT department and key users managed the implementation internally with support from SSA Global consultants. The deployment took three years.

Thanks to the organisation’s standardised IT infrastructure, which is built on IBM-based Windows 2000 servers and clients, the team had a rather easy task of rolling out the ERP apps to its 400 IT users.

The vendor and the company’s IT team then set out for a full integration of all the transactions between the finance, sales, procurement and inventory departments. Previously, the firm used to rely on separate apps; hence transferring data across the various departments and synchronising different databases into a single repository was the biggest challenge. However, today the integrated system covers distribution, logistics, procurement, finance, sales, inventory and warehousing.

What used to take a week in terms of data preparation, report formatting, printing and presentation based on static or historic data now takes approximately 30 minutes and reports are generated on the fly with realtime data based on an unlimited number of combinations. More importantly, because the ratio of information accuracy to data integrity is 100%, the system has brought in the required trust, increasing its reliability and user acceptance.

To maximise its investment of more than US$2 million, and 20% of that amount in recurring costs through maintenance, Chalhoub Group has implemented a business intelligence (BI) solution from SSA, as well as a corporate performance management (CPM) application. The former helps the company consolidate and manage its data more effectively, while the CPM apps allow a precise and rapid presentation and analysis of transactional data, thereby giving users a deeper insight into sales trends, explanations for unexpected fluctuations in sales and the ability learn from customer behaviour.

Today, the SSA CPM solution is used for analysing data across all departments, including purchasing, sales and inventory. It also allows its 300 ERP users to get reports on products and suppliers, and the company is able to make product-purchasing decisions quickly because the inventory analysis is more accurate. Additionally, the purchasing team can now easily obtain the average cost of sale of products sold over past 12 months. Prior to implementing the CPM app, 77% of the reports requested by users were unnecessary. Today, the request levels have dropped to about 20 reports.

Now the company has a mature ERP system in place and its BI and CPM value-adds, it is able to better analyse business margins and make informed decisions. Also, besides tracking profiles for identifying buying trends, the overall solution offers product performance tracking and a 360-degree view of the retail stores to senior management and operational staff.

Having acquired technical finesse, the company has now set out to consolidate all its financial reporting, which till date was isolated based on different business units. In doing so, aspects such as net profitability, profit and loss per customer, actual sales versus budget and work flow will be magnified to give management a holistic view.
||**|||~|NBAD.jpg|~|Srood Sherif, head of IT, National Bank of Abu Dhabi.|~|

Srood Sherif

Position: head of IT
Company: National Bank of Abu Dhabi (NBAD)
Project overview: Sherif has spearheaded NBAD’s attempts to improve customer service through the creation of a contact centre and provided a technology platform from which the bank is able to launch new products.

NBAD consolidated its disparate contact centres into one and overhauled its customer centric technology in 2004. Carried out by an inhouse team and HP’s services division, the project saw the finance house’s infrastructure upgraded and Altitude Software’s uCI suite implemented. The solution replaced NBAD’s aging legacy system, which was inefficient and unable to deliver the service levels required by the bank’s burgeoning customer base.

The decision to overhaul the bank’s existing set up came when its senior management expressed a desire to transform the call centre from a cost centre into a self-funding and profitable business unit capable of cross selling NBAD’s portfolio of products.

HP was recruited to oversee the design, consultancy and project management of the new contact centre. Work began in July 2002. Rather than building a specific facility to house the centre, NBAD opted to use an existing property that had housed the IT team’s development unit.

To ensure the contact centre is capable of delivering a 24x7 service, NBAD duplicated the lines going to and from the facility and upgraded its PABX and ATM link, which also provided the necessary increase in bandwidth. On the hardware side, the bank installed fault tolerant and mirrored servers. The Altitude uCI suite, which forms the heart of the call centre, comprises support for both inbound and outbound voice, interactive voice response (IVR), e-mail, web collaboration and chat. It allows NBAD’s service agents to handle telephone interactions as well as requests made via e-mail.

In addition to interacting with the bank’s service agents, the IVR component of the uCI suite allows customers to serve themselves using voice menus and touch-tone phone controls.

Furthermore, NBAD also leveraged technology throughout 2004 to introduce a range of new services for customers. For example, by analysing data from its core banking system, the finance house discovered that their was a marker for products targeted at the healthcare sector. Once the market had been identified, NBAD’s retail team developed a Doctor’s banking solution that assists doctors in setting up their own practices through a range of loan benefits, including longer payback options and low interest levels.

Soubhi Abdul Karim

Position: IT manager
Company: Aspire
Project overview: The Qatari sports academy for promising athletes has implemented a state-of-the-art network that will play a key role in helping students achieve sporting excellence. In addition, the institute has deployed a computer related performance analysis package and a range of other IT-led solutions.

Aspire, Qatar’s new sports academy for promising athletes, has completed the first phase of its 3Com network infrastructure implementation. The academy envisages the state-of-the-art network will play a key role in helping students achieve sporting excellence.

The million dollar deployment comprises a 10Gigabit enabled core featuring two 3Com Switch 7700R models, a Gigabit to the desktop switching architecture based on 3Com’s XRN technology using pairs of 3Com SuperStack 3 Switch 4070s, as well as power over Ethernet (PoE) for the wireless LAN infrastructure.

Aspire sees the new network playing an integral part in the development of the athletes. The technology will be used to extend computer related performance analysis to the field where the athletes will be training and competing.

The requirements of the sports academy made wireless connectivity and high bandwidth important considerations. The academy has a mobile office structure, with all employees using notebooks and a wireless network providing full coverage across the campus, including on to the sports fields.

A key factor behind Aspire’s decision to opt for 3Com to provide the infrastructure was the success of proof of concept testing, which took place at 3Com’s labs in London. A high level of redundancy was a critical requirement for Aspire as the organisation will use the network to carry voice and access control traffic as well as data.

In terms of management, Aspire is using the management tools that 3Com provides as part of its network solution. Aspire uses 3Com Network Administrator, which is based on HP’s OpenView offering. The sports academy expects the second phase of its implementation, involving the dome which houses football pitches and other sports venues, to be completed in Q105. ||**||

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