The time machine

Emirates Identity Authority was on the lookout for a new CRM to manage its expanding resources – but had just five months to install it.

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By  Imthishan Giado Published  October 18, 2008

Emirates Identity Authority was on the lookout for a new CRM to manage its expanding resources - but had just five months to install it.

It's an accepted fact that CRM systems are never the shortest to deploy within an IT infrastructure. A typical system can take upwards of 12 months to go live - which was far more than the UAE's Emirates Identity Authority (EIDA) was prepared to wait.

The young organisation - started in 2004 - was tasked with building a population register for all individuals within the country and issuing ID cards to all residents. It decided a CRM system was what it needed to help facilitate this complex task and as Thamer Al Qasmemi explains, the choice of vendor was not difficult.

It's the fear of losing control. People thought that certain things would be taken out of their hands. But now the system is handling things very well.

"Microsoft is heavily present here when it comes to the front end users of the systems or even at the back end. When it comes to the business supporting systems where products for the staff are being deployed, it's also heavily dependent on Microsoft - even when it comes to storage," he comments.

Al Qasemi explains that EIDA went through a rigorous tendering process to select the system: "The strategic initiative was approved when we launched in July 2007. We immediately went through selecting a vendor. Of course, we went through various screenings as well as interviewing multiple vendors. Really, one of the things that we have used and supported was to ask around the government agencies. We know that deployment of such systems varies from private to government."

Integrator Bayanat received a good recommendation and eventually got the nod to go ahead with the project, based on its ability to be both cost-effective and rapid in deployment. With the UAE government's mandate that all business be conducted in Arabic, Dynamics's Arabised interface proved to be another key factor in its successful selection.

Al Qasemi says that the implementation took just five months from beginning in July 2007 to going live in January 2008 - a short period which was helped by the decision to use Dynamics in a mostly stock form.

"The five months really varied - most of the time was spent on gathering requirements. The top management has noticed the best practices available within the functionality of the product itself and therefore took a decision to just try to use the product as-is and opt for only minor customisation," he explains.

As mentioned previously, rapid deployment was the key driver behind the decision to use Microsoft Dynamics, although Qasemi notes that a little understanding of EIDA went a long way towards helping reach that goal.

‘The deployment was short because of the way that we have decided to go with the best practices - knowing how easy it was to set up, understand and gauge how relevant the processes were to the current government environment and knowing that the company has done a similar implementation. We also have multiple systems that manage strategy, time attendance and many other things. We did not want to invest in different products, so the integration was achieved in a very short period of time," he says.

He notes cost and user familiarity as the major factors in selection: "When it comes to cost, comparing ERP solutions to others were at least 45% more. It's also the user interface - how easy it is for people to use. We've been depending on Microsoft products so it adds value to us. With the expertise required for the IT team, most of our team are already Microsoft-certified professionals so it was easier for us to go there - but with other vendors, we would have invest a lot in training."

Seven vendors in total - including major names like SAP and Oracle - submitted tenders for the project. While Al Qasemi admits that budgetary concerns were a big part of the final selection, he says that ease of operation also played a role.

"It came down to - do I have the right support for this system at the back end, can my employees get familiar with the system so quickly, can the system be integrated with existing systems? Do I need to depend on the vendor for customisations?" explains Al Qasemi.

The actual implementation required four people each from Bayanat and EIDA to complete. Despite the tight deadlines set for the project, a number of unforeseen delays still managed to occur.

"In the beginning, we experienced a delay of something like 20 days on the project deliverables, due to the requirement gathering phase. With a product like this, having best practices implemented within it caused a little bit of difficulty with regard to changing people's mentality. People expected that the process automation meant taking what they do today as-is and automating it. Of course, it doesn't work like this," states Al Qasemi. "It's really the fear of losing control. People thought that certain things would be out of their hands. But now the system is handling things very well and they're used to it," he adds.

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