Béatrice Piquer-Durand, VP Marketing Ipanema Technologies
Since the economic crash of 2008 the financial services sector has been facing the dual challenges of reduced revenues and increased costs. As the market gradually recovers, the need for greater efficiency has led the sector to seek new ways to diminish spend and improve productivity. Increasingly management is turning to IT solutions as a means of achieving these goals.
It is because of this that cloud-based services such as Microsoft Lync and Office 365 have been so eagerly adopted by the financial sector. Unified communications promises to enable collaboration and employee mobility across even the largest organisations, reducing business travel expenditure through the use of tools such as video conferencing.
The challenges of unified communications
When working at optimal efficiency, services like Microsoft Lync are certainly capable of delivering such benefits. However, too often the reality of the situation is that network infrastructures of many financial services organisations are ill-equipped to deal with the demands placed upon them by an enterprise-wide deployment of such bandwidth-heavy applications.
With senior management chomping at the bit for any technology that promises to reduce operational costs, too little thought can be given as to whether the network infrastructure is capable to handle the increased strain. Applications end up not working as advertised, providing an inferior end-user experience and ultimately decreased user engagement. In order to guarantee the successful deployment of these applications, the IT department must be able to guarantee their performance, or else the cost-saving, productivity benefits the software was sold on will fail to materialise.
The agile, flexible network
Perhaps the most obvious tactic for guaranteeing the performance of these applications is to simply increase an organisation’s network bandwidth, and in the process ensure your infrastructure can handle the additional traffic. Whilst admittedly a viable option, and one that has been a common solution in the past, any CIO will tell you that extra bandwidth, particularly for a large-scale, global network, is a pricey endeavour to say the least. This is especially so when such a network lies across multiple sites, and based upon a hybrid mix of Internet and MPLS. When the ultimate goal is to reduce expenditure, one would have to take a long, hard look at the cost to projected savings ratio and decide whether the investment would likely see returns in good time.
Modern network infrastructure has to be thought of not in terms of scale, but optimisation and prioritisation. By providing the CIO and IT managers with visibility over the traffic flow of the network and the bandwidth usage on a granular, app-by-app level, an agile infrastructure capable of adapting for an organisation’s particular business goals can be created.
The KBC example
Belgium-based banking and insurance group KBC, serving some 50,000 employees worldwide, is a prime example of a global financial services organisation that chose flexibility over scale. KBC recently embarked on the deployment of Microsoft Office 365 and Lync across the entire organization, with the goal of vastly reducing operational costs.
Bart Adriaensen, Head of Telecom and UC² eWorkplace, KBC Group, said at the time; “To support these new usages, we realised that we needed not only to look at the network, but also at the global IT infrastructure design. Our ambition is still to have the most efficient and flexible network of the financial sector in Belgium that supports the ever-changing needs of the business.
“Following the full roll-out, we calculated we would have over 15,000 users on Microsoft Lync, spread across our many branches and headquarters, so we couldn’t take the risk of employees not receiving get an optimum experience, otherwise usage would drop and the initial investment would not pay for itself.”
The end result
Through deployment of network optimisation solutions from Ipanema Technologies across 827 bank branches, KBC successfully deployed multiple unified communications solutions. Through guaranteeing consistent application performance levels and introducing a ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD) policy that allows employees to work from anywhere at any time, KBC ensured full end-user adoption of these new services and the cost-saving benefits that go hand-in-hand with them.
Microsoft Lync conferences have increased from 92 to 3700 a week, facilitating telecommunication cost savings due to 20 per cent less landline extensions on PBX. Through use of reliable video conferencing KBC reduced business travel by costs by an estimated 7 million kilometres, and the Lync deployment and BYOD policy has allowed 4,900 employees to be able to tele-work.
Such a deployment is admittedly no mean feat, but in doing so KBC not only cut costs in the short-term, but guaranteed that the network would be flexible enough to dynamically adapt to new business applications in the future.
Unified communications offer huge opportunities to any international organisation to improve productivity and collaboration, whilst reducing related costs. However, they are ultimately dependent on the end-user’s experience. For any deployment of such applications, particularly within the financial sector where a greater focus on efficiencies and expenditure is apparent, guaranteeing the performance of business-critical applications is crucial to the deployment success.