Case Study

Asia Commercial Bank improves workplace collaboration and productivity by utilising private cloud

By Neeti Aggarwal

Asia Commercial Bank has been actively exploring cloud-based technologies to improve system efficiency and foster better communication and collaboration among its staff.

  • ACB shifts to a new unified communication and collaboration system
  • It utilises cloud, mobility, and social media for improving work productivity, efficiency, and scalability
  • Refreshed aging platform with new infrastructure that complies with the regulatory and security needs

Banks are realising the need for a comprehensive strategy towards changing interactions, real time communications, and faster response time both with the customers and their internal employees as they focus on digitisation. There is a greater need to enable employee communication, social media interaction, and knowledge sharing mechanism to achieve higher productivity benefits and employee retention. Asia Commercial Bank (ACB), one of the leading private banks in Vietnam, has recently refreshed its legacy infrastructure and updated its workplace collaboration structure using a private cloud platform.

The new system utilises mobile, cloud, and social media technologies that can be used through any device to improve work productivity, efficiency, and employee satisfaction.

This endeavour was awarded the ‘Best Cloud-based Project in Vietnam’ during The Asian Banker Technology Innovation Awards 2016.

The challenge
ACB employs around 9,000 staff across 350 branches in 47 cities and provinces in the country. When its chief information officer, Mathew Martin, joined the bank two-and-a-half years ago, the bank was facing an urgent need to improve and manage its email and communication system.

The system was operating on three incompatible email platforms with different sign-ins. The email system was lacking mobility and was less effective as it can only be accessed through computers using a pre-installed Virtual Private Network (VPN). There was also a need to centralise the monitoring capability for information technology (IT) security, downloads, and software updates on individual computers and other devices that could be used to access emails. The bank’s legacy infrastructure and multiple platforms had reduced staff productivity and a real-time communication framework through text and social media was non-existent, which delayed decision-making.

ACB realised the need to implement a new enterprise architecture that could better organise resources, be controlled centrally to manage system security, and enable modern ways of collaboration and communication by using mobile and social media channels.

Thus, the bank implemented an ‘Infrastructure Refresh Project’ to shift to a new core system and a unified communication and collaboration service using Microsoft Office365 suite.

Feature and functionalities
ACB is one of the first few Vietnamese banks to implement this project for workplace collaboration and infrastructure refresh in the country. The system came with three key features.

First, the bank implemented an ‘active directory’ to address issues on security and acquire a centralised control and authority over user access. The directory was also synchronised to the human resource system and user data to manage the access controls in case an employee leaves the bank.

Second, the bank had to migrate all emails to a unified communication system. The bank started using Microsoft Lync for internal instant messaging, person to person audio and video calls, online meeting, and other information sharing purposes. Furthermore, the bank explored using Skype for regional video conferencing to improve the day-to-day communication and regular discussions between and among the employees of the bank.

To build a better internal network, ACB chose Microsoft’s cloud based social networking application ‘Yammer’, for real-time team communication. Yammer provided bank employees with mobile productivity to collaborate anywhere and anytime using any device.

Infrastructure refresh project reengineered communication and collaboration within the bank

Source: Dimension Data

Lastly, the system was implemented using a private cloud with encrypted data for better security. This infrastructure, which is currently hosted by the bank, can be shifted to a public cloud in the future when needed. This also enabled the bank to shift its infrastructure to the cloud storage, improving efficiencies and reducing the need for disk storage.

ACB also built additional security features into the system such as user access control, bringing the authentication from the cloud applications and Yammer into the active directory to provide a secure and seamless user experience. This secured customer-centric and sensitive data, while users have the flexibility of using a hybrid cloud system.

Due to security and regulatory concerns, banks prefer not to use public clouds especially for systems that entail customer data. However, potential operational, cost and efficiency benefits are encouraging banks to push the boundaries and achieve more within existing regulations. ACB and the State Bank of Vietnam have started discussing the use of clouds and emerging technologies for future projects.

Technology partner
ACB selected Microsoft’s active cloud implementation partner in Asia, Dimension Data, as its technological vendor for the project based on three criteria: ability to provide end-to-end deployment; proven experience on similar execution across Asia Pacific; and multiple subject matter expertise to provide best practice and project validation.

Dimension Data refreshed the bank’s legacy infrastructure and implemented the enterprise platform to deliver the following: Microsoft Unified Communication Command (UCC) Suite (Exchange, Lync, SharePoint, Office Pro Plus, Yammer, and One Drive) including Active Directory, Public Key Infrastructure (PKI)& System Centre Configuration Manager (SCCM).

It also designed the UCC Suite to be public and hybrid cloud ready so that the bank can continue to be ahead of competition as the market develops. The vendor helped the bank migrate all mailbox from other existing services into a single Microsoft platform and delivered the UCC strategy three years after it was initially implemented.

Business impact
The new system has brought notable qualitative and productivity benefits to the bank.

  • Users have better mobility access to their emails and chat system, improving productivity using a single email platform. 
  • Introduced a new way of collaboration with an enterprise social network and encouraged sharing and discussion among employees and managers of the company. 
  • Refreshed aging services and platform with new infrastructure that complies with the regulatory and security needs of the bank
  • Reduced response time needed to decision making, internal approvals and group discussion 
  • Provided the bank with a backup of all emails in encrypted format and are stored in the cloud. 

From having three email systems, the bank has moved to a single platform that has become the core of its operations. It has provided the bank with mobility, better service level, and the opportunity to get the latest software.

Currently, 20% of ACB staff are Yammer users, 50% are using mobile access for Lync, and 50% are accessing mail through mobile. Server uptime increased from 95% to 99.9% because of the platform. Hybrid identity solution spans on premise and cloud-based capability creating a single user identity for authentication and authorisation to all resources. This will help the bank to extend secure authentication with additional cloud services in the future.

Going forward, the bank will explore the potential of using this platform to send peer-to-peer (P2P) messages to external customers. It is also studying the increased role of video communication among internal users – and eventually towards their customers – provided that the bank’s bandwidth and network capability can manage this.

Project implementation
The project started in October 2014 and took 14 months to complete. The bank encountered some challenges especially when it started cleaning, migrating, and refiling huge amount of data to the shared storage. Twelve thousand mail boxes of 6,000 users of the old systems were also archived using the new Microsoft platform.

The deployment of the system sought to minimize operational disruption among its end users while making sure that it is more secured and convenient to access and operate. It should provide flexible features that allow the bank to scale in and out of the cloud based on the needed resources.

SWOT Analysis

Source: Asian Banker Research

Categories: Technology & Operations
Keywords: ACB, cloud-based technology, infrastructure, VPN, IT, Microsoft Lync, communication
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