The banking sector is often viewed as rather conservative when it comes to the adoption of cutting-edge technology. It's not a surprise to many if some banks are still on the IT infrastructure they first started out with years ago.
One bank, however, knew that it had to ditch its archaic infrastructure if it wanted to move with the times. Two years ago, the leading financial group in Malaysia, Malayan Banking Bhd. (Maybank), embarked on a massive IT project to revamp its communications and collaboration infrastructure.
Tunku Alizakri Alias, vice president and head of strategic planning in Maybank's corporate planning department, says the project came about because there was a need for better communications and collaboration within his department. Thus, he made a request for a new messaging and collaboration application for his department.
From 1995 to 2001, Maybank had been using a mainframe-based solution called MemoID. According to Alizakri, MemoID was a product past its shelf life. "Not only was the command line-based interface cumbersome. We couldn't even attach e-mails or get connected regionally," he says.
Fortunately, his management saw the bigger picture upon Alizakri's request. They asked him to implement the change for the whole group instead -- all 400 branches and 23,000 employees throughout Malaysia and around the region.
Having to take on such an enormous task, Alizakri and his team then went back to the drawing board to rethink their approach to the situation.
After much deliberation with additional team members from the information systems and HR department, it was decided that Maybank would now strive to be a "learning" organization.
"All this while, we haven't been able to effectively leverage the vast amount of information and knowledge amassed in our organization. We need to harness that resource if we want to adapt and evolve with our business environment," he says.
For Maybank's vision to be a learning organization to materialize, it has to take shape in the form of an enterprise portal, says Alizakri. The underlying platform had to be revamped, too. Alizakri, appointed as project manager of the now christened Foundation Project, and his expanded team then drew up a blueprint of the interface and content of the enterprise portal.
According to Alizakri, the blueprint outlined three key features that must be incorporated. One of them was the need for better messaging and collaboration tools. Next, is for the enterprise portal to serve as a gateway for various business applications. Finally, a knowledge repository to be installed for storage and analysis purposes.
After evaluating the options available in the market, IBM's Lotus Notes was selected as the underlying platform. Lotus Notes, the pioneer in groupware solutions, met the requirements Alizakri was looking for.
"We chose Lotus Notes because we felt it was a flexible and scalable platform, providing a lot of room for growth. It also worked well with our legacy AS/400 machines, with little tinkering," he says.
Because this was one of the biggest implementation of Lotus Notes in Malaysia, coupled with Maybank's lack of technical expertise in handling projects of such magnitude, IBM Malaysia stationed several staff in Maybank's head office -- Menara Maybank -- throughout the duration of the implementation. According to Alizakri, the IBM staffers were a great help in working out the finer details of the massive project.
The colossal project also meant that it had to be broken down into three phases. The first version of enterprise portal was first deployed from January 2002 to May 2003 as a proof of concept, giving access to 4,300 employees in Menara Maybank, nine regional offices, and 100 sales and service centers in the Klang Valley. During this period, 780 new PCs were installed and 159 PCs were given memory upgrades.
The second phase was then initiated from June 2003 to December 2004 to extend...
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