Bank Boosts Communication and Efficiency with Integrated Communications Architecture

“I used to regularly hear new-employee complaints
like, ‘I hate Notes. At my last job, I had Outlook.’
Today I never hear anybody say, ‘I hate Outlook.
At my last job, I had Notes.’"

- Robert Walters, Vice President of Distributed Computing Services, Union Bank of California


Union Bank of California relied on UNIX-based Lotus tools to help facilitate communication. However, the products did not easily interoperate with other applications and third-party devices, which slowed productivity, hindered communication, and restricted choice. To address these issues, Union Bank worked with Binary Tree to migrate nearly 13,000 mailboxes from Lotus Notes to Windows®-based Microsoft® Exchange Server 2003. The bank also replaced its Lotus Sametime instant messaging environment with Microsoft Office Communicator 2007. Other IT projects are in progress, including a migration of the organization’s corporate intranet and databases from Lotus Domino to Microsoft Office SharePoint® Server 2007. As a result of its new integrated solution, the bank has been able to simplify processes, facilitate greater levels of communication and collaboration, and minimize costs.

The Situation

Founded more than 140 years ago, Union Bank of California is one of the 25 largest banks in the United States. Businesses and individuals rely on the bank to manage accounts, investments, insurance, and loans. Customers can choose to bank online, over the phone, or in person with one of the more than 330 branches in California, Washington, and Oregon.

To manage customers’ various accounts, employees use hundreds of line-of-business applications that run on different operating systems. Productivity programs such as those in Microsoft® Office Professional Edition 2003 are also vital. In addition, e-mail pro-vides a critical avenue for communication between employees and with customers—who can choose to receive important information about accounts and offerings in e-mail.

Despite the availability of tools, employees faced several key communication challenges. There was no easy way to convert messages from Lotus Notes 5.0.2—the e-mail program used by the bank—to the format used by the Microsoft Office Outlook® 2003 messaging and collaboration client—the program used by most customers. As a result, employees spent significant time formatting e-mail mes-sages. Employees also found it challenging to automatically schedule meetings with outside partners or customers because of the way Lotus Notes manages iCalendar, the widely used format for calendar data exchange.

The lack of integration between the Lotus Notes environment, which ran on UNIX, and employees’ other tools, which ran on the Windows® XP operating system, created other issues as well. For example, employees could not send a file by e-mail directly from pro-grams such as Microsoft Office Excel® spreadsheet software. “People didn’t have access to features like Send To,” explains Robert Walters, Vice President of Distributed Computing Services at Union Bank. “At the time, they didn’t realize what they were missing.”

Employees also needed two passwords to use e-mail: one to log on to their workstation through the Active Directory® service and one to log on to Lotus Notes through Domino Directory. “It may seem like a small thing, but logging on twice was a constant hassle,” notes Walters.

The organization’s use of Lotus Notes also restricted choice in other software and mobile devices. About 10 percent of the bank’s employees, mostly executives, used BlackBerry mobile devices to communicate from other branches, a customer’s site, or home. The bank wanted to take advantage of Windows Mobile® phones and devices; how-ever, bank personnel could not find a way to support these devices with Lotus Notes 5.0.2.

The corporate intranet, built on Lotus Domino, was also inflexible. Employees had no easy way to create shared Web sites. As a result, groups lacked a central electronic space to share documents. Employees also had to enter a password to access resources that ran on the Lotus Domino application server because it too was managed by Domino Directory.

In 2006, Lotus Notes 5.0.2 was at the end of its life. Because of the many integration issues arising from Lotus Notes, IT executives considered a migration to Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 rather than an upgrade to Notes 7. “We looked at where the world is going,” says Tom Coleman, Senior Vice President of Technology Operations at Union Bank. “We asked, ‘In five years, is it going to be a Notes world or an Exchange Server world?’ After we looked at the facts, we realized it wasn’t a question of if we wanted to migrate but when we were going to migrate to Exchange Server.”


The solution

Union Bank personnel worked with Microsoft Services to outline a business case and architecture for Exchange Server 2003. With Exchange Server, the bank could create a more integrated environment and simplify the flow of information between employees and customers. In addition, Union Bank would be able to create a foundation for a larger communications solution that included inte-grated instant messaging (IM), Web sites, and presence technology for insight into employ-ees’ availability, preferred method of contact, and phone numbers.

In August 2006, the bank approved the Exchange Server solution. One engineer from Microsoft Services would work with bank per-sonnel to migrate Lotus Notes to Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 Enterprise Edition. The team would also slowly replace the Lotus software that supported the corporate intra-net, line-of-business applications, and IM to Microsoft Office products.

Migrating from Lotus Notes to Exchange Server

The team worked with IBM to design a server architecture to support the e-mail solution, including 16 IBM System x3850 server computers and 14 IBM xSeries 346 server computers. All of the computer systems run either the Windows Server® 2003 Enterprise Edition or Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition operating system. Six clustered systems support the primary Exchange Server mailbox servers, and five clustered systems run a failover environment.

Along with front-end servers to process e-mail requests and Hub Transport servers to connect the e-mail system to the Internet, the team deployed Microsoft Internet Security and Acceleration Server 2006 Enterprise Edition as an integrated edge security gateway to protect against Internet threats. To provide e-mail encryption and content protection, the team deployed Windows Rights Management Services. And to support long-term storage of e-mail messages, the bank worked with EMC to build a storage area network on EMC Symmetrix DMX-2 and DMX-3 storage devices.
In November and December 2006, Union Bank conducted extensive tests on the environment. Satisfied with the performance, the team rolled out the new e-mail solution to a pilot group of 100 people in January 2007. Several weeks later, the bank started to deploy Exchange Server one branch at a time. To accelerate the migration, the bank used CMT Universal from Binary Tree. Consultants from Binary Tree helped Union Bank develop custom scripts to facilitate mail routing. Walters says, “CMT Universal allowed us to build a farm of 30 migration machines. Work-ing continuously, the migration machines processed up to 200 users per night. One operator controlled all 30 migration machines from a single workstation.”

To help employees with the transition to Exchange Server, Union Bank provided numerous training options. “We engaged QuickStart Intelligence to help develop our training program, which played a key role in the success of our migration,” says Walters. Although the deployment of Exchange Server was scheduled for completion in June 2007, the team migrated all of the bank’s nearly 13,000 mailboxes—including contractor and shared mailboxes—by May 2007.

Broadening the Collaboration Vision

During the deployment of Exchange Server, Walters installed Microsoft Office SharePoint® Portal Server 2003 on a single server just to experiment with it. “I initially brought up SharePoint Portal Server 2003 only so that my department could use it,” explains Walters. “Other departments learned about what we were doing, and started to create SharePoint sites without any formal training. Within a very short period of time, there were almost 400 team sites.”

Because of the popularity of the SharePoint sites, the organization has since begun a formal deployment of Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007. IT personnel are converting the SharePoint Portal Server 2003 sites to SharePoint Server 2007—as well as the corporate intranet and the Domino databases. Union Bank is also migrating dozens of line-of-business applications so that they can be accessed through Office SharePoint Server 2007.

The bank has continued to expand its mes-saging and collaboration solution in other ways as well. For example, in 2007, the team integrated IM and presence capabilities by replacing Lotus Sametime with Microsoft Office Communicator 2007 and Office Communicator Mobile. In January 2008, Union Bank deployed Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 in a test environment to experiment with the product’s ability to deliver voice over IP telephony. Later this year, the bank plans to upgrade to Microsoft Office Professional 2007 and Exchange Server 2007 to take advantage of new disaster recovery and unified inbox features.


The Results

By replacing its UNIX-based Lotus software with Microsoft software that runs on Windows Server 2003, Union Bank of California has improved employee productivity, reduced costs, and simplified communications and scheduling.

Improved Employee Productivity

The integration between Exchange Server and Microsoft Office products has helped boost employee efficiency and teamwork.

“We’ve realized a tremendous increase in productivity by making the switch from Lotus Notes to Exchange Server,” says Coleman.

“We’ve been able take advantage of features in Microsoft Office programs that we couldn’t before.”

Thanks to the new integrated solution, employees can use a single user name and password to access most resources. “That will be a real timesaver, especially for people that need to log on multiple times a day,” notes Walters. “Having one password rather than two eliminates a source of frustration and reduces the number of help-desk calls.”

Employees have also found that Office Outlook 2003 is easier to use than Lotus Notes—which is especially helpful when people are hired. “New employees are much more likely to be familiar with Outlook than Lotus Notes,” explains Walters. “And because Outlook is pretty intuitive, people can use it after very little training. I used to regularly hear new-employee complaints like, ‘I hate Notes. At my last job, I had Outlook.’ Today I never hear anybody say, ‘I hate Outlook. At my last job, I had Notes.’”

Reduced Costs

Although cost was not a driving factor behind the migration to Exchange Server, Union Bank has found its new e-mail environment to be less expensive to deploy and manage.

The operational savings are a direct result of the more integrated architecture. “By elimi-nating Lotus Notes, we can run one platform for our employee environment, rather than continuing to support and license two,” explains Walters. “Our IT employees can also develop core competencies on our standardized platform, which makes us more efficient.”

Simplified Communications and Scheduling

The tightly integrated communication and collaboration tools make it easier for employees to communicate, and Union Bank can choose from many more compatible mobile devices and third-party tools. In addition, people no longer waste time reformatting customers’ e-mail messages, and it is easier to set up appointments. “Calendaring is a lot more stable in Exchange Server than in Lotus Notes,” says Walters. “So it is easier to exchange calendar information with customers and partners.”

The level of integration between tools also helps on-site and mobile employees access the information that they need faster than before—whether that means getting in touch with someone more quickly by viewing pres-ence information or accessing data on a team site. “Our new solution built on Exchange Server helps us to be more flexible in how we support our employees,” adds Walters. “With Office Communicator 2007, people can access presence information from their workstation or mobile device. This helps people get in touch with other employees more easily.”


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