CASE STUDY: First Ireland


14 Jul 2010

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An insurance broker’s network upgrade has boosted productivity and improved customer service.

COMPANY NAME:

First Ireland Risk Management

BUSINESS:

Founded in 1981, First Ireland Risk Management is among Ireland’s largest indigenous insurance brokerages. Owned and operated by its senior partners, it employs 89 staff at offices in Parkgate Street, Dublin, and Leixlip, Co Kildare, serving business and individual customers.

THE CHALLENGE:

A complete upgrade of the company’s phone and data network, underlying IT infrastructure and data storage systems to enable better access and faster use of the company’s important line of business applications, as well as delivering all-round better service to customers and significant cost savings for the business.

THE STRATEGY:

A strategic decision was made to go for a total revitalisation of its IT hardware systems on the occasion of its move to a new company HQ, says Sarah Sheridan, IT director at First Ireland Risk Management.

“We were moving to a new premises here in Parkgate Street and the network at our old premises was ageing and required a serious update,” says Sheridan. “An investment in new infrastructure had been postponed in expectation of the move. Meanwhile, significant growth in client numbers and in staff numbers meant that we had bigger data storage requirements and needed more speed all round. So we decided to go for a brand new network here and update everything.”

THE SOLUTION:

First Ireland decided to partner with MJ Flood Technology, which designed and installed a solution featuring a number of key elements, including a new network backbone, IP telephony, streamlined application delivery, enhanced data storage and a fresh CAT6a cabled infrastructure. The technology vendors used included VMWare, Microsoft, IBM and Televantage.

THE BENEFITS:

Sheridan says that First Ireland’s telephony bill had fallen considerably as a result of now having a voice over internet protocol (VoIP) telephony system.

“Having the VoIP system gives us options,” she says. “We recently put in a GSM gateway which has made a big difference to our phone bill already, as calls out to mobiles were the most expensive part of our bill. We are now exploring other VoIP options, for landline calls, as well, although bandwidth is an issue there.”

First Ireland’s customer service staff are now 25pc more productive as a result of the new network, Sheridan says.

“The more we move from handling paper to doing everything online the more reliant we have become on our imaging and document management system,” she says. “Previously, our staff were waiting a few seconds for information to pop up on their screen. Any kind of problems on the network or problems with speed hugely affected productivity during the day. Everything now is pretty much instant.”

The extra functionality of the new IP telephony system – including consolidated voice mail, call reporting features and regulatory support tools – also helps First Ireland’s users work more effectively and efficiently, Sheridan says.

“Voice-mail messages are consolidated within a single account for quick, easy retrieval and response,” she says. “Resources can be easily re-allocated at peak periods, thereby reducing call wait times. The system interacts with Outlook with emails being automatically moved in and out. This supports our staff in understanding our customers’ requirements and advising them on the best possible fit for their insurance needs.”

The new network has enabled flexible working on the part of a proportion of the company’s workforce, Sheridan says.

“We were also able to extend mobile email access to staff who are out and about,” she says. “They are able to keep in touch and deliver faster responses to clients or address issues that arise with different insurance companies.”

Sheridan says the new virtualised infrastructure has led to a 60pc reduction in energy costs while also requiring fewer administration and support resources.

“Our comms room is definitely a tidier place these days,” she says. “Our IT manager is now more productive as the new system is a lot easier to manage. Everything is centrally controlled and he is just doing updates and solving simple problems as they arise.”

THE VERDICT:

First Ireland Risk Management has significantly reduced its telephony and energy costs, while boosting staff productivity with the implementation of a whole new IT infrastructure incorporating new technologies, such as IP telephony and virtualisation. The project, in short, is a success.

“The new network has made a huge difference,” says Sheridan. “We have seen great improvements in the day-to-day processing of documentation out to clients and it has just speeded the whole process up. We have a very good infrastructure in place now and we are very happy with our hardware. The priority now is to further reduce our telecommunications costs and telephone bills. We are looking at getting more bandwidth at a more affordable cost. We do not have a great DSL service over the existing lines so we are trialling a wireless solution. We are always looking for something better.”

By Dermot Corrigan