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Timely Overhaul - Ansal Housing upgrades its communications infrastructure

June 15, 2009
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While it has a substantial market share of the real estate business, Ansal Housing and Construction (AHC) recognised the need to upgrade its rather limited communications infrastructure to one that facilitates seamless connectivity.This had to be done in view of the organisation's twin goals of maintaining its leadership position in the Indian real estate space as well as ensuring business continuity.tele.net traces the development of AHC's IT and telecom set-up...


AHC, part of the Ansal Housing Group, was set up in 1983. In its 25 years of operation, the company has developed townships, residential complexes, commercial complexes, retail spaces, hotels and movie halls in the country. The Ansal Housing Group's yearly turnover is in excess of Rs 3.5 billion.

Legacy system

AHC earlier utilised information silos, which were isolated management systems incapable of reciprocal operation with each other or with related management systems. Coordination amongst various departments and different branch offices was hence inefficient, and communication and seamless interoperability were difficult. Various departments within the company had their own computer systems and each system had to rely on a set of common data to communicate with each other.

The company had a very simple communications set-up. It utilised email, intercoms and telephone lines for internal and external communication.In the early days, the company used "dumb terminals". These were basically display monitors that had no processing capabilities –­ output devices that accepted data from a central processing unit.Vital information remained fragmented, which created confusion at various administrative levels.

With business growing, the company realised that it needed to put in place a systematic IT infrastructure.

The shift

The basic agenda, as chalked out by AHC, was to achieve greater operational efficiency, lower costs and streamline the communication channels within the organisation and with its clients and partners.

To achieve this, the construction major first upgraded and added to its wide area network (WAN) infrastructure. It opted for leased lines as a medium of interand intra-branch connectivity, as well as a point-to-point Ethernet set-up provided by Bharti Airtel.

It deployed an Ethernet-based network, which is relatively cheap to set up compared to other mediums of connectivity. This brought in several benefits for the company.

The company also deployed a Citrix system for its telephony needs. The Citrix-based set-up has enabled administrators to deploy, manage and support applications from a single location in a very short span of time. Moreover, the medium offers the ability to manage the network centrally, automate upgrades, support users remotely and replicate data.

In terms of applications, the company now uses enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM).

The ERP system in particular has proved to be a useful tool, as it has helped to automate and link all of the company's business processes. The system helps in combining the data of previously separate applications, synchronising data and information across multiple systems. AHC can now standardise and reduce the amount of software required for multiple processes.

The CRM platform has helped the company in sales forecasting, task integration and staying connected. The company can now capture, update and share information on all prospective leads and projects; keep track of bid dates and other project scheduling information; rate projects for bidding based on a configurable criteria; and make accurate forecasts on project revenue.

For network security, tools such as user authentication and firewalls are now used.The company has opted for user authentication, as it prevents unauthorised usage of the network and its resources.

Finally, Microsoft's Office Communication Server (OCS) has been deployed. OCS integrates the potential features the company was looking for for cost-effective licensing and bandwidth. OCS has enabled streamlined communication across applications, networks and devices. It has delivered software-powered voice over internet protocol, web conferencing and enterprise instant messaging while maintaining the required operational control.

Benefits and challenges

The key benefits of the company's new and improved communications infrastructure have been significant scalability and capability while offering value for money.AHC did not face any major challenges while upgrading its telecom systems. A minor hurdle though was educating the staff to adapt to the new telecom infrastructure.

Having decided to overhaul its communications infrastructure in a prudent and timely manner, AHC is now reaping the benefits of a flexible and scalable communications infrastructure.

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