LEADING AFRICAN REINSURER ENGAGES SIGNAL ALLIANCE TO REDUCE OPERATIONAL COSTS AND INCREASE EFFICIENCY BY LEVERAGING ON THE CLOUD
Pan-African reinsurance outfit, Continental Reinsurance, needed to address power outages in its native Lagos. The outages were leading to lost emails. It implemented Office 365 and not only gained 99.9% availability (successfully handling the outage issue), but also a raft of further compelling benefits. These range from dramatic cost savings and anytime, anywhere mobility to significant productivity gains and the removal of time-consuming, inefficient, paper-based processes.

BUSINESS NEEDS
Continental Reinsurance is a Pan-African composite reinsurer. Founded in 1985, it started business as a private reinsurance company in Nigeria and, in 1990, became a composite reinsurer offering its services through insurance companies and brokers.
Today, it has six client service centers in Nigeria, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya, Tunisia and Botswana. From its Nigerian headquarters, it has grown a diversified portfolio in more than 44 countries. The company prides itself on being truly Pan-African and on being the ‘torch bearer’ for the African Reinsurance sector: in no way limited by physical borders.
Because of the company’s adoption of Office 365, it is able to operate with a relatively small number of staff. It started with 50 employees and today has a total of 100 staff at its six client service centers.
The company had initially used Eudora email.  However, following a lack of development and support, the latter’s functionality proved limited. On top of this, power outages in Nigeria were causing significant problems.
Kanma Okafor, CIO, Continental Reinsurance explains, “Power supply in Nigeria is a major issue and our servers were losing power in the middle of the night. When the servers shut down, emails were dropped. So we didn’t get all of our emails. Of course, this was causing problems and slowing down some of our operations.”
Rather than wrestle with its existing platform, the company decided to seek an alternative. “We were essentially looking for a platform that would address the power and bandwidth issues and guarantee availability. The technology market develops rapidly, and we wanted a platform that would offer more functionality and also support mobility,” adds Kanma Okafor.

SOLUTION
Following an appraisal of competing technologies (including a hosted Exchange platform from 123.com), the company chose Office 365.  Kanma Okafor says, “Of course, it provides hosted Exchange from the cloud, so it addressed the issue of availability and lost emails. However, at the same time, its other features were also really compelling.”
For instance, OneDrive is a cloud-based file hosting service that allows users to sync files and later access them from a web browser or mobile device. It provided Continental Reinsurance with an immediately accessible system for backing up documents and ensuring the latest document versions were available. To achieve needed functionality, the company had previously had to write shell scripts, which required programming knowledge and was also time-consuming.
Office 365 also delivers Skype for Business, a cost effective collaboration tool for businesses, as a central feature. Continental Reinsurance aimed to create a video conferencing platform using Skype for Business as the foundation. This would be used to connect its six client service centers.
Another stand out feature for Continental Reinsurance was SharePoint Online. The company immediately saw the value in SharePoint Online as a means for sharing, organizing and managing data online and replacing inefficient, time-consuming, paper-based processes.
Furthermore, as well as underpinning and advancing its mobility strategy by providing employees access to Office 365 from mobile devices, the cloud-based productivity suite was also set to drive significant savings as a result of significantly reduced license fees. For Kayode Faseyitan, manager in charge of Microsoft Services and Licenses, this was a compelling benefit: “We knew we could achieve really big savings.  Added to the collaboration features in Office 365, we had no hesitations about choosing it.”
The company engaged IT partner Signal Alliance, Africa’s leading Microsoft partner, to drive the roll out.  It was achieved within 60 days across all six client service centers in Nigeria, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya and Tunisia. The roll out also included the creation of electronic workflows in SharePoint Online.

BENEFITS
Alongside being the first company in Africa to implement Office 365, Continental Reinsurance gained a raft of compelling benefits: from high availability for emails to the removal of time-consuming, paper-based processes and concomitant efficiency gains for significant cost-savings and more efficient business operations. “Office 365 has saved a lot of time and costs, and it helped improve productivity. This cloud-based software is actually more secure than on-premises platforms,” says Kanma Okafor.

With the implementation of Office 365, alongside other cost-saving cloud projects, Continental Reinsurance now has ICT expenses that total about 0.7% of revenue compared to a global average of 3%.
Savings of two-thirds on license costs, the company pays about one-third of what it estimated for license costs.
High availability of email platform, 99.9% with no downtime.
Integration of Skype for Business with Polycom technologies to create a video conferencing platform. This resulted in large savings on travel costs, as staff no longer need to travel so often between company locations.
Skype for Business-based video-conferencing enables immediate collaboration between different locations across Africa.
SharePoint Online leads to the creation of 20 online workflows; ranging from claims to onboarding new customers. This boosts productivity across the business.
SharePoint Online-based workflows result in 50% savings on time previously spent on paper-based processes.
Underpinning mobility with employees able to work from any location, including home, and access all relevant documents and emails.
OneDrive provides an up-to-date repository for company documents; enabling employees to easily back up and access the latest versions of their documents.
Security is watertight with more security features than on-premises infrastructures.

Software and Services
Microsoft Office 365
Microsoft Exchange Online
Microsoft OneDrive
Microsoft Skype for Business Online
Microsoft SharePoint Online
Microsoft Yammer Online