Microsoft's case study regarding HSA solutions to unify services
HSA Yemen has overcome a challenging operating environment, by unifying services and systems and migrating infrastructure to the Microsoft Azure cloud platform.
HSA to uses best-in-class technological solutions to unify systems and services
HSA Yemen (HSA) is Yemen’s leading company, employing 20,000 people across the country. HSA Yemen is the founding entity of HSA Group, a family-owned conglomerate established in 1938 that today is one of the largest multi-national business based in the Middle East. Through its more than 50 operating companies, HSA Yemen manufactures and supplies essential goods and services to multinational organizations, communities and families, both in Yemen and across the Middle East and Africa region. HSA Yemen has overcome a challenging operating environment, stemming from six years of ongoing conflict in its home country, by unifying its many services and systems and migrating its infrastructure to the Microsoft Azure cloud platform.
HSA Yemen (HSA) manufactures and supplies essential goods and services to multinational organizations, communities, and families, both in Yemen and across the Middle East and Africa region. HSA is a market leader across the FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods) industrial, trading and services sectors in Yemen, with various products such as edible oils, dairy products, biscuits, confectionery, flour milling, sugar refining, carton printing and packaging, and cement production.
Challenge: Ensure supply of vital food and medicines, overcome infrastructure shortfalls due to war and pandemic
The implementation and integration of Microsoft services across the organization was not driven by any one key factor, but a reaction to HSA’s challenging operational environment and a commitment by HSA to use best-in-class technological solutions to protect and enhance its business.
As Yemen’s largest company that delivers vital products to millions of Yemenis across the country, it has been crucial for HSA to review and evolve the way it operates in order to adapt to the ongoing conflict and best support its customers. Because of—rather than in spite of—the major challenges HSA has faced in recent years as a result of its operating environment, its leadership has great ambitions for the future of the company. HSA has continued to invest and grow in the face of adversity. The organization has embarked on a significant prorgam of investment - Transformation Journey - across its operating companies, which has seen unprecedented investment in IT infrastructure, people and talent development, manufacturing, and R&D operations. Improving technology infrastructure was critical to delivering its vision, enabling HSA’s growth and supporting the communities it serves.
The operational environment in Yemen rendered the delivery of ‘business-as-usual’ operations nearly impossible. Prior to its Transformation Journey, HSA’s IT infrastructure relied on multiple technologies and solutions, lacking a centralized administration or domain base. This resulted in a patchwork of different websites, email systems, and services throughout over 50 operating companies. HSA has been able to adapt and solve these issues by migrating all of its systems and websites to a unified server hosted on Microsoft Azure, and by migrating the variety of email systems to Office 365. Another challenge was the need to restructure its data storage services. HSA needed a solution that enabled the company to store data and overcome security risks exacerbated by the ongoing conflict. The principal risk of damage to its physical datacenters in the country resulted in a shift to cloud-based services, as offered by Azure. In addition, the use of Office 365 and Azure solutions allowed HSA to overcome information security issues such as antivirus, spam, secure communication and identify protection, and device management.
Like most global businesses at the outset of the COVID-19 health crisis, HSA was faced with the challenge of shifting to primarily virtual-based communication. However, this was compounded by the already strained systems of communications in Yemen. Damaged roads and telephone towers were an occupational hazard in the country even before the crisis struck. HSA employs more than 20,000 people, with operations based in three countries. Widespread adoption of Microsoft Office 365 across the company allowed HSA’s leadership and wider operating companies to improve connectivity and collaborate internationally. Additional training was provided to employees to ensure they could take advantage of the technologies provided by Microsoft.
Solution: Make global digital transition using Azure for a highly secure infrastructure for data, and transition to Office 365 and Teams for ease of communication and training
As part of the Transformation Journey, HSA is adopting a technology-led approach to integrate digital into all aspects of the organization. With over 50 operating companies, HSA needed a solution to upgrade the work environment across its organizations, and Office 365 and Azure cloud-based services were best suited to deliver on HSA’s ambitious strategy. In early 2019, HSA began deploying Microsoft services and SAP implementation across strategic companies, in addition to improving the overall network environment.
In the context of a six-year conflict that has significantly disrupted Yemen’s technology infrastructure, the company has taken decisions as a business that many would see as ambitious. HSA Yemen has invested in internet access for the good of the organization and the communities it serves, upgraded the networking environment for Yemen companies—such as the internet and satellite lines—and overseen infrastructure upgrades such as the implementation and operation of SAP ERP, and hosting servers in the cloud. To implement Microsoft services, HSA signed an enterprise agreement and began the migration of the Cairo office before expanding into Yemen. To support this process, training sessions were delivered to encourage employees to explore the features of Office 365. To date, HSA has successfully migrated 60 percent of the operating companies to Office 365 and plans to continue rolling out new technology throughout its operation. Like the experience of most companies, COVID-19 has impacted the ability to carry out face-to-face training sessions, however, increased use of Microsoft Teams has enabled HSA to continue with its ambitious technology transformation.
Impact: Work anywhere better and more securely, ensure essential food and medicine delivery, empower and train teams across the region
HSA’s Transformation Journey is a program that will future-proof the organization, equipping the company with the tools, capabilities, skills, and people to lead it into the future. Investing significantly in technology has led to a marked increase in accessibility and communication among its over 50 operating companies. This has enabled HSA to break down silos and harness an interconnected and unified organization. Ultimately, greater use of technology and software, such as Office 365, has led to improved ways of working.
HSA has invested in extensive training for its employees to use the latest technology platforms across its operations, including Office 365. Rolling out Microsoft solutions has supported its business units and functions, and enabled interconnectivity between back-office functions across the organization.
Further, improved technology, such as the use of Teams, meant that HSA’s leadership was able to communicate effectively with operating companies throughout the pandemic. Greater use of Office 365 across the business allowed the operating companies in Yemen to better communicate with HSA, feeding into a more effective response to the challenges of COVID-19.
At a time when Yemen is facing the ”world’s worst humanitarian crisis” (UN, 2021), it has been essential for HSA to continue the production and delivery of vital products and services—including essential food and medicine—across Yemen. By implementing Microsoft systems, HSA has been able to greatly improve connectivity and efficiencies that, in turn, have enabled HSA to maintain production of essential goods and allowed the organization to continue to support customers in the communities it serves.
Looking to the future
As part of HSA’s Transformation Journey, the company will continue to implement Microsoft services across its operating companies. It is focused on investing in the future of the organization and targeting a significant digital transformation in all business areas that not only improves its infrastructure and technology, but above all, its people. HSA will continue to offer training to all employees to take advantage of Microsoft services, leading to improved ways of working.
To improve its organizational infrastructure, HSA migrated all network lines from copper to fiber optic to support high speed internet solutions. Further, HSA is preparing on-the-ground online conferencing, which will significantly improve the way it trains and engages with employees. To support this training, it will use Microsoft SharePoint to build its intranet service to allow for increased connectivity throughout HSA and the operating companies.
In anticipation of the point that Yemen emerges from conflict, HSA has invested significantly in Yemen’s internet infrastructure. This initiative introduces 21st-century digital infrastructure into geographical areas that are currently without internet connectivity, paving the way for local economic development.