Bashundhara Group automates and secures its business through Microsoft Cloud

A leading business engaged in diverse areas, Bashundhara Group sees serving its country and people as central to its mission. Given the complexity of its operations, the group needed to move from on-premise IT infrastructure to SAP on Azure for security, unified data, automation, and a modernized workplace. Since rolling out Azure and Microsoft 365, the conglomerate has not only saved time and money but has also strengthened accountability, collaboration, and mobility. Time saved means renewed focus on new business.

Bashundhara Group started as a real estate venture known as East-West property development Ltd in 1987. Since then, the company has invested in new industries such as cement, paper & tissue, steel, LPG bottling and distribution, trading, and media. A strong, entrepreneurial company, the group has become a leader among Bangladesh businesses, and employs an average of 50,000 workers. 

The conglomerate indirectly provides for the livelihood of half a million Bangladeshi citizens, fulfilling its mission to serve the country and its people. Ultimately, Bashundhara Group wants to be Bangladesh’s largest private-sector contributor to economic and social development, and is working to establish itself globally.

To say that Bashundhara Group is a large, complex, and diverse business is an understatement. “We have 50 pioneering business organizations catering to the local economy. Each organization has its own administration, human resources, and transport departments. The IT department is the only one working covering most of the business segments of the group,” says Sifat Jahan Nur, Chief Information Officer, Bashundhara Group. “IT ensures that Bashundhara Group’s huge volume of business processes and operations run smoothly.”

The organization wanted to increase productivity and to give management more time to concentrate on growing the business. This was why issues with its IT system needed to be resolved. “Our core infrastructure was SAP on-premise. It was a multi-platform environment that was hard to manage. We had high maintenance costs, backup problems, and non-centralized data,” explains Sifat J N. Bashundhara Group encountered information leakage from one of its legacy systems and experienced interruptions, too. Given the organization’s size and the variety of its business concerns, it needed to strengthen security and minimize downtime.

Apart from wanting to transform the organization’s IT system, Sifat J N envisioned a digital transformation for Bashundhara Group—one that meant going paperless and being collaborative, mobile, automated, fully secure, and scalable. Azure had all of the features the conglomerate was looking for.

Digital transformation across industries and companies that are equipped with digital technology will be more robust and have faster adaptability to any event. This has been accelerated during the pandemic. One of the decisions that we made was to be fully digital end-to-end and to access our data from anywhere with any device through Microsoft Cloud solutions. We also enhanced our capabilities by collaborating with Microsoft to unlock new efficiencies and future-proof our business. 

Safwan Sobhan: Vice Chairman

Bashundhara Group

Transforming through the cloud

To realize its vision, Sifat’s IT department worked with Microsoft and its partners to implement SAP on Azure with Azure Sentinel. “The SAP project was challenging because multiple partners were working on the project during the pandemic,” Sifat J N shares. Still, he considers himself lucky. “For one thing, our partners and Microsoft provided remote support. Second, most of the technical people reside in the area and felt comfortable enough to work at my place for extended periods,” says Sifat J N.

Because of Azure, we now have greater security and we’re able to provide our employees remote access to our internal systems. This gives them mobility so they can work from anywhere. 

Sifat Jahan Nur: Chief Information Officer

Bashundhara Group

Despite the difficulties, the project was successful. “Because of Azure, we now have greater security and we’re able to provide our employees remote access to our internal systems. This gives them mobility so they can work anywhere,” notes Sifat J N.

I can’t think of working in the office without Microsoft. In addition to the integrated and simplified all-around solutions via various apps, they provided documentation with workflows. The use of Microsoft 365 has drastically improved my working experience, from keeping data secure to share large amounts of data. 

Md. Delwar Hossain: Chief Human Resources Officer, HR & Admin, Sector-C

Bashundhara Group

The IT department also deployed Microsoft 365 for over 3600 users, focusing not only on email services but also for its other features such as Teams and Power Apps. “We immediately implemented automated approval for different business processes through Teams. We deployed Adobe for digital signatures and integrated this into Teams as well. We started using Outlook’s task management reminders throughout the group. Everyone at Bashundhara Group is very excited to use these services,” says Sifat J N.  

The management is also very keen on robust security. Microsoft security solutions help Bashundhara Group protect its environment. Microsoft 365, specifically, enables the business to track leakages.

Our office schedules are always full, especially when we face ad-hoc tasks or unwanted outcomes. The composite support mechanism provided by Microsoft 365 is a blessing. Initially, I didn’t find much difference from my previous set-up, but gradual engagement has elevated my work to a new level. Systematic alignment in Microsoft 365 gives us more space and time to think and make decisions. 

Mohammad Towfique Hasan: Executive Director and HoD, Marketing and Business Development Division, Sector-C

Bashundhara Group

Making positive changes

These initiatives were made possible by the organization’s Vice Chairman, Safwan Sobhan, who has been a driving force behind change management. VC’s support made it easier for Sifat to implement Microsoft solutions in the company. “He’s probably the only person extensively using all of the IT and Microsoft products. In fact, he sometimes discovers applications that can be used in Teams and challenges me to set them up. I’m motivated by these challenges and see them as opportunities to do more for the company. Other employees are likewise excited to use Microsoft solutions because they see him doing so and want to follow his example,” shares Sifat J N.

Microsoft’s local and global teams have also gone out of their way to help. “They continuously show me recent updates, study the business, and offer us solutions most suitable for our context. We really appreciate their initiative. They’ve also been helping me with training and user development, and these have been really helpful.”

The combination of support and leadership from upper management, a strong IT head and department, and the work from both Microsoft and its partners have benefited both Bashundhara Group’s business and its people.

With Teams, we now have a smart and quick communication with our team members and other departments. We can connect in meetings from anywhere, anytime and in turn, we have increased our productivity. All thanks to our Hon’ble Vice Chairman for choosing Microsoft 365. 

Mohammad Kamrul Hassan: CFO, Bashundhara Paper Mills Ltd., Sector C

Bashundhara Group

Making users work lives more productive

“Overall, the feedback from our end users is quite positive,” says Sifat J N. “They really like using Teams because it enables them to collaborate more closely. Outlook’s task and reminder features help everyone take responsibility for meeting deadlines. Auto approval has been beneficial both during and after the pandemic lockdowns and has reduced transport costs. OneDrive and SharePoint have reduced printing and stationery costs.” In addition, the company foresees up to 75% maintenance cost savings with Azure.

On the management side, Bashundhara Group is enjoying increased visibility. “Management can see their team members working. Also, because our business processes are automated, less time is spent on paperwork and monitoring the staff. Our leaders can focus on new business,” points out Sifat J N. “The digital automation, Teams, and online meetings have enabled Vice Chairman Safwan Sobhan, for example, to spend more time out of the country to work on global expansion plans. All of this will be good for Bashundhara Group, the economy, and the country. I can honestly say the kind of work environment we have now is quite dynamic and energetic.”

Planning ahead

The conglomerate looks forward to Microsoft’s promising road map for Bashundhara Group. “Our management is interested in working more closely with Microsoft. For the IT department, we’re working on rolling out our CRM with Microsoft Dynamics 365. We have plans for Power BI. We already started making SharePoint an internal portal for Bashundhara Group. We want SharePoint to host a slew of services that our employees can access. We also want to make extensive use of Yammer. Based on all of that, we will hold a workshop or even some sessions to help our users make full use of all these new solutions,” Sifat J N shares.

While the IT department has further to go on Bashundhara Group’s digital transformation journey, it feels confident about the future because of the digital transformation journey it undertook so far. “Any company seeking to undergo digital transformation needs to understand that Azure can be the backbone of a secure, scalable, and centralized cloud infrastructure from which they can benefit,” Sifat J N asserts. “The company must have a clear picture of what they want to achieve and what they need to thrive. They need local resources and talent. They must also find partners who can show them how Microsoft can make their work lives easier and more productive.”

Post-COVID, we view the world differently. People need reliable, 24×7 IT support to stay connected and productive. Microsoft products deliver the best on user expectations providing support and a seamless experience. Our team uses Microsoft solutions for their day-to-day activities, such as using e-mail, calendar, planner, and all official approval features. I can work from anywhere in the world and get my work done. 

Engr. Md. Jakaria Jalal: Head of Division (Sales), Bashundhara LP Gas Ltd., Sector A

Bashundhara Group