A digital transformation story, told by the technology expert who drove it: Modernizing investor relations for a global firm using Microsoft Dynamics 365 Sales, the Power Platform, and Microsoft Teams
I care about people. Really. If I ever decided to tattoo something on my chest, it might be that. When I help design or build a software system for somebody, I’m thinking about the end users, their customers, and the management.
Every so often, you get a project where you realize you're going to change lives.
The project I’m talking about here was one of those. While they were using very outdated processes, those processes were indeed functioning. However, there were too many manual steps involved. Those steps were not going to work well with modern technology as we continued to automate and improve those processes.
As we moved forward with the discovery process, we realized this was going to be one of those life-changing projects. When you know you’re doing more than a “lift and shift”—or a linear move, it’s so satisfying. It’s going to be revolutionary. It’s going to make their processes better and their reporting more accurate. It’s going to give time back to the people who are working so hard and so smart.
That’s when it’s thrilling—when you’re on a project that helps an organization come into the modern age.
Because everybody has a smartphone these days, there’s no question what technology can do. So, it’s understandable that organizations want tools that are as easy to use as a smartphone. While that’s not exactly “easy,” it certainly is possible. When you can do that, you kick off a real revolution.
The business challenge: Investor relations held back by outdated, manual processes and spreadsheets
With $70B+ in assets across credit, private equity, and real estate strategies, this
Investor relations was one area of specific concern. Manual processes, tracked in an Excel spreadsheet, only recorded requests—or requests from custodians on behalf of investors. With multiple divisions, not everyone in the firm would be speaking directly to the custodian or investor. So, investor relations relied on this spreadsheet to track those communications and route them to the right areas within the organization.
It might seem hard to believe that a firm with billions in assets under management would be using Excel. Not to say Excel isn’t very dependable. It simply was not the most efficient way to get the job done. There was a lot of potential to make things better.
To me, this was like introducing someone from the stone age to an airplane. This was our chance to blow their minds. For me, one of the most exciting things about this project was the opportunity to transform the person managing billions of dollars’ worth of requests, from a spreadsheet manager into a data steward—complete with better tools she needs to support her position and improve the process.
Challenge accepted: Dynamics 365 Sales integrated with Microsoft Teams
The firm had a complex data structure in place, so the pieces were already in place to get to a solution; we just needed to help connect them. This was important because we could not assume they knew what they wanted.
They were making a huge transformational leap from Excel. How could we ask them about metrics and what they wanted on their dashboard? That would be like asking a person who has never seen an airplane if they want a first-class seat. Even though they were very shrewd when it comes to their business, we still had to make sure our consultant hats were on to guide them through the process. They had seen some of what Microsoft Dynamics 365 Sales and the Microsoft
With the design complete, we worked with them to revolutionize the process in a surprisingly short amount of time, transforming a system of memos, faxes, spreadsheets, chats, emails with shared inboxes, phone calls, shifted from a spreadsheet to a system of lean, mean processes that provide complete visibility into real-time data and promote collaboration, plus, the ability to work remotely to avoid disruption during the pandemic
The new process lives in the cloud, so it’s always in real time and with permission, is accessible by anyone from anywhere. The entire team can collaborate, getting up-to-the-minute notifications allowing updates to the system in real time.
The business outcome: Adoption and ownership
Data accessibility and transparent reporting were big gains from this project. Because the investor relations team gained a mastery of data; it enabled them to continuously raise the bar of white glove service they deliver to their super-investors.
But the story doesn’t end there. By being so involved in the transformation process, the client’s team became more and more participatory in the overall vision for the project.
After seeing what could be done with Microsoft tools, they realized that other departments could have more involvement. How advantageous! Their team is brainstorming the creation of a self-service investor portal to provide even faster service to their clients. The reality sets in that from one, specific project that the possibilities are virtually boundless.
That is what I enjoy about what I do.
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