A technology expert on the front lines shares a transformation story of leveraging Microsoft to bring acquired companies under one parent:
In this Challenge Accepted interview, HSO Senior Functional Solution Architect, Richard Smith, will discuss how HSO overcame a challenge by pulling disparate acquired organizations under one roof.
Richard Smith, Senior Functional Solution Architect, explains how getting the architecture in place is vital to continued growth
As a Senior Functional Solution Architect, it’s my job to help guide our clients through very challenging project engagements. Often, when clients come to us, they’re unsure of what to do. They know they need to either do a major upgrade or integrate several systems. While they have these goals in mind, the specifics of how to do it and how to make sure it’s effective are foreign to them.
Some of this is because of the intricacies of their own business—and because they’re trying to change the tires and tune the engine while driving the car. Part of this, however, is also that technology products are evolving so much faster than they have in the past. We used to have three to four years between major product releases; we now have about six months. In some cases we have even less. It’s difficult for a client who’s focused on their business to comprehend what’s happening on the technology side of things. So, our goal is not only to bring our expertise and delivery excellence to the table…
We want to wrap our minds around the customer’s challenges and use that information along with our product knowledge to ensure a successful result.
The Business Challenge: Bring acquired organizations under one corporate umbrella from a technology and branding perspective
I’ve been with this company for more than two decades and have been through multiple acquisitions. I've also worked directly with many financial services clients, so I have several examples I can share that demonstrate the importance of understanding the client’s challenges. One example in comes to mind:
The company I’m thinking of is doing quite well but could be doing even better. They’ve been growing in leaps and bounds, partly through acquisitions. In fact, one of their major goals is to bring acquired organizations under the corporate tenant and brand over the past 10 years, which has proven to be fairly difficult, so they have chosen to let these organizations operate to some extent independently. Now, however, they’re seeing that there is real value to be gained from a business as well as a financial perspective by uniting them together under a common brand with common business models.
Challenge Accepted: Optimize Microsoft infrastructure and get technology on the same page
So, HSO engaged in three different projects with the organization:
1 – Moving Microsoft clients under the corporate umbrella & combining two implementations. The organization had purchased Microsoft clients that were not on the corporate Microsoft tenant, and they had another Microsoft partner who was very skilled moving them from one hand to another at the Microsoft 365 level. This included OneDrive, SharePoint, and Exchange.
However, they felt uneasy moving Dynamics 365 because it is its own custom development framework with many interconnections that could confound things—for example, integrations with third-party solutions, custom products, or other Microsoft 365 technologies, like Exchange, SharePoint, Teams, Power Automate, and Power Apps.
We addressed this concern by carefully determining all the connecting points. We had worked with Microsoft to obtain a copy of their production application and move it from the source tenant to the corporate tenant and then re-join everything. As part of that process, we do what we call “mock deployments” to be certain that everything is lined up. We want to go into production with everything in its proper place.
We also worked with these same two acquired companies to “merge” their implementations. This was most challenging as we were merging information that existed in two completely different systems with very diverse processes, from sales and marketing to onboarding. Our goal is to bring the best of both worlds into the final implementation. In actuality this is more like an upgrade process in many ways because we are doing a lot of merging and synchronization of architecture.
With this, we had to focus on what was going to be most significant for the surviving entity. We also wanted to leave the company with a platform that is scalable, with the functionality they need today but the ability to bring in other organizations that might be acquired down the road.
2 – Lifting and shifting an application from ground to cloud. Our third project type has been a lift and shift from ground to cloud for one of the company’s applications. This is significant, as older, on-premises versions of software do not have new functionality like
Like the second “merge” project, we started with a general l assessment. It’s a little bit like unpacking grandma’s attic, looking at what’s still used, what’s valuable, or not, to the business, what we need to change because it’s no longer supported by Microsoft, and then assist the client in going through the process of cleaning and purging while at the same time getting it up and running and online.
3 – Direct planning. This last project, which at the time of this writing is still ongoing, involves another division of the organization based in Europe. That division has multiple existing entities that have not been integrated. These entities have very different sales processes. They have just started on the path of implementing Microsoft Dynamics and are looking to identify best practices, including what data and integrations are important, and how to define a process that is simple to use but allows for the white space reporting that helps them understand what’s going on in their client base so they can identify opportunities and drive new business.
This is a very analytical group of people, very thoughtful and living in the data, trying to realize how to turn that data into marketing and sales opportunities. We’re having a fantastic time working with them to discover what those data sources are and how we consolidate that data in such a way that not only Sales but Marketing has access to it so they can target the right people at the right time with the right message.
I call it three things in 30 seconds. Before I call a customer and I bring up their information, how do I know what I want to discuss? Is it about an announcement that they’ve recently posted on LinkedIn? Is it about changes in the market that we emailed them about? What can I learn before I make that call to connect with them? That’s the goal of this project.
The transition from vendor to trusted partner
Aside from tackling the specific challenges presented, one of the most positive results from working with the same client on different projects, is that your relationship with them changes. When you successfully deliver time and again with an enterprise customer, at some point your role changes from a vendor to a trusted partner and consultant.
I’m pleased to say that this happened with this company. After our first two successful engagements, where they were happy to have us but still cautious (they, like most companies, have been let down by vendors before), it was clear that they trusted us and knew we had their back. We accomplish this because we make every effort to be incredibly prepared—with the mock deployments, for example—making sure we know what we’re doing, but also being extremely honest and upfront about the fact that there are always risks and common issues that will need to be addressed. We also had the right team to address those issues.
So, after going through the first two engagements and seeing how we work, the client could rest easy and trust us, which gave them the confidence to come back to us for advice and our perspective on other challenges and goals. More often than not, we are now a part of their strategic conversation. We never would have had that had we not had the success of the previous projects.
The future: New technology opens doors to more opportunities
As for the future, the solutions we have put in place are going to enable them to do things they could only dream of doing before. I think the upgrade and strategy engagements are probably the two best examples of this. After going through the implementation of bringing in newly acquired companies, both as they look down the acquisition path as well as looking at what new functionality Microsoft offers, a whole new world has been opened up to them in regards to how they can use new processes and technologies to not only bring new companies into the fold, but how to make everyone function more effectively.
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