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Challenge Accepted: Optimize the Microsoft Infrastructure for Faster, Complete Integration of Acquired Companies

Richard Smith
16 juil., 2021

Another digital transformation story from a technology expert on the front lines involving three distinct projects that brought acquired companies under the parent organization through technology:

HSO’s technical consultants are focused on working with clients to put technology solutions in place that make it easier to do business while also getting better at doing business. These talented people have the skills, experience and natural curiosity to find innovative ways to overcome the roadblocks standing in the way of business transformation.

In this Challenge Accepted interview, HSO Senior Functional Solution Architect, Richard Smith, will discuss how HSO conquered a challenge by pulling disparate acquired organizations under one roof.

Richard Smith, Senior Functional Solution Architect, explains how getting the architecture in place is key 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 really not sure what to do. For example, they know they need to do a major upgrade or they’re trying to integrate several systems. And while they have these goals in mind, the pragmatics of how to do it step-by-step and how to make sure it’s successful are foreign to them.

Some of this is because of the complexities of their own business—and because they’re trying to change the tires and tune the engine while running the car. Part of this, however, is also that technology products are evolving far faster than they ever have in the past. We used to have three to four years between major product releases; we now have about six months and maybe less in some cases. It’s very hard for a client who’s focused on their business to understand what’s happening on the technology side of things.

"Our goal is not only to bring our delivery excellence and expertise to the table…Our goal is to “wrap” our minds around the customer’s challenges and use that with information along with our product knowledge to ensure a successful result."

Richard Smith Senior Functional Solution Architect

The Business Challenge: Bring acquired organizations under one corporate umbrella from a technology and branding perspective

I’ve been with this company for two decades. I have been through several acquisitions and have worked closely with many financial services clients, so I have many examples I can share that illustrate the importance of understanding the client’s challenges. But one in particular comes to mind:

The firm I’m thinking of is doing great 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, which has been fairly difficult over the past 10 years, so they have chosen to let these organizations operate somewhat independently. Now, however, they’re seeing that there is real value to be gained from a business as well as a financial perspective by pulling them together under a common brand with common business models.

Challenge Accepted: optimize Microsoft infrastructure and get technology on the same page

1. Moving Microsoft clients under the corporate umbrella & merging 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 uncomfortable moving Dynamics 365 because it is its own custom development framework with many interconnections that could complicate 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 identifying 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 reconnect everything. As part of that process, we do what we call “mock deployments” to be completely sure everything is lined up. We want to go into production with everything right where it should be.

We also worked with these same two acquired companies to “merge” their implementations. That was more challenging as we were merging information that existed in two completely different systems with very different processes, from sales and marketing to onboarding. Our goal is to bring the best of both worlds into the final implementation. This is actually 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 look at what was going to make the most sense for the surviving entity. And we wanted to leave the company with a platform that is scalable, with the functionality they need today but can accommodate the need 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 important, as older, on-premises versions of software do not have new functionality like Customer Insights, sales insights, LinkedIn integration, and rapid application development tools like the Power Platform.

Like the second “merge” project, we started with an overall assessment. It’s a little bit like unpacking grandma’s attic, looking at what’s still used, what’s valuable to the business, what’s not been valuable, what we need to replace because it’s no longer supported by Microsoft, and then help the client go 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 is still ongoing at the time of this writing, involves another division of the organization based in Europe. That division has multiple existing entities that have not been integrated—entities which have very different sales processes. They have just started on the path of implementing Microsoft Dynamics and are looking to define best practices, including defining what data and integrations are important, and how to define a process that is simple to use but provides 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 understand how to turn that data into marketing and sales opportunities. We’re having a great time working with them to figure out what those data sources are and how we roll up 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 talk to them about? Is it about a recent announcement that they’ve maybe posted on LinkedIn? Is it about an email we sent to them about changes in the market? What can I learn before I make that call to engage them? That’s the goal of this project.

The transition from vendor to trusted partner and advisor

One of the very positive side effects of working with the same client on different projects—aside from tackling the specific challenges presented—is that your relationship with them changes. When you successfully deliver over and over again with an enterprise customers, at some point your role changes from a vendor to a trusted partner and advisor.

This, I’m happy to say, happened with this company. After our first two successful engagements, where they were happy to have us but still approached with caution (they, like most companies, have been burned by vendors before), it was clear that they trusted us and knew we had their back.

We accomplish this because we try to do two things. We try to be incredibly prepared—with the mock deployments, for example—making sure we know what we’re doing, but also being very honest about the fact that there are 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 relax and trust us, which encouraged them to come to us for advice and our perspective on other challenges and goals. We are now, more often than not, a part of the 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 implemented are going to enable them to do things they could not previously envision. I think the upgrade and strategy engagements are probably the two best examples of this. After going through the exercise 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 regarding how they can use new processes and technologies to not only bring new companies into the fold, but how to make everyone perform better.

Is your financial services company ready for technology change that will support true transformation?

Challenge Accepted: Optimize the Microsoft Infrastructure for Faster Integration of Acquired Companies

In this Challenge Accepted interview, HSO VP of Financial Services Tom Berger talks with HSO Senior Functional Solution Architect Richard Smith about how HSO helped a financial services firm pull multiple acquired organizations under one roof.

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