Microsoft Teams is one of the newest and most exciting applications in the Office 365 suite. Teams is focused on enhancing the efficiencies of business communication and collaboration across companies of all sizes. Teams provides immediate and significant productivity enhancements to key business processes. Microsoft describes Teams as, "an entirely new experience that brings together people, conversations and content—along with the tools that teams need—so they can easily collaborate to achieve more."  Teams delivers some very compelling features and capabilities for financial services and alternative asset management clients who are trying to move out of email and empower their employees to become more efficient collaborators.

Microsoft's Official Launch Notice

Top-Notch Security

How Office 365 Groups is fully integrated with Teams

Microsoft's core security setup is already integrated into Teams. Hence, there is no need to create new security structures to setup privileges to sensitive data. You can simply leverage the existing Groups already setup in your Microsoft security. If you do want to create new groups, Teams offers a new centrally-managed facility to create groups right from within the application. Your firm's Chief Compliance Officer and Legal group will love Teams because key areas of security like e-discovery and legal hold are already built into the application. Your CTO will find immense value in that Teams encrypts all data at-rest and in-transit at all times which is key for data protection concerns that are common in the financial services industry. In addition, features like Data Loss Prevention ("DLP") and advanced retention capabilities are coming out in the next few weeks according to the Microsoft Teams' product roadmap. With these additional security features, along with the underlying core Microsoft security foundation, Teams offers security that no other competing application, like Slack, can compete with.

Seamless Office Suite and Cloud App Integration

What will get your staff really excited about Teams, is the feature-rich capabilities that they get right out of the box with the application. As an experienced user of Teams, FinServ has found that the most valuable aspect of Teams is how efficient it makes the company's collaboration efforts on mission critical and time sensitive projects. For example, our team used to spend a lot of time flipping back and forth between multiple applications when collaborating on a white paper. We would create the document in Word and pass the article around for comments in Microsoft Outlook. When graphics needed to be added, we would use PowerPoint and PDF to share the images again in Outlook. The person making the changes would have to search his or her email for each person's feedback. Now with Teams, we simply embed the documents in the Channel and use the threaded discussions to have all the comments in one easy to find place. We even make better use of SharePoint Online, our document management tool by letting the application manage our versions and updates right from within Teams.

Threaded discussions in Teams means never having to leave the document to share feedback real-time

The following table provides an overview of how Teams integrates applications into the collaboration tool and some key areas of Funds that can take advantage of these capabilities:

Examples of various embedded applications and uses for Fund Departments in Teams

Powerful Communication Tools Included

Skype for Business along with the Outlook Calendar have also been embedded into Teams. This means that you can start a quick IM chat or a Video Conference with team members directly in the application. You can also set up meetings from within Teams and access your team members' availability via their calendars through the Outlook meeting features, making scheduling meetings with different members really easy and efficient. 

Another impressive feature is the ability to add any email you send or receive to the Teams conversation thread. Simply copying or forwarding an email you sent or received to the channel's email address, the whole email (including any attachments) will be added to the Team channel making it accessible to all team members. Because of this, keeping up to date on team conversations becomes much easier.

Example of how to automatically forward any email into a Teams channel

How a Hedge or Private Equity Deal Team Can Realize Huge Efficiency Benefits with Teams

Deal teams are a very common area where we see a huge amount of challenges in terms of:

  1. The need for efficient collaboration
  2. The constant desire for real-time communications, and
  3. The need to share and collaborate on many documents across several applications and departments in their Funds

In addition, Deal teams are often collaborating on many different deals at one time and need an easy and efficient way to keep them all organized. Historically, tools like Excel and SharePoint have been used to try to manage these processes, but very few tools offer the combination of document management with real-time communication along with the security that deal teams require.

The key question most of our client's ask is, "How do I use this technology to enhance my business operations?". Here are a few examples of how Microsoft Teams solves the Deal team dilemma:

  1. Centralized Document Management - By centralizing all deal team documents into a SharePoint document library and then embedding that SharePoint library within a Teams tab, there is never a need for a Deal team member to leave the Teams application to collaborate and access key documents or start a threaded conversation with co-workers to review a key document such as a Term Sheet or One-Pager. Now that your team can leverage the inherent features of SharePoint Online like versioning and encryption right from Teams, they are more likely to gain huge efficiencies in how they interact with other team members and departments on their documents. Your team can even leverage co-authoring from within Teams which allows multiple people to update the same document in Word for instance at the same time.
    Example of an Embedded SharePoint Document Library in a Teams Tab
  2. Real-Time Chats and Video Conferences - Another key benefit for deal teams is the ability to hold a quick chat or impromptu meeting to get some key info from someone real-time. Since Skype for Business is integrated directly into the application any team member can start a quick IM chat or video call without leaving the Teams application. Before Teams you would have to flip between multiple applications to access chat or video conferencing and then jump back into the application where your document was located. Now with Teams you never have to leave the application while communicating with team members on key documents.
    Starting a Video Chat via Skype for Business right from a Teams threaded discussion
  3. Automated Data Notifications from 3rd Party Apps - Funds that use Salesforce or Dynamics CRM as their Deal Pipeline management system for example, can set up Teams so that any time a record in that application gets updated, the update automatically gets fed into a specific channel in Teams. This is incredibly useful for deal teams to know (E.g. when the status of the deal has changed). If your group uses Teams as a central portal for their work, they will get notifications real time when data changes from any connected source. In addition, the specific data that changed is updated in the Teams application so the team can quickly see what was updated. Teams even provides a link back to the specific record that was updated in the source system if the person wants to look at more details.
    How to setup Salesforce to notify the channel when data in a record is updated
  4. Full Integration with Outlook - Finally, Teams offers the powerful ability to automatically link any email to your Teams channel by simply copying the reserved email address for your channel into any email message. This is really useful for deal teams who often receive key documents via email or information from their external legal counsel. This way if you copy the reserved email address, the external party can "reply all" and the key documents get sent to the team in real-time, avoiding the pain of having to search your inbox for emails from your external legal counsel or even having to constantly forward their emails to team members. This will save your team substantial time and effort.

A Quick and Easy Solution to Implement

The most compelling aspect of this solution is that Teams leverages applications that your team utilizes today. Microsoft Teams has ultimately created a solution that brings all those applications into a more seamless and efficient collaboration solution. The best part is the time to get setup and running on Teams can happen in a matter of days or weeks, meaning that your team starts working better sooner and sees results that would typically take months or years in older business process management or workflow tools.

Conclusion

Microsoft Teams offers a compelling case for any Hedge or Private Equity fund who is struggling with inefficiencies in any of their key collaboration based processes. The fact that Microsoft's world-class security infrastructure sits behind Teams means it is far superior to other industry collaboration platforms like Slack to ensure you are meeting the key Financial service regulations around protecting investor and investment data and privacy. The tight integration of the Microsoft suite of tools like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, SharePoint means no other company can trump Microsoft's ability to provide a seamless experience with these applications. FinServ has been working with several Hedge and Private Equity funds to set up their Teams environment, and the firm itself has been using the platform ourselves for several months with great success.

About FinServ Consulting

FinServ Consulting is a Microsoft Partner and an independent experienced provider of business consulting, systems development, and integration services to alternative asset managers, global banks, and their service providers. Founded in 2005, FinServ delivers customized world-class business and IT consulting services for the front, middle and back office, providing managers with optimal and first-class operating environments to support all investment styles and future asset growth. The FinServ team brings a wealth of experience from working with the largest and most complex asset management firms and global banks in the world. For more information on how FinServ can help you get on Teams or Office 365 please contact us at info@finservconsulting.com or fill out this form and we will contact you.

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