Introduction

In the world of Private Equity (“PE”), document management is critical because it ensures that the legal parameters for deal documents are followed and guarantees that the details related to specific investments are captured. These documents can be very complicated, often requiring many rounds of review and there are many comments and changes to these agreements before the ultimate terms are finalized. Efficient document management is challenging and often leads to technological and operational issues for our Private Equity clients. The sensitive nature of these documents means that members of deal teams have several security-related priorities in mind when it comes to managing these classified documents. Those priorities include:

In addition to deal teams, many other groups within PE firms can also benefit from the features of a document management system. These systems have proven to provide user friendly and feature rich platforms to support regulatory or business driven requirements. The table below offers some key examples in the alternative asset management industry:

SharePoint Online from Microsoft

Thankfully, Microsoft has provided the ideal platform with SharePoint Online to address all of these needs and more. Deal teams and their related parties can stay connected whether working on the road, from home, or at the office.

For Private Equity users, the streamlined document management process facilitates collaboration between cross-functional groups, as well as members working in different geographic locations. SharePoint Online can also be accessed through a set of convenient mobile applications, meaning that critical files are never further than one’s smartphone or tablet.

Since SharePoint Online is a cloud-based product included in the Office 365 suite, it is closely integrated with other Microsoft Office applications, allowing users to manage documents and collaborate seamlessly while sharing and protecting sensitive information. The integration of SharePoint Online with other Microsoft Office applications—such as Teams, Excel, Outlook, and the rest of the Office suite of product results in a consistent user experience that simplifies how people interact with content, processes and business data.

People who have not used Microsoft SharePoint recently may not be familiar with how Microsoft has transformed the platform into an Enterprise-level Document Management system. SharePoint now has features and functionality that rival or surpass any Document Management system available in the marketplace. The fact that SharePoint Online is fully integrated with Active Directory and Azure means that your IT staff does not have to do a lot of additional work to fully integrate robust security into your Document Management System setup which has a huge advantage in terms of time to go live on the platform. 

SharePoint Benefits

The SharePoint Online platform features many key benefits for users and introduces new functionalities with each release. All organizations strive to increase productivity, and having a tool like SharePoint in place can make all the difference. The features and functionalities offered through this tool directly achieve these efficiencies and help reduce costs. In fact, a 2016 study of ECM (Enterprise Content Management) applications by Nucleus Research found that investing in a system such as SharePoint Online, generates an average return of 750%. Below are some of the key benefits and their direct application to the Private Equity world.

How the Cloud Has Changed the Way We Interact with Documents

The SharePoint Online application is an example of the broader marketplace shift to cloud-based solutions. Financial services have often been a laggard in adopting cloud-based technology due to security concerns, but the industry has now adopted these solutions. This is evidence of a larger shift towards cloud adaptation that we see across all industries.

By 2018, it is estimated that at least 50% of content management vendors will be on cloud-based platforms, and more than 20% will address multi-organization content (Gartner, 2016).

Case Study

FinServ recently implemented SharePoint Online at a top Private Equity firm and gained key insights into what PE firms prioritize when implementing a document management system. Aside from the benefits the Private Equity client realized from this project, FinServ also gained insight into the challenges that can potentially arise during the implementation. From this experience, FinServ can provide guidance as to how to avoid these items by following best practices to ensure project success.

The key issues that FinServ’s client was looking to address with this implementation included:

1.   Security Concerns – Protect against inadvertent or nefarious sharing of documents with unauthorized parties.

2.   Erroneous Versions of Documents – Eliminate multiple versions of documents in the creation process and avoid large amounts of wasted time searching for the most current version of a document.

3.   Time Spent Searching for Documents – Reduce the number of hours spent looking for certain documents by establishing an easily searchable document repository using tags.

The Challenge

In addition to the challenges arising from remote access by multiple users across the globe, the most crucial challenges in this document management integration project was overcoming the resistance of users to the new system. FinServ has found that users will resist the introduction of most systems, especially those that are disruptive to one’s routine and daily activities, a document system can fundamentally alter the file management experience for an employee. In these situations the common concerns a user has are:

1.   Will I be forced to save all my documents in this system?

2.   Will I lose control of my files?

3.   How do I know my files will not get lost on the cloud?

4.   Will I be forced to spend hours putting extra data into the system?

5.   Will I lose the ability to track my own different versions of my documents?

From these experiences, FinServ has created a set of best practices to address the most common challenges we have observed during implementation of document management systems for our clients:

Conclusion

Effective document management is critical to Private Equity firms who have a constant stream of time-sensitive deals in their pipeline.

SharePoint Online is an invaluable aid to these firms because it supports necessary functionality with out-of-the-box features such as: collaboration, security, accessibility, and integration with other Office applications. Implementing a Document Management solution is not a simple project and many companies fail in this effort because they are not familiar with the most critical components. An experienced systems integrator like FinServ Consulting will be able to navigate through these challenges and ensure the project is managed successfully.

FinServ understands the Private Equity and alternative asset management industry and from this unique expertise we know how to integrate the most critical industry-related features and functionality of SharePoint Online. SharePoint's benefits are not limited to the deal team, rather the whole firm can experience increased efficiencies and additional benefits from this impressive platform.

To learn more about FinServ Consulting’s Enterprise Content Management and Document Management expertise, please contact us at info@finservconsulting.com or (646) 603-3799.

About FinServ Consulting

FinServ Consulting is 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.

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