Microsoft’s traditional business has largely been with big original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) such as Dell and HP. With the emergence of cloud solutions, their business model is changing necessitating the onboarding of thousands of distributors and resellers across 180+ countries. Project Apollo, leverages the leading credit intelligence agencies, D&B and Experian, plus their BPO partner Accenture, to deliver a solution to support the company’s cloud business growth ambitions.
Photo of Jose Luis Marti and Neil Doyle, Microsoft.
Jose Luis Marti
Director, WW Online Credit Services
Senior Credit Manager
Founded in 1975, Microsoft is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realise their full potential.
Microsoft’s Worldwide Online Credit Services (WOCS) – one of two separate credit services teams – is comprised of almost 300 people (about 290 Vendors and 14 full-time employees) stationed in the US, Argentina, Ireland, Singapore, India, Philippines, China and the UK, covering a 24 hours a day, five days a week service offering.
WOCS sits under treasury and safeguards Microsoft’s vast accounts receivable (AR) assets. With the announcement of a new CEO in February 2014, and respective changes in the company strategy (known as ‘One Microsoft’), WOCS had to adjust in line with the continuing evolution of the company’s ambition.
Microsoft’s traditional business has largely been with OEMs, such as Dell and HP, system integration partners, and retailers. With the emergence of cloud solutions like Office 365 and Azure, Microsoft is now experiencing dramatic growth in direct business with countless smaller entities.
To drive the growth of this business WOCS has made some significant engineering changes to allow for the on-boarding of thousands of distributors and resellers across 180 countries and territories, under the heading of cloud service providers (CSP).
Neil Doyle, WOCS Credit Manager, explains: “The forecasted volumes for new CSP partners is aggressive (it has seen 1,200% revenue growth in the last six months) and the challenge is to enable growth in the business whilst managing the increased volume of work that is required for each onboarded CSP partner, and ensuring Microsoft keeps bad debt risk at a minimum.”
Apollo is the name of the project that was undertaken to look at how Microsoft will grow its cloud business by rapidly enabling CSPs across the globe.
The solution that is in place is a direct link between Microsoft’s online portal and the portals for both Dun & Bradstreet and Experian. Microsoft is using the data from the credit agencies and has developed its own risk algorithms to work alongside. “We are currently in negotiation with two other agencies to ensure we have the best coverage in the Middle East, Africa and Asia,” says Doyle.
“We in MSFT feel honoured to receive awards as we believe they are a reflection of the great work our teams do on a daily basis, however, we feel the Adam Smith Awards represent the very best of Treasury and to be winners in such a talented field makes this award even more special.”
Apollo is essentially a self-serve solution. Partners can apply online and automated validation techniques ensure each applicant is a valid entity, sending information to the credit agencies and receiving the results back in real-time.
It now takes a few minutes for each partner to be auto credit checked. If the result is positive, the account can be set-up; if the result is negative this will trigger a manual review and create a task for the credit team to contact the customer to discuss the application. Microsoft has put in place a solution that enables business growth without having to increase the headcount.
Best practice and innovation
In addition to obvious efficiencies and scalability, Apollo is creating a focus on customer experience, in line with the ‘One Microsoft’ strategy. As the one part of Microsoft that touches every customer, WOCS is uniquely positioned to improve the customers’ perception of Microsoft.
The more straightforward and easy the solution is for the end-user, the better the customer/partner experience (CPE) will be. Microsoft is the first global online cloud provider to put in place a solution like this; it believes that it will evolve quickly and is currently rolling it out to other lines of business across the company.
“Apollo is a solution that encompasses Microsoft’s key priorities in particular, our customer/revenue growth, market share, innovation, partnership and customer obsession,” says Doyle. “It is the first solution of its kind to be operationalised by a global online cloud provider and represents the best of technology.”
Credit limit approval process reduced from 2.6 days to real-time.
Reduced bad debts as a result of fraud.
No headcount increase.
Enables focus on customer experience, in line with the Microsoft core strategy.
Core solution can be easily developed.
Ease of scalability.
The best way to roll out a solution is to have a really good project plan and coordinator, but also to ensure the plan is agile and can easily adapt to changes.