Microsoft’s Worldwide Payment Solutions (WPS) team’s internal process for providing payment solutions to its customers was not always straightforward. In an effort to change, this the team has built an in-house system that transforms the process and brings a multitude of benefits to treasury and the business.
Photo of Tom Czerwinski and Edward Lu, Microsoft.
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Technology enables Microsoft to redefine its financing process
In 2017 the World Wide Payment Solutions (WPS) team financed over 4,000 transactions representing over US$10bn. However, the internal process for providing payment solutions to its customers is not always straightforward.
The process often required WPS members to use multiple systems to support each step, obtain various approvals through emails or chat conversations, search for documentation in formats such as Word, Excel, PDF and emails. The use of disparate systems meant a lot of manual intervention and the risk that a deal could be represented differently in each tool.
Members of the WPS team were looking for one unified experience which was fully compliant and auditable. They also required a single tool that would allow the sales team to request financing and payment solutions for Microsoft customers, allow the treasury team to review the creditworthiness of the customer, provide the operations team visibility to review and ensure the structure of the deal meets policy, enable the finance team to fund deals and report out, and allow executives to approve a deal using his/her phone while on the road. It must also provide holistic visibility of where a transaction is at each point in the lifecycle.
Rather than making legacy systems talk to each other, it was determined that a process management tool would be built from the ground up, gradually replacing the legacy tools and to serve as the one-stop shop for all WPS members throughout the lifecycle of a financing transaction.
The newly-built tool, named Single Point of Contact (SPOC) is hosted on the cloud and built using inputs from key stakeholders across Microsoft’s global financing desk, products and pricing, operations, treasury, compliance, accounting and IT departments.
“As Microsoft is driving towards helping our customers in their digital transformation, winning the Adam Smith Award is a great testimony of our obsession in achieving that goal. The journey does not stop here and we continue to delivery best in class solutions and look forward to sharing these experiences with the industry.”
Edward Lu, Senior Program Manager, Microsoft
The team adopted agile development techniques with seven members that ran on two-week sprint cycles. Every two weeks new functionality was released, and within three months the first version of SPOC was launched, which included the capability to take the payment solution from the application request stage, through pricing review and credit review/underwriting, all the way to the request being approved. After another two months, the team followed up with another release which extended its reach to include booking and funding the transaction for full end-to-end integration.
With data being stored in the public cloud, data privacy and compliance was at the forefront as it built SPOC. The team created WPS internal field guide policies and ensured that it was compliant of external privacy laws such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
Best practice and innovation
The SPOC tool is a process management application within WPS that enables sound financial solutions to Microsoft customers in an efficient way by streamlining and simplifying the end-to-end process while maintaining proper controls.
Microsoft was able to achieve its goal using proven technology that is easy to adopt and scale while managing the implementation through agile development principals, ensuring the velocity and quality of the outcome. All of this was done in a very short time frame whilst achieving the objective. There are also plans for plenty of future expansion.
“Building a solution from scratch can sound daunting, but it provided the opportunity to shape how we thought about the tool, and to reach our objectives in the timeliest fashion,” says Edward Lu, Senior Program Manager, Microsoft.
Enforces business rules and policies systematically to facilitate compliant decision making.
Streamlines processes into one centralised application while improving deal velocity.
Technology foundation allows for greater future scalability.
Cost savings with reduction of applications and manual processes.
Key learning points
Process simplification requires an open mind. Doing things in a certain way in the past does not mean they have to be done the same way today.
Defining Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is key in developing new products. It helps prioritisation in order to meet project deadlines.
Modern engineering best practices sets the foundation to allow building features quickly and scale for the future.
Senior Program Manager
Edward Lu is a Senior Program Manager at Microsoft with over ten years’ experience in implementing technology solutions in various Microsoft departments including Treasury, AP, Credit & Collection, Tax, and Financing. Edward holds a master degree in Information management from the University of Washington.