Technology giant develops its own anti-virus solution – but not as we know it
Technology companies are familiar with viruses which infect our systems but when the coronavirus struck this was unprecedented. As Dennis Crispin, Global Financial Solutions (GFS) Group Manager recalls, “the COVID-19 global pandemic required us to think about what it truly means to be ‘customer-centric’”.
GFS is responsible for providing credit and collections services to Microsoft’s customers spanning 11 time zones including customers that were affected by COVID-19 quite early.
Microsoft decided it needed new tools to capture and manage related workflows and the agility to deliver COVID-specific reports. Once it became apparent that having regular meetings/workshops would be a big challenge, the company knew it had a bigger problem and needed to think outside of the box. Entire countries had closed their borders, schools and offices had closed, non-essential businesses were shuttered and almost everyone was under a ‘lockdown’ of some sort.
GFS would normally respond by creating a cross-functional virtual team who would travel to one of Microsoft’s three worldwide hubs for a period of heavily focused work. The challenge was compounded further by the sheer global disbursement of the team involved. From Carol Caines in Atlanta to David Meunier and Jesus Del Pozo Moran in Dublin, from Geoff Dugan in Seattle to Mei Ling Say in Singapore. Last, but not least, the engineering and operations teams in India and Manila respectively; all played key roles in this inclusive team effort.
Phase 1: Remote communication
Microsoft turned to online video conferencing using Microsoft Teams.
This solved the immediate problem of enabling Accenture, its business process outsourcing (BPO) provider, to support its customers that had questions about invoicing, credit, and payments. However, this was insufficient and the company focused on a new work discipline called ‘Asynchronous Working’ and leveraged tool called Microsoft Planner that is closely integrated with Microsoft Teams.
Phase 2: Remote everything and asynchronous working
Working asynchronously requires visibility of the critical activities and the ability to communicate about the tasks that are required to be completed without necessarily being connected at the same time. Both Microsoft Planner and Microsoft Teams support working asynchronously so the company could see the big picture of all initiatives to address the issues caused by COVID-19.
Phase 3: Scaling out globally with the Power Platform
One of its components Power Apps, allows applications to be created and deployed quickly with minimal code. Another is Power Automate, which supports creating robust approval mechanisms. Finally, the company can create and deploy world-class reporting through Power BI and created new, specialised COVID-19 approval forms, using Power Apps.
“During such a fast-moving crisis, speed is critical, and this is one of the biggest strengths of the Power Platform,” explained Crispin.
The crisis is now monitored through a global dashboard created in Power BI and deployed to hundreds of users. From start to finish, the team created a robust framework to monitor and manage the financial requests in less than three weeks. Issues are now logged using a standardised form with automatic routing and approval.
Best practice and innovation
Microsoft do not develop technology for the sake of technology. In a crisis like COVID-19, agility is crucial, but caring about its employees and customers was critical. The company found creative ways of being agile by using technology without sacrificing its fundamental commitments.
- Vast reduction in the number of meetings.
- Process automation increased.
- Visibility of the impact COVID-19 was having on their customers.
- Better decisions with higher confidence.