Consulting startup implements cloud-based solution at light speed, adds enhanced data security
Acies Consulting, a startup based in Mumbai, India, needed an IT solution that was quick to implement and would offer greater security features to help safeguard its customers’ sensitive financial information. Acies deployed Microsoft 365 and not only delivered enhanced security but also launched operations immediately with familiar programs like Microsoft Word, Excel, and SharePoint Online. Acies quickly scaled with business intelligence tools and cloud-based services, all with minimal upfront investment.
Once a startup company has cleared the first hurdle of establishing itself as a new entity, it faces an even greater challenge: actually beginning operations. For Acies Consulting, a financial consulting startup based in Mumbai, India, that was launched in November 2017, speed was of the essence if the firm was to offer its customers advice on how to thrive in today’s fast-moving markets. But the sensitive nature of the customers’ data also demanded a solution where security was paramount, and the newly formed company needed to keep a keen eye on its bottom line as well.
Speed, security, and sophistication
Acies, now with more than 40 employees, began as a group of consultants who had previously been at a larger firm. For their customers, continuity of service was key. But Acies wanted to up the ante.
“We started off helping our customers deliver the objectives we were working with them on earlier, but doing it with a lot more technology—things that they already have,” says Muzammil Patel, Managing Director at the firm.
Acies provides financial consulting to clients in the oil and gas and power industries, in addition to the banking and insurance sector. The firms are all heavily regulated and, therefore, highly sensitive to data security.
To better support its customers, Acies chose to transition to Microsoft 365 cloud-based services. With Microsoft 365, Acies could quickly align to preconfigured industry standards. Datacenters can remain at the customers’ locations, which is critically important for firms that must operate under regulatory constraints. Acies installed BitLocker encryption on employee laptops and uses Microsoft Intune to provide an advanced layer of security. Features like Multi-Factor Authentication (a feature of Microsoft Azure Active Directory Basic that comes bundled with Microsoft 365), remote wiping of lost or stolen devices, and the ability to control most security procedures through a central console help the company manage a variety of mobile devices.
Because Microsoft 365 is not hosted on-premises, Acies quickly deployed the solution, keeping its IT overhead costs in check. Acies employees were already familiar with Microsoft Office products like Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, so onboarding time was minimal and operations could begin almost immediately. The company incorporated other Microsoft elements to schedule resources, track timesheets, generate invoices, and view project milestones and metrics. Processes were further refined and customized with SharePoint, Microsoft Project Online, and Microsoft Flow, which Acies uses to enhance client management, project management, employee time management, and business performance review processes.
Collaboration and communication
With an office in Mumbai that serves the Indian Ocean region, the Middle East, and a Singapore office focusing on the Asia-Pacific region, Acies has considerable geographic reach, and it plans to keep growing.
“Mobility is critical for our business because just about everyone is traveling. At any given point in time, we will have people in at least four or five different countries, and across time zones. For us, our business won’t work if people cannot communicate on the go,” says Viraj Shah, Executive Director—Business Solutions at Acies.
In addition to holding conference calls over Skype for Business, which has cut the cost of online meeting communications to zero, Acies uses the Microsoft Teams chat-based workspace to bridge geographic gaps, and employees rely on Exchange Online to access emails securely on the go. With OneDrive for Business and SharePoint, Acies consultants can share collateral or access documents simultaneously, all without the need for costly and time-consuming travel.
Advantages for customers
In addition to traditional financial consulting offerings like risk management and accounting advisory, Acies provides customers with financial and market intelligence, as well as the technological and analytical solutions to act on it. The data-visualization capabilities of Microsoft Power BI have helped the company focus on performance management and become an extremely data-driven organization. Performance metrics on sales, project delivery status, business pipeline, business and project leader performance, receivables, and expense management are all hosted on SharePoint and viewed using Power BI. Acies consultants can access and interpret the data quickly through easy-to-use dashboards. “It was important for us to get the dashboards up and running quickly so our consultants could start seeing the numbers and understand exactly where the business is, as opposed to having to collate it out of some accounting system,” says Patel.
Power BI serves as a repository of the company’s reviews, executive committee meetings, and discussions with employees and business leaders. “With Power BI, we can give our customers the same results that we have experienced with our own business,” says Patel. “We help them visualize the business performance–related metrics of their outcomes.”
Acies also builds its customer-related workflows on SharePoint, which ensures optimum support through improved project management and on-demand access to critical information. Customer-related workflows show the entire project lifecycle, including client onboarding, project setup, milestone tracking, management of risks, assignment and tracking of tasks, customer billing milestones, and more. In the future, the company plans to develop applications on SharePoint that can be accessed directly by its customers.
Swift and scalable
Acies Consulting now boasts impressive technology offerings, but how fast did they really take shape? The firm opened in November 2017, and its office and IT infrastructure were in place by mid-December. “We were able to get off and running immediately with Microsoft 365,” says Patel. “From the time we decided to procure to the point where we were able to deploy was at most two weeks. By the first week of January, we were approaching the market as if we weren’t a startup anymore.”
The IT deployments are all backed by an annual managed services agreement with TechGyan, a local Microsoft Partner with Gold competencies. TechGyan provides workplace solutions for communication, collaboration, and security, as well as hybrid infrastructure solutions for backup and disaster recovery. The service will cover everything from a simple password reset to something larger like obtaining a new software license.
Going forward, Acies has designed its processes to be functional and effective regardless of how large the company grows. “We’ll be able to continue to use the same processes without changing them,” says Patel.
Another element that will not change is the company’s dedication to its employees. The swift deployment of a state-of-the-art IT infrastructure not only allowed Acies to launch its operations at light speed but also provides the data transparency it will need to support both its employees and customers in the future.
Says Patel, “Our value system makes sure that the shared success of the organization is shared with all of the employees.”
We were able to get off and running immediately with Microsoft 365. From the time we decided to procure to the point where we were able to deploy was at most two weeks. By the first week of January, we were approaching the market as if we weren’t a startup anymore.