Korn Ferry

Korn Ferry taps collective knowledge to exceed client expectations

As a leader in executive search and organizational advisory services, Korn Ferry helps companies find the perfect people. Its 8,000 geographically dispersed employees use Microsoft 365 to locate expertise and content faster so they can collaborate to bring the full breadth of Korn Ferry services to clients. They compress the information search phase and get to problem-solving sooner. Korn Ferry protects this mobile, global sharing by using the Multi-Geo Capabilities in Office 365, Microsoft Enterprise Mobility + Security, and Windows 10.

It’s Friday afternoon, and the exhausted client partner drops into his seat on the commuter train home. What a week.

His smartphone rings; his heart sinks. It’s a major client.

“Hello, Mr. Client. What can I do for you?” 

“We saw your great social media post about succession planning. Can you give us a quote on that? And can you have it in time for our management review on Monday afternoon?” 

“Sure thing!” he says brightly.

There goes the weekend.

The client partner flies into action. He calls and leaves messages for a half-dozen colleagues: Who knows this service? Who’s available to create a proposal this weekend? Do we have current staffing to support the bid? Can anyone give the pitch at the Monday meeting?

He can’t get into the corporate network from his phone, so he wastes an hour in anxious misery. Once home, he holes up with his computer to frantically search company shared drives for documents about succession planning offerings. He finds some but they’re old. Who has the current versions?

The weekend is a tense blur of phone calls, emails, and trips to the office. By Sunday afternoon, after hours of effort, it’s clear that the team won’t be ready by Monday afternoon.

Minimize search, magnify collaboration

Millions of employees at professional services firms know this drill well. Locating documents and expertise in a large, global organization can be like finding a needle in a haystack.

But Korn Ferry has found a better way. The global organizational advisory firm helps large enterprise clients attract and retain talented people and align their talent strategy with the enterprise’s business strategy. Through acquisitions and organic growth, Korn Ferry has doubled in size in recent years. That’s more people in more places who must be familiar with more business practice areas.

“With growth this fast, the chances that any given client relationship owner understands all our services is zero,” says Bryan Ackermann, Chief Information Officer at Korn Ferry. “So, collaboration is key. We want to minimize the search, find, and share pieces of a problem so we can maximize the collaborate piece, because that’s where we add value.”

Korn Ferry uses Microsoft 365 Enterprise to do that. Microsoft 365 combines the power of Office 365, Enterprise Mobility + Security, and Windows 10 Enterprise to deliver a comprehensive set of cloud-based services that promotes creative, highly secure collaboration.

For years, Korn Ferry has used Office 365 to centrally store and share documents and provide cloud-based email to its global employees. Microsoft OneDrive and SharePoint Online are replacing the company’s file server infrastructure and making it easier for colleagues to essentially reach across oceans to access the documents and data that they need.

But as SharePoint sites, multiple corporate intranets, legacy shared drives, and collaboration tools such as Yammer and OneDrive folders proliferated, it was sometimes difficult to find documents, and collaboration was too dependent on email.

Then came Microsoft Teams.

This Office 365 service pulls multiple tools into one application for streamlined teamwork. “We didn’t do a formal rollout of Teams; we just turned it on, and within three weeks we had more than 500 teams engaged,” says Ackermann. “That’s a fantastic indicator of how easy it is to use.”

In the opening example, if the beleaguered client partner worked for Korn Ferry, the story would have had a happier ending. With the authentication protections provided by Microsoft Azure Active Directory, the account manager would sign in to resources across the firm from his phone, getting to work right away.

Using the intelligent search and discovery capability in Office 365, he would search not only all SharePoint sites, legacy locations, and OneDrive folders, but also his company’s key non-Microsoft business applications, shaking out every possible helpful resource, no matter where it was hidden. A 10-second search in Office 365 would surface all relevant documents and staff members, replacing hours or days of frustrating phone, email, and rummaging through file shares.

He would create a Teams channel for the new project and use it to send a shout-out to colleagues around the world, asking for expertise in succession planning, availability, and background resources.

As experts surfaced, collaboration on the channel would accelerate and get richer. Team members would live-chat, share documents, modify documents together in real time, and develop a winning pitch with frictionless ease.

By 7:00 PM on Friday night, the proposal likely would have been done—in about 60 very fruitful minutes versus an exhausting three to four days.

That, in fact, is how teams now work at Korn Ferry. “With Microsoft 365, we make it dramatically easier and faster for an individual to bring the full power of Korn Ferry to clients,” says Ackermann. “They blitz through the searching and sharing phases and get to the collaborating and problem-solving phases much faster. This lets us respond to clients faster with the right resources.”

“Crises aside, Korn Ferry employees use the same artificial intelligence (AI)-driven power of Office 365 intelligent search and discovery to surface relevant content. This capability uses machine learning to study how an employee uses Microsoft 365 Enterprise and who they interact with, as well as direct them to relevant people and content.” 

“Because we have so many people using Office 365, it doesn’t take very long for intelligent search to get really smart,” says Ackermann. He uses the feature to better manage his time and stay abreast of his team’s work. If his group has an important meeting coming up, he sees them preparing through an intelligent search dashboard and can monitor the progress of their presentation. If someone has a question, he can jump into the document and provide assistance in real time. “I no longer have to ask my staff, ‘Are you ready?’ I can see where they are and when I’m needed so I can get ahead of problems,” Ackermann says.

Get ahead of client security concerns with Multi-Geo

With many of its clients operating in regulated industries, Korn Ferry places a high priority on maintaining regulatory compliance. That’s why it became an early user of the Multi-Geo Capabilities in Office 365. Multi-Geo helps global organizations meet data residency requirements by enabling a single Office 365 tenant to span multiple Office 365 datacenter geographies (geos) and give customers the freedom to store their Exchange and OneDrive data at rest, on a per-user basis, in their chosen geos. Multi-Geo is currently available for Exchange Online and OneDrive and soon for SharePoint Online and Office 365 Groups. 

“We now have as many people outside the United States as in it, and although the GDPR doesn’t mandate a particular geo for data residency, our clients are hyper sensitive about data privacy issues, so we prefer to get in front of it,” Ackermann says. “The lifeblood of our work with clients includes data which is personal information about people and with Multi-Geo, we’re able to proactively address client concerns about data residency.”

Deliver highly secure mobile freedom

Beyond the Multi-Geo feature, Korn Ferry uses other Enterprise Mobility + Security services to help protect client data. Most important is Azure Active Directory, used to provide single sign-on to dozens of applications and selectively protect certain sign-on experiences with Azure Multi-Factor Authentication.

With Azure Active Directory, Korn Ferry authenticates and protects not only Office 365 applications but 60 third-party business applications, including SAP and Salesforce.com. “With Azure Active Directory, we only had to set up Multi-Factor Authentication once for dozens of applications, and we’re protecting the entire enterprise with one single sign-on solution,” Ackermann says.

Korn Ferry uses Office 365 Data Loss Prevention to help prevent confidential data from leaving the company via email or from being shared in email. And it uses conditional access in Azure Active Directory to ensure that data is retrieved only by users, devices, and apps that meet access requirements.

“By the end of 2018, we’ll have our entire employee base protected by Multi-Factor Authentication and conditional access,” Ackermann says. “We can set policies that treat employees outside the office more strictly than those inside it and that prompt for Multi-Factor Authentication on unmanaged devices or for certain applications. With Microsoft 365, we no longer have to choose between mobility and security—we have both.”

Korn Ferry is also standardizing on Windows 10 Enterprise to gain BitLocker device-level encryption as part of the operating system. There’s also the convenience and cost savings of eliminating big, painful, companywide operating system upgrades every few years. “I look forward to never having to do another mass Windows upgrade again,” says Ackermann.

And then there are the cool AI features. “Employees are beginning to use Cortana to set reminders and search for documents,” Ackermann says of the handy virtual assistant built into Windows 10. “There’s a lot of potential there for even more workday efficiency. A collaboration platform is best when it fades into the background and allows our people to shine. That’s what Microsoft 365 does.”

Find out more about Korn Ferry on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

With Microsoft 365, we make it dramatically easier and faster for an individual to bring the full power of Korn Ferry to clients.
Bryan Ackermann, Chief Information Officer Korn Ferry


Office 365

Are you ready to achieve your goals?

Get the Office you know, plus tools to help you work better together, so you can get more done—anytime, anywhere.

Learn more about Office 365



How WE embraces digital

transformation to empower social good