Globally dispersed financial team optimizes reporting process with Microsoft Teams
A globally dispersed financial team at Schneider Electric, based in Rueil-Malmaison, France, struggled to collaborate on quarterly business reviews. Team members were unable to coauthor documents and spent unproductive time searching for the latest versions of source files for financial reports. Now, they use Microsoft Teams to discuss, store, and find current files, and update them in real time. Workers save time locating documents, no longer losing up to 30 minutes each time they resume work on a project.
Julie Issemann found herself sitting at her computer, waiting for a coworker to close a file so she could add the latest revenue figures to it. Issemann, a financial analyst at global energy management giant Schneider Electric, was used to working across time zones and geographies with the rest of her Financial Planning and Analysis (FP&A) team, which has contacts based across the globe. She was also used to feeling far away from the rest of her team.
“I wasn’t always sure I had the most current file—documents could end up in different systems, like email, file storage, or someone’s hard drive. I’d wonder where to find the document I needed, and which version of it I should use,” says Issemann. “When someone was working on a document that I needed to update, I had to call or email to find out when they’d be finished. Or I’d keep hitting refresh to see if the file was closed. After I finally got access, sometimes I’d find out the next day that a colleague had added new data to a previous version of it by mistake. We’d spend long hours before each big deadline waiting, searching, and sometimes redoing work.”
A company with deep roots in history faces a new era of collaboration
Founded in 1836, Schneider Electric was born during the First Industrial Revolution. Today, it’s a leader in digital transformation, creating energy management and automation solutions for homes, office buildings, and IT infrastructures.
As Schneider Electric delivers innovation to its customers, it also works to transform itself by adopting modern IT solutions for collaboration and productivity. That’s why in 2017, Schneider Electric decided to deploy Microsoft Office 365 across several locations and business units. Office 365 cloud-based services are enterprise-grade collaboration tools designed to deliver the reliability, availability, security, and compliance that the FP&A team needed for working with confidential financial data. Rodolphe Aubin, Vice President for FP&A, was especially interested in using the Microsoft Teams chat-based workspace in Office 365. His team is regularly under tight deadlines to deliver reports that inform crucial business decisions; Aubin hoped Teams would help people feel more connected and work more efficiently when collaborating.
Modern tools boost efficiency
With Teams, Schneider Electric employees gained a single workspace to find, store, and access information. To keep projects organized, Aubin set up channels for each FP&A project or by project teams, including tabs that provided quick access to Office 365 apps such as Excel, OneNote, and PowerPoint.
FP&A team members are more efficient when working on tight deadlines, multiple projects, or coming back to work in the morning. Previously, if Aubin and his colleagues had a two-hour window of time to continue work on an in-process project, they would spend up to 30 minutes of that time gathering data. ”I used to scratch my head and think, ‘Okay, I’ll look for all the emails that have been sent on this topic recently,” he says. “Where is the latest file? On the file-sharing service? On my laptop?’ In Teams, I don’t ask these questions—files and conversations are saved to their project channels where they are easy to find.”
Now the FP&A team stores project-related email in a Teams channel for easier access. To ensure that everyone collaborates on the same thread and avoids creating side discussions, Aubin forwards project-related email messages to Teams and uses the @mention feature to alert the group or specific team members. “With other means of communication, there’s always a risk of leaving people out,” says Aubin. “With persistent chat in Teams, project information is available in one place, and people can catch up easily.”
Aubin is also pleased with how modern tools have changed the process of creating the company’s quarterly business reviews. Thanks to efficiencies gained from working in Teams, we finished the most recent report earlier than expected, without the usual long hours and late nights. “I used to spend the day before the business review working hard to complete the report,” says Aubin. “But this time, I was visiting a Microsoft campus to learn and share best practices with peers instead. I anticipate having more room in my schedule for activities like these in future, to help the FP&A team realize more benefits from our tools and processes.”
These new capabilities help Aubin’s team convert Schneider Electric financial data into business intelligence much more efficiently. “By using Teams, my colleagues in FP&A can help Schneider move ahead faster while gaining more time to focus on strategic activities and improvements,” says Aubin. “Working smarter means we have time to concentrate on getting ahead instead of trying to keep pace with deadlines.”
A new teamwork hub supports engagement
Aubin sees a link between his company’s values and the way Teams supports real-time collaboration. “It’s a new level of teamwork for us, a sense of togetherness. People are more engaged because they can coauthor files instead of creating bottlenecks for each other. The information they need is available to them in one spot, on their laptops and smartphones,” he says. “One of our mottos at Schneider is ‘Life is on,’ which refers to being energized, efficient, and connected. Teams enables this vision.”
Initially, recalls Issemann, some people assumed Teams was simply a new communication tool, until she introduced them to the workspace. When she showed her coworkers how they could edit an Excel file or PowerPoint template together directly from Teams, they saw how the interactivity of Teams helps them work more naturally. “It is definitely a new kind of tool, and it fits how we work,” she says. “We can stay focused on tasks without being sidetracked by delays or looking for files—Teams is a central place to share documents and have conversations while working together at the same time on files.”
Today, when Aubin, Issemann, and the rest of the team begin work on a new quarterly business review, they know their team is set up for success. Team members share their notes and collaborate on files as new data is available, without waiting on one another to complete their portions. They have easy access to all the information they need to compile detailed reports and create an impressive presentation.
Aubin finishes by saying, “For us, Teams is truly revolutionary—a significant breakthrough in collaboration.”
One of our mottos at Schneider is ‘Life is on,’ which refers to being energized, efficient, and connected. Teams enables this vision.