Investment Firm Finds CRM Success with Microsoft Dynamics
Without a centralized system for CRM (customer relationship management), tracking massive investment information has been a major challenge for Boston-based investment firm Berkshire Partners. Since 1986, Berkshire has invested more than $11 billion through private equity funds, exploring as many as 400 investments a year, with only four reaching the final funding stage.
One challenge in particular has been managing its massive data resources to generate real-time, accurate reports. For years, Berkshire relied on a custom-developed app and spreadsheets to track the investments. But this method was limiting -- it stifled collaboration and produced spreadsheets with vital information that could not be linked easily to other investment applications.
"We need to track many information components related to each of the potential investments," explained Eric Souza, director of Information Technology for Berkshire Partners. "This includes the investment lifecycle stage, financing updates, how the metrics compare to the pertinent industry, and financial news that might impact the investment."
Better Than a Niche Solution
Souza decided to deploy an enterprise CRM (customer relationship management) system that would give the entire firm access to current, real-time information about investment activities. He wanted to facilitate collaboration so teams of people could work together to manage data and make the most informed investment decisions possible.
"We knew that a CRM solution would take the contact management burden off our individual employees and allow us to make sure we always had a single instance of up-to-date contact information everyone could access," Souza explained. "As a 125-person company, we essentially had 125 separate CRM systems, with everyone using their own process and tools. Creating a centralized CRM would eliminate a lot of duplicated effort in tracking investment and contact information."
After considering niche CRM solutions geared towards private equity and investment firms, Souza decided the firm was better off working with a mainstream solution so it could get the support it needed and tune the technology. The final choice was between Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Salesforce.com.
"Almost all of our information technology is built on a Microsoft platform, so we felt more comfortable with Microsoft Dynamics CRM," Souza says. "The look and feel is familiar to our staff, and it easily integrates with our e-mail and document-sharing applications. Microsoft Dynamics CRM is also much easier to integrate with existing business processes. We don't have to train employees to launch a different application or visit a Web site."
Berkshire built custom workflows and integrated Microsoft Dynamics CRM with Outlook, Microsoft Excel, and SharePoint. Now, the firm has faster access to investment information, which Souza says engenders confidence in the way the investment community views the firm.
In addition to investment tracking, the solution also helps Berkshire track field-flow activities, such as research on companies the firm intends to buy. And when employees open a company record in Microsoft Dynamics CRM, they can see all investment records and discussions relating to the investments.
For example, a window within each record shows the hierarchy of documents relating to investment banks involved in the investment. When a new record is created, a custom workflow links the record to SharePoint, where a standardized set of folders is generated, so every team starts with the same folder structure.
Microsoft Dynamics CRM is also helping Berkshire ensure compliance with regulations like the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. One of the act's requirements is that private equity firms such as Berkshire Partners must register with the SEC.
"Dodd-Frank requires us to track a lot of new information," Souza says. "It's now a lot easier to demonstrate compliance thanks to Microsoft Dynamics CRM. For example, we record logs every time we speak to an expert for insight on investment-related activity. Because Microsoft Dynamics CRM tracks all the communication, our compliance department can run weekly and monthly reports to check for any inaccuracies."