Armstrong Watson Boosts Microsoft Teams–Based Collaboration and Secure Access to Client Records

A leading accounting firm deploys OnePlace Collaboration & Content to bolster Microsoft 365-based enterprise content management and Microsoft Teams–based client collaboration capabilities to facilitate new ways of working.

Top 30 U.K. accounting firm Armstrong Watson employs 440 people across 16 offices serving the north of England and Scotland. For more than 150 years, the firm has provided services spanning accountancy, cloud accounting, audit, tax, payroll, corporate finance, financial planning, forensic accounting, corporate restructuring, and insolvency.

Supporting Remote Workers with New Functionality

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Armstrong Watson noticed its clients needed more tailored support from the firm’s partners and remote-working teams. When the first U.K. lockdown struck in March 2020, demand for video calls and collaboration via Microsoft Teams soared.

Armstrong Watson accelerated its plans to migrate to Microsoft Office 365 — a decision that introduced challenges with the firm’s existing document management system. “Accessing some of the new functionality, including co-authoring support, would have meant a significant integration burden,” explained Toby Woodhead, the firm’s Head of Technology.

Facilitating Client Management through Microsoft Teams

The firm opted to deploy the Microsoft 365-based Intapp OnePlace Collaboration & Content suite, which includes powerful capabilities for managing Microsoft Teams, mobile email, and document management, as well as third-party collaboration. The software provides a wealth of rich functionality directly within familiar Microsoft applications.

The firm’s strategic technology advisor recommended the software as a means to enable comprehensive remote work while maintaining full compliance controls over email, document filing, and Microsoft Teams use. "I googled the company, made contact the same day, and within a week we were talking [about the specifics of the contract]," said Woodhead.

"We did a quick review of other potential solutions, but [OnePlace Collaboration & Content] offered us everything we needed — including a strategic step-change in our ability to do business, which DMS vendors couldn’t match. Crucially too, it harnesses our investment in Microsoft 365 and SharePoint," he added.

"[OnePlace Collaboration & Content] offered us everything we needed — including a strategic step-change in our ability to do business, which DMS vendors couldn’t match. Crucially too, it harnesses our investment in Microsoft 365 and SharePoint."

TOBY WOODHEAD, HEAD OF TECHNOLOGY, ARMSTRONG WATSON

Adopting New Technology Quickly

"From Day One, the software has enabled our people to access client records, documents, audit trails, and calculations from anywhere, so we’ve been able to keep providing a continuous service to our clients," said Woodhead. "What’s more, due to the pandemic, I didn’t have to convince users of the switch. Never before have I witnessed such a desire in a firm to adopt new technology."

Following a rapid and comprehensive proof of concept, deployment partner Transform Data helped with data migration from the firm’s old document management system to SharePoint, the firm’s new default content hub.

Ultimately, OnePlace Collaboration & Content will serve as the firm’s complete client engagement management system. Already, the ability to work seamlessly from home means Armstrong Watson’s professionals can engage with managing directors of busy companies at 8 a.m., before they themselves start work. "This opens up new business opportunities," noted Woodhead.


Executive Summary

Armstrong Watson, a Top 30 U.K.-based accounting firm, uses OnePlace Collaboration & Content to access enhanced functionality within Microsoft Teams. As a result, the firm has transformed the way its staff collaborates. Workflows are more seamless and centralized, and the firm has enhanced staff ability to work both offline and online.

Challenges

  • Skyrocketing demand for connection and collaboration among geographically distant colleagues and clients, prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic
  • An aging document management system — housing large volumes of historic client and engagement data — that had become time-consuming and costly to maintain
  • Poor integration between Microsoft 365 applications and the firm’s existing systems

Results with Intapp

  • Rich document management capabilities: Native integration of Intapp Documents with other firm systems and Microsoft 365 applications to provide centralized access to information
  • Simplified work-from-anywhere capabilities: Device-agnostic, online or offline content access to save time and enable hybrid work scenarios
  • Smooth migration and effortless adoption: Specialist expertise from Intapp implementation partners to ease migration of content from legacy systems

Transforming Work Cycles with Technology

"I can honestly say we’re seeing seismic ramifications from our decision to transform the way we work," Woodhead enthused. "When I wrote my board report for the past year, I described this as the biggest step for technology in the firm in 10 years — since we moved our servers into a data center."

"For users, everything is just seamless: It just works and is there for them in Outlook," Woodhead continued. "They can take advantage of important capabilities like co-authoring, too. Another benefit of the suite is the ability to work on- and offline, so if someone is in a rural area where broadband is weak, they can download a document, continue working on it, and then re-synchronize it later when they’re back online."

"From an IT perspective, we’re leaps and bounds ahead with our ambitions for Teams, which will soon become a central hub that we’ll all work from," Woodhead continued. "After that, we’ll add client access to a SharePoint portal, for secure external collaboration. The sky’s the limit for users, then: We’ll be able to use all of the exciting new technology Microsoft is giving us, and have more of a project team."

"I can honestly say we’re seeing seismic ramifications from our decision to transform the way we work. When I wrote my board report for the past year, I described this as the biggest step for technology in the firm for 10 years — since we moved our servers into a data center."

TOBY WOODHEAD, HEAD OF TECHNOLOGY, ARMSTRONG WATSON

Using Advanced Microsoft 365 Features

Armstrong Watson also plans to make use of advanced Microsoft 365 features, such as Power Automate, to automate document approval workflows in SharePoint and to produce documents from blocks of data, enabling substantial cost savings and productivity gains.

“Standardizing on Microsoft 365 and [OnePlace Collaboration & Content] will make it easy to add all sorts of other products — such as an electronic document signing tool — because so many of these naturally integrate with Microsoft 365, as the suite does,” added Woodhead. “This will massively reduce the cost of integration.”

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