Adopting the Modern Workplace
A Wealth Management Firm's Success Story
A testimonial written by David B. Armstrong, CEO & Co-founder at Monument Wealth Management
It started with a single power failure. Like any responsible RIA, Monument has had a Business Continuity Plan (BCP) since our inception. It started as a simple cheat sheet, but over the years has become a significant part of our Policies and Procedures.
But like most busy companies, it was not the “always up to date, living document” that it should have been as it often reflected a lot of outdated instructions that were a function of adopting new technologies. It was essentially something that we reviewed once a year and never had to use. But that all changed after we experienced a power failure in our building that lasted over a full workday. That’s when we went “all in” with a solution.
We adopted Microsoft Office 365 (O365) with an E5 license and chose a new Managed Service Provider (MSP), FSI Strategies (fsistrategies.com), to manage the migration and implementation of a modernized workplace. And along with that adoption, we needed a complete re-write of the BCP so it lived up to its intent – allow Monument to operate seamlessly in an environment where the team could not come into the office.
Phase One began when we needed a way to support our Director of Financial Planning, Jessica Gibbs, in full-time work from home (WFH) capability. There was no way we were letting her leave the Team just because her husband transferred to a new duty station in the US Army. We needed a solution that allowed for video, file sharing, and collaboration with not only the Team but with clients as well.
O365 worked so well to solve this problem that we went to BCP Phase Two. Using a “mega snow-opolis” as a scenario that would keep everyone from making it to the office, we tested our BCP in Phase Two by conducting a few 100% WFH scenarios in late 2019 and early 2020. The only person that seemed to notice was the FedEx gal…mostly because she likes to great the dogs. Unfortunately, it was a timely project – Monument started full-time WFH on March 11th, 2020 and will continue to do so until further notice.
Without sounding like a full-blown endorsed testimonial, the decision to move to a standardized Microsoft environment (both hardware and Office 365) was a key decision in the success we have realized. While there can be some healthy debate on that decision with folks who are not Microsoft fans, we took a decision that made the most sense for Monument and moved on. Our goal was quick, seamless functionality, and while I readily admit there may be other solutions that work just as well, this was in keeping with our “keep it simple” approach to most everything we do.
Here’s what we have learned so far:
We bit the bullet and did a tech refresh across the board since we were at the end of the life cycle on a lot of computers in the office. We saw no need to replace our aging desk/tower computers with anything other than laptops and decided to standardize them across the Team. We gave everyone the choice of a Microsoft Surface or Surface Laptop and replicated the convenience of a desktop environment through the Surface Dock. The Surface Dock allowed for the attachment of dual monitors, external keyboard and mouse as well as attaching other peripherals to the Dock while facilitating a “one wire attachment” to the laptop. We installed the MS Wireless Display Adaptors to all the flat panel TV’s allowing for any laptop to wirelessly display on any TV in the office, in our conference room, or their own home. The goal was complete plug and play – the Team was free to move around the office, collaborate, desk swap, use all large Screen TVs, and go home with their machines.
We also purchased Jabra Evolve 75 Bluetooth noise-canceling headsets. These headsets also include a noise-canceling boom mic as well. In essence, these allow the Team to listen to audio without disrupting the rest of the office while also using them to conduct internet voice communications. While the headset is great for listening, the added benefit of the mic suppressing the office noise for the listener and its ability to stay connected to two separate devices simultaneously through Bluetooth (the laptop and a personal cell) are huge pluses to this headset. We maintain a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) for cell phones that are protected by the O365 E5 capability and administered by our MSP (below).
Microsoft Office 365 E5
The decision to move to O365 was the most critical decision that is driving our BCP success. This move off of old servers required us to outsource our IT function to FSi Strategies, have them conduct the migration, and provide us with ongoing administration and service of the O365 environment. Here’s a breakdown:
Microsoft Outlook and Exchange
Our Outlook Exchange server was migrated off local servers and into the cloud, allowing us to operate without any need for us to have physical equipment on site. This solved the problems associated with hardware maintenance and replacement costs but also mitigated a single point of failure associated with any power outage. If the building lost power, we had a limited battery backup, but the Exchange server would eventually go down in any prolonged outage. Power off = email down = can’t WFH.
Additionally, it mitigated the potential problems that would be associated with larger-scale issues such as building closure, a fire, or a leak from the floor above flowing into our tech closet (an actual incident!).
This new cloud capability allows us to communicate uninterrupted and maintain our calendars across all devices without being shackled to physical servers in our office.
All of our files were migrated off of the old servers and hosted in the cloud on SharePoint. Our entire digital file system is now available 24/7/365 across any device that can connect to the internet. This allows real-time sharing and simultaneous co-editing of our files and content across all devices as well as remote access to everything we would need from an information perspective. Files are completely searchable and the new integration of Microsoft Search into their Edge Browser and Bing makes finding any file a breeze. Any file can be accessed, reviewed and edited on any device from anywhere.
Traditional Microsoft Office Applications
We have access to the web versions of the traditional Offices applications – Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc. Additionally, the actual applications are installed on our laptops and mobile devices and maintained by our MSP. The benefit of the applications residing on the computer facilitates off-line work, and we all generally find them much easier to use. However, the web versions are available if needed. It is not uncommon for me to be writing a blog in Word while another member of the Team is proofreading and editing it. It also facilitates several Team members working on Excel spreadsheets and client PowerPoint presentations remotely and simultaneously. Mobile versions of the applications have recently been replaced with a new application called “Office.” The Office app is a one-stop shop – no need to have each MS Office application (Word, Excel, etc.) installed on your mobile device. While not optimal, any document can be edited on a mobile device in a pinch or on the run.
A new player on the Microsoft scene, we immediately adopted it. MS Teams allows Monument to conduct internal chats, video chats, set appointments for video conferences/meetings, share information, screen share and coordinate on schedules, and track projects. Each “Team” is linked to folders in SharePoint so docs are accessible across platforms. MS Teams has a running feed of commentary for anything going on and it’s 100% retained through a connection to Smarsh to meet compliance requirements. It also has the functionality to prohibit editing anything after it is posted.
MS Teams also operates our phone system. Yes, our whole phone system is run through MS Teams. The MS Teams app that resides on each team member’s laptop AND mobile device also function as their desktop telephone without the need to use their data plan or disclose their personal cell numbers. (This is also generally referred to as “softphone” technology). It also provides us with the flexibility of instantly and seamlessly launching video chat from webcams mounted on the desktop monitors or from front-facing cameras on cell phones. A big change is the elimination of desktop phones. Our new technology has replaced the need for traditional phones on our desks. By utilizing the Jabra headsets and the MS Teams app, wherever someone’s laptop OR cell phone is located, so is their office “phone.” Everyone now carries a desktop phone in their pocket.
Finally, we installed Logitech Meetup cameras in our conference rooms that are easily connected to anyone’s laptop to launch MS Teams (or occasionally Zoom) video conferences with clients, vendors or other remote Team members.
Other Office 365 Capabilities
Finally, O365 has incredible Security, Compliance, Device Management, Identity and Access Management, Threat Protection, etc. – This is all handled by our MSP and the E5 license of O365.
As we make our way out of the current environment, I suspect that the lessons we learn about remote working, WHF, and the consistent improvement in tech will have a permanent effect on how Wealth Management firms work in the future. Since we have experienced so much success with our BCP and our modern workplace technology, we are now looking at the future and realizing that the days of everyone co-located with a large commercial real estate footprint may be well behind us.
What is the Modern Workplace?
The workplace as we know it is rapidly evolving, and it is more than open concept offices and free lunches. There is a new generation of users who are always connected from multiple devices and they work in a different way. Increased mobility and enhanced collaboration are becoming requirements for every organization, while new security threats are appearing every day. This changing landscape is driving a digital transformation for organizations and requiring a new way of doing business. It is our goal to help organizations have a modern strategic approach to technology, empowering users, all while maintaining security. We achieve this by encouraging teamwork, implementing unified endpoint management, managing training and adoption, and implementing cloud security.
Monument Wealth Management is a wealth management team that consists of razor-sharp, innovative, collaborative, and creative thinkers with seasoned financial expertise, a renegade spirit, and zero commitment issues. They provide opportunities for people to use what they have to get where they most want to go—and tap not just their potential for wealth, but their potential for living.
As advisors, they do it in the form of thoughtful, considered, bespoke Private Wealth Design. Providing opportunities for education, growth, and collaboration, so that they can become not just skilled advisors, but keener thinkers, creative problem solvers, and better humans.
About FSi Strategies, Inc.
FSi Strategies is a recognized Microsoft Partner and managed service provider with over 17 years of experience supporting our clients’ IT needs across multiple industries. FSi has established itself as a pioneer of the modern workplace. We empower our clients by delivering enterprise class solutions that offer mobility, collaboration, security, insights, and productivity that today’s workers demand to perform their jobs from anywhere at anytime. FSi couples its visionary workplace consulting practice with its core managed IT and cloud services for clients requiring ongoing reliable support and innovative technology strategies to run their businesses.
- Microsoft Gold Partner and Direct CSP (Cloud Service Provider) specializing in Microsoft Cloud and Modern Workplace solutions
- Microsoft Certified architects with a focus on the Microsoft Cloud Platform, Cloud Productivity, Collaboration and Content, Enterprise Mobility Management, Communications, and Messaging
- Microsoft Certified Trainers and active participants in the Microsoft community such as hosting events as MTCs and conferences
- Dedicated to success, our ACM (Adoption and Change Management) platform is paired with custom learning paths to ensure user adoption and implementation success
- Microsoft Teams TAP (Technology Adoption Program) partner for both devices and features
The Future of Work: building a modern workplace with FSi
Designing, implementing and supporting Modern Workplace technology is what FSi Strategies specializes in. We’ve helped hundreds of businesses implement modern security strategies in support of their missions. We invite you to discover how together, we can leverage the intelligent Cloud for the security and privacy needs of your business.