Why Microsoft Teams & Financial Planning Are a Perfect Pair (My Teams #12)

microsoft teams

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Three years ago, I jumped at my dream opportunity; running FP&A for a fast-growing, international SaaS company with products that would help facilitate the growth of companies through the modern workplace with an emphasis on collaboration. We are large enough to be able to have resources, yet operate as a hungry, agile company. My team is charged with providing the business insight to stay ahead of the curve and Teams is one of the key tools that allows us to do our jobs.

microsoft teams

Name: Aaron Barnes
Location:
Richmond, VA (or working from home in Midlothian, VA)
Current Role:
Director, Financial Planning & Analysis
One word that best describes how you work:
Teamwork
Mobile device of choice:
  Samsung Galaxy Note
Computer of Choice:
 Surface Laptop

To get started, please tell us a little about your background and how you got to where you are today.

I started in investment banking and alternative assets after college. I then moved to internally audit for a Fortune 500 to learn more about how to run a business. I’ve worked for large international companies and three-person startups. I found that what inspired me was the incessant hunt for information to help propel a business. My first six months at AvePoint had me involved with team members from other departments and offices that I had only met virtually through our Teams sessions.

What was your first interaction with Microsoft Teams?

I hadn’t used teams prior to AvePoint. Being in the Richmond office, I had seen how effectively the support team had utilized the platform. Honestly, it was a little overwhelming at first being that it was a multi-platform aggregation tool. I quickly realized it had a lot of potential to help keep lines of communication open without inundating others and would allow for a centralization of ideas and information. The finance team is spread globally and it is imperative that we constantly communicate and share information and insights.  We set up the “Office of the CFO” team to allow the team to share information in real-time and communicate.

microsoft teams

As someone in finance, how does Microsoft Teams impact your day-to-day workflow?

It makes my job possible. In a rapidly evolving environment like we’re in today, efficient communication is imperative. Teams allows me to communicate with global department leaders, manage data flows, keeps me up to date on my meetings, and provides clear channels for problem resolution and coordination.

I am a member of our Deal Desk within Microsoft Teams. This is a cross-functional team that reviews and assesses active customer-facing deals. Sales representatives provide deal information to the channel via an email address. All emails sent automatically and create a message within the Team. The Deal Desk will then share information about the deal, discuss concerns, or raise additional questions for clarification. This team is comprised of people in multiple departments and multiple countries all looking at the same information at the same time with time-sensitive deadlines, all collaborating to move our business forward.

Working in finance and want to better leverage MFST Teams? This post might help: Click To Tweet

One feature I am looking to incorporate more of is the integration of other apps, such as Power BI. This allows all users to have the same data at their fingertips within Teams. One of the project teams I’m involved with is focused on managing our Microsoft Azure consumption. We have product-level telemetry that we’ve built out in Power BI and now all members of the team have access to this live data through, so we ensure alignment.

On a more personal level, it helps me stay sane being able to see my colleagues during working from home.

How does Teams differ from other communication platforms you’ve used in your financial career?

Teams is a more robust platform that is constantly improving. My first foray with communication platforms was Skype for Business. It did its job but I found that in practice, I was limiting myself to one-on-one conversations.

Reflecting back, I’m not sure how I operated without Teams. It provides a one-stop-shop to pull resources into conversations, share and retain vital information to ensure synchronicity, and provides a feed of cross-departmental information. It is what allows me to work with my team members in Singapore, China, Israel, Switzerland as well as my colleagues across the globe. One feature the team is delving into is the “Whiteboard” application. This tool allows for live collaboration on process flows, new financial models, and more. This allows for live collaboration that bridges the geographic divide.

What’s your best time-saving shortcut in Microsoft Teams?

One of the challenges in a growing firm is understanding the organizational chart. My job requires me to interface with each department and leaders around the globe. The biggest lifesaver for me is the ability to see the organizational structure within Teams. This allows me to quickly find the right person and within the application, I can message them, send an email, or create a meeting with them.

How have you stayed up-to-date with the latest changes to the Microsoft Teams platform?

I can’t say that I do a great job with this, unfortunately. There are departments within AvePoint that have really done an amazing job championing Teams. Through frequent cross-department projects, I am exposed to best practices and try to pick up on some of these.

How would you describe the onboarding/learning process of how to best leverage Teams for your needs?

The migration from Skype to Teams was very easy. It started simply as a chat platform but through involvement on project teams and interaction with other teams that had adopted more quickly, we slowly added functionality, such as file retention, to ensure all parties are working from live documents.

microsoft teams

What would you recommend to someone in finance who wants to take advantage of Microsoft Teams?

If you are required to balance multiple simultaneous projects, be involved in various expert-groups, have multiple offices that prevent live collaboration, or need ways to insulate yourself from an onslaught of emails, Teams is an invaluable tool and I can’t recommend it enough.


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