“Bringing Compliance and Collaboration together”
RM2 has made a name for itself in the field of employee ownership. It involves itself in all aspects of this work, from designing individual employee share schemes for key employees to establishing and maintaining all employee share ownership arrangements, including advising companies on the transition to full employee ownership by way of an Employee Ownership Trust. The quality of its operations has been recognised by the award of ISO 9001:2015 certification.
Given the complexity of its offer, the company realised that it couldn’t adopt a one size-fits-all approach, as different clients had different demands and there was a need to tailor its offerings to each customer.
This created a compliance issue. RM2 had to keep track of every transaction and every item of communication. “We’re like a law firm but not a law firm,” said Sarah Anderson, previously director at RM2 and now in charge of business development. “Many of our advisors are solicitors and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority; others are chartered accountants, or professional share plans administrators providing detailed advice on the day-to day operations of share sales and purchases by employees under a share plan. What that means is that every email that we send out could be construed as advice.” That creates an issue, as it means that its record-keeping and data retention have to be extremely efficient.
“We have to keep a record of all correspondence, including every email,” said Anderson, but there were a couple of problems. Firstly, the company was struggling with what she called “a creaky server” making it clear that the infrastructure needed to be upgraded.
The second issue was a cultural one. In a fast-moving and complex environment, employees were not always managing their correspondence in the most efficient way and this was causing issues for the company. “It was hard to get people to save anything”, said Anderson, “they would put files on their C drives or they would forget to save emails. This was important as “an email constitutes advice to a client; we need to be able to save emails consistently for compliance purposes.”
This data needed to be retained for a long period too. Anderson explained, “We have to have a copy of everything for up to seven years.” The company also had to deal with organisations that were no longer using them. “People ask us for information even after they’re no longer a client, but they still want something from us.”
RM2 engaged Information EXP to make the first step with two Explore workshops to gain an understanding of how using SharePoint with expert help could help them address their challenges.
There was one key factor that was important to RM2 and was that there would be no major changes to their way of working. And the company got what it wanted. “Nobody likes change! But after implementation, the feedback we got was that everything looked exactly the same.”
Like many companies after the pandemic, there was a great dependence on remote working. All of RM2’s staff, to a greater or lesser degree, worked from home, with everyone logging on via a VPN. There were some initial concerns. “We were a bit worried about connectivity and thought that there might have been some issues, but everything works perfectly,” said Anderson. The company also uses Teams extensively and by using SharePoint, they are making the most of the Microsoft collaboration suite, as everything is fully integrated.
Under the new system, the company has been divided into little groups, allocated according to job function.
Using the solution Information EXP developed, all email is automatically saved, and it also sorts out workflows between the departments.
The company deploys a SharePoint add-on, Harmon.ie that sits on Outlook and uses drag and drop to enable easy access to the SharePoint document libraries. The new system has certainly solved one of the issues that had been troubling the company: the random way in which files were being saved. “It has the familiarity of the old C drive – it’s made it easier to save things so that we know where they are,” said Anderson. “And if even that doesn’t work, there is a backup that will automatically save every email we send to clients and prospective clients.”
Using the new SharePoint-based system, the company is finding it far easier to manage correspondence and documents. “We now have automated email savings, so no messages getting lost. It’s also easier to locate particular items. We could be having detailed exchanges with clients, with a lot of messages going back and forth. These could contain quotes for a contract but, in the past, by the 15 th email, it was easy to lose sight of what was agreed.” All that has changed, said Anderson, “every item of relevant information will be in the new correspondence file.”
The new implementation has transformed the way that the company does business. “We want to be able to find files quickly, including different versions, without having to look in lots of different locations.”
The proof of the success of the SharePoint rollout has been the ease with which it has been accepted by the company; it’s improved RM2’s ability to retain data, without major disruption. “People hate things changing but it’s been great for us,” said Anderson.