Baker Tilly International, a large international network of accounting firms, has deployed Huddle across its member organisations to assist with international collaboration and customer interaction.
The firm has 154 independent members across 133 countries, all of which need to collaborate on projects such as bids.
Cloud-based collaboration software Huddle has now been deployed to more than 600 people across member organisations, and firms are also introducing the software to clients to provide portal services when working on projects.
According to Baker Tilly chief operating officer Paul Ginman, prospects were increasingly requesting to secure global client portals as part of their bid compliance.
“We needed a standard system for consistency purposes and a service that would provide us with full version control and audit trails,. so we had an increased level of accountability, transparency and visibility," he says.
The move away from inefficiency
Previously, the firms were using internally developed systems to collaborate, such as SharePoint, as well the collaboration system of whatever firm happened to be leading a project.
This often led to delays as teams would have to be trained in how to use each individual piece of software at the beginning of each project. It would also occasionally cause problems because firms were based in different countries with different laws, firewalls and boundaries.
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Despite this, there was some resistance to the introduction of Huddle, because each firm had its own collaboration system and wanted to keep what they were already using.
“We’ve had people that have said ‘we’ve got our own systems’, but we’ve made it clear that for international work we have to have an international setup,” says Ginman.
“We’re not saying they have to do away with what they’re doing in their local marketplaces, but if they want to be involved in international assignments they have to understand how Huddle works.”
The previous setup sometimes led to teams sending emails and using Dropbox to collaborate, which was bad for security and privacy.
Part of the reason Baker Tilly chose Huddle was its use in government, as the firm's data is often confidential and sensitive. But above all, it was ease of use that won Huddle the contract.
The difficulties facing global firms
Due to the vast nature of the organisation, the roll-out of Huddle was not as simple for Baker Tilly as it perhaps would have been for a small, single-nation organisation.
Since all of Baker Tilly’s member firms are independent, each has its own governance and strategies for adopting systems.
Everybody is now involved in international business – all companies of pretty much any size have an international dimension to them
Paul Ginman, Baker Tilly International
“It obviously makes it slightly different to a straightforward or more commercial setup where a decision is taken centrally and then everybody is told to follow that decision,” says Ginman. “This is more persuading each of the firms of the advantages that Huddle has to offer for them.”
This did pose a difficulty when trying to embed Huddle across the entire network of member organisations. But, says Ginman, to work effectively on large projects internationally, easy-to-use software must be implemented.
“Everybody is now involved in international business – all companies of pretty much any size have an international dimension to them," he says. "Generally, we see this for assignments on an international level, where up to 30 or 40 countries are involved.”
As language and timezones will be different for each organisation, Baker Tilly has implemented a series of webinars for employees to ensure they are aware of implementations and standards, and Huddle has assisted firms with questions or difficulties with the software.
According to Huddle president and co-founder Alastair Mitchell, professional services firms need to be able to work effectively across geographical and organisational boundaries to maintain a competitive advantage.
“Baker Tilly International is a great example of an organisation that needs to connect its entire enterprise ecosystem – partners, customers and suppliers – to relevant content,” he says.