Download the authoritative guide: Cloud Computing 2018: Using the Cloud to Transform Your BusinessIf you're operating an international investment banking firm such as Houlihan Lokey Howard & Zukin, every dime you can save on faxes, courier services and business travel can pretty much go straight to the bottom line.
The company serves more than 1,100 clients annually, and the international aspects of its business mean that travel expenses add up to a lot more than just a few tanks of gas on the expense account.
h Not long ago company execs were completing an M&A deal in Korea, and the tech folks came up with the idea of creating an Intranet for the due-diligence documents.
"It was small, but efficient and secure," said Bill Perry, the Web site guru at Houlihan Lokey. "The thought occurred to us that we could improve our processes greatly if we could use the same concept online in a highly secure workspace."
Digital workspaces and online collaboration tools have, of course, been much in the news following the recent terrorist attacks on the United States. But a lot of companies were using them long before the attacks caused a slowdown in travel for business purposes.
Document Sharing Helps Facilitate Deals
What's a digital workspace? IntraLinks defines it as "a ready-made environment created by people in your business for your business -- a secure meeting room in cyberspace where project and relationship management teams schedule, conduct and manage business interactions online -- where you work with your external partners, clients and prospects, whether they're across the street or across the ocean."
Perry said that at Houlihan Lokey, "We use them for document sharing. We provide limited access to sensitive documents to potential investors during the negotiations of M&A deals, financial restructurings, equity financings and private placement transactions."
In the last five years alone, Houlihan Lokey has been involved in transactions totaling more than $100 billion. In fact, the firm's transaction experience has earned it a place on the list of the top 20 U.S. M&A advisers for the past nine years in a row. Clients range from Fortune 500 corporations and Forbes 400 families to closely held, middle market companies, state and federal agencies and even foreign governments.
Perry said the company's entire financial staff has been trained in the use of IntraLinks workspaces.
"We have eight offices domestically, offices in Canada and Asia, as well as strategic affiliation with Close Brothers Corporate Finance within Europe," he said. "While IntraLinks is not necessarily appropriate for every transaction we do, we have contracted with them to increase our workspace allotment by 25% this year."
Initially, the company was focused on building the product in-house. "We hired a software development company to create a requirements document that outlined our needs," Perry said. "Shortly thereafter, however, we investigated IntraLinks services and decided that it was more cost effective to use their services."
How was installation?
"The implementation went extremely well," Perry said. "Part of our decision to use the IntraLinks product was the idea that implementation be immediate and seamless. We wanted to be able to roll out the product without placing an additional workload of testing and training on our staff."
Perry said the company has done "some of our largest and most time-sensitive deals online and it has proved to be invaluable. In one case, because of the distances of the parties involved and the extremely tight timeframe, I don't think we would have been able to complete the transaction in any other way."
And the cost? "We have an agreement with IntraLinks not to disclose our pricing structure, but the cost for a workspace is far less than we would ordinarily spend for travel, shipping and document reproduction," Perry said. "We haven't had any of our clients shy away from using the service because of cost."
Bill Conklin, executive vice president at IntraLinks, said the company's digital workspaces are sold on an annual subscription basis and "prices vary."
IntraLinks was founded in 1996 by financial services veterans Mark Adams, John Muldoon and Arthur Sculley.
The company says each workspace is fully redundant and encrypted up to 128 bits. All users need to use IntraLinks is a browser and password for access.
"All a client or user needs is an Internet connection," Conklin said. "No additional hardware or software is required to use IntraLinks." IntraLinks' Clients include Bank of America, Ernst & Young and the FDIC, among others. Other companies in the online collaboration space include TightLink, Web4's eReview, WebEx and Microsoft's NetMeeting.