Dunedin’s Karan Darroch on IT and outsourcing
Karan Darroch, finance and operations manager at Dunedin, discusses her current IT strategy and the challenges of finding the right tech and outsourced solutions.
(Check out part 1 of Karan’s profile here)
The Drawdown (TDD): What’s your approach to technology, both in-house and outsourced?
Karan Darroch (KD): We’ve adopted a software tool called Qlik Sense, which is a dashboard visualisation tool – a bit like Tableau. It’s cloud-based and can sit abreast any data source, so you can feed Excel into it as well as industry specific systems including eFront.
It’s very flexible and you can design your own dashboards. Plus, its intuitive to use after a little training. You can create a number of sheets and set up visualisations, whether it be for budgets, graphs, year-on-year, even heatmaps – there are so many ways to slice and dice the data.
It’s much more flexible than other dashboards driven by SQL databases. For instance, if you have two different data sets in an SQL database, you can’t interrogate them together; it’s all table orientated. Qlik allows you to link different data sets.
We were introduced to Qlik Sense a few years ago through software consultants Ometis, who licence the software.
I’d be really keen to develop my understanding of this technology further. Actually, I’m attending a Qlik forum soon – they’re really useful and practical events as other users share insight as to how they use it.
It’s a great tool for empowering the rest of the business to find the information they need and present it as suits them without having to go through me.
In terms of outsourcers, we use IT Lab, who provide helpdesk support but also help us with our wider technology strategy. They keep us up to date with industry trends and advise on whether we should implement new systems.
Last year, they supported us in moving our exchange server and our file server to the cloud.
TDD: That seems to be a common occurrence across the industry at the moment. What was your thinking on it?
KD: Well, having the hardware onsite is a maintenance issue. And beyond that, having things like Microsoft updates automatically installed is a great benefit. Additionally a cloud environment offers more flexible remote working options for the team and provides a greater degree of security.We always had access controls before, but they’re easier to manage in a cloud environment. And for things like GDPR, where you can only store certain sets of data for so long, it’s a real help.
We use Egnyte as our cloud based file management system, it provides good options for collaborative working and file sharing. We always had access controls before, but they’re easier to manage in a cloud environment. And for things like GDPR, where you can only store certain sets of data for so long, it’s a real help.
TDD: Beyond outsourcing your IT function, what are your feelings towards other outsourced services?
KD: We do the majority of the back office function in house, and that’s been the case historically. But thinking about outsourcing has become a discussion point recently as we look to raise our next fund.
As it stands, I’m not sure how well-suited funds of our size are to an external administrator; we complete a relatively small number of transactions each year, and our LP base is manageable. And if we were to use an administrator, we would still need to monitor them, and there’s also the cost to think about.
But, I’m open to discussing it and really understanding how it works and what the benefits are. I’m genuinely interested to know if it can really add value and free up our time. Ultimately, it would be a cost to the fund, so it’s got to be advantageous to our investors.
In terms of other providers, as we’re an AIFM we have a third party depositary, which is done remotely from Belfast by IQEQ. We interact with their compliance team and they’re a great support.