TECHWORK 23: Niall O’Toole, InfraRed Capital Partners
As a qualified accountant and graduate in Information Management Systems, O’Toole is well equipped to bridge the gap between business needs and technology advancements.
During his 11 years at InfraRed, he has transitioned from senior accountant to director of digital transformation. He and his team strive to make processes more efficient, adopt robust data governance principles and deliver a ‘single source of truth’ platform to help the business make “data led” decisions.
He has spent 15 years working within financial services, having worked for the likes of AXA Real Estate Investment Managers, HSBC Special Investments and InfraRed Capital Partners, with a key focus on optimising reporting of both financial and non-financial data. These experiences equipped him with data visualisation and analysis skills, as well as experience in fund management, which helped cement his move into the digital realm of finance. InfraRed Capital Partners have always embraced technology and in 2016 O’Toole helped shape the creation of a dedicated Digital Transformation team which he now leads. As a result of the sale of its Real Estate Business in 2021, the business focuses purely on Infrastructure assets.
One of the first projects O’Toole led was the implementation of a data warehouse for the Real Estate business which integrated multiple financial data sources and aimed to reduce time spent on manual efforts of reconciling, compiling and presenting quarterly accounts. The project was a success and provided a single portal to access financial data that was robust, accurate, timely and transparent. The implementation reduced the time to produce company accounts by 52% allowing business users to focus more on “Value add” activity.
This project acted as a catalyst for larger scale projects within the InfraRed Capital Partners. The first of these was to help the Infrastructure business streamline their valuation process for listed and unlisted funds. The traditional process required using macros to manage, aggregate and validate data held in multiple excel files. The new process validated, aggregated and calculated all the Excel data into a data warehouse. In addition to time efficiencies, the project also achieved robustness of data.
Over the last two years O’Toole has been working on a project to develop a “single source of truth” technology platform that tracks a complete deal lifecycle. This was a significant undertaking requiring an evaluation of the existing “digital landscape”, performing a gap analysis and followed by a vendor selection process. Stakeholder engagement was a critical element to consider with significant effort made to bring the business on the journey. Regular updates to senior executives/sponsors, appointment of champions and involvement of business users in the selection process meant that approximately one third of the business had all been involved. In late 2021, implementation began to build the foundations of the technology platform, migrate data from legacy platforms and build the backbone of the data architecture that can be scaled, to which all future requirements could be appended. 18 months in and the works are in the final stages, with the foundations laid and the business starting to reap the rewards of improved processes and interactive data visualisation.
O’Toole reflects on the entire lifecycle of the project and how it involved starting from defining the very basics in a data dictionary. “Before any heavy lifting could begin, we spent time agreeing the fundamentals with the business. Seeking alignment and consensus on terminology, KPI calculations and business processes was key to bringing people on the journey and minimising rework effort later down the line. This then allowed us to evolve to the next stages.”
Over the course of the next year, O’Toole will focus on familiarising employees with the platform and the evolutionary roll out of absorbing more business processes. The team is also looking to integrate the technology platform with expanding Microsoft applications to drive further efficiencies that can adapt and scale against evolving business needs and improve the customer experience.
The ERP system used is called Dynamo.