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Managing Technology Challenges at Carlyle

By Georgette Kiser, CIO, The Carlyle Group

Georgette Kiser, CIO, The Carlyle Group

More than half of The Carlyle Group’s 1,550 employees work outside the United States, resulting in people, process, data and potential technology challenges that do require a strong strategic vision to resolve. The foundation of all of our efforts at Carlyle is based on the firm’s central stated purpose: To invest wisely and create value. In accordance with that, we do not view technology as an impediment to overcome, but rather as a potential solution that will create value for our people and how they leverage data, as well as improve our business processes. The firm sees technology as an opportunity to serve our investors effectively. The Carlyle Group leverages technology to lower cost, reduce risk, modernize, and/or support that opportunity set. To illustrate this, I’ll provide some examples of people, data, and process challenges that resulted in leveraging technology to drive opportunity and new solutions for Carlyle.

“The foundation of all of our efforts at Carlyle is based on the firm’s central stated purpose: To invest wisely and create value.”

People: The firm’s Global Technology and Solutions team initiated conversations with Carlyle employees of varying roles and responsibilities regarding what they needed to support their ability to work remotely and while traveling. The upshot: staff did not feel as productive as they could be with their current laptops and the applications on those laptops. The GT&S team then drilled down with our business and operational users to understand exactly how they could overcome this challenge across the firm. What resulted was our “Desktop of the Future” initiative, which leveraged technologies including Microsoft Surfaces, Windows 10, Office 2016 and many others to enhance staff productivity, mobility, and reduce security risk across the firm.

Process: Improving business processes at Carlyle has been key to managing costs and mitigating risk. Last year we reviewed our legal entity process to figure out if we could reduce the number of days required to form and setup legal entities and decrease the number of days to open a bank account for a legal entity, important for a global alternative asset manager with $162 billion of assets under management across 287 investment vehicles. The technology opportunity: look at Business Process Management tools that could enable changes to our legal entity process. Carlyle found that BPM software provided by Appian could best meet the need for the legal entity process change, as well as the needs of other business process changes across the Carlyle enterprise. Carlyle continues to focus on Business Process Management and leveraging technology to lower cost, mitigate risk and best serve investors.

Data: Across Carlyle, supporting our people is our first challenge and managing data is second. Therefore, we organize our data into four categories: investor data, fund data, investment data and legal entity data. Data governance and data management were put in place to produce a golden source, avoiding the risk of having multiple copies of data. As the teams thought about data governance and management, we again looked at technology solutions for help. Master data management technologies from Orchestra Networks now help us better manage our data, and analytical data tools like Tableau create better opportunities for our users to drill down and visualize data, making the data more insightful for decision-making purposes.

So, while technology may be viewed as an opportunity, leading and managing a technical solutions team presents notable challenges. Any technology leader must account for process, the rate of technological change, communications, change management, marketing, and regulatory challenges, and most importantly, people.

A few thoughts on human capital, our primary consideration. Top tier, diverse technology talent is hard to find. Leaders need to plan carefully (working with Human Resources and other business leaders) to attract, hire, maintain, and develop diverse tech talent. Alternative investment firms like Carlyle present their own challenges because we seek strong technical talent and need people who understand the industry, have a passion for it, and are intellectually curious enough to challenge and influence on a daily basis.

Finally, the technical team in an organization must always remember that it needs to work in tight partnership with the business units to overcome the various challenges enumerated above. In the case of Carlyle, I remind our team that we are not a tech firm but an alternative investment manager leveraging technology and technological solutions in support of the firm’s success. Simply put, the business units are our colleagues and clients.

In summary, it takes time for business leaders to understand, prioritize and develop strategies around people, data, and process challenges. But if done in partnership with the firm’s technology teams, we can leverage technical opportunities for continued mitigation of risk, decreased cost, modernization, and the best service for the firm and its end clients.