Why This 160-Year-Old Company Is Embracing Cloud Apps

Wyclef Jean And Western Union Announce Special Holiday Strategic Alliance
NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 09: A general view at Western Union Times Square on November 9, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by Ben Hider/Getty Images)
Ben Hider—Getty Images

Western Union was one of the first businesses to invest in communications satellites when it helped NASA launch the now-retired Westar 1 in 1974, which it used to send telegrams and mailgrams around the world. Now the 160-something-year-old money transfer company is looking toward a different sort of cloud.

On Thursday, Western Union disclosed a big corporate contract with Box (BOX), the online file-sharing company. After a brief pilot test involving about 400 employees, Western Union (WU) plans to use Box’s cloud services to archive and share corporate documents among its 10,000 employees and roughly the same number of contract help, explains Mike Bartholomy, senior manager of information security for the company.

“We are a 160-year-old company, but try not to act like it,” says Bartholomy.

Of particular interest was Box’s technology for controlling document deletion schedules, as well as other “governance” features that make it difficult for employees to share sensitive information such as credit card or social security numbers inadvertently. Another plus mentioned by Bartholomy, the Box service can be used as a digital file cabinet for apps such as Microsoft Office 365, the Salesforce contact management system, and an internal social network built using technology from Jive Software.

Western Union starting experimenting with cloud apps about five years ago, notes Michael Esquibel, vice president and chief of staff for the company’s executive vice president and chief technology officer. “We are very open to our people researching and suggesting alternatives,” he says.

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While the company hasn’t talked much externally about the cloud apps it is using, another service it adopted about two months ago comes from Conga, a nine-year-old software firm closely affiliated with Salesforce that sells cloud-based document management systems. Western Union uses Conga’s app to automatically generate formal follow-up letters that are required by government regulations after calls and requests made to its customer support organization, Esquibel explains.

The letters are sent after most interactions, summarizing what happened and when. For example, if a money order isn’t delivered because a nickname is used instead of a formal name, Western Union is required to send a summary of the resolution after the change is made, and the transaction is complete. Previously, these notes were composed and sent manually by service representatives. The new process helps Western Union send these communications more quickly with fewer hours, Esquibel notes. It works behind the scenes, pulling the necessary information from case reports filed by customer service reps.

Conga, based in Broomfield, Colo., is fronted by Matthew Schiltz, the former CEO of well-known cloud e-signature company DocuSign. The company recently closed three acquisitions: ActionGrid (a maker of data-visualization software), CRMCulture (a Salesforce consulting firm), and Novatus (contract management apps). It received a $70 million infusion from Insight Venture Partners in June 2015.

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