In this two-part blog series, we’ll explore the technology that is revolutionising customer service delivery in government. In our first installment, we examine the technology transformation from the perspective of back-office processes.
In today’s post, we’ll examine the keys to a successful Dynamics 365 Finance & Supply Chain Management implementation through the lens of the Retail industry. Wait! Don’t tune out just because you’re not in Retail – the lessons are truly industry agnostic. It’s just that it’s been a little while since we published any Retail-related content, so this seemed like a good opportunity. Let’s get to it. Enjoy!
In every industry, there is always a sense of urgency around getting an ERP implementation started. To some degree, it’s human nature – after all, once a decision is made on the product solution, every day that goes by without it up and running feels like a lost opportunity to deliver results.
This self-induced (and misguided) pressure is especially strong in the retail space, where businesses are typically managing two distinct buying experiences: face to face in the old brick-and-mortar model and online in the new normal of the digital channel. This creates a two-pronged sense of urgency that is really difficult to resist.
But resist you must! If leadership is not aligned with respect to priorities and timing on something as big as a new Dynamics 365 F&SCM solution, the project is doomed to fail. Alignment between instore and online leadership teams is absolutely crucial.
But it’s more than just alignment. You also must plan, plan, plan. In our experience, Delivery Project Managers (on both sides) and Project Sponsors (on both sides) need to meet several times to carefully map out the implementation schedule. It’s critical that you reach consensus on kickoff meeting content and participants, as well as fully plan at least the first two weeks of the project to ensure a smooth launch.
Adopting a new ERP system offers a tremendous opportunity to bring a fresh set of eyes to your internal ways of working. Unfortunately, what we too often is a crippling tunnel vision: users become so focused on how they currently do their day-to-day tasks and making sure the new system can accommodate those processes that they miss the chance to dramatically improve, streamline, and automate their ways of working.
Don’t allow tunnel vision! Now is the time for business process re-engineering. But don’t think of it as re-engineering your business so much as defining and adopting the very same business process requirements that serve as the backbone of your Dynamics 365 F&SCM solution. Many of our clients have additional requirements that require some level of customization, but Microsoft’s ERP software is so robust and universal in its application that customizations are generally minimal.
Defining these requirements is particularly important in the retail space because, as mentioned earlier, you’re juggling two simultaneous experiences that must be consistent. And from an ERP perspective, the two experiences need to be tightly aligned and seamlessly integrated – you must have an omnichannel mindset. Well-defined business process requirements help you avoid the old adage the right hand (instore) doesn’t know what the left hand (online) is doing.
Unless you’re the luckiest organization in the world, you will always have at least one system that must be integrated with your new Dynamics 365 F&SCM solution. It’s certainly not because Microsoft’s ERP solutions have capability shortcomings, but rather because unless you’re a brand new business, you have legacy systems that perform specific functions unique to your business. And those legacy systems need to integrate with Dynamics.
If your retail organization has been around long enough, for example, you almost certainly have different systems for instore transactions and online transactions. Whether you’ve got two systems or 20, if they aren’t being replaced by your core Dynamics 365 F&SCM solution they need to integrate with it.
To achieve success with these integrations, we strongly recommend assigning dedicated resources to each system integration and treating each as its own separate project. At HCL, we document, track, and monitor each integration just as we would a large customization to Dynamics 365 solution because that’s really what it is. Fortunately, integrations have become easier to design and execute over the years, especially with tools like Microsoft Power Platform’s Logic Apps and the greater availability of APIs between systems, but we’ve been brought in to rescue too many projects that were failing because integration timelines and milestone were left out of the initial project plans.
Please, don’t forget about your historical legacy system data. Sure, you’re implementing a state-of-the-art shiny new tool called Dynamics 365 F&SCM that will provide you with crisp, clean data moving forward, but that doesn’t mean you can ignore all the data that came before.
First, decide whether or not this necessary data storage project will run in parallel with your ERP implementation project. Ideally, these two projects will unfold in tandem – especially in retail where real-time transactions often require access to older data (e.g., a product return or exchange), but sometimes resource limitations make that impossible. If you elect to not run them in parallel, reach consensus with all parts of the business on when the data project will occur.
Note that it is quite common (and often economically wise) to maintain licensure for your legacy ERP system so that you have easy access to and can report on that data as needed. Leaving it intact for a handful of people ensures your organization isn’t making uninformed or quick decisions based on last-generation data paradigms. The fact of the matter is that Data technology continues to evolve at a much quicker pace than ERP technology, so they can and often should be approached independently. Simply draw a line in the sand and recognize that all data before the line is one system and all data after it is in Dynamics 365 F&SCM.
This seems simple but it is too often overlooked to not mention it in our list of the 5 keys to a successful ERP implementation. Based on our rescue project experience with clients who resisted writing test scripts because it “takes extra time,” we implore you to insist that your testers write test scripts for each process they are testing before go-live. This will become invaluable documentation related to the processes your organization will be using within Dynamics 365 F&SCM. It will be used by developers to troubleshoot bugs found during testing, to train new employees, and for future regression testing of major SaaS updates. Simply put, do it right the first time. The time you think you’re saving by skipping it will cost you tenfold down the road.
Once again, this is particularly important in the retail space where the omnichannel experiences you’re creating for your customers demand consistency and personalization and real-time data insight and channel integration and… well, you got the idea: lots and lots of tiny moving parts. Without carefully documented test scripts to fall back on, a simple little hiccup can turn quickly into a nightmare scenario. Always. Write. Test. Scripts. Please?
There you go. Follow these five recommendations and you’re well on your way to a successful implementation of Dynamics 365 F&SCM, no matter what industry you call home.