Armanino Blog

How to Save Your Microsoft Dynamics 365 Implementation Before It Starts

August 02, 2018

A botched ERP implementation can be one of the costliest mistakes a company makes, but it's all too common. According to Gartner, an estimated three-quarters of ERP implementations fail to meet expectations. Given this disheartening statistic, how do you avoid common Dynamics 365 implementation pitfalls and cross the go-live finish line with the least amount of bruises, scrapes and false starts?

Focus on the POP

If you look at a sampling of failed implementations, there is a tremendous emphasis on these upfront questions:

  • What are the "out of the box" features of the new platform?
  • What is it going to cost?
  • When is this going to be done?

These are all important questions, yet they fall short of helping you chart your go-live path to success. Focusing on your who and how is what's most critical to helping your implementation accomplish its business objectives.

Since 2001, I've helped a wide range of organizations successfully launch their most complex projects by focusing on the "POP": the people, outcomes and processes that will drive ultimate implementation success. Consider applying these three principles to your Dynamics 365 implementation project to achieve your goals and become an organizational hero.

1. People

Nothing will have a more significant impact on your Dynamics 365 implementation than the people on your core team. To succeed, you must build an all-star roster that includes your best and brightest―the folks who understand your business inside and out. They are not only your top performers but are also key influencers. When they speak, people listen. Make sure you include fast learners, who "get it" in one or two takes.

Mindset is also critical. In addition to having impressive skills, your implementation team must be open to change and actively solicit feedback―the good and the bad. Develop a mindset so that you seek out people who tend to have contrarian viewpoints, like newer people who have a fresher viewpoint of organizational "sacred cows."

While most organizations claim that they want to leverage the functionality of their new system, the reality is most users really just want "the old system in the new system." This approach is likely to lead to unnecessary customizations and unplanned expenses. Your core implementation team is key to thinking beyond current organizational processes and envisioning how processes can be done better in the new solution.

Externally, as you are selecting an implementation partner, make sure to meet the team that will be implementing the project. You have to feel comfortable with your consultants and trust what they are saying. If you can't visualize your two teams working cohesively, keep looking.

Far more than any feature, intellectual property or proprietary methodology, choosing the right implementation partner is your most important decision to make after you have selected the platform. Comfort with your implementation consultants is the foundation for building the trust needed to work through the challenges that are unavoidable during any project.

Get the "people" part right on your implementation, and you are 80 percent of the way to success.

2. Outcomes

Most Dynamics 365 implementations that fail do not progress fast enough. Projects often derail as a result of the client team or consultant team not communicating clearly and bi-directionally. To succeed, identify each objective as early on as possible, so that everyone is clear about the goals and time constraints of each phase.

Take, for example, data migration―a task that's always harder than expected. When migrating to a new system, many companies want to bring loads of historical detail that has to be mapped from the legacy system. There is typically a lot of dirty data―errors, misused fields, etc.―that must be cleaned up as part of the migration.

Everyone knows that ensuring data integrity prior to migration is important, but this does not consistently happen, as the complexity involved is often overlooked or misunderstood. Projects run into trouble because teams don't break down the steps behind completing this exercise. They don't have enough clarity on the outcomes to say that they need to do a first data migration pass and then also build in a second and third iteration.

If you think critically about the outcomes you have to achieve within particular time frames, you will plot out your implementation journey more effectively.

3. Process

Nonproductive team dynamics are often the first noticeable sign that an implementation is at risk. Once you start diving below the surface, you will begin to understand the larger obstacles at play. Most projects don't focus enough on the process, or rhythm, of how the consultant and internal teams need to operate. When you get that process right, you'll have effective communication.

In terms of tactics, make sure you establish these three distinct groups in the beginning:

Steering committee - An organization's inability to make decisions is the single biggest cause of project delays, and the most critical role of a steering committee is decision-making. This key group typically includes executives ranging from VP to the C-level. They should meet at least monthly to review progress against budget and plan. If a team is at odds about a decision point, the steering committee is responsible for making the final decision―including customizations. Navigating and removing roadblocks should be a significant focus of the committee's work.

Core team - The core team must include your most skilled, experienced and qualified employees (which is hard, because these are the people most valued by the business). The right consulting partner brings the Dynamics 365 implementation technical skills. The best core teams blend knowledge of the business from the client with the application skills and best practices from the consultant. Frequent communication between the team members is a must. Start with weekly meetings, but increase them to daily frequency during critical times, like in the run-up to a conference room pilot or during data migration. These meetings should be organized in a "triage" format to make sure key issues are tackled properly.

Extended team - ERP projects impact multiple departments and their teams, so you need to bring all these groups along for the journey. Regular communication with all impacted department heads will help them understand when change is coming and how they can get their teams ready and participate.

A common phrase in every project post-mortem is that there was "not enough communication" during the project. To succeed, an implementation must include multidirectional communication. If you set up your process or rhythm, the communication will happen.

Set yourself up for success

To help ensure your Dynamics 365 implementation is successful, pay attention to the "POP" before embarking on your project. By focusing on your people, outcomes and process from the beginning, you can avoid being a failed statistic and celebrate victory at the finish line.

Armanino is a Microsoft Dynamics Inner Circle Member and Gold Certified Microsoft Dynamics 365 ERP and CRM Partner that specializes in implementing Dynamics 365 for businesses. Contact usto find out more about how we can help your implementation project succeed.

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