According to Microsoft, integrating all front and back-end business processes and systems into one platform takes anywhere from six months to two years.
And that’s assuming everything goes as planned.
Several factors — size, sector, customizations, and condition of your data–determine the cost, complexity, and duration of the implementation process. All this makes it difficult to gauge what a realistic implementation will look like.
While you’ll want to leave some room to make changes as new needs emerge, developing a comprehensive implementation plan is critical when it comes to getting the most value out of your investment.
In this article, we’ll break the implementation process into a series of steps/best practices that will help you set the stage for success.
1. Business Process Review
Ben Bolte, PreSales says, “document your business processes ahead of time and identify any necessary integration points or add-ons. Make sure you understand why they’re needed and take inventory of any customizations that exist in your current system.”
“Put together a complete set of business requirements. What do you need to run your business? What problems are you trying to solve? What needs to change in order to get to the next level? From there, you can apply D365 as a tool for meeting those requirements.” – Carrie Gabris, Consulting Manager BC Enterprise
You’ll want to also take a look at your current reporting tools and processes.
Anthony Dossier, Client Success – BC Support Engineer says, “document and define reporting requirements ahead of time and in detail. That includes marked-up examples that explain what each field represents.”
Are there questions you aren’t able to answer with existing reports? Is it difficult to access/generate reports or interpret the data?
This is also a good time to start mapping those processes and workflows and establishing a clear understanding of how they fit together on a holistic level.
Keep in mind, you’ll need to look at business processes from a zoomed-out view first. Then, work within each business unit to understand needs in the context of each department and role.
2. Assess Current Systems and Tools
Next, you’ll want to look at your tech stack, documenting every application and tool used inside each business unit.
Your goal is to ensure that the system you have in place can integrate with Dynamics. Or–that it can be replaced with something better equipped to support business functions right now.
Make sure you can answer the following questions before moving forward:
- Is everything up-to-date?
- Are there systems that need to be integrated or consolidated to eliminate data silos
- Are there instances of shadow IT or apps you’re not aware of?
- Do the existing systems present any security threats?
- Do they make it hard to access critical files or data sets?
At this point, you’ll want to get familiar with the Dynamics 365 platform and the capabilities it brings to the table.
Identify which processes and tools will migrate to the new system, which ones you’ll automate, which ones you’ll replace. Interviews with key stakeholders can help you uncover valuable insights into how processes work on the day-to-day, and where they’re losing time/making mistakes.
It’s also important for your team to look ahead and familiarize themselves with the new solution.
3. Get Your Data in Order
Document your data sources. Figure out what data is coming with you (or staying behind) and identify and eliminate outdated or irrelevant information.
“Make sure you have clean master data and are able to build cross-references easily, if needed.” – Todd Morse, Senior Consultant
In other words, it’s not just about cleaning up your data ahead of the migration.
You’ll want to make sure that all data can be accessed and referenced using a common language, and that it can be tracked as it moves between different apps, users, and development tools. This is important for maintaining compliance and privacy requirements in the event of an audit, as well as protecting your organization from internal threats–like IP theft.
- Do your teams have the data they need to do their jobs efficiently and effectively?
- Do reports provide accurate/relevant information they can act on?
- Or, are employees interpreting findings on their own–relying on gut feelings & best practices?
Ultimately, it’s about making sure you’re in control of all data and can ensure that it’s secure, accurate, and organized.
4. Assemble a Cross-Functional Team
Next, you’ll want to put together a team that can help you carry out your implementation strategy across the entire business.
Implementations should involve the entire team–not just IT and the C-suite.
While IT does provide insight and expertise you won’t find among sales, accounting, operations, whatever, they don’t necessarily have first-hand knowledge of the challenges and goals these groups experience on the job.
The goal here is to dig deeper into business requirements/develop solutions that improve daily operations. As such, it’s critical that decisions are made based on real insights and pain points from the people who will be using the new solution.
This will make change management much easier and prevent the sense of mistrust or fear that can arise when business leaders keep teams in the dark.
“80% of the implementation process is change management. You must involve key users at minimum to reduce fear, and increase ownership of the implementation.” – Carrie Gabris, Consulting Manager, BC Enterprise
Team size, structure, and individual duties will vary between companies, but here’s a quick look at some of the key players you’ll want to be involved in the process:
- Executive sponsor
- Project manager(s)
- Business analysts
- Subject matter experts (SMEs)
- Test leads
Look for the “super users” within each business function and recruit them to act as champions or change agents. These “super users” are early adopters, willing to invest the time and effort into learning the ins and outs of Dynamics 365. Then, from there, they’ll spread that new knowledge to colleagues and offer support & hands-on guidance.
It’s critical to create the time and space for different stakeholder groups to discuss business requirements, pain points, processes that still work really well–and, start familiarizing themselves with the new system.
“Free up the appropriate staff’s time to do the tasks that must be done including blocking schedules time for the future, locating and cleaning data, having internal meetings about each other’s roles in the implementation, and logging into the new system to start figuring out how it works. Learn about the ISVs you will likely need and begin to reach out on your own online for education” – Sam Miller, Sales
5. Conduct a Performance Gap Analysis
Once you’ve assembled your team, developed an understanding of where processes, software solutions, and business requirements are today, you’ll want to look for performance and skills keeping your company from reaching its full potential.
Tap internal talent like business analysts, process engineers, relevant SMEs to help identify gaps across each department and function.
Here, goals might be:
- Determining whether you’ll need to bring in additional resources. If so, what are those resources and how will you source them?
- Identifying risks. Think–cyber threats, poor project management, a lack of control over data/visibility, failure to meet compliance requirements, etc.
- Measuring the impact of those risks. How might poor project management or vulnerabilities in your system impact the bottom line or the customer experience? You’ll want to make sure that
- Developing a plan. For filling gaps/gaining control over the system connecting data sets, building a talent pipeline, enabling collaboration between departments, etc.
6. Testing & Training
Make sure you have a clear understanding of your current testing capabilities and address any gaps before you start the implementation process.
“Develop detailed test scripts to ensure user acceptance testing (UAT) completes your processes and requirements.” – Nick DiAngelo, Senior Consultant
UAT testing plays a critical role here. The idea is, you’ll want to develop a plan for small groups of users to help with testing. What this does is, it helps ensure that each department, unit, and role is prepared to perform their job in the new environment prior to go-live day.
It’s also important to think about how existing teams, new hires, and even external partners like outsourced development teams, wholesalers, or brokers will be trained moving forward. That means, you’ll need to develop solutions like remote learning portals, role-based learning paths, and in-person, collaborative training sessions.
Consider how you might tailor training programs to specific roles, individual learning styles, and personal preferences to maximize adoption and ensure lasting success. Again, this is one area where getting your “super users” involved goes a long way in driving long-term adoption.
7. Rollout & Evaluation
At this point, you’re (hopefully) ready to deploy.
Testing and training should prevent any surprise problems from showing up during the deployment phase, but you’ll still want to make sure you’re prepared for anything that manages to slip through the cracks until go-live day.
Long-term, it’s a good idea to run routine audits and assessments to ensure that the system continues to meet business objectives. And if it’s not meeting those objectives, routine evals and testing allows you to course-correct before small errors turn into big problems.
Your implementation starts with understanding where you are today, where you’d like to be in the future, and what barriers stand in the way of goals.
It’s super important to get the entire organization involved early on. You want the people who will actually be using new solutions to have a say in defining requirements & identifying gaps. Beyond that–you’ll also want to make sure they’re trained and ready way before the go-live.
Velosio experts can help you navigate the implementation process, every step of the way. We’ll help you gather requirements, map processes, run tests, and more.
Contact us today to learn more about our services and how we can help.