A Microsoft Dynamics 365 Cloud Strategy for Awesome Success
Migrating to Dynamics 365? Gain pragmatic advice from the pros about how to develop a Microsoft Dynamics ERP Cloud Strategy.
Migrating to Dynamics 365? Gain pragmatic advice from the pros about how to develop a Microsoft Dynamics ERP Cloud Strategy.
Table of Content
If you’re gearing up for a Dynamics 365 cloud migration, you already know what you stand to gain from a successful implementation.
Cloud ERPs represent an opportunity to break away from the limitations of traditional on-prem solutions. Think–fragmented systems, poor visibility, security issues, and growth constraints.
Yes, it requires a significant amount of money. But—also serious planning, collaboration, and a culture capable of sustaining & building on initial gains.
Below, Velosio experts discuss what it takes to make sure your efforts pay off in all the ways you hoped.
We asked our experts to share their top tips for making sure their cloud migration goes off without a hitch. Based on their responses, we came up with five best practices that can help any organization succeed in the cloud.
First things first, you need to get a clear idea of what you hope to gain by implementing D365.
“Define what success looks like. Then from there, develop a roadmap for achieving success.” – Nick DiAngelo, Senior Consultant
What are your big-picture strategic goals?
Tighter control over your finances? Improved forecasting accuracy? Expanding into new markets?
For a lot of business leaders, defining these high-level objectives, the steps that will get them to the desired future state, and how a cloud ERP factors into the mix is the hardest step.
For starters, success hinges on organization-wide alignment and tons of internal feedback.
You’ll want to learn as much as you can about where your company is today and understand all the ways your legacy system is holding you back. What’s keeping your team from achieving strategic goals?
Carrie Gabris, Consulting Manager, BC Enterprise emphasizes the importance of having “deep-dive discussions about business requirements–from very early on. These conversations should involve the whole organization.”
“Make sure that, as a team, you identify what’s critical vs. nice to have. Keep in mind, the cloud will only improve over time. You’ll want to avoid venturing into projects or expensive add-ons for non-essential capabilities.” – Carrie Gabris, Consulting Manager, BC Enterprise
Note that before these discussions begin, you’ll need to have a clear idea of how each business unit contributes to the bigger picture. and the relationship between individual units and their processes. For example, how do sales and marketing teams work together to generate and nurture leads? How do project manager estimates influence the sales team? What impact does field service have on the customer experience?
Meet with each team to understand the unique needs of each department and role. Find out how improving X or Y helps the organization get closer to meeting its objectives.
Then, use that information to create a framework for diving deeper.
Once you’ve defined your needs, you’ll need to do some research. Here, you’re looking for solutions that address the gaps and pain points your team shared.
“Be flexible…don’t shop for your old system. Open your eyes to new products or processes.” Ben Bolter, Director – PreSales
Jeff Smith advises clients to prepare for this transition by researching available solutions, using insights from your team to guide the search. Here, your goal is to learn more about the possibilities that modern cloud ERPs can offer.
You’ll want to engage trusted advisors–IT, accountants, industry partners–and ask lots of questions. This will help you understand and plan for role changes that may result from the migration. Think–IT maintenance or accessing reporting tools.
Additionally, check out different independent software vendor (ISV) offerings. Find out how they extend the value of D365 and help you achieve your goals.
For example, we offer AXIO, an enhanced framework that adds intelligent automation and embedded best practices to D365 Finance features. We also have a solution that helps small professional services firms manage advanced projects from Business Central.
If you look at this directory from MS Dynamics World, you’ll notice that there’s an ISV solution for just about everything. Think–solutions for iPad-based sales, e-learning content, marketing automation, managing subscriptions, and so on. The point is, between ISVs, customizations, and D365 modules, you can build a complete system that speaks to every business unit’s needs and processes.
Once you’ve defined your goals and identified the solutions that will get you there, you’ll want to spend some time mapping how your new system’s functionality will (realistically) bring your vision to life.
That means looking beyond spec sheets, industry reports, even partner sites like ours–and figuring out how your new ERP will help you achieve every objective in your big-picture plan.
Jeff Smith, PreSales Solutions Engineer, “like any migration, it’s essential that you detail all system requirements and ensure that they will be met by the new cloud-based application.
It’s also important to look at how new capabilities can enhance existing processes. For example, if you’re migrating from AX to Dynamics 365 Finance, consider how features like embedded BI reports, performance monitoring, and the new workspaces might enhance current workflows.
Beyond that, you’ll want to identify tasks you can automate altogether. Try to pinpoint specific tasks that eat up a ton of time or are especially prone to human error.
Sales Rep Sam Miller says, “document the most time-sucking tasks you do every day and find out how it can be automated in the new environment. For example, learn about integration points that connect Microsoft Office to your new software and get to know the workflow features that can optimize/improve existing processes.”
Again, this is an area where it’s important to get feedback from the people that actually do these jobs. Find out what employees feel is working really well, what processes could be improved, and which tasks prevent them from doing high-value work.
“You’ll want to do the same for reporting tool options, as they may differ from the ones found in your existing on-prem system. Additionally, you’ll want to map out any customizations and integrations used today and determine how they’ll be replicated in the cloud.” – Jeff Smith, PreSales Solutions Engineer
Practice Director, Lorna Link adds, “learn about the new tools. What can you use to report on data, measure progress toward goals, and answer specific questions about the health of your business?”
Here’s Sam again, “you’ll also want to determine how you’ll handle reporting in the new environment and learn the ins and outs of those tools ASAP.”
Employees need to understand how moving to a cloud-based ERP may fundamentally change the way they work.
Nick DiAngelo says “make sure you have a project sponsor and internal champions driving the team to complete the project.”
That means, you’ll need someone at the top leading the organization-wide effort–think CIO/CTO. You’ll also need internal “change agents” within individual departments/teams. Internal champions include leadership roles like sales managers, marketing directors, etc.
It also includes “power users” within the ranks that can help with training and secure buy-in among more hesitant peers.
“Leaders should work to understand business roles and dedicate x hours per week for “playing” in the new system. Understand critical reporting needs and call those out early in the project and be flexible for change in the formatting and look.” – Todd Morse, Senior Consultant
Sreenath Reddy Girigari, Directory of Delivery says, “migrating from on-premises data centers to cloud storage platforms comes with a unique set of challenges. Those challenges include data privacy & security, compliance, along with issues related to performance and availability.”
While modern cloud ERPs like Dynamics are designed for faster, easier implementation than their predecessors, you’re still dealing with a complex system with many moving pieces.
Organizations must realize they’ll be taking on more UAT due to the automatic updates that come standard with D365.
You’ll want to test the new system to find out how it holds up in different situations and use case scenarios.
Ben Bolte, PreSales urges clients to “TEST. Test the day-to-day stuff prior to go-live and ID exceptions to the rules outlined in your documentation. Document all specific circumstances that yield unexpected results.”
Ben also emphasizes that it’s important to include multiple team members/multiple teams. “ We’re not just talking about one or two people, but making sure team members are embedded into every area.”
It’s also important to look toward long-term testing solutions.
Nick DiAngelo recommends that organizations start “developing test scripts for regression testing upgrades early on.”
Carrie Gabris adds that “end-to-end transactional testing is also critical. Make sure you understand “neighbor noise” and the hosting situation required for peak performance.”
In addition to the best practices we just discussed, it’s important to learn about the mistakes that can sabotage your cloud strategy and limit the return on your D365 investment.
Here’s a look at some common Dynamics 365 migration issues we’ve encountered on the job and what you can do to avoid them in the first place.
We see it all the time: clients believe Dynamics 365 cloud is the same as the Dynamics AX or NAV solution they’re currently using. Because D365 is used in many of the same processes/functions, it’s easy to assume the difference boils down to a matter of hosting.
While it may not sound like a huge issue, those assumptions can be a major barrier to success.
You might use D365 to handle the same tasks as your on-prem ERP, but new systems always come with new processes designed to help you work smarter and faster.
“Overcoming the expectation that functionality is 100% the same. It’s not. Currently, there’s about a 10% lag in functionality with cloud-based solutions.” – Carrie Gabris, Practice Director, BC Enterprise
Carrie adds, “orgs also tend to struggle with navigating Microsoft Office integrations and understanding updates like new document storage options.”
The problem is, when you don’t understand what D365 can do that your old system can’t, well, you’re missing out on the capabilities with the greatest impact on your business.
Ben Bolte says, “ If you documented a process in your old system, you’ll have an easier time documenting the new one. Mapping old workflows/processes helps you determine where things have changed, so you can avoid running into gaps after the go-live.”
It’s also important to understand that Dynamics 365 operates on a different infrastructure than the on-prem solutions that came before.
Jeff Smith says, “the biggest challenge clients face is understanding the different database access and reporting tool options available for cloud-based applications.”
Lorna Link, BC Practice Director, “Understand you’re moving to a new solution and the products are not the same. That means, you’ll lose some control over the software and systems you’re used to using–access to SQL, for example.”
These differences mean that your team will need to get used to new processes and new ways of working.
Working with a Microsoft partner is one of the best investments you can make in your future success.
The right partner can help with everything from cloud readiness to data migrations and customizations.
But, it’s critical that you understand where your partner fits into the bigger picture.
Sam Miller warns that a lack of clarity around your partner’s role–and the roles of internal stakeholders–is a serious problem that can undermine a project’s success.
“Don’t assume your partner will do everything. Often, clients don’t understand all the moving parts of the implementation, nor do they understand their current solution until they’re looking at it on screen. It’s important to understand your responsibilities and ensure that you have dedicated staff that can take care of the tasks that need to be done before the migration process begins.” – Sam Miller, Western Region Sales Director
Your partner brings expertise, guidance, and practical solutions to the table. They know Dynamics 365 and have probably helped similar companies with similar implementations.
Here’s Sam again, “you don’t want to put yourself in a position where you’re blaming outside consultants for problems caused by your failure to learn on your own. At the end of the day, it’s your solution/your business. Your consultants are experts–they’re available to guide the process and offer support along the way, but they don’t know your business the way your team does.”
It’s up to you to help your partner understand your business in context. The more information you share with your partner, the easier it’ll be for them to provide solutions for success.
Another problem we encounter all the time is a sort of “learned helplessness” when it comes to getting to know the new system.
Sam Miller raises an important point. “There are training docs and videos of literally any solution you’re implementing available all over the internet. Look them up and watch them. Listen to videos while you work through different processes. So often, during the definition phase of implementation – when functional design documents for reporting, mods, and processes are being written, the client isn’t paying attention to what’s actually inside those documents.”
Sam adds that, “it’s important to put yourself in a position where you choose to recognize that your partner WANTS you to be successful. They’re not some enemy creating work for no reason. Don’t make consultants pull information out of you, dive in, ask questions, and take advantage of this learning opportunity. This is great software you’re implementing.”
Ultimately, this builds on our previous point, if you don’t take responsibility for learning about the software you’ll be using every day, it’s going to be hard to tap into the benefits it’s supposed to provide.
If you’re migrating from a fully on-prem platform to the cloud, migrating everything at the same time may completely overwhelm your team and prevent you from accessing the cloud ERP benefits promised in the Microsoft copy.
Sreenath Reddy Girigari builds on the idea of separating your must-haves from your nice-to-haves that we mentioned earlier.
“Like most businesses, you probably have existing apps and workflows already running in the cloud. But, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to migrate every application or process. Yes, cloud migration makes your systems more scalable, reliable, and available. But–those aren’t the only factors you should use to make this decision.” – Sreenath Reddy Girigari, Director of Delivery
Ben Bolte also advises clients not to “bite off more than you can handle. Document the minimal functionality needed for the first phase and divide your requirements into two categories: must-haves and nice to haves.”
Even if you’re ready to go all in on the cloud, it’s important to understand that priorities and processes will change, based on your initial implementation.
Instead, try breaking your migration into “digestible” chunks. A phased implementation can ease the transition and lock in the smaller “wins” needed to secure buy-in from hesitant employees, manage your budget, and collect critical insights you can use to inform the next steps.
“Awesome success” is only possible with proper planning, organization-wide collaboration, and buy-in from the very beginning.
While we can’t fix a poor culture, Velosio experts can guide you through the migration process, helping you avoid the pitfalls that pop up along the way.