Like any digital transformation initiative, a Microsoft Dynamics implementation project has potential benefits and risks. The software has a good deal of potential to transform your business, but the road to business value can be a tricky one.

During my years as a Microsoft Dynamics 365 expert witness and consultant, I have identified a number of best practices for these transformations. Some are common to any ERP implementation, while others are somewhat unique to this specific enterprise software. Following these best practices will help mitigate risks and make your project successful.

Here are five best practices and tips to keep in mind as you begin your project:

1. The flexibility of Microsoft Dynamics 365 is a blessing and a curse

Microsoft Dynamics 365 is more flexible than the average ERP software. This provides a great deal of adaptability to your business processes and requirements. But, just because you can change the software easily doesn’t mean that you should.

Along with this flexibility comes two risks. First, too much customization is a problem that often plagues Dynamics and other types of ERP implementations. Second, the software’s flexibility may make it more tempting to automate your broken business processes instead of implementing more efficient ones. Most customers appreciate the flexibility of the software, but you will need to manage the downside risk as well.

2. Project governance is key to a Microsoft Dynamics 365 implementation project

You will need strong project governance in order to manage customization and other potential risks. It begins with a strong vision and business case for the project, along with a clear project charter, clear decision criteria, and defined roles and responsibilities. This helps provide guardrails to keep your implementation project on track.

3. Organizational change management, training, and communications is more important than you may think

Microsoft Dynamics 365 has a very Microsoft look and feel. This can lure your project team into thinking it will be easy for employees to learn and adapt to. That seem true on the surface, but there are a number of risks with this line of thinking.

Even if the user interface is familiar, employees will still need to learn new business processes and roles and responsibilities. They will need to understand how their jobs will change – and they may not like those job modifications. This is especially true for broader business transformations versus simpler incremental improvements. This means that a complete and effective organizational change management strategy will be key to your success.

4. A clear solution architecture is a prerequisite to a successful Microsoft Dynamics 365 implementation project

Microsoft’s flexibility and relative ease of integration puts more pressure on a well-defined system architecture. Your integration strategy, data migration plan, business intelligence, and other key components need to be part of your implementation project.

For example, if you are a retailer integrating D365 to a third-party point of sale system, you will need to define the integration points and map data fields. You will also need to define where the single source of customer truth will reside and how your business intelligence and planning tools will draw from these multiple systems. This challenge increases with each system you bolt on.

5. Not all Microsoft Dynamics 365 system integrators are created equally

Compared to other ERP vendors, Microsoft has a fairly fragmented channel of resellers and system integrators. In addition, Microsoft takes a more hands-off approach to sales and implementation support than other vendors do. This can be difficult to navigate as you evaluate the software and eventually implement it.

Many organizations simply go to the first reseller or system integrator that Microsoft refers them to. Keep in mind that you do not need to purchase software or services from the first partner that Microsoft refers you to. Be sure to evaluate potential options and find the one that is the right fit for your organization.

Conclusion

Microsoft has done well in the ERP space for a reason. Its products are a good fit for many organizations – especially in the middle market. But, like any ERP system, it comes with risks and pitfalls that need to be managed carefully.

Independent third parties such as Third Stage Consulting Group can help you validate D365’s fit for your organization, develop a realistic implementation plan, manage organizational changes, and provide project quality assurance. Contact us to find out how we can help.

Learn more by downloading our white paper 20 Lessons from 1,000+ ERP Implementations Over 20 Years.

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