Once a company has selected Microsoft Dynamics 365, momentum is high. Employees and executives are excited and want to jump right into implementation. But an effective Microsoft Dynamics 365 implementation readiness phase is important to ensure your project’s success.

First, it helps to understand how projects like these typically unfold: your D365 system integrator appears at your doorstep ready to start designing, configuring, and deploying your shiny new technology. The problem is, you haven’t yet defined your future operational model, assembled your project team, or started to build the internal competencies to engage with the Microsoft Dynamics 365 consultants in a meaningful way.

The impact of this lack of preparedness is significant. I have seen many of these symptoms in my experience as a Microsoft Dynamics expert witness. Here are just a few of the symptoms that proliferate as a result:

  • Executives aren’t aligned on the direction of the project
  • Internal decision-making regarding how the business will look slows down the project
  • Internal project team members become overwhelmed with the multitude of decisions they need to make as a result of the software’s flexibility
  • Project costs escalate while the meter is running on the expensive consultants
  • Employees revert to the old ways of doing things because they are under too much time pressure to make meaningful changes
  • The internal project team is incomplete and ineffective, since most organizations don’t have their team ready on day 1 of implementation
  • Organizational change management issues – which are already a challenge in any project – are further magnified
  • Your internal IT organization doesn’t have the internal competencies to effectively support the D365 implementation and offer sustainable post-go-live support
  • There isn’t a clear enterprise architecture and integration plan for the various phases of the rollout
  • Your team becomes frustrated with the delays and project overruns

On the other hand, executing an effective Microsoft Dynamics 365 implementation readiness strategy will mitigate these risks. It makes your implementation go smoother, faster, and more effectively than if you skip the process altogether. Many of our clients equate this to a sort of insurance policy to hedge against the various risks of your transformation.

But what exactly does implementation readiness mean? The graphic above provides a sample plan we deployed with a client. We have seen these phases last anywhere from three to six months. We typically focus on five workstreams prior to beginning your Microsoft Dynamics 365 implementation.

1. Strategic and executive alignment. This focuses on ensuring that your executive team is aligned on how much of a transformation your D365 project will entail. For example, are we going to consolidate and standardize business operations across multiple locations? Or, are we going to make more incremental changes? Lack of clarity on key strategic decisions like these can completely derail a Microsoft Dynamics 365 implementation.

2. Operational readiness. What will our business processes look like going forward? What are the major business process decisions we need to make in order to effectively lead the D365 consultants in the right direction? What business process changes do we want to start deploying now – even before we go live with new software? These are all decisions that should be made prior to beginning your transformation.

3. People readiness. Organizational change management is always on the critical path of a Microsoft Dynamics 365 implementation. You should take the time to assemble your internal change team and develop a change strategy and plan prior to implementation. Also, any organizational impacts defined in your requirements gathering phase should be addressed. Remember, these are all things that most systems integrators don’t do well – or don’t do at all.

4. Technical readiness. Microsoft Dynamics 365 typically requires significant changes to your IT organization. You should start building internal IT support competencies as soon as possible so that you are not overly dependent on your Dynamics system integrator. You should define and develop new skills to support this future state, including standing up an internal D365 center of excellence.

In addition, you should also have a clear enterprise architecture plan and begin developing your data strategy. Many Dynamics customers are finding the need to deploy hybrid solutions that augment core functionality with on-premise AX, GP, and NAV functionality that has not yet been built into D365. It is important to have this technology roadmap clearly defined before you start building the software.

5. Project governance and planning. You may have a draft implementation proposal from your D365 system integrator, but that doesn’t mean your project is ready to start. You will want to establish an overall program plan with activities required outside the system integrator’s realm. Organizational change management, data migration, and other key activities need to be incorporated as well. It is important to remember that this is a project that you own and are responsible for – not your system integrator or anyone else. Even the best Microsoft Dynamics 365 system integrators need to be managed.

Your Microsoft Dynamics 365 system integrator may be rushing to start your project ASAP, but it’s important to take the time to build a strong foundation first. This will save you considerable time and money and will ensure a successful Microsoft Dynamics 365 implementation.

Helping clients with their Microsoft Dynamics 365 implementation readiness is one of Third Stage’s core service areas and strengths. Contact us to arrange a time to discuss how you might get started on yours.

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