Heightened ERP - The Spinal Cord of Every Business

Eric Newell, President, Stoneridge Software
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Eric Newell, President, Stoneridge Software

Overview

As CIOs, you understand that your role is to be the business leader responsible for providing the systems to support your unique business needs with the greatest amount of capability while balancing cost and risk. It’s a tall task, and you’re always getting new initiatives thrown at you from various departments within the business. To help address all those needs, you need to have a strong backbone or platform in your business, and most often that is your Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) platform.

Elements Critical to an ERP

When searching for the right ERP for the business, CIOs can go about it multiple ways. Some companies search out an ERP Selection consultant to help guide them through the process, while others investigate selection consultants can vary quite a bit between customer scenarios.

Each CIO will value certain benefits of an ERP provider differently, but ultimately, the ones who make the best selections incorporate the following four elements:

The new ERP solution has to be the right fit for their industry and business need–if you’re selling gym memberships and the solution doesn’t have the ability to do monthly invoicing, it’s not going to work for your business. The solution has to have a platform that’s compatible with your IT environment, or in the case of the cloud, no internal IT is required. If you take the solution on-premise, it needs to fit into your environment. You need to factor in the experience and capability of the implementer, and you need to make sure the cost of the solution is proportional to the size of your business—to use an extreme example, if you’re a $1mn business, you don’t need SAP and if you’re a $5bn business, QuickBooks is not going to work for you.

  ​New Dynamics AX allows partners to conduct more repeatable implementations by leveraging standard business processes on multiple projects  

The New Dynamics AX Was Built to Address Those Elements

Microsoft has released its latest version of its flagship ERP solution–Microsoft Dynamics AX, and they are just calling it Dynamics AX with no version on the end, even though it’s the 7th major release of the product. The solution is built on Microsoft’s Azure cloud and it’s completely accessible through any major browser and soon on mobile devices as the solution leverages HTML 5 for its presentation layer. Microsoft spent over four and half years on the release and it is the first enterprise ready solution built for the cloud.

Besides making the leap to the cloud, the new release addresses the four key elements of an ERP decision in many ways:

Industry-Fit

In the new Dynamics AX, Microsoft enabled partners to build vertically focused solutions on top of the already-robust platform functionality to allow the solution to check the boxes for more industries when they are evaluating an ERP. The industry solutions are available on the Microsoft Azure Marketplace and allow you to start with a pre-configured ERP solution built for your industry, which gets you the functionality your industry needs and helps to speed up the implementation.

Platform

By moving to the Cloud with this release, you don’t have to concern yourself with the ongoing maintenance of servers and how it fits into the infrastructure. Since it’s a Microsoft product, you have pre-built integrations with Office products, Power BI and Visual Studio. If you’re not a Microsoft shop, you may encounter some new technologies there. If you are a Microsoft shop, this release will work very well for you as it enables more of the technology you’re already using. Microsoft is investing more heavily in Research and Development than any other player in this space, so you know that you’re buying a solution that is going to be maintained and enhanced significantly over time.

Implementer

Microsoft introduced a platform called Lifecycle Services in mid-2013 which provides tools to help partners implement the solution more effectively. They ramped up that functionality even more with the new Dynamics AX to allow partners to build pre-configured solutions, business processes and data sets. These accomplish a few things–first, they make it much easier to move code and data between environments within the implementation but more importantly, it allow partners to conduct more repeatable implementations by leveraging standard business processes on multiple projects. For example, once you’ve implemented Accounts Payable for one client, you can package up the standard configurations, reports and business processes and use them for the next client without the need to start from scratch each time.

Cost

Microsoft is moving to a subscription based pricing model with the release of the new Dynamics AX. Customers will pay on a monthly or annual basis for their user licenses and can easily scale up and down as the business changes. The process of increasing or decreasing your user count will be easy and can be adjusted real-time. In addition, with the new tools to create a more repeatable implementation, your consulting costs will decrease because you won’t have to start from scratch. You’ll be able to leverage partner’s knowledge around building out business processes and solutions and you will have done 30-60 percent of your implementation from the start. That will save a significant amount of time and cost relative to implementations of competing products.

My chiropractor likes to tell me–you have only one spine, you should take care of it, because you can’t get another one. The same thing goes for your ERP–it’s the backbone of your business, so you have to make sure you have a strong one that fits your business, lessens your infrastructure investment and allows you to get it implemented successfully at a reasonable cost. That’s what Microsoft was trying to do with their new release of Microsoft Dynamics AX, so you should give it a look to see if it’s the spine you need.

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