Getting Your ERP Project Off to a Good Start

Because ERP projects generally deliver similar core functionality, and your implementation team is already very experienced with Microsoft’s Sure-Step Methodology, it can be tempting to skip the formal Project Kick-Off Meeting and simply dive right into the work at-hand.

I’d like to make a strong case for holding a Project Kick-Off Meeting, regardless of the size/complexity of the project, or the experience level of the customer and the implementation team.

Covering key parameters at the beginning of a project in your kick-off meeting ensures team alignment to project objectives and approach. The materials can continue to be referenced throughout the life of the project as a touchstone for the team to check on progress, identify scope changes, and verify timeline and budget. Here are suggested components for your project kick-off deck, and associated benefits:

  • Introduce Project Team Members

Important that all ERP stakeholders and project contributors are invited in advance to the kick-off meeting (or receive the materials afterward, if they are truly not available to attend in person).

On the customer side, ensure project sponsor(s), system owner(s), business process owners, and other supporting team members from Finance, Operations, and IT are invited to the kick-off (especially if they will be asked later to participate / provide support or information). Core members of the ERP partner implementation team should also attend so they can be introduced.

Benefits:

  • Customer team sees executive leadership (sponsors) at the table, backing the project effort
  • Ensures all stakeholders are aware of the project and understand who will be assigned
  • Sets a foundation for working relationship between customer and implementation team
  • Review Project Scope

A typical ERP implementation scope might seem basic or perhaps inherently obvious; however, prior to an ERP project being approved, there may have been multiple ERP-related initiatives or features discussed internally by the customer during their evaluation or budgeting process.

This means some attendees may come to the table with different preconceptions about the project’s scope and deliverables. This could seriously derail a project later if not addressed up-front.

Benefits:

  • Ensure the approved project scope is clearly communicated and understood by entire team
  • Verify the scope is correct (as per the signed agreement) – any changes needed / allowed?
  • Reinforce upfront alignment among all players: what will be delivered vs what is out-of-scope
  • Include approved project budget here also – reinforce relationship between scope and budget

 

  • Share High-Level Project Approach (Implementation Phases) and Timeline

This is a key opportunity for the implementation partner to outline and describe, up-front, the various phases of the implementation or upgrade project in in relation to the overall project schedule and key milestone dates, particularly release/go-live.

Benefits:

  • Explain phases of the project where customer team should dedicate time to design or testing
  • Answer customer questions about the process, deliverables, dependencies, and timing
  • Agreement on how project will be executed and participation needed
  • Project Team Roles & Responsibilities

Now that the players have been introduced to each other and to the overall plan for executing the project, it is good to circle back and assign specific names to the various roles on the project team. Also key to confirm for customer team members who will be key decision-makers and subject matter experts on behalf of their business area and who will be playing supporting roles on the project.

At a minimum, there should be a Project Lead (or Project Manager) from both the customer side and the implementation partner who will work together to be a hub for project communication and guide the activities of their respective players. For smaller projects, this role may be played by the System Owner on the customer side and by the ERP Functional Lead on the implementation partner team.

The Project Sponsor should also identify whether they will be the overall decision-maker for the project, or if they have identified key System Owners from the business who will represent their departmental business process decisions and needs during critical design and testing phases of the project. Depending on the size of the project, additional customer subject matter experts will play a role on the Core Project Team providing design input, participating in testing or training tasks.

Benefits:

  • Identify early if there are key contributors or stakeholders who need to be added to the team
  • Build shared understanding of what is expected from each team member based on their role
  • Re-affirm how each team member will execute their role during the phases of the project
  • Alignment on responsibilities for key decisions, design input/approval, and test execution
  • Reinforce communication needed between Core Project Team and the business areas they represent – the goal is no surprises for the project team or for the customer organization
  • Next Steps

Great! Everyone is lined up and ready to play their part. This is the point in closing out the kick-off meeting to clearly list specific tasks / activities for the next 1-2 weeks and answer questions.

At this point, it’s also a good idea to decide as a group how often the project team should meet and how project status updates should be shared across the team and to senior management.

Benefits:

  • Kick-Off Meeting attendees leave with a clear understanding of what will happen next
  • Team provides input on frequency and style of project check-in meetings and progress reports
  • Time allowed for questions that were not addressed by the kick-off materials

A kick-off meeting that covers the topics above in high-level fashion can easily be completed in 30 – 60 minutes, depending upon the size of the project and number of players involved.

The reward is that the team will all have a clear understanding of the game plan and how they will be contributing to that plan at the beginning of the project. They will also have a foundation for identifying and communicating issues throughout the project that might impact scope, quality, or timing.

It really is a team huddle and “Go Team!” moment to build enthusiasm and support for your ERP project. Take the first step toward success and team-building with your next Project Kick-Off Meeting.

This article was written by Juanita Schoen, Dynamics Project Manager for Tridea Partners. Tridea is a leading Microsoft Dynamics provider.

WHAT IS DYNAMICS 365?

You’ve probably heard the announcements and discussions about Microsoft Dynamics 365. But what is Dynamics 365?

Microsoft Dynamics 365 is the next generation of intelligent business applications in the cloud. Microsoft 365 unifies CRM and ERP capabilities by delivering new purpose-built applications to help manage specific business functions, including Sales, Customer Service, Field Service, Operations, Marketing, Project Service Automation and Financials. Designed to be personalized, enable greater productivity, deliver deeper insights and adapt to business needs, Dynamics 365 applications help businesses accelerate digital transformation to meet the changing needs of customers and capture the new business opportunities of tomorrow.

Dynamics 365

 

Dynamics 365 is available in two editions:

 

Dynamics 365 Business Edition

Dynamics 365

 

  • Optimized for 10-250 Employees
  • It will contain Project Madeira (called “Financials”) and in the future a Sales and Marketing application as well
  • It is cloud only
  • 300 seat Maximum

 

Dynamics 365 Enterprise Edition

Dynamics 365

  • Optimized for 250+ Employees
  • It includes the Dynamics CRM Online and Dynamics AX (called “Operations”)
  • 20 user Minimum

 

 

In addition to Dynamics 365 business applications both the Business and Enterprise Editions offer the following:

  • You have Power BI and Cortana Intelligence which are natively embedded to help companies achieve their business goals with predictive insights, prescriptive advice and actionable next steps. Azure IoT brings device data to enable preemptive action to business functions like field service.
  • There is deep integration between Dynamics 365 and Office 365 which brings together the two worlds of business process and personal productivity for empowered employees and a much more productive experience.  
  • Business applications will be able to adapt and innovate in real-time with a common data model and extensible business application platform. Dynamics 365 apps will:
    • Use a common data model, shared with Office 365, to simplify data management and integration across apps and business processes.
    • Offer tech savvy business customers/analysts, aka “citizen developers,” (using Power Apps) and professional developers (using Azure platforms services) a consistent business platform they can use to compose new apps and easily extend and modify existing ones.
    • And it will come with connectors that let you integrate with applications and services from Microsoft and our partners – including custom API’s and on premise systems.
  • Microsoft AppSource – Microsoft’s new destination for business users to easily find and evaluate line of business SaaS apps, add-ins and content packs from Microsoft and our partners, including those built on top of Dynamics 365, Office 365, Cortana Intelligence and the Azure platform.

 

Dynamics 365 will be available for purchase starting November 1, 2016. To learn more about Dynamics 365 visit: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/dynamics/dynamics-365

This article was written by Sandra Knight, Senior Sales Consultant for Tridea Partners. Tridea is a leading Microsoft Dynamics provider

 

Dynamics AX Power Tools – Add Atlas to your Toolkit

Authors: Juanita Schoen & Matt Caffrey, CPA – Tridea Partners

Our clients already enjoy a very rich feature set for financial reporting with the Dynamics Management Reporter module, which is relied upon daily as standard equipment in the overall ERP toolkit.

Expanding upon this strong financial reporting base, Globe software’s Atlas product suite provides users with access to the full AX dataset, integrated with MS Office for self-service report design. Atlas also provides connectivity to multiple data sources for improved analytics connecting the full set of ERP data to key data and metrics stored in other systems.

Atlas can also benefit your Microsoft implementation timeline when leveraged by your partner to reduce development effort associated with programming a typical data migration / cutover and custom reporting.

The most sought-after tools are light-weight, manageable, versatile, and flexible in providing value to their owner. Here are some ways Dynamics AX + Atlas provides that value:

Reporting

The entire AX database can be queried using Atlas, not just financial data (as with Management Reporter). Custom reports can be designed without the help of a developer or database administrator.  Once designed, they can be accessed by the users via an Atlas shortcut and can be easily updated / modified within the tool, again without help from a developer.

Upload Utility

Typically, you’ll need an AX developer to code a customized tool for uploading data into AX. That custom program and upload template are static and require further development effort to update.

Atlas allows you to quickly create, test, and deploy AX upload templates. If updates are needed, you no longer need to call upon that specialized developer. A trained Atlas user assigned the appropriate security permissions can simply update the upload template.

Data Migration

Atlas can reduce time previously needed to have a developer build custom data migration programs to pull data from legacy system(s) into AX. The same Atlas interface used to create upload templates can be leveraged to create the data mapping that feeds your cutover.  Changes can easily be made to the templates to support iterative data migration testing and incremental database updates.

Of course, it is important to find a reporting solution to best fit your own unique business needs. According to Globe Software’s website “56,475 Microsoft Dynamics AX Users Trust Atlas”

Tridea can help you uncover the ways Dynamics AX + Atlas can increase value for your business.

Viewing Missing Transactions in Apply Sales Documents with National Accounts

One of our clients recently encountered an issue where they were unable to see posted invoices for a customer in the Dynamics GP Apply Sales Documents window.  These documents were correctly created and processed, and were visible in inquiry, but were not available to have payments applied when viewing the customer in Apply Sales Documents.

After some troubleshooting, we ascertained that the cause of the issue was National Accounts.  By default, when a user enters a customer in Apply Sales Documents, the National Account radio button is automatically selected next to View/Apply:

Dynamics GP National Account radio button

This is normally not a problem, but occasionally the parent account is in a different status or handled differently than the children.  In this case, we simply needed to select the Specific Customer option and choose the child from the dropdown; this allowed users to view and apply payments to the invoices that were previously missing!

This article was written by Daniel Gonet, Dynamics GP Application Consultant for Tridea Partners. Tridea is a leading Microsoft Dynamics provider serving CA, AZ, UT, CO, NH, MA, NY and surrounding regions.

 

Dynamics ERP & Tracking Aggregate Spending to Healthcare Providers

Pharmaceutical manufacturers that are looking to implement a new ERP system will invariably ask about options for meeting requirements of the Sunshine Act, which was enacted to protect consumers by ensuring transparency in the reporting of financial relationships between pharmaceutical companies and health care providers (HCPs). While pharmaceutical companies generally purchase a software system specifically designed to track their aggregate spending to HCPs, the ERP system generates much of the information that is fed into the aggregate spend system.

Typically, money flows from pharmaceutical manufacturers to health care providers in 3 forms, that are generally handled in 3 very distinct manners:

  1. AP invoices directly to HCPs: Vendors that are HCPs are defined as such in the ERP system. Any expenses that are booked in the ERP system directly to HCP vendors are pushed to the aggregate spend system via an integration. Typically, a relatively small number of HCPs become direct vendors in the ERP system. The process of setting up new vendors is generally a highly controlled process that lends itself to accurately defining and identifying an HCP
  2. Employee expense reimbursement: Employees of the pharmaceutical company meet with HCPs and incur expenses that need to be reimbursed to them by the company. Assuming the company has an expense reimbursement system (such as Concur, for example), the expense reimbursement software generally just feeds the core accounting (general ledger) data to the ERP system, and sends the HCP spend information directly to the aggregate spend software. It is therefore necessary to have the HCPs defined in the expense reimbursement system, but the ERP system is not involved in this process.
  3. AP invoices to 3rd party vendors that benefit HCPs: While it is possible to capture this data in the ERP system (on a custom field linked to the PO or invoice) and push it to the aggregate spend system, there are some complicating factors that lead many companies to opt to manually enter these transactions into the aggregate spend software or else upload vendor documents directly to the aggregate spend software in addition to recording the invoices in ERP:
    • Timing: At the time that a PO or invoice is entered, do we necessarily know which HCPs will benefit from the spend? For example, speaker bureau invoices often arrive in advance of the list of attendees (HCPs)
    • Accuracy: HCPs that benefit from expenses incurred with 3rd parties are can be very large in quantity. Ensuring that the correct HCP is selected and linked to an expense can be difficult, especially when many health care providers may have similar names (or even the same names). In such cases, AP clerks that have no direct knowledge of the circumstances surrounding the expense could have a difficult time selecting the correct  HCP. Aggregate spend software systems typically have matching algorithms to accurately identify HCPs.

This article was written by Matthew Boese, Partner at Tridea Partners, a Gold Certified Microsoft Dynamics Partner.