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Did Cloud Technology Keep Businesses Afloat During COVID-19?

Overall, 2020 was probably the most unpredictable and unexpected year of our generation so far. Towns and cities worldwide were completely locked down, flights were grounded, offices and shops were closed, and countries faced national lockdowns for the first time, in many cases. With so many people suddenly forced to work from home for the first time last year, leaving just front-line workers in their usual workspace, managing such a substantial remote workforce was a first for many companies. 

Supply Chains were exposed by COVID-19

Being able to lead a business into a digital future is something many companies have had on their to-do list for some years now, and COVID-19 suddenly pushed this to the top of their agenda with no forewarning. Business leaders were suddenly asking questions, such as:

  • How will our supply chain be impacted by remote workers?
  • How can we effectively manage demand planning?
  • How will manufacturing plants be able to keep running?
  • Is it possible for teams to effectively collaborate on tasks from home?

Last year, McKinsey surveyed senior supply chain executives to analyse the effect of Covid-19 on how their businesses were running and how the pandemic had impacted their operations. The results showed that 73% of the companies surveyed came into problems in their supplier base, and 75% also faced issues with production and distribution. Of those surveyed in the FMCG industries, 100% of respondents stated that they had experienced production and distribution problems, with 91% also having problems with suppliers.

The problems organizations were suddenly facing in 2020 meant finding a way to adjust and adapt. For example, increased demand for cleaning and sanitizing products led to distilleries changing their production to create alcohol-based hand sanitizers.

Remote working is now the norm for organizations

COVID-19 meant business owners were now less focused on sales figures, ROI and revenue, and more so looking at how to monitor the output of their workforce without seeing anyone in person for months. Maintaining the same levels of productivity may seem doable at first, but without any software to tie an organization’s teams and workloads together, managing each worker’s daily tasks will quickly become impossible.

Given that everyone working from home suddenly needed access to the tools, systems, software and accounts they’d been using on their office desktops, it was suddenly the business leaders’ responsibility to ensure this was a success. Remote working can present numerous challenges in this situation, such as:

  • Product demand
  • Scaling processes 
  • Project planning
  • Cybersecurity
  • IT problems

How streamlined business processes were critical

The number of businesses worldwide suddenly using Cloud ERP/CRM software increased dramatically during 2020, more than 50% of Microsoft’s overall $3B business apps revenue came from Dynamics 365. Remote working capabilities powered by Azure meant that business owners could have access to sales, field service, customer service, project service automation, marketing, finance and operations all in one place.

The biggest priority for many business leaders was to ensure seamless access to their CRM and ERP systems all in one place. For larger organisations, the sudden scale and pace of remote access for employees put their existing enterprise systems under tremendous strain throughout the pandemic, meaning a new platform was sought after and utilised worldwide. Dynamics 365 enabled businesses to do the following:

  • Speak to customers
  • Take, track and manage orders
  • Generate reports to make intelligent, timely decisions
  • Teams to have access to other teams’ tasks
  • Video calls, conferences and presentations using Microsoft Teams
  • Integrate Office 365 
  • Share and co-author files & documents

Software like Dynamics 365 kept businesses running

Despite the unpredictability of the future of many organizations over the last year, Enterprise Cloud software like Dynamics 365 quickly became one of the most popular investments for businesses to ensure processes continued to run smoothly.

Look out for the next Bond Patrick blog, where we will be discussing what the Dynamics 365 recruitment space looks like now, in a post-pandemic world.

How to nail your internal ERP implementation team: options, roles & attributes

ERP implementations are complex beasts. Even the smoothest implementations are a substantial undertaking – and many are anything but smooth.

They take a lot of time. And they cost a lot of money.

How much? According to Panorama Consulting, the average implementation takes more than 17 months to complete, and costs from 4% to 5% of a company’s annual revenue. What’s more, an astonishing four-fifths of implementations take longer than expected.

With such high stakes, it’s vital that your ERP implementation is in good hands – whether you choose to manage it in-house or through a group of contractors.

Before you start building your team, read on to find out about the roles and attributes you’ll definitely need to deliver a successful implementation.

Contractors or permanent staff: Which route is best?

There’s no right and wrong when it comes to choosing between an in-house team or a group of contractors. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses and the ‘correct’ approach will depend upon a wide range of factors, from the complexity of the project, to the makeup of your organisation.

However, broadly speaking, the pros and cons of the two approaches can be defined as follows:

In-house, permanent people:

Strengths:

  • Greater flexibility to change priorities and control deadlines
  • Knowledge is retained in-house once the project is completed
  • Reduced risk of key information or company secrets being leaked

Weaknesses

  • Building and managing a new department can be challenging if you lack the requisite technical skills
  • Unlike with contractors, you’ll still be paying the team post-project
  • Establishing a new department risks distracting from your company’s core focus

Contractors:

Strengths

  • Contractors are ready to go from the project start date, often meaning the lead-in time is shorter
  • No need to expend managerial time on career development plans, appraisals, one-to-one reviews, training sessions, etc.
  • Fewer internal distractions; contractors can ‘get on with things’ while you concentrate on your day job

Weaknesses

  • The difficulty of assembling and managing a contracting team when you lack relevant technical skills
  • More difficult for management to understand what’s being done, and whether the team is focusing on the right areas
  • Contractors have less motivation to ‘go the extra mile’ than in-house employees
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The basic makeup of an ERP implementation team

Every Dynamics 365 ERP implementation is different. A host of factors – the size of your organisation; your location; the level of customisation needed – affect the scale of the project, which in turn influences the type of people required to deliver your implementation. But the ‘average’ team will be made up of the following roles:

  • Executive sponsor: Sits at the top of the project org chart, acting as a liaison between company leadership and the core project team. The executive sponsor has ultimate responsibility for keeping the implementation on track and in line with expectations.
  • Implementation project manager: Whereas the executive sponsor will likely have other responsibilities outside the ERP implementation, the project manager will be involved day to day, directing, delegating and facilitating actions as required.
  • Solution architect: Also referred to as a business analyst or product manager, the solution architect will go through your existing processes and speak to each department to understand what they need from the implementation.
  • Functional consultant: Responsible for taking the requirements set out by the solution architect and identifying how the ERP solution can fulfil those needs. For smaller implementations, the functional consultant and solution architect may be the same person.
  • Technical consultant: Handles any coding needed to bridge gaps between your requirements and the limitations of your chosen ERP software. As such, they have both technical and functional knowledge of the product, as well as understanding the necessary development languages.
  • Test lead: Responsible for thoroughly testing the ERP system – a stage that can make the difference between the success or failure of your implementation. Ensuring that the product works largely as expected from the outset also plays a big part in driving user adoption.
  • Super user: Unless you have a permanent developer or administrator, you’ll want a dedicated super user – someone with a genuine passion for the product, and a desire to learn more about it – to provide day-to-day support post-implementation.

It’s almost always preferable for the management aspect of the implementation team – namely the executive sponsor and implementation project manager – to come from within your business. The same is true of the super user. But unless you have people with the necessary technical skills, you’ll need to recruit in order to fill the other roles.

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How to identify contractors to manage your ERP implementation

You understand the roles required to deliver your implementation. Now it’s a case of finding people to fill them. If you’re hiring contractors, prioritise those with the following characteristics:

  • Product-specific knowledge in Dynamics: This goes without saying. If they’re not product experts, they’re not the right people to deliver your implementation.
  • Experience on similar projects: Ideally with similar types of organisation – those from similar industries, of a similar size, or both.
  • Excellent communication skills: It’s vital that external experts are able to keep internal stakeholders – particularly the project manager – in the loop.
  • Superb time management: With a lot of moving parts, it’s important that contractors are able to manage their time efficiently to maximise their resource.
  • Problem-solving capabilities: Lots can go wrong with an ERP implementation, so it pays to work with people who can find solutions fast.
  • Ability to work under pressure: Deadlines will constantly need to be hit in order to keep the implementation on track.

How to identify members of your in-house ERP implementation team

Building a dedicated in-house team to deliver your implementation is likely to require more time than hiring a group of contractors. You’re not just looking for people to perform a specific set of tasks; you’re looking for people who’ll add genuine value to your organisation. As such, you’ll still need them to possess most – if not all – of the traits described in the previous section, along with these additional characteristics:

  • Shared cultural values: Presumably, if you’re hiring in-house, you want them to add value for the long term. New hires are much more likely to stick around if they buy into your cultural values.
  • Desire to progress: Ambition is a good thing. It means they’re driven to keep improving – which is vital if you’re to enjoy the benefits of building an in-house team.
  • Ability to provide product support: Your ERP team needs to keep adding value post-implementation. A natural next step is for them to provide ongoing product support and training to new users.

Conclusion

Given the benefits of retaining skill sets and knowledge post-implementation, hiring a permanent in-house team is often the preferred route. If the project is planned well enough in advance, building an entire in-house team is certainly feasible.

Of course, in some instances – where speed-bumps and curveballs crop up during the planning phase – a quicker lead time will be required, which may necessitate hiring contractors. Even in this scenario, it’s still possible to retain some knowledge in-house by building a hybrid team of contractors and permanent staff.

Either way, with ERP implementations potentially running for two or more years and costing millions of pounds, the recruitment stage is vital. But assembling the perfect team from scratch is never easy.

So why leave your implementation to chance? By partnering with a specialist recruiter, you can be sure that you’ll find the best people for the job.

We have vast experience of working with end-users to build permanent, temporary and hybrid Microsoft ERP teams from the ground up.

Click here and get in touch today if you are ready to start building your Dynamics 365 implementation team.

Are you certain the grass isn’t greener?

There’s never been a better time to be working in the Dynamics 365 space. After a slow start to 2021, the demand for good people is insane.

However, with so many options out there, finding the right role can feel like walking through a minefield. Filtering the daily recruiter messages, making time outside a busy schedule- we know it’s daunting.

So it’s vital to have someone in your corner who knows the space, and can make it easy for you.

Like we did, for Steve.

Steve’s story:

Steve’s been in the Dynamics space since it was Axapta, and has helped many businesses solve ERP-related problems over the years. Having worked with agencies before, Steve had this to say:

“There appears to be a general trend within the recruitment space to fill a functional/technical position, often with a “warm body”, as quickly as possible.”

“I’ve felt that this perceived shoe-horning into opportunities I’ve been both over or under qualified for has resulted in considerable wasted time, both for me as well as the organization looking for the right talent.”

A story all too familiar, it doesn’t have to be like this! He continues…

“While not actively looking for a new position, Bond Patrick reached out to me with a genuine interest in where I felt there were growth gaps in my current professional direction (D365 experience!). I was not barraged with an array of “shiny” new opportunities, but rather a series of well thought-out questions as to what would make my career path more fulfilling.”

“My schedule at the time Ryan reached out did not afford any reasonable opportunities to engage in career path discussions.  Ryan worked with me outside of “normal” hours, arguable over and above the call of duty.”

A few remote interviews later and Steve, in his new role, is helping a business who manufactures educational toys and games for the future generations. With an education background & a large family himself, the ERP problems he now solves bring genuine purpose to his life.

“Ryan clearly wanted to find the right person for the client, but he also wanted to make sure that there was mutual fulfilment for the candidate as well. The career opportunity that Bond Patrick has presented will help provide relevancy to my professional path for the foreseeable future, and it’s given me a renewed purpose in my work life.”

Just like Steve, we’re here to help you, too

Let’s talk about how we can help you find purpose in your Dynamics career.