Assert Implementation Partner for an Acceptable License Arrangement
Braun Intertec is a multi-disciplinary consulting engineering firm, with a tradition of innovative use of technologies to address our clients’ needs as well as improving our own business (Intertec stands for “Inter-related technologies”, as a nod to this trait). Braun Intertec began to grow rapidly following the Great Recession, and it was clear we needed to make significant technology investments— including core infrastructure and a new ERP platform. Microsoft has always figured prominently into our solution set when we are making new investment decisions. Key factors include a rich and growing portfolio of Microsoft products and services to choose from, as well as ready access to the expertise and training we require. As we looked at ERP solutions, Microsoft Dynamics AX figured into the mix. Our industry requires tremendous collaboration between suppliers, project owners, contractors, and other stakeholders. As a result, SharePoint has been a key solution for us. We selected SharePoint as our collaboration package for the future as well, migrating from SharePoint 2007 to 2013.
With any technology, change is a constant. Microsoft vigorously updates its technology, so you have to be diligent in managing updates and upgrades. You can’t just fire and forget it! When we selected Microsoft Dynamics AX, a key differentiator was the significant investment Microsoft was committing to product improvements, including industry-specific functionality. However, a downside is that ISV and implementation partners (and ourselves!) struggle to maintain and build skills on the most current versions. Microsoft realizes it’s difficult to move a whole industry with them, but it’s something they should pay more attention to.
Lessons Learned—Mismatch of Expectations
During our ERP selection process, we used advisory services for requirements match, licensing strategies, and implementation approach. While we arrived at an acceptable license arrangement, we should have been more assertive with our implementation partner about what our expectations were on execution pace and delivery date. We had a mismatch of expectations—not fatal, but it created unnecessary friction for both parties. My advice is to not be date-driven to sign a deal, but rather ensure you use the contractual process to gain agreement on implementation expectations.
Prioritization and Governance
Microsoft has a rich and rapidly changing product and services catalog, including multiple solutions to address issues CIOs are concerned about. As a fast-growing business, our biggest issue is prioritizing our IT initiatives based on business value and focusing resources to get meaningful results. If you try to do everything, Microsoft (and others), will help you do exactly that. There’s a lot of neat stuff out there—but your governance process needs to drive IT investments, not the other way around. It’s important to understand what your priorities and capacity are.
Engage in Different Communities
There’s a broad community to help you understand Microsoft products and services how they operate and how they can be implemented. For material technology decisions I’ve found engaging with peers is an important step in understanding the full picture—pros and cons. Microsoft is a great broker for creating such relationships, both via introductions and the forums and events they sponsor. Engaging in those communities is an important step for any CIO or IT professional.