After hundreds of Microsoft Dynamics ERP and CRM go-lives spanning dozens of industries and business models, we learned that post go-live experiences can have a dramatic positive and lasting impact and set the stage for successful adoption of new software capabilities.
Going live with a new Microsoft Dynamics 365 solution is an exciting time. After months of hard work analyzing requirements, reviewing business processes, testing functionality, training and migrating data, the decision is made to deploy the solution to production. Even if go-live was delayed, care has been taken at every step of the way to plan for a smooth transition to the new software and there is a lot of excitement for the benefits it will bring: greater efficiency, enhanced governance and control, and more visibility into operational and financial data. It’s time to celebrate the hard work of the team and the realization of a vision that has been in the making likely for several years. The first weeks and months after go-live is the most critical time in a digital transformation journey, and in this article, we’ll help you prepare for a successful experience.
While many companies – and their consulting partners – treat go-live as the finish line of an intense sprint to implement Dynamics 365, the most successful see it as the completion of the first leg of a much longer journey. Do they pause to celebrate the milestone? You bet they do! Let’s be honest that getting to a successful launch is hard work and a momentous achievement. When it’s time to get down to business with your new ERP or CRM capabilities, a structured and proactive approach is recommended.
Go-Live Is Only The Beginning
Think about the last time you used a new piece of technical gear – maybe a new car, or a new type of car like an EV, or maybe something for your home or personal life, a new smartphone, an Instapot, or some Alexa-enabled smart switches and speakers. The best technology is of course designed to be used quickly, with minimal effort. Apple does a great job with the iPhone – it pretty much sets itself up with a few inputs. Dynamics 365 ERP and CRM solutions may be a little more complex (although implementation is far easier and less time consuming than in the past), but the experience of using a new tool or device always requires some learning and adaptation. This is especially true with technology where you can often achieve the basics without much of a learning curve, but to get the most out of what it offers requires a bit of perseverance, stick-to-it-ness, and often a full rethink of how you approach the task at hand whether it is cooking, driving, or working the lights in your home. The day I unboxed my Instapot I made mashed potatoes in 8-minutes and steamed some frozen dumplings the next day. After a few months, with the help of some recipes and coaching from online food bloggers, I found my groove and leveled up my pressure cooker meal prep game. But I digress…
Common Experiences After Go-Live
After a successful go-live, it’s common for users to experience any or all of these experiences as users begin running processes through the new platform:
- Stressed Out Users – Change is hard for businesses overall, and ERP and CRM software is inherently sophisticated stuff that is called upon to bring efficiency, governance, and control to operations. Training sessions, no matter how effective can only set the stage for users to develop their skills and proficiency.
- Exceptions Prove the Rule – It is very common to encounter situations in day-to-day processing of business where the new software doesn’t seem to do what you need or capture data in the right way. This can be frustrating after pouring so much effort into requirements gathering and testing. Companies should be prepared for these situations post go-live and be ready to make modifications and adjustments to solution configuration as needs are identified.
- One-Way Data Flow – In the early days after cutting over to Dynamics 365 users can run into challenges surfacing the operational data and insight they need, or that was initially envisioned when deciding to implement a new ERP or CRM system. In our experience this is very normal since it is typical to go live with a basic set of operational reports. Reporting and dashboards come together more effectively once data has accumulating in the system and users have a better feel for the new data structure.
- Productivity Impact – Whenever we are engaged in learning something new it takes time to reach peak effectiveness. It is completely normal to run a bit slower at first, taking a bit of extra time to navigate between software functions while learning the myriad of tips and tricks for enhanced productivity.
Launch Management and Successful Business Adoption
Conventional wisdom says that a well-run ERP or CRM implementation project should result in a smooth go-live and transition to streamlined business operations. Experience across dozens of implementations indicates that such an expectation is unrealistic. One question readers might have is why we don’t extend the go-live out further to avoid some of the challenges described above. For example, to include more training, more testing, or simulate real-time processing of business data until there is a higher level of readiness. Our opinion is that more time is unlikely to prepare the organization better. Staff still have to continue running the business on the old system while preparing the new, so they have little discretionary time to practice in the new system before it goes live. Nothing snaps things into focus and creates urgency like being live on new software, it’s the ideal time to work out the kinks and get things humming.
This is where our post-go-live Launch Management program comes in. Launch Management is user-centred support during a critical period in the project lifecycle. It is designed to give customers a smooth takeoff by giving them crucial end-user support that will guide them through the stabilization phase and ensure things continue to run according to plan.
When a deployment partner doesn’t offer a Launch Management solution, the message is clear —now that you’re live on Dynamics 365, your success or failure isn’t their problem. A partner that includes Launch Management in their methodology signals something entirely different — It is a commitment to making sure the customer is equipped for the future.
Our comprehensive Launch Management program begins before you go live and incorporates members of your deployment team with members of the consulting partner deployment team. The focus is not just on post-deployment stabilization but also on customer enablement and user readiness.
Launch Management addresses the following key Dynamics 365 business adoption streams. Without addressing all four areas simultaneously, implementation goals are put at significant risk.
|Functionality||Confirm that system is performing in alignment with the design specification, and that any gaps, or modifications to the design have been captured and addressed. Also addressing new requirements that come up in the immediate post go-live period or process scenarios that were not captured during the design process.
|User Proficiency||Confirm that users have been effectively trained, have access to online help resources and know how to access subject matter experts from the consulting team. Proactive check-ins with end users and their team leads can be very valuable during this period including sharing experiences between team members.
|Data insight and visibility||Confirm that core reports are running properly and accurately. Ensure that users’ access to data, KPIs, and reports is understood and documented, and plans are in place to deploy operational reports and dashboards. As more operational data accumulates in the system, build out the operational reporting and dashboard suite to ensure that managers and team members have insight into critical performance data.
|Process efficiency||Confirm that the new solution is effectively supporting end-to-end business processes in all of the in-scope functional areas. Smooth out any rough spots that may be interfering with critical end-to-end processes like order to cash or customer service. Check in on how the software is supporting improvement in the value chain and customer experience.|
If an organization is going to successfully adopt a Microsoft Dynamics 365 solution, Launch Management is a critical service that their Microsoft partner must provide. Our team at Catapult pride themselves on working closely with customers to confirm that the new solution is effectively supporting end-to-end business processes in all the in-scope functional areas. We don’t just implement a solution and walk away, we’re in it for the long haul and are passionate about making sure your new ERP or CRM solution is performing at its best and being adopted within your business.
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