Podcast: The future of business applications and Microsoft Dynamics 365

“The best way to predict the future is to create it.” – Peter Drucker

Part of defining, and then plotting, a future, is working out how to remove the barriers preventing you from creating it. That includes the technology you have now. And the technology needed to get you to your end-goal. Which is as often an obstacle for organisations as it is an enabler.

The challenge is that the process of adopting new technology is complex. And without the right approach, you will bring it in and find a need for it to solve, rather than the technology solving a known need. It’s for this reason many ERP projects fail.

To reduce risk and keep technology laser focused on the goal, the days of single large on-premise ERP deployments are on the wane. Being replaced by more agile modular deployments.

Microsoft Dynamics 365 in modular form

An enterprise scale ERP you can consume in bite sized pieces – as need dictates. That doesn’t take years to deploy. And connects data seamlessly between other technology. This is the direction Microsoft is taking Dynamics 365. Microsoft’s Satya Nadella highlighted this in their 2021 annual report:

Every organization is looking to digitize their end-to-end operations—from sales and customer service to supply chain management—so they can rapidly adapt to changing market dynamics.

With Dynamics 365, we’re building a new generation of business applications to meet this challenge. New integrations between Dynamics 365 and Teams enable everyone across an organization to view and collaborate on customer records seamlessly within Teams, and to meet, chat, and collaborate within Dynamics 365.

Microsoft has taken the approach of getting the underlying structure of Dynamics 365 in place, and then building the functionality on top. Underpinned by Dataverse, Microsoft is making it easier to connect data and applications.

Connected data also makes it possible for organisations to use machine learning and Artificial Intelligence. Flexibility, agility, and easily accessible value whichever direction you take, is the focus of Dynamics 365.

In a recent chat with HSOs Head of Dynamics 365, Will Winter, he maintained that Microsoft’s modular approach remains a transformational approach even if based on a smaller scale phased approach. “I wouldn’t call them ERP programmes because ERP is just the vehicle that allows you to get from A to B. They’re transformation programmes as you gain access to a world of add on innovation alongside.” So, what is driving the case for transformation?

What is your case for change?

An evolving organisation, with changing needs, requires new software. Software that worked, to a degree. But as time has gone on, it is no longer fit for purpose. It can’t scale. And the only way to have it ‘talk’ with other systems is through custom coding.

The approach you take to your technology programme depends on circumstance and need. As an organisation, you must decide what you can do now. And what the pinch points are driving the case for change. This will determine urgency.

Scalability, flexibility and efficiency are broad cases for change, but there will be more specific and burning needs such as technology end-of life, support contracts ending, software companies folding, and so on. Will believes that regardless of the need for change, the modular approach holds sway, “It makes sense to do it bit by bit. Sure there is some throwaway development that happens as part of a phased approach, but typically you de-risk the entire project.” There’s also another reason a modular approach offers more value.

Turn it on as you need it

Will suggests a modular approach “… makes it easier for organisations to take advantage of the full power of Microsoft’s tech stack. And makes it easier to bring new industry-specific customisations online. Customisations that improve time to value, increase agility, and lower costs.” This means that as your organisation evolves, and as needs change, you can easily bring in new applications that will instantly work with existing solutions. This means there is less operational impact each time you add a new application.

The HSO approach to choosing the right path is simple. Enterprise Architects will come in and discuss where the pinch points are, and how you want to transform the organisation. What platforms are being phased out, and what processes need reviewing. And to, most importantly, pinpoint where the endgame is. This is the fundamental question the Enterprise Architect will ask, ‘where do you want to get to in five- or 10-years’ time?’. They will then plan that out.

They will suggest which technology to switch off first, perhaps because it’s an area causing you pain. And then suggest what to replace it with. Once the engine is in place you can run with it. After six months of using the interfaces, the Enterprise Architects will recommend switching off other things in line with the plan. They will give you three or four different options based on what the objectives are, helping make informed decisions.

Keep your eye on the prize

Whether you take a big bang or phased approach to your ERP project depends on your appetite for risk, the urgency of the need, and other factors. But regardless of the approach taken, maintaining an eye on the purpose is critical in keeping your project aligned to the original need. Go off course and the project risks going over time, over budget, and leaving you with a solution not fit for purpose and that users find ways to work around. Which amounts to an expensive waste of money.

For more information on Microsoft Dynamics 365, click here.