In my last blog “Are those SLA’s a Fool’s Bargain?” I explained the service level agreement, which you signed with your implementing partner after you implemented a new system. However, this partner will tell you that system updates are necessary, but that`s not always the case. So let`s see what options do you have. (meer…)
Alright, a question for you guys. Have you ever heard of a SLA (service level agreement)? It’s the thing you agree on with your implementing partner after they have successfully implemented your new system. If you’ve come so far, congratulations. You’ve probably managed to overcome a lot of hiccups along the way but you made it, you now have a system that meets all your needs.
But your journey is not over yet. There has to be maintenance in order to keep the system fresh. Because of this you come to a maintenance agreement with your partner. Of course not just for AX but also for BizTalk, SQL, BI and all the other stuff. Now you can feel confident that along the way your system will always be up to date and it gives you the ultimate guarantee nothing can go wrong anymore, but does it? What does it guarantee? And what is the cost of this guarantee?
What you agreed on in SLA
Most service level agreements -SLA- probably contain nothing more than the following things:
- The right to have your system updated.
- A promise that they will help you with it and a discount on the hours spent helping you.
- Technical support
- They may even include a number of free minutes, you can use to call someone at a helpdesk. What you don’t know is that while you’re on hold and listen to the beautiful tune, your minutes run out.
What you actually wanted
You just wanted a system that runs smoothly and makes you a satisfied user. But your partner will push you to do all the updates because otherwise everything will inevitably go wrong. This is kind of comparable to the millennium madness. Remember? So many people were convinced that all the electronic devices were going to crash, some even made a lot of money because of others` ignorance, and eventually, when the clock ticked 12, nothing happened. Everything was working as it was supposed to be. With SLA’s it’s kind of the same. They just want you to be scared enough to spent a lot of money on something that is not always necessary, the same goes for updates.
But what are your options? Can you just do nothing? Or is there a way to avoid all these costs and headaches? I will let you know in the next blog 😉 but meanwhile subscribe to our newsletter so you can receive our latest blogs straight to your inbox.
What do you think about SLA`s and updates? Share your thoughts and if you liked this post, please share it.
If you google pictures with employees you see lots of smiling, handshaking, high-fiving, applauding and motivated people. It looks like they are enjoying what they are doing. Is this representing the reality of everyday life? Probably not. (meer…)
Ikigai is a Japanese concept meaning “a reason for being”. Everyone, according to the Japanese, has an ikigai. Finding it requires a deep and often lengthy search of self.
Over 4 years I worked for a company in The Netherlands. I was an AX consultant. Actually I was an XAL consultant and when AX got introduced I was to continue to implement XAL projects, since I was good at it. New recruited consultants got introduced to AX, and I envied them for it. With the introduction of AX we also noticed projects were getting bigger and there was a need for actual project managers. Again the people around me got promoted. Or at least, it was so in my eyes.
I quit my job determined to become a project manager. I did a good job but I hated it. I could find no joy in being a project manager; I experienced constant nagging, ever changing demands, political games and sometimes on the expense of others. And although I delivered my projects always to the customer’s satisfaction, I couldn’t see myself doing this as a profession. I’m sure I have found some kind of joy; maybe if I educated myself better or got more experience, but the effort seemed to much at that point in time.
So back to implementing Dynamics AX. An important part of almost every implementation was the data migration. Before AX2012, there was no such thing as a Data Import Export Framework. So I developed an Excel import tool in VBA. That was something I loved doing. And although many developers would argue that developing in VBA has nothing to do with development, I still am proud of my creation. I loved doing it, I got paid for it (in the end), and since it was a re-usable proven tool customers wanted it. I’m extremely happy I got to experience this part of my life, since I understand developers better now. And I experienced a glimpse of their Ikigai; to create something from scratch and have users use it and be happy about it gave me great satisfaction.
Yet I did not continue on this road. I continued as a consultant, and I became better at it. I was part of many projects, sometimes small, sometimes large international projects. Sometimes I was leading the project, sometimes I was just part of a bigger team, sometimes my role was pivotal and sometimes not at all. I really excelled as an Dynamics AX implementation consultant, in my years when I was running my own company. Not because it was my own company, but simply because I introduced a doctrine saying “everyone is equal”’; the sales director is not better than the project manager, who is not better than the consultants, who is not better than the developer etc. Everyone is playing an equally important role to the success of projects and to the success of the company as a whole. This doctrine gave me and my colleagues a piece of mind. We could focus on the projects and because of that we excelled at what we did.
Find your Ikigai at Kaya Consulting
We still practice this doctrine at Kaya Consulting. We understand your search of your Ikigai. Mine could have been in developing, yet I found my Ikigai in letting my colleagues excel in what they do. And once in a while my colleagues reward me back when they proudly inform me of the great solution they developed, the projects they saved, or the project they delivered to the customer’s satisfaction.
Find your ikigai at Kaya Consulting, we are looking for new colleagues! Do give us a call, and we can determine your way to Ikigai. Also don`t forget to subscribe to our newsletter to be the first who receives our latest blogs.
“In my 19 years of implementing ERP systems, absolutely none”, I admitted and my colleagues confirmed this. “So why do you try to conform to something that is actually not normal?”, the consultant asked. “Because that is what the customers want to hear: ‘Vanilla ERP system’, ‘Cloud’, ‘Agile’, ‘Fixed price’, these are all the current buzzwords”, said my sales director, on which the consultant replied “So you are consciously deceiving your customer?”, the consultant asked.
Every half a year Kaya Consulting is updating its strategy using a business model canvas in which we are discussing our value propositions and customer segments etc. So our discussion above became a bit off topic, but interesting none the less;
– We have emerging trends of cloud
– We want increasing access via mobile devices
– We have emerging new market segments
– And there is the internet of things going on
So who are those customers? What is our value proposition? What does it take to be able to deliver? Which are our channels? These were all key questions part of the theoretical model but it all boiled down to a more practical question that started the discussion above: “have you ever implemented an ERP system without any modifications?”
Does vanilla ERP exist?
“So why not? Every customer is asking for it! So why is this not possible?”, was the follow up question from the consultant. Well let’s see, to start:
– Every customer has its own identity. Every document will need to breathe that identity, so that by itself means we need to modify the layout of the reports.
– Every customer is doing business with other vendors and customers. And if we want to automate the exchange of information then we are talking about creating interfaces! Even EDI doesn’t work since there are different EDI standards, which is a paradox right there.
Reasons of ERP system modification
But the real reasons most of the time are:
– That company processes cannot be changed to a standard ERP system, sometimes because of statutory regulations or simply because of the situation of the company, whatever that might be.
– Adapting ERP systems is simply more efficient or cheaper.
– And most of the time the business process is simply perfectly fitting the company`s needs, so why change it to something less effective just so you don’t have to change the ERP system?
“So the conclusion is that the normal customer, with the normal set of employees with normal company procedures in a normal country with normal customers and normal vendors doesn’t exist?”, the consultant asked. “If it would exist, I think that it would be very normal for every normal person to start a normal business and compete”, the CEO of Kaya Consulting confirmed.
“So there is your challenge: ‘Do you dare to tell the customer that they are far from normal? And that modifying the ERP system to the customer`s need is a normal thing to do?’, the consultant asked. “We have to! everything else is deception”, the sales director stated.
What do you think? Add your comment in the section below and don`t forget to subscribe to our newsletter.
ˈsan(d)baɡ’ / verb: deliberately underperform in a race or competition to gain an unfair advantage
“You have the solution to this issue? So you were sandbagging us?”, the ERP manager said with a dark face while accusing me. “If you are open to an explanation, I can explain”, I offered, but sadly at that time he was not. And in hindsight I now know why…
Ability to execute
A few projects ago I was part of a large team of consultants and after a successful implementation of the finance module of Microsoft Dynamics AX2012 we then were charged with implementing the warehouse and logistic modules. However, we got stuck with a logistic procedure we didn’t know how to implement.
The solution was regarding the catch weight principle. However, at that time AX2012 was new and not one consultant had implemented nor was familiar with that concept. Which resulted in long meetings about a concept with a lot of Dynamics AX experts and logistic experts from the customer. Being in the meeting reminded me of a comedy named “See no evil, hear no evil”; the blind one and the deaf one trying to explain each other how the world works. So yes, with 15 years of Dynamics AX implementation experience, I didn’t know what Catch Weight functionality did in AX nor was I or the other consultants familiar with the principle. And yes time was wasted on architecting a solution that was not needed since there was standard functionality available.
Gartner did an analysis about ERP for product-centric midmarket companies in which Microsoft Dynamics AX was positioned as a visionary, but not a leader purely because nor Microsoft nor the partners have the ability to execute: “The growth of the market for the product goes faster than the creation of enough capacity of high-skilled business and functional people to serve customers globally. And as a partner we know this is true. Microsoft is leaving recruitment and education to the partners. Partners are reluctant to invest since there is this looming ‘certainty’ that your employees will be contacted at least twice a year by a recruiter.
Form your own project team
To bring both stories together: there is a lack of Dynamics AX resources and those resources are scattered throughout the market. A few facts
* Most large Microsoft Partners have senior and junior consultants. Most likely in a 1:6 ratio
* The majotity of boutique partners do have very good senior consultants. Most likely in a 1:2 ratio
* ‘Good’ partners have ‘bad’ consultants and ‘bad’ partners have ‘good’ consultants.
* Most freelancers are medior or senior consultants, otherwise they wouldn’t freelance themselves.
* Some freelancers only have one loyalty: Money.
* Employees you are grooming will get poached, eventually.
* And consultants with >15 years of Dynamics AX experience don’t necessarily need to be aware of all the functionalities Microsoft is introducing.
So take all this as granted; if you want the right resources in your project team you have to select them yourselves. You do this when you hire them in your company, so why not do this when forming a project group. Especially if this project group is going to work on automating your business processes.
In my opinion it is quite ok to request resumes and tell the partner you don’t want certain individuals on certain positions. In my opinion it is also quite ok to tell partners that you want contractors or other consultants from other partners on your projects since they simply have better industry or functional knowledge or simply more experience.
Kaya Consulting, independent experienced consultants
Hiring Kaya Consulting consultants is of course another good way of securing the right consultants on your projects. And if we can’t deliver the right consultant we will tell you so.
But it is true; if you call tomorrow we probably cannot help you, since we are busy on other projects. And once we accepted a project we will never abandon it until successfully delivered. Because of this attitude we can proudly say that we have never been part of a failed project.
Contact us for more details and don`t forget to subscribe to our newsletter to be the first to receive our latest blogs!
“My SAP implementation went 7x over budget, I’m ashamed to say this happened under my watch”, said the IT director of a large petroleum company during a presales presentation of Dynamics AX. “So we`re looking for an alternative”. “Are you asking me how much will it cost to implement Dynamics AX and more importantly how can we guarantee that the budget remains the same?”, I asked. Sadly enough this is not the only example of an “over budget case” during an ERP implementation. And this is also not related to SAP, since I’ve seen my fair share of over budget projects in Dynamics AX as well.
Your best interest or theirs?
The most interesting example of a project that went over-budget was an implementation built by a large system integrator for a very large online retailer;
– The system integrator was happily implementing the system
– Passed all the integral test cases.
– Was delivering according to the planned schedule
– Was delivering on budget
But something was off.
That something was revealed during a cigarette break, where the Solution Architect of the system integrator admitted to the PM of the customer that they put a lot of logic into Biztalk instead of the ERP system, simply because they couldn’t find the Dynamics AX resources but they had plenty of Biztalk developers. Luckily the PM of the customer was a smart cookie and Kaya Consulting was hired to give a second opinion of the implementation and Microsoft was hired to give a second opinion about the architecture. The outcome was “a whole new reimplementation is needed: If you would go live with the system it will do its job but you cannot change a single parameter or setting because of all the modifications made”.
How much do you want to save?
The ERP reimplementation was done by Microsoft Consulting Services with the help of Kaya Consulting. The system integrator was sued, but like most cases the customer lost that battle. So how do we prevent this from happening?
How do we not go over budget because of a bad effort calculation, planning or execution? The answers are simple:
- Recognize that you, as the customer, have no clue about what it means to implement an ERP system! It is not your core business, nor do you want to make it your core business.
- Hire an independent experienced project manager, or if you want to appoint someone within the company please make sure that the manager actually has project manager experience. Having a PMP certification, being an Agile Scrum master, having a green belt in Six Sigma doesn’t mean a whole lot without the necessary experience.
See the above as “You want to buy a house. You can negotiate terms yourself with the other real estate agent but most likely you are better off with your own broker who knows the market, the area, history of the house etc.”
Those are not all the answers though because most of the people simply forget to hire the independent consultant;
You bought a house, made a good deal but when you get the house, you should inspect it.
- You can do it yourself (Integral testing),
- you can trust your PM (who has no clue about the technical state of the product)
- you can trust the PM partner (but honestly, why would he tell you the truth?)
- or you can hire an inspector
Which is the best thing to do. It will save you from going live with a system that is not build well and it will prevent you from doing emergency repairs while using the system. However, this consultant might find something that needs to be repaired or rebuild, which of course will cost you money.
This can still lead to an over-budget-situation. How can you solve this? Easy: hire this consultant right from the get-go of the project. He will keep the implementation partner in line and has only one interest in his mind: Helping You!
Looking for this independent inspector for your Dynamics AX implementation? Give us a call.
Please share your thoughts and experience about ERP implementations and don`t forget to subscribe to our newsletter to be the first to receive our latest blogs!
Founded in 2000 by Peter van den Brink, Kaya Consulting is a Microsoft Partner which extends Microsoft’s vision of helping businesses ‘Do More’. Our headquarters are in the Netherlands and we have offices in Turkey, Malta, Belgium and Estonia. (meer…)
So let’s recap… Previously on “the walking dead”
- You are clueless about where your items are, orders are not received on time or at all, vendors are not fulfilling their whole purchase order, nor do they deliver on time. The multi-million-dollar system you just bought gives inaccurate forecast and your in house made point of sale system can’t process items that are not on stock in your store and so on… Click here if you missed the first part of my blog.
How the Mobile Device capacity in AX2012 R3 fixed these problems
The next step was to ease up on all the regulations implemented and we disabled some automated functionalities and we gave some control back to the people on the floor. In practice we created a few simple apps using Microsoft Dynamics AX mobile device capacity:
- First priority: Count the warehouse. This should be simple: scan the location, scan the item, enter quantity. The catch here is that in AX we created an algorithm that dealt with ‘item and stock status’ or ‘items not or already present on location”. Once ready it took us one weekend to count all warehouses and all stores.
- Second priority: Give some control back to the people on the floor. If AX doesn’t know measurements of locations or items, or if vendors don’t deliver according to what they promise, then you have to be flexible. There is no way AX can tell you were to put the item based on wrong or none existing data. So let the warehouse employee decide were to put the item. This app should be as simple as scan the item, scan the “from location”, scan the location where the items should be placed and enter the quantity. Once again AX will take care of possible issues. Once ready, we cleared the inbound dock and were able to move items around within the warehouse.
- Third priority: Create crossdock functionality. Since most or part of the items were to be send right away to the stores it would be very beneficial to create crossdock functionality. With a small modification within AX it was easy to identify the items delivered and were meant for crossdock to supply the shops and meant for the webshop.
- Fourth priority: Create outbound functionality from the general warehouse and receive functionality in the stores. This one was tricky. Not so much what the functionality should do but simply because there was no AX and Wifi available in the stores. And this is why I love working at Kaya Consulting, we have a team available for just that issue! So we created a mobile app using windows phone and the 4G network and that matched the outbound license plates functionality with what is scanned in the stores.
Today, the AX issue backlog is clear. The system is upgraded to the latest CU and we’re still busy, but now we are implementing all those cool features that the company have on their bucket list.
And yes, I’m bored again. So if you have a mission impossible for me. Do give me a call!
Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below and don`t forget to subscribe to our newsletter to be the first to receive our latest blog content!
“So can you help us?”, asked the logistics director
Let me summarize:
- You are not necessarily overstocked, but you are somewhat clueless about where your items are; maybe in this warehouse, maybe in another, maybe in transit or maybe in one of your many shops, even though you have one of the best barcode scanner applications.
- Customers don’t really receive the items they ordered on time. Sometimes they don`t receive it at all and sometimes they receive another item. You are happy with Dynamics CRM though but you are using CRM to register all complaints
Sounds familiar? Not yet? Then let`s continue.
- Vendors are supplying you, but they are not necessarily fulfilling their whole purchase order, nor do they deliver on time. Also on rather good days your vendors deliver your whole order, twice and you are saying Microsoft BizTalk might be the culprit?
- And because of all this your best demand planning system is unreliable? You think your 3 year old nephew`s logic can give better forecast than this multi-million-dollar system you just bought.
- Customers are standing in line at the cash registers wanting to pay for an item but your in house made point of sale system can’t process items that are not on stock in that store.
And these are only your most pressing issues, because you also have a backlog of 384 other items that needs addressing?
Yes, we can help you! “Yes We Can!”
“Are there any questions?”, I asked. No one of the 24 Dynamics AX and BizTalk professionals asked any questions. The customers` Business Process managers did have plenty of questions though. After I dismissed my multiple teams of six , I addressed them:
“Look, what you have implemented is theoretically correct. There is not one flaw in this picture; you have chosen the best of breed systems and I understand why. You have connected all those systems using almost a hundred interfaces and you are managing them through Microsoft Biztalk, so theoretically it’s all correct.”, I praised them. However, having 14 best of breed systems in practice means you have to manage this complexity as well. Your almost 100 interfaces are basically 100 points of failures and apparently they do fail”.
Too much theory, no relation to simple day to day practice!
The next discussions were about “Who of those 14 vendors was to blame?”, “Didn’t we test well enough?”, “Did we put too much pressure on these 14 partners?”, which I basically ignored as much as possible. Appreciating the state of the company these discussions were held at the wrong time by the wrong people.
After all the emotions and blaming the solving part was actually the easiest. “If you guys did everything with the best of breed systems, and according to the best practices available, using different consultants and change-managers, then the issue is simply just that!”, I told the logistics director. A moment of silence and then the acknowledgment followed “Too much theory, no relation to simple day in day practice!”
The next step was…
Do you want to find out how we solved their problems? Stay tuned!
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