Why we don't sell ERPs anymore.
OK, hear me out. Yes, I am the Practice Manager for Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations at Fusion5, so at first glance, it seems evident that we do sell and implement ERPs. But there's more to it.
If you ask me what I did five years ago, I'd tell you that I helped respond to a lot of RFPs. Our sales team was busy identifying and nurturing leads as part of the 'normal' sales process. It was a very traditional approach, and the typical customer premise was "I've got 1. an ageing ERP system or 2. a basic financial package which we've outgrown. But I'm definitely not interested in anything else."
The emphasis was very much on retaining line-of-business applications and investing in integration if and where deemed necessary.
So, we'd work our way through the RFP and answer hundreds of questions focussed on financials. “Do you have a chart of accounts?” Yes. “Can you do dimensions?” Yes. “Do you have warehouses?” Yes. And so on. Nearly every opportunity that walked in the door was along the same lines.
Nowadays, our customers ask us how we will help transform their entire business – not just the financials. Across all line-of-business solutions. Lock stock and barrel.
Sure, we still get the occasional request for just an ERP replacement or upgrade, but even that is part of a larger vision. In these cases, existing systems have turned into a bottleneck.
The ERP replacement is viewed as the necessary first step to enable growth. But it's also accepted that it's just a precursor to adding in new CRM functionality to improve customer service, adopting Office 365 to drive productivity, collaboration and mobility or implementing AI or machine learning into their business.
The irony is that in many cases, their independent applications work quite well – they do the job. But they are held together by integration Band-Aids, and won't scale to meet projected business growth, sales volumes and customer interactions.
Satya Nadella, Microsoft's CEO has been instrumental in Microsoft's own transformation to a business focussed on empowering people. And this wonderfully simple, single-minded proposition has driven the subsequent transformation of their Dynamics offerings.
When Microsoft announced that all of their Dynamics solutions would move to the cloud (CRM was available as a web-hosted version from 2007), it took some getting used to. Even some of the senior solution architects I knew struggled to get their head around a cloud version of Dynamics AX2012!
But by the time Dynamics 365 was rolled out in 2016 we were all agreed that yes, this is the future.
The way Microsoft has built their products means they all work in harmony. It's really clever. You can be working in Dynamics 365 Finance & Operations, but also have direct integration with Excel, Dynamics 365 CE, Office and Teams.
Dynamics 365 is easier to use; it's much more intuitive than any of the old platforms. But it required us to transform both the way we use it and the way we implement it. So now we have a different sort of consultant and a new approach to implementation.
Our new approach sees us get Dynamics 365 in and up and running faster, so our customers realise the business advantages and see genuine value (think ROI) far more quickly. And because it's continually updated, they'll never have to worry about outgrowing it.
Instead of selling and implementing ERPs, we help our customers bring a much bigger vision to life.
They may choose to start with the ERP functionality, but it can just as easily be the CE (Customer Engagement aka CRM). Or they may want them done concurrently. The decision is generally based on where they will make the fastest business gains.
Now, we're selling a total, future-proofed business environment. It's a very, very powerful concept.
And we find that customers who are focussed on growth and managing complexity are coming to us specifically asking for a Dynamics Finance & Operations solution. They've done their research, and they know what they're looking for before they even start the RFP process. And quite frankly, if other solutions can't offer the same immersive level of end-to-end native integration, they're not going to survive.
It's also my belief that even the partner market will get smaller. Customers want to deal with one partner who can offer a complete solution and full range of services – from SharePoint to Office 365, to Finance and Operations, to a sophisticated support model.
And that partner will need strong credentials and great people who can guide and support customers on their journey.
Fusion5 Practice Manager – Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations