The implementation steps of most ERP projects, regardless of the industry, usually consist of the following phases: analysis and design, development, training, testing and rollout.
However, what varies from industry to industry, is how much customisation of the standard or out-of-the-box solutions is required. While standard D365 might already be a good fit for companies in some industries, our experience tells us that implementations for utilities providers require significant customisation.
Project implementation specific to utilities and infrastructure companies
Customers from the same industry usually require similar customisations. Therefore, a solution like Utilities and Infrastructure Management (UIM) having the required functionality reduces the need for further customisations. This makes implementation projects easier to manage, and with fewer customisations, the project is simplified in almost all phases of the implementation, making it more standardised, less costly, quicker and with fewer risks.
By comparing our past projects before UIM was available with recent projects, we have noticed a significant reduction in duration. With all the customisations, implementation projects often used to last around two years. More recently this timescale has been reduced to about one year, thanks to customers deciding to use UIM.
All in all, Utilities and Infrastructure Management solution can increase the speed of implementation by as much as 80%,
meaning that if utilities and infrastructure companies decide to use the out of the box Dynamics 365 with custom implementation, it would take on average almost a year more to implement than opting for Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations and UIM as an industry solution (add-on).
Utilities and Infrastructure Management solution – tested, reliable and always up-to-date
While implementation projects usually end within the first two or three months after the rollout of the new system, the lifecycle of the production system itself has just begun. With the introduction of Microsoft Dynamics 365, with its regular new releases and strict update policy, and where customers are not allowed to trail behind the current version, Microsoft has made system maintenance easier in terms of customers always using the most reliable and safest version. However, at the same time it is also somewhat harder, as customisations must be tested with every new release of D365 – this is known as ‘One Version’.
By using UIM, customers have less customisations to test and can rest assured that UIM will work seamlessly with the Dynamics 365 updates, as BE-terna takes care of the compatibility of UIM with any D365 releases. Furthermore, with new UIM releases, customers also receive bugfixes, improvements and new features.
Managing complex infrastructure projects in electric, power, gas and water companiesExplore
How to stay on budget and on time with big ERP implementation projects - 5 rules for successful ERP implementation in utilities and infrastructure companies
Learning from our past projects, we have been able to identify 5 key aspects which promote successful implementations.
1. Define business objectives early on
It is recommended to identify the key reasons why a new ERP system is needed. Management must set clear objectives and cascade them down the organisation, whether it is about simplifying or updating business processes, using the standard solution as much as possible, having more elaborate reports, or satisfying regulatory requirements, etc. Such objectives become invaluable during implementation as they can serve as a very effective tool to steer clear of the pitfalls of customising the system, having to deal with change requests, or the competing interests of having a new system.
2. Detailed analysis and design
Whatever is defined in the first phase of the project will be used as input later on. Ensuring sufficient levels of detail in this phase gives the project a sound foundation. Anything missed or overlooked will surface later on in the form of change requests, potentially causing increased costs, scope and duration. This is particularly important for big projects, where additional costs and delays can become overwhelming.
3. Limit customisations
The standard version of the new solution can never satisfy all the requirements and cannot be identical to the legacy system. Companies therefore regularly face the decision of a trade-off between customising the standard solution or changing their business processes to adhere to the standard solution. Our experience tells us that going forward with customisation is sensible only in rare cases. Opting for the standard wherever possible and modifying the processes rather than the solution has proved to be key in successful implementations. Customisations are only to be used for the most critical and unmodifiable parts of processes. This way companies can avoid countless customisations of little added value, which can, once they accumulate, increase the duration and cost of the implementation, and also possibly increase the cost of maintenance later on. When the standard solution cannot support parts of business processes, extensions to the standard are a better option than customisations.
4. Handle change management with all seriousness
Changing an ERP system is a challenge for any company; the bigger the company, the greater the challenge. The success of the implementation and later adoption of the new system will depend heavily on how well a company can manage changes. Changes will be made in business processes, reporting, employee roles and responsibilities, usage of the new system, etc. Making changes welcome in an organisation takes significant effort; some companies even decide to hire professionals in change management to guide them through the process.
5. Maintain customer engagement from the beginning to the end of the project
Customer employees who participate in implementation projects also have, in addition to their daily responsibilities, various project assignments. It can happen that competing obligations reduce the time employees are able to spend on the project. Knowing that ERP implementation projects require customer input during every single phase, this can have a negative impact on the project in terms of increased duration, missing input for further work, miscommunication, etc.
Therefore, keeping the future users engaged is one of the most important tasks for project managers.
If you are interested in learning more about the typical project implementation phases, check out my blog ERP implementation from a project perspective, where I describe and explain each phase of the process in more detail.