The objective of this post is to provide a high level overview of different stages in the implementation of Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central (D365BC) to help companies prepare for it and to empower them to control the process.
If you are looking for D365BC implementation packages or would like to learn more about what D365BC is, including its modules, its financial reporting capabilities, the industries and sectors it serves, its license types and their prices, visit the corresponding page or contact us.
This post may be of interest to business managers, directors, project managers, consultants, financial officers, end users and Microsoft Partners in Canada and beyond. Users of other ERP (enterprise resource planning) systems (e.g. Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance and Microsoft Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management) may find the post useful as similar planning stages may apply.
All D365BC implementations performed by Edocation usually include the following seven stages: preparation (1), analysis (2), design (3), training (4), UAT (user acceptance testing, 5), deployment (6) and transitioning to support (7). Each of these are briefly described below.
This stage starts with preliminary consultations, demonstrations and discussions between. The result of these should be the document called SOW (statement of work) – the implementation contract outlining the key objectives, overall strategies to achieve them and in/out of scope items.
It is also usually during this stage that the D365BC environment gets set up. The project preparation flows seamlessly into the analysis stage.
The analysis stage focuses on deepening understanding of business processes and how those can be covered and enhanced in the system. The result of this analysis is documented in the FRD (functional requirement document) and the process of gathering the details and identifying any missing processes or functions is referred to as Fit Gap Analysis. An FRD is more specific than an SOW as it seeks to answer how exactly the business objective outlined in the SOW are going to be achieved (e.g. by using certain setups, development, workarounds, etc.).
In some cases, the analysis stage may result in a document called a CR (change request) – this type of implementation document is used if the detailed analysis has uncovered something that is missing or different in the original SOW (e.g. downsizing the scope, additional work, change of the project timeline etc.).
In parallel with the analysis, the project charter is prepared – the document that explains, who is involved in the project, what their responsibilities on the project are and how they can be reached by other project participants. At the same time, the project manager starts working on the project plan, the document that outlines each stage of the project (in detail) and the related timeline. The timeline may need to be adjusted as the project progresses, but it is important to have dates and specific goals to work towards. The next stage of the implementation is the design.
The design stage of the implantation is centered around setting up the system, testing it, doing development (if any) and otherwise preparing the system to meet all the in-scope users’ objectives efficiently and effectively.
One of the goals to save time and money on an implementation should be minimizing or altogether avoiding (which Edocation team has been able to accomplish successfully on different projects) any development. Besides savings, it also achieves another aim – increasing system stability and decreasing maintenance efforts (and costs) – this is because Microsoft free updates and fixes can be rolled out effortlessly and there are fewer extensions (D365BC “plugins”) to maintain.
Around this time, the project manager schedules weekly meetings (AKA “scrum“) with all the key project participants. These meetings are a high level overview of the accomplishments, next steps and other related matters. It is important that agendas should be prepared ahead of time for extra productivity. These meetings should also be documented in the weekly minutes of meeting (“MOM”) – this is to keep track of all the key decisions, achievements, delays, etc. and to help hold all the parties accountable for the project outcome and the ongoing progress. The design stage is closely associated with the training stage.
A successful implementation usually involves multiple project management strategies, techniques and methodologies, such as agile (different teams focusing on different things in parallel) and waterfall (one piece of work is started when the other one is completed) approaches. For this reason, training usually occurs not after the design, but alongside of it. For example, design and training on financials and Dimensions commonly happen within the same sprint (a set of actions to do a task).
Depending on the project objectives, master (e.g. G/L Accounts, Customers, Vendors, Items) data migration may happen in the design or training (if required) stage. Sometimes, data migration can be a separate stage on its own to meet the project objectives more efficiently.
The common training methodology in D365BC implementation is “train the trainer“. According to this methodology, the training is provided to the SMEs (subject matter experts) only as opposed to all the end users all together. For example, instead of training the whole AP department, only the AP project leader (SME) is trained. This approach allows accomplishing three goals:
a) avoiding unnecessary delays due to differences in learning styles;
b) saving project money as the SMEs become their team’s first line of support and this way all the questions (sometimes same question is asked by different people) are asked to them first and only then to the consultants, if necessary;
c) stimulating learning from colleagues among end users which further contributes to the better dynamics of learning.
For training sessions Edocation specialists prepare agendas and hand-outs (e.g. shortcut keys, formulas) to help optimize time and help users learn more efficiently and effectively. The UAT stage follows training.
During this stage, the core system functions are tested. Both of testing happens: positive (something works as expected) and negative (what happens if something is done in error). At this stage, users are usually tasked with running their business processes in the system end-to-end.
If any development has been done, it is tested by users too. The results are reported directly to the responsible person (the consultant or the developer) or are recorded in the UAT log which is prepared by the project manager. All the fixes to the key functions are provided and retested within this stage. This stage is followed by deployment.
The deployment stage revolves around the following:
a) the cut-off date & time – the date and time when all the posting ceases in the old (legacy) system; it usually happens one or 0.5 day prior to the Go-Live to allow the users to prepare the opening balances (e.g. AP, AR and inventory count and cost);
b) the Go-Live date – the date on which the users start working in the new system. This should be the first business day of the month for a clean start of an accounting period although the system is capable of accommodating Go-Lives any time.
c) the post Go-Live support – a period of time (approx. two weeks) during which users and consultants work closely together to monitor the system and to address issues (if any) as soon as possible.
7. Transitioning to Support
About one month into Go-Live, companies migrate their opening G/L balances. Around this point of time, conversations about Phase II scope start – for example, implementing new modules, Power BI, etc.
Importantly, it is in the second month that the company transitions from the mainstream implementation to ongoing support. Edocation provides several support plans at a discounted hourly rate to help companies save money and predict their maintenance cost. The pay as you go option is available at a regular rate. Moreover, companies can take advantage of additional discounts and savings by referring their partners to Edocation for ERP implementation.
This post has briefly covered the key stages of Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central implementation. The related terminology, including in connection with documentation, has been discussed. Companies implementing D365BC can take advantage of this information to help make their next ERP implementation a success.
Edocation adheres to the best practices of D365BC implementation at every stage. If you would like to discus your ERP needs, contact us.