By 5 August 2022 | Categories: news


By Devan Gounder, Senior Manager Professional Services at Altron Karabina 

Modern systems, such as fully rounded ERP platforms, are crucial to the successful running of a business, especially as work environments and industries evolve at breakneck speeds. With this in mind, it’s no surprise that a cloud-based platform such as Microsoft Dynamics 365 has become increasingly prevalent in boardroom discussions. The key to getting the best out of such a system, however, is ensuring integration with legacy data and reporting. 

Microsoft has been investing heavily in its evolution into the leading cloud ecosystem that it is today, ensuring that every piece of the puzzle is well thought out, and so that users of the Microsoft suite have layers upon layers of applications all designed for the same ecosystem.  

That being said, many organisations have invested in other, often disparate, products and platforms over the years. Some of these organisations already use Microsoft products, while still trying to hold onto legacy systems. While it makes strategic sense to invest entirely into one ecosystem, the reality is that there needs to be important integrations before this discussion can even start taking place.  

There are a number of reasons behind the imperative to bring old data into the new system, such as compliance and regulatory requirements, with the mandated retention of record period for financial information being five years. But beyond that, we live in a data-driven world - the organisation needs this data. If it is to run trending, for example, the only way this can happen is if it has information to trend against, and that comes from the historic data. The same holds true for comparative analyses and various types of forecasting.  

The biggest challenge arises when trying to integrate and work with legacy and modern data, in other words, seamlessly bringing a new system into your existing environment. It is here that working with a partner with many years of experience is crucial, because of the IP they bring to the project working with D365 or any other software integration. They have knowledge and experience in moving data from an old system into a new system. It’s not easy, but it is certainly doable and that’s how the discussion around integration should be framed.  

The starting point in any integration is that you need to bring historic information into the new system. How do we integrate our old data back to where we have our current data, and then move forward from there? This is often complex because the designs in different environments can be so different, and it starts off with a transformational mapping exercise to ensure that as much granular data as possible can be extracted. 

In order to get this right, all of this information has to be combined into a single platform - a data warehouse - which enables organisations to bring together information from different ERP systems (including from different D365 offerings such as for Customer Engagement or Finance & Operations) as well as other information sets from third-party systems. This gives leaders within the organisation the ability to overlay financial and operational information to provide valuable insights that they can then use to make informed decisions. 

Only once this important part of the project has been achieved, can you allow users to actually use and work with the new platform. It’s here where the project team and implementation switch into a new gear and start talking about the value-add, in other words, how does the organisation now get the most out of D365 and the greater Microsoft suite to achieve its unique set of goals in its unique circumstances? 

Key ingredients to integration success 

Whenever you are implementing any software, not just D365, your end-users and key stakeholders must be heavily involved in the process. If you don’t have that unified buy-in from the start, you lose one of the key drivers of success of any implementation and integration.  

Once you have acceptance, and the right team is in place, the next step to ensuring successful integration is communicating. Are we consistently and constantly communicating the right things, at the right time, to the right people? Even before looking at technology, it’s crucial to look at the people within the organisation, and to find a match between the two - and this is where change management comes into play. Teams can talk about architecting environments and ensuring all core features exist, but if people are not made aware of this, and being trained up on it, then ultimately the project team will lose their buy-in.  

Often, the difference between success and failure lies in the efficacy of coordinated communication. It’s simple but crucial. Partners must be confident and experienced to get that message across - ensuring that the customer understands how a new product is perfectly geared towards achieving a set of objectives important to the business. For example, if an integration requires one extra step, that may be annoying, but that one step may open five other benefits that directly serve the goals of the business. That’s the role of the consultant - making apparent what may not be immediately clear to the organisation.  

Another key ingredient to successful integration is a healthy dose of realism. As much as everyone would love to see perfection, it seldom exists when moving from one system to another, and there will be elements that a customer does not necessarily “like”, compared to what they are used to. This is not unlike choosing any product - we make a choice based on the pros and cons, and we learn to live with the things we may not like 100%. It’s also not an overnight process and collaboration is required to find the best way and get the project over the line. 

Finally, and this is more an Altron Karabina trait than an industry norm, you want a partner that’s there to walk with you along the journey. This is very different from a team doing a quick implementation, leaving it on the table and running off to the next job. Meaningful integrations work best when a partner and a customer get in the trenches together and build and maintain deep relationships, where partners deeply understand the business’s pain points and areas of friction.  

This is how the best roadmaps are designed to get a business to where they want and need to be. Remember, technology should never exist for its own sake. It should always serve an important purpose. And so, when integrating D365, which is part of the broader Microsoft suite, partners and customers must walk a journey together, incrementally unleashing the power of technology to achieve real and measurable business results. 


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