When a supplier of IT solutions is faced with such a task, it is important that targets and expectations are agreed upon beforehand. It is also important that, as a customer, one is aiming to ensure that the core processes are supported and not burdened by unnecessary complexity.
Microsoft’s cloud-based solution is different in a number of technical areas, but the major difference is that Microsoft owns the operations part of the product platform and that configuration and installation is delivered through data packages to the production environment.
Also, as you do not have access to the SQL-datase in Azure or access rights to code small scripts that correct faulty data in the system, you need to plan and not at least test the processes and configurations thoroughly, before data is deployed to the production environment.
It is therefore important to test the deployment processes of the data multiple times and to make sure that the test cases clearly reveal that the solution is working as intended. The lack of access to the SQL- database on the supplier and client side prevents using a simple ”backup and restore” between the environments. It therefore must be part of the planning process that such operations are now done through opening a support ticket with Microsoft. Depending on what kind of service level agreement the company has with Microsoft, the backup will be completed within 48 hours or less.
One of the primary pillars of Microsoft’s cloud-based solution and Microsoft’s strategy of ‘cloud first’ across platforms is to ensure an agile environment for the customers, particularly when it comes to new functions and opportunities being more frequently released.
The standard solution offers a lot more today than it used to, and the things which are missing are presumably going to be provided within 3-6 months, as Microsoft continues releasing new features for the platform. This forces companies to think more in terms of solution governance and support and release management, rather than having the internal IT capacity to customise the ERP-platform.
Whereas previously the IT organisation had to make sure that the ERP-platform was stable, that backups were taken and that the infrastructure worked, now it is more a matter of making sure that one has effective ITIL and support ticket processes.
Known bugs and defects in the standard product must now to a much greater extent be reported to Microsoft; this ensures that errors are solved by the supplier of the product and not, as it is now, where many issues are solved by the IT department and thereby potentially bypassing the opportunity to get a fix from Microsoft installed.
Integrated IT is becoming increasingly important for the ability of companies to run an efficient business with LEAN processes. The process owners must to a far greater extent come up with more effective processes using IT, but they are continually provided with information and inspiration for new approaches concurrently with new features being added to the platform.
What might be a burdensome process right now is perhaps solved in a new release 2 months down the road when the ”monthly update” on the AX is released from Microsoft. Release-planning of new features and opportunities therefore become an important part of the process owners’ work.