Wednesday, May 22, 2019
How ERP Managed Services Can Improve D365 Efficiency
Posted by Taylor Gordon
As companies strive to improve the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of their ERP systems, a growing number are shifting to managed services support agreements to help them avoid the complexity of application maintenance and upgrades.
Unlike a traditional fee-for-service plan in which every ticket triggers fees, a managed services agreement creates a support-as-a-service framework that enhances the organization’s ability to maintain its ERP system effectively, while also creating cost stability.
One of the most compelling aspects of the managed service support model is that it replaces a traditional time-based billing model with a consistent monthly price. This shift offers a number of benefits, starting with budgetary predictability.
Because the price is fixed, IT professionals can get the support they need without being concerned that a ticket is going to start the meter running on an expensive bill. And organizations are spared from wide swings in support-related costs, such as unbudgeted spikes following an unexpected technical issue. With this cost predictability, the organization is better able to focus on its business and processes while managing its investment in software updates and testing more efficiently.
In addition, managed service plans are typically offered in tiers that can be customized to meet a specific organization’s support needs. Some may need a higher level of support tickets, for example, while others are more interested in advanced features or software customization. In either case, an organization can work with its provider to design the most effective plan.
Software Update Support
Another vital component of a managed services agreement is support for your company’s software updates. Microsoft, for instance, issues updates for Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations on a monthly basis, and organizations have to test and validate these updates before deploying them in their production environments. This is especially important for companies in heavily regulated industries such as life sciences, where updates can cause compliance challenges as well as software performance issues.
Depending on the scope of a given update, and the timing of that month within a company’s business cycles (such as busy seasons or quarter closings), an update may be relatively minor or it can cause significant challenges. The complexity also depends on factors including what’s changed in the software, the business functions that are affected, and any issues that emerge during validation.
It’s important to understand this complexity before the testing process begins. Using a managed service provider to support update-related testing and validation can speed this awareness by helping you identify affected processes and potential issues more rapidly. For example, the provider may use automated regression testing to help highlight any problems resulting from a software update as well as any affected business processes.
It’s also critical to maintain your pre-production environment with the same rigor as your production deployment. The pre-production environment plays an important role in testing and validating software updates and customizations, yet it is often overlooked in most support plans. This oversight can dilute the effectiveness of your testing and can cause negative implications for your overall system performance.
When evaluating potential managed service providers, ask about the types and frequency of communication you can expect. For instance, you should receive detailed explanations about upcoming or just-released software updates, as well as regular status meetings and discussions about your system and business needs.
This consistent interaction will provide several benefits. One is that the support specialists working with you will gain an understanding of your business challenges, turning the relationship into a collaborative partnership instead of a series of ticket-based support requests. In addition, the fact that the support team works with a variety of clients means they can share lessons learned at other organizations.
This collaborative relationship extends to the support team and your ERP software provider. Because the support specialists speak the provider’s language and have their own relationship within the provider’s developers, they’re able to communicate issues clearly and advocate on your behalf if the need arises.
An effective managed services support plan should include detailed reporting to help you get the most from your plan and your ERP implementation. In addition to tracking service requests to reduce the risk of overages, your reporting dashboard should also help you understand which software features you’re using and identify any tools that you’re paying for, but not taking advantage of.
Planning for Major Upgrades
When organizations consider major upgrades to their ERP platform, it’s also a good time to consider support needs. Along with reviewing your current system and its performance, it’s important to plan for the required testing that will accompany the upgrade and your post-implementation support needs.
Do you have the capabilities and resources to test and validate monthly updates? How will the upgrade affect any customizations you’ve installed? Many organizations reviewing these questions decide a managed service support model offers a more effective approach than relying on internal resources.