ERP systems, like any other tool, are only as good as the people that use them. Not even the best system in the world can save you from yourself unless you're willing to put in the effort and learn the ropes. In the below article, Advantage Service Delivery and Projects Director, Dave Whitham, shares the top five common Dynamics NAV mistakes customers make.
While Dave specifically talks to Dynamics NAV users, it's important to keep in mind that the principles behind each of these five mistakes can be extended to include many other systems.
1. Not knowing/using all of the system’s features
The most obvious yet overlooked mistake I find with Dynamics NAV customers that come to us for help is not understanding clearly what the whole system can do.
I've been into many businesses where the entire team tries to blame the faults of the product on their current version of the system or on bad business processes. They often come to us because another partner told them they'd be getting one thing, but they, unfortunately, feel like they got another. So much customer frustration comes from users manually doing things that can easily be automated.
Take Fixed Assets, for example. Almost every customer I’ve been to in the past eight months either does not track their Fixed Assets or doesn’t use Dynamics NAV to do so, i.e. they’re still relying on Excel. This means they may be doing manual journals in the finance system for acquisition, depreciation and write off/sale of those fixed assets. This also means they are having to manually (or sometimes via formulas) calculate the amount of depreciation on a fixed asset in each period.
Rather than wasting precious time and getting frustrated with manual repetitive work, users can very easily bring this whole process into the Dynamics NAV system and automate most or all of those tasks. Both Dynamics NAV and Dynamics Business Central can do more than just acquisition/depreciation and write off/sale of your fixed assets, they can also handle maintenance contracts and associated costs, insurance costs and certificates.
Of course, it isn't the customer’s fault that they don't know this. It's up to account managers and support staff to guide customers through the system and really make sure that they are using the product in line with their business needs. This is the reason we encourage regular account manager/client catch-ups. We want to make sure you’re not getting into bad habits and missing out on time-saving solutions.
2. Not taking training seriously
Training leads perfectly from the first mistake of not knowing/using all of the system’s features.
So many companies think that one quick workshop is all they need to become experts in a new system or new way of working. This is wrong. Training, especially continuous training, i.e. refreshers, are critical to ensuring your team is up-to-speed on best practice usage.
A lot of customers have reservations about booking more than a couple of training sessions because they think it's a money grabbing tool by ERP partners – this is a flawed way to think about it. Obviously, if you think your ERP partner is not providing you with the proper or best training possible then by all means looks elsewhere, but if you simply think that all training is just a way for partners to make money off you then you're missing a critical part (and advantage) to having an ERP partner in the first place.
Advantage runs rigorous training programmes for most of its products and also offers tailored training to clients who have more nuanced needs.
3. Insisting on development work to the ERP solution rather than considering changes to business processes
We all know that there are some industry-specific business processes that cannot be changed because they have to be executed in a very precise way in order to meet regulatory compliance. In this instances, Dynamics NAV's and Dynamics Business Central's ‘out of the box' features may not be able to accommodate without the help of a development and modification.
However, more often than not, we find businesses insisting on modification simply because their particular business has strange or outdated internal processes. It’s completely understandable that some businesses get attached to their unique internal processes – it’s worked for us up until now, why change it, right? Well, in order to improve you need to change. As the saying goes, if you don’t change what you’re doing you’ll always get the same outcome.
Part of the reason businesses get ERP systems is to improve business performance, but you cannot improve performance unless you bring process into the equation. Simply keeping your old processes out of habit or because you don't want to ‘rock the boat' with internal staff is not a good enough reason for you to not change the way you work. Another important thing to keep in mind is that excessive development work inevitably leads to an increase in the cost of future upgrades, due to all the bespoke work that needs to go into upgrading you to a new system or version.
One of the most over-complicated business processes I see regularly is expense management, specifically the putting in of expenses and the approval process for expenses and purchases. The approval hierarchy is sometimes far more complex than is required. We also commonly find that over time, companies tend to get multiple 3rd party solutions to handle complicated internal business processes that really don't need to be done in the first place. This is a huge waste of time and money.
4. Not fully testing the system/rushing in
The business cycle moves incredibly fast these days and businesses want solutions to their problems almost instantaneously, however, businesses must keep in mind that patience is often a virtue. Rather than rushing towards a go-live date, businesses need to test the system fully before it starts affecting the entire operation.
This is a particular point of frustration from a Dynamics Consultant’s point of view as well, as they usually get blamed for any failures in a live system. In order to avoid this, businesses should always test the system rigorously in the UAT phase of a project. I see far too many businesses being satisfied with basic testing and then signing projects off straight away. Take it easy, hold your horses and test thoroughly so that problems come up before rather than after the go-live date.
A very simple example of this is the Procure to Pay process. Businesses should test everything from the raising of a purchase order to the receipt of a PO, to the Payment of the supplier, and all other processes that may fall under that main process, for example, supplier credits, returns or other tasks in the P2P process. Too often clients will only test one part of the process and assume that the rest of the process flow is fine.
5. Holding on to old technology
Just like holding on to bad/outdated business processes can seriously diminish your chances of success, so too does holding on to old technology. It's understandable that businesses hold on to old systems, upgrading ERP solutions can be expensive, but when there are serious gains being made with each new version of the product, in the end, you simply end up shooting yourself in the foot if you don't upgrade regularly.
Losing out on efficiency and doubling your working hours doing manual tasks is not the way to ‘cut costs by not upgrading'. I strongly recommend making an annual budget for upgrades; not every single piece of equipment will need yearly upgrades (for example, with ERP systems you could do one every three years) but there will inevitably be a CRM or some other part of your IT infrastructure that will need some TLC.
It's important too to remember that Microsoft runs on a five-year support cycle, so if you are using 2013 software or older, you need to start upgrading now as any bugs or patches found in those systems won’t get fixed. Updating regularly also ensures you remain compliant with things like the GDPR and the new Making Tax Digital requirement from HMRC.
Treating your ERP systems (indeed all your IT systems) with respect will allow them to perform as hard as your business needs them to. Investing in your tech is key.
Words by David Whitham
If you’d like to find out more about how Advantage can help you achieve ERP success, talk to us today.