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Microsoft Dynamics AX for Retail Implementation Best Practices

July 8th, 2014 Sandeep Walia No comments

I recently presented on this topic at the AX Users Group (AXUG) and have summarized best practices to focus on when doing the implementation. The key areas this blog article will focus on are

  • Scope of Implementation
  • Rollout
  • Change Management

Scope of ImplementationMicrosoft Dynamics AX for Retail is one of the few solutions providing an end-to-end retail solution which includes Financials, Inventory, Warehousing, Procurement, Store Management and Point of Sale. Because of the breadth of the functionality as well as an architecture that allows for integration with other solutions, customers have a series of implementation options as shown below.

  • Everything or Big Bang: If there are multiple systems that need to be replaced that are either not integrated today or loosely integrated this can be a good choice. The main downside to this is the amount of energy and horsepower required by the retailer and the implementation partner to pull this off successfully. This option is not for the faint of heart and requires a well thought out plan, sufficient resources and top management commitment.
  • Phase Implementation via packages: A list of packages are
    • Store Operations, Assisted Selling, Point of Sale
    • eCommerce, mobile-Commerce or mCommerce, Social Commerce
    • Customer Care and Marketing
    • Order Management, Inventory, Warehousing and Distribution
    • Financial Management, Management Reporting

If taking a phased approach, my preference is to do the financial implementation first as you can set out our base fundamentals right. That would include the chart of accounts, financial dimensions, reporting and ensuring our have a solid foundation for the rest of the implementation. The second preference would be to do the Front-end implementations first which is either the Store Operations and POS or the eCommerce and mobility. If you have to pick order management, warehousing, procurement I would typically recommend bundling in financials in that implementation as well. The up side of a phased implementation is that the scope is manageable and can ensure the organization is focused on getting it right without burdening the whole organization with the implementation. Th down side of a phased implementation is the need for intermediate interfaces as well as a longer duration which typically results in higher costs over a Big Bang approach.

implementation packages

The last piece of best practice advice around the scope is the most obvious one – to keep it manageable. If the internal implementation team is not scaled up to doing the whole implementation then it makes most sense to implement it in a phased manner. An example phasing is shown below

phasing of implementation

Rollout: A lot of retailers don’t think about rollout. But if you are doing a POS and Store operations implementation then you want to decide whether you rollout to all stores together or do a certain number of stores as pilot and then do staged rollouts after that. The upside of doing it all together is that you get it done with in one shot but it can be much harder to manage the change for all the in-store personnel at one go. The advantage of a staged rollout is manageability but you will need to interface to the older store system while rolling out even if you just to the GL to bring in the transactions for the stores that are not covered in the first rollout. Below is a list of parameters to think about while deciding one way or the other with the metrics usually found. I say usually because even though I would typically say anything more than 50 stores it is better to stage a rollout, in one instance we implemented to 400 stores in one shot since the cost of integrating with the system we were replacing was too high due to its legacy architecture.

 

Staged Rollout

All Stores in one Rollout

Number of Stores

50 stores or higher

Less than 50 stores

Number of users

More than 100 users

Less than 100 users

Internal change management capability

Low to Medium

High

Cost of Integrating with store system being replaced

Low to Medium

High

Change Management: I referenced change management in the rollout section and my experience is that retailers often significantly underestimate the amount of change management required to make a new implementation successful. Often the focus of Change management is the training for the in-store personnel. However a new retail business system like Microsoft Dynamics AX can transform an organization in a very positive fashion. However, without good change management you could end up with a very poor implementation as users may try to get the new system to be like the old system as opposed to adopting best practice business processes that come with Microsoft Dynamics AX.  Similarly poor change management can lead to lack of preparedness for data migration, under-trained staff and high resistance to a new system irrespective of the quality of the system. While everyone typically things of adding in a project manager, I would also recommend adding in a Change Manager in the organization that helps with all of the following

  • Expectation Management
  • Training
  • Project Communication
  • Business Process Improvement
  • Openness to a new system

A new implementation while challenging can be a lot of fun and an opportunity to not just modernize your business systems but also significantly revamp you processes to allow the organization to operate in a much more optimal fashion than before. I wish you the best on your implementation journey. For more information on implementing Microsoft Dynamics AX for Retail, please email us at retail@ignify.com.

Sandeep Walia is the CEO of Ignify. Ignify is a technology provider of ERP, CRM, eCommerce, and Point of Sale software solutions to organizations. Ignify is winner/finalist of the worldwide Microsoft Partner of the Year Award in 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011 and 2010. Ignify has been included as the fastest growing businesses for seven years in a row by Deloitte, Inc Magazine and Entrepreneur Magazine from 2007 to 2013.

Port of Long Beach launches Customer Portal integrated with Microsoft Dynamics AX

July 3rd, 2014 Sandeep Walia No comments

Port of Long Beach launches Customer Portal integrated with Microsoft Dynamics AXThe Port of Long Beach, which was recently named the world’s Best Green Seaport this month at the 28th annual Asian Freight & Supply Chain Awards, launched a web-based Customer Portal. This secure web application, created in partnership with Ignify, provides customers access to their billing information, vessel calls and related information. The Portal is now available to all Port customers with a valid e-mail address.

Via the internet, the Port’s customers can securely log in and view their vessel calls, invoices, payment history, annual minimums, breakpoints, lease terms and lease documents. Invoices can be reprinted or downloaded into a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet; customers can also pay invoices online using eChecks at no additional cost. The Customer Portal is fully integrated with Microsoft Dynamics AX, which the port uses for its financial management and analytical reporting processes.

Security features were integrated into the application from the start and customers have the option of restricting access by employee to certain types of account information based on security access levels. Most invoice and payment history is available back to October 2011. The Portal reflects the Port of Long Beach’s continued commitment to innovation and its ability to automate transactions that are done manually at most other seaports.

Ignify is pleased to have been a key partner in this engagement by providing the base Customer Portal for Microsoft Dynamics product as well as implementing the PORTS solution on Microsoft Dynamics AX.

Sandeep Walia is the CEO of Ignify. Ignify is a technology provider of ERP, CRM, eCommerce, and Point of Sale software solutions to organizations. Ignify is winner/finalist of the worldwide Microsoft Partner of the Year Award in 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011 and 2010. Ignify has been included as the fastest growing businesses in North America for seven years in a row by Deloitte, Inc Magazine and Entrepreneur Magazine from 2007 to 2013.

Boosting Insurance Customer Loyalty with CRM for Insurance

July 3rd, 2014 Ashley Harbaugh No comments

The power of the customer experience over insurance company profit margins cannot be underestimated.

How customers feel about your company, your products and service offerings, and your representatives directly influences profitable behavior. A customer won’t stick with a company that makes them feel uncomfortable, disrespected, or unappreciated.  

And with social media, smartphones, and tablets connecting people to their personal networks at all times, customers aren’t shy about sharing their experiences with their insurance company, either.   

According to the Customer Experience Index (CEI) in Capgemini’s 2014 World Insurance Report, data pulled from surveying over 15,500 insurance customers across 30 different countries found significant links between the customer experience and profitable customer behavior.

For example, the report found that, on average, customers who experienced positive interactions with their insurance company are nearly twice as likely to refer others to that company. Customer referrals are so important because they offer an important source of potential revenue for insurance companies. People are more likely to use a company that a trusted friend or family member is using.

The Customer Experience Index

The Customer Experience Index for insurance companies found that customers who had positive experiences with their insurers were nearly twice as likely to refer that company to others, as compared to customers who had negative or neutral experiences.

While it makes sense that a customer who has a negative experience isn’t likely to cultivate referrals, it doesn’t mean that customers with neutral experiences are that much better than negative customers. For example, in North America twice as many non-life customers with a neutral experience may switch compared to those with positive experiences. In other words, don’t think that customers who report a neutral experience are passive.

Getting a 360-degree View of the Customer

One of the crucial ways that an insurance company can help customers feel at home is to make sure that agents have access to all the details of a customer’s account, preferences, etc.

Having a personalized view of the customer allows your representatives to speak knowledgeably on the issues that most affect that particular customer. Because discussing services that don’t directly relate to the customer is not only a waste of time, but it also signals that you don’t really care enough about the customer to learn about him or her.  

And it’s also a waste of time for your agents. Why should they spend their time and energy trying to unsuccessfully upsell or cross-sell a service that their client has no interest in?

With a customer relationship management (CRM) system, agents have access to an in-depth customer database right at their fingertips – ensuring that no matter who or where the customer is, an agent can immediately see their account and get a better understanding of what they need.  

With CRM for Insurance, a CRM solution specifically for both life and non-life insurance companies, insurers benefit from a full 360-degree view of the customer. The CRM for Insurance customer database contains customer record pages that hold contact details for the customer, previous activities that agents have performed for the customer, any incidents or cases that need to be resolved or have been resolved in the past, etc.

Getting a 360-degree View of the Customer

By having access to the full activity history of a customer along with the current services they are using, insurance agents are able to upsell and cross-sell more effectively.  

Equipped with this information, agents are able to follow-up on past issues, ask how the customer is doing with their current services, and provide recommendations specifically tailored to the customers’ needs and wants. With this type of service, customers feel valued.

And with CRM for Insurance customer records providing this specific information, agents are able to pinpoint the additional services that would most appeal to the customer – and thus more successfully upsell and cross-sell.      

Connecting with Customers in All Channels

An important part of connecting with customers is to engage with them on their terms. With the phone, Internet, and brick-and-mortar offices all presenting different customer touch-points, it’s crucial for agents to provide a consistent experience across channels.

With CRM for Insurance, agents are able to create different engagement activities, and follow through with them accordingly. Want to schedule a phone call with a customer? Or send an email? They can be done with just a click of a button.

Connecting with Customers in All Channels

Agents are able to create tasks (such as phone calls, emails, etc.), keeping them organized and focused on serving the customer.

And with the system’s customer database, it doesn’t matter if a customer contacts an agent through email, or phone, or in-person – with the ability to instantly access their information, agents are able to handle questions, troubleshoot issues, or offer information through any channel.

If you would like more information on how CRM for Insurance can improve your customer engagement, please email us at insurance@ignify.com.

Ashley Harbaugh is a Marketing Coordinator at Ignify. Ignify is a technology provider of ERP, CRM, eCommerce, and Point of Sale software solutions to organizations. Ignify is winner/finalist of the worldwide Microsoft Partner of the Year Award in 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, and 2010. Ignify has been included as the fastest growing businesses in North America for seven years in a row by Deloitte, Inc Magazine and Entrepreneur Magazine from 2007 to 2013.