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The Messy Middle

Things not going to plan with your Dynamics deployment/update/upgrade? You could be caught in the messy middle….and having conversations that go something like this:

Client: That’s not what I expected.

Partner: Here’s the spec/agreement, we’ve delivered exactly what you asked for.

The thing is both parties are right. The housing association may ask for something but only focus on one part of the process or not explain the bigger picture to the supplier. The supplier will often deliver what’s been asked for in accordance to a defined spec/agreement and not ask any probing questions. So, what goes wrong? In this blog I’ll provide a handful of causes (there are lots more) and solutions.

Poor relationship with the supplier – At this point the project can be doomed. Don’t get me wrong most suppliers will remain professional but it’s the little bits of advice they provide off the cuff that can make all the difference when for example you’re about to go live.

Why is that a problem?

  • Delays in deployment
  • Suppliers adopt a ‘work to rule’ attitude
  • Many more….

Any solutions?

  • Share what you are trying to achieve with the supplier. Provide the big picture so they can buy in to your journey
  • Agree a contract that works for both parties
  • Provide (or put in place) clear guidelines on roles and responsibilities as well as scheduling when your staff and the supplier will be focusing on your project.
  • Collaborate on a plan with regular updates on progress

A pushy supplier – We’ve all been there; the supplier tries to push a solution that will make them more profit or a solution that will then require further ‘add ons’ (often at additional cost) to get the functionality you require.

Why is that a problem?

  • They may not want to work with other partners – You don’t want to be stuck with one supplier in a Microsoft ecosystem that has lots of great solutions/suppliers.
  • Cost – Dynamics isn’t cheap, with ‘additional extras’ you may struggle to keep up with the cost of maintaining the system moving forward
  • Prevents collaboration – If someone has one solution they are trying to sell then it can be difficult to modify it or get your organisations stamp on it.

Any solutions?

  • Visit lots of previous customers – understand how the company were to work with throughout the process including support after go live.
  • See above – The solutions to dealing with a pushy supplier are similar to those solutions when you’re struggling with a poor relationship.

A Supplier who doesn’t take time to understand how you work – you need someone who understands/seeks to understand the weird and wonderful ways your organisation works. If questions aren’t being asked and you’re not being challenged (in a positive way) then it will be difficult to deliver a solution that fits your needs.

Why is that a problem?

  • You can potentially fall into the pushy supplier syndrome – see above
  • The solution doesn’t meet the business need

Any solutions?

  • Set out what you want and need
  • Involve the supplier in any colleague facing sessions so they can understand the nitty gritty of the issues staff are facing.
  • Involve the supplier in the project from the start and possibly have them on site so they can sit with staff and understand how they work and deal with challenges.

The person leading the project is doing it as part of ‘the day job’ – Lets face it the day job will come first. In particular the firefighting that needs to be done when we must do what we’re here to do….look after people.

Why is that a problem?

  • Lack of time to focus on how an implementation will impact colleagues across the business
  • Lack of guidance for suppliers – who may need to talk things through, or even worse, make assumptions because they’re unable to get hold of someone
  • Delays – if someone has lots of plates to spin then there are inevitably delays.

Any solutions?

  • A full time secondment for the chosen person so they can focus on the project – I appreciate that this can be costly but so are delays in deployment and getting the system wrong.

Lack of organisational understanding – The person who is leading the project from the business doesn’t have a broad understanding of the housing association. This becomes more of an issue in bigger housing associations that may have more services on offer. 

Why is that a problem?

  • If you don’t understand how the organisational cogs work together you are in danger of tunnel vision and only focusing on one aspect of the solution.

Any Solutions?

  • Spend time understanding what you want to achieve with Dynamics (this should be pulled from a strategic objective) both now and in the next few years – use this to understand who’s going to be impacted
  • Work with key stakeholders throughout the process – produce a great comms plan so everyone knows what’s going on
  • Give stakeholders the freedom to raise issues and potential solutions along the way. See my blog on pre-motems for a great tool to use at project kick off

Lack of technical understanding – I can speak first-hand about this one. I’m from a customer experience background and had no technical knowledge about CRM (that’s what it was called back in 2010) or how the functionality/architecture can impact the way its deployed and who needs to be involved.

Why is that a problem?

  • The detail you provide the supplier could be interpreted differently.
  • You could be providing the wrong detail.
  • It can impact the whole project from initiation through to test, training and go live.

Any solutions?

Fortunately, there are lots of ways to bring yourself up to speed. Certainly, more than back in 2010. Here’s a few that have helped me

  • D365 UG – A user group that helps keep you up to speed with the latest in Dynamics and the power platform.
  • Microsoft learn – A brilliant resource that can take you through various learning paths depending on your experience
  • Speak with other Housing associations – The great thing about this sector is that we share knowledge. Over the past 10 years more and more HA’s have deployed Dynamics (sometimes with mixed results). Become a member of #D365ForHousing and I’ll spread the word if you need to get in contact with others.
  • Join #D365ForHousing – we have lots of blogs, free solutions and Q&A sessions from those who have done this before.

Share your experiences of the messy middle in the comments below…

Are you in the messy middle or about to engage with a supplier? We offer a great service just for you.

Not sure where to start, or you’d like to mix and match the features above? Why not..

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