Everyone talks about project-based ERP, so it must be pretty important. Right?

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Of course, it is. If you are a project-based business, then your ERP system should reflect the needs of a project-based business. Anyone that lives and breathes accounting or ERP software will tell you how important it is. What they may forget to tell you is how important it is to ensure that the rest of your software environment is also designed to support the unique needs of a project-based business.

Accountants care about project accounting, but there is a long list of project stakeholders and many of them are “working the project” long before the customer signs contracts. Some of them never even participate in the project. Some of them are the customers themselves.

When does the project really begin?

Velosio project based ERP

Project-based businesses typically have both direct sales people and customer sales people, pre-sales experts, purchasing agents, and other operations staff that capture important customer data long before a project is scoped and contracts are negotiated. Information captured to provide a quote or proposal may be stored on paper, in email, Excel, or in a CRM system. More often than not, that’s where most of it stays. Why should the customer have to regurgitate and revisit each conversation after contracts are signed? Why should project team members not have the same understanding as the sales team?

A forward-thinking services firm is not only capturing data for the sales process, but capturing it in a way that will support onboarding, launch, delivery, support and ultimately sales and marketing again down the road.

Poor information sharing isn’t unique to the sales cycle. Customers, consultants, designers, and even executives interact with customers throughout the customer lifecycle and often tend to capture information in disparate systems. It would be easy to continue listing processes that feed into or emanate from a project, but anyone that works for a project-based business can do that.  The important thing to take away from this article will be that all systems need to be tailored to support efficient and profitable project delivery from the first quote to the receipt of cash.

Enter Microsoft Dynamics 365

Just as the name suggests, Dynamics 365 is designed to support the entire business. From sales and marketing to accounting, operations, recruiting, scheduling, project management and analytics. What’s more important, it is built to work seamlessly with other cloud applications like Microsoft Office 365 to provide continuity and ease user adoption.

Buyers of Dynamics 365 are investing in a Business Platform, not a stand-alone system for a given department. 

Most implement in phases beginning with sales, accounting, customer service, or project automation. For each of these common workloads, there are dozens of competing products capable of providing the same features and functions. There are few, if any, that work together across the entire business as a singular platform. Those that are capable of doing so tend to be less cost-effective and lack in one or more areas. Over 95% of US companies have already committed some, if not most, of their infrastructure around Microsoft tools like Azure, Office 365 and SQL Server.  Leveraging that investment across the business landscape is, for most companies…a no-brainer.

Is Dynamics 365 always the right fit?

Certainly not. It would be silly to argue that one solution is right for all project-based companies. This article focuses on Dynamics 365, but more importantly promotes the idea that choices around a singular function like ERP, CRM or PSA should never be made in a departmental vacuum.

The selection of one system should be, at least in part, contingent on how well it will support (and be supported by) other systems in the future. You’re selecting one component of a greater platform that could easily overshadow traditional feature/function led decision-making driven by a single department. The moral of the story is to be sure you don’t get stuck in the pre-cloud era “best of breed” mentality. When choosing a “business platform” tailored to a project-based business, be sure it can provide value across the entire company.

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