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The Secret to Successfully Finding an AX Management and Hosting Provider

Posted On: July 30, 2015

Topic: Managed Services

Why is it that some companies seem to be able to partner with independent IT services providers with very little drama while others struggle at every turn? What are the keys that have led to successful outcomes in strategic sourcing an enterprise application such as Microsoft Dynamics AX? What are some of the lessons learned from those situations that were less successful? 

First and foremost, it is all about adapting to change. Companies that struggle with IT partnership relationships typically are not ready for the change that ensues or their partner has not taken the right steps to help guide the customer through the changes. No matter how seamlessly it happens, partnering creates change. It changes internal IT operations.  

How? It changes the dynamics between the business and IT.  A best-in-class IT solutions providers recognizes this, helps reset expectations around new processes or adapts to existing processes to ensure that what is working isn’t lost in the transition.

A good IT partner, especially one looking to establish a strategic AX management relationship, will do its homework and propose a governance structure, escalation procedures, change control and an operational policy to track and manage the IT assets, applications, users and infrastructure – all based on a company’s unique needs. This governance structure will ultimately add tremendous value in predictability, management and process control. The likelihood of the partnership succeeding increases dramatically if the company is willing and prepared to work with its IT provider to align and improve operations.

The Four C’s of a Best in Class Outsourcer

The best AX management and hosting providers will, of course, meet all your technical requirements. Based on our experience with our customers, however, the following four attributes often determine the difference between success and failure.

  • Culture: Nothing can sink a partnership faster than a clash of cultures. The people who will be working with theIT provider must feel comfortable with them. Does the provider have a social style and manner of communication that will sit well with the team? Some factors to consider include: expectations, values, style, service level, humor, professionalism, formality and background.
  • Cost: While cost may not be the primary reason to undertake an IT partnership, it’s always an important one. How will the AX management provider help you reduce, manage and/or avoid costs? Will you be able to maintain predictable costs over multiple year agreements while avoiding many of the typical capital expenditures relative to technology? How will ongoing continuous improvement affect cost savings?
  • Confidence: Does the provider convey an appropriate balance of assurance and humility? Confidence is an important factor for the provider to win over audiences and earn trust. While your provider and their team may have solid credentials, vertical expertise, skills and other pertinent qualifications, validation of their work is critical. Where did they gain the expertise and experience? Are their customers willing to provide references for their unique experiences and successes while working with the provider?
  • Commitment: This may seem obvious, but it’s often overlooked. It is as important that the company looking to find a partner for their IT environment be as committed to the success of the project as the IT provider. Issues relating to each include: 

Organizations that want to increase their chances of success will organize their selection criteria around these four Cs. A proven partner will demonstrate how they add value in each category – as opposed to AX management providers who are willing to just take your order and go about filling it without first understanding your business or your IT requirements thoroughly. Experienced, qualified AX providers listen first, ask and answer questions, and then provide solutions. They get to know your requirements and then provide a detailed, thorough explanation.

The best strategic relationships are those where it’s hard to tell the client from the service provider. To ensure this type of partnership, focus on incorporating the four Cs into your selection process: cost, culture, confidence and commitment. Then, pay particular attention to creating a mutually beneficial governance framework by focusing on principles rather than rules. Finally, ask your partner to provide analytics and data indicative of past and ongoing performance. This data should provide a meaningful indicator of how they’ll likely perform for you.