AX support partner

Andrew Roberts, Technology Director at Incremental Group, is a software engineer to trade with over 25 years’ experience delivering critical ERP systems within the manufacturing, engineering and energy sectors. He has led dozens of large and complex Dynamics AX ERP implementations that span multiple sites and hundreds of users.

Here he reflects on the most common causes of dissatisfaction with AX post-implementation, the role of the Dynamics AX support partner and how to derive maximum business benefit from your investment in Dynamics AX.

 Week-in, week-out I speak with organisations who are not gaining the business benefit they expected from their investment in Dynamics AX.  The impact on their business is significant but the problems usually stem from just a handful of underlying issues which are summarised below.

Parking work until the next phase

Firstly, there are those customers that have a number of functional requirements to which they just never got back round to post-implementation.  ERP implementations can be complex and time consuming and careful planning is essential to give the project every chance of success.  Many customers start off thinking they will get everything fixed and deploy full functionality on day one.  But the project almost always slips and they need to prioritise what is a ‘must have’ in order to get the core system live.  Typically, customers end up with a list of lower priority requirements that are deferred until subsequent phases.  It also often takes longer to embed an ERP system than planned – it typically takes 6 to 12 months.  By then, with spending on the implementation having tailed off, the original implementation partner has transferred their focus onto new projects with other customers and the list doesn’t get actioned.  It’s important to get back to this list, and work with a proactive partner for the long term who will help drive this.

Ongoing system training

As expected, much of the user training takes place up front.  No matter how good this training is, system users remember what they most commonly use the system for.  Ongoing refresher sessions, such as quarterly lunch and learns, expose users to the full capabilities of the system and help extend the best use of the system.

Reactive rather than proactive support

There may be a frustration from senior management that your organisation is not gaining maximum benefit from the AX implementation.  There may, for example, be a number of decisions made at go-live that turn out to be unsuitable, but a few weeks after go-live they have become the de facto standard of how things are done.  It’s important to periodically take a day out to sit down with your AX partner to look at how the system is being used and have them recommend improvements.

A lot of partners are guilty of spending time focusing on customers with new implementation projects and put those who have gone live over 6 months ago into ‘ticket handling’ mode.  Scheduled periodic reviews over the long term keep the AX partner proactive rather than reactive and your system working for you.

Time to move to a new Dynamics AX support partner?

There are a number of important factors that need to be considered before switching your AX support partner.

Firstly, a transition period will be involved.  As well as getting to know your business and its processes, the new partner has to understand your configuration of AX.  A good time to think about switching is when considering the need to upgrade (e.g. to Dynamics 365 for Operations), taking on an additional module or making new customisations.  The transition cost can be consumed in the new project.

If you’re concerned that you’re not getting best value or good advice from your current AX partner, then engage another partner to audit your system and make recommendations.  This is a good way for you to get to know them, how they work, test their understanding of your business and their knowledge of AX.  Make a list of current issues and use the fresh perspective to identify a number of quick and easy fixes.  Incremental Group has resolved more than half a customer’s issue list in a single day taking this approach! Discover our support services.

What to look for in a good Dynamics AX support partner

If you are going out to market for a new AX support partner there are a number of things to look for.  There are a few obvious ones, continuing on from some of the themes mentioned above, like making sure it’s not a reactive support model and there will be proactive management to drive the system forward.

Consider the experience the prospective partner has with the modules you use and your sector.  This has a significant impact on how quickly the partner can get up to speed with the system and what needs done.  It is also a good determinant of the value they can add.  When they’ve seen your challenge many times before they have more than just product knowledge to come up with solutions to meet your needs.

Look for a partner who can not only support the AX application, but all of the associated infrastructure too.  I’ve sat on many calls where the customer has selected two separate suppliers and they just end up playing referee!  If your system is running slow there are a number of potential causes (the hardware, database tuning, missing indexes, optimization jobs not running, the application design, coding problems) that could sit with either your application or infrastructure partner.

Finally, challenge your prospective partner on their approach to service transition and take references on where and when they have done this before. Those partners that have a proven methodology will demonstrate how they will support transition with no degradation of service to the system users.

Never finished

When you implement an AX system you spend months – even years – analysing your business and operational processes.  Your organisation, and the people who work with you, change but you are often constrained by a system that reflects how things used to be.  Your significant original AX investment needs to be actively managed by the right support partner to keep up with the pace of change in your organisation and deliver the efficiencies it originally promised.


Start driving better value from your AX investment by arranging an independent audit of your current system with Incremental Group