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ATC’s Microsoft Dynamics AX Center of Excellence—A Model for ERP Success
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ATC’s Microsoft Dynamics AX Center of Excellence—A Model for ERP Success

Making informed decisions across the supply chain

Written by William Van Winkle, VP/CIO, and Ian Hartman, Director of AX Solutions

ATC has long been a Microsoft Dynamics AX customer. The software enables ATC to optimize supply chain management benefits by providing visibility and controls across business divisions and processes—from the receipt of raw materials to the shipment of finished goods. In essence, it allows us to quantify and manage all costs, enabling business decision-making to manage risk across business units.

In this article we share our initial experience in implementing Dynamic AX, and the steps we took in later implementations to take advantage of its full value.

Microsoft Dynamics AX has particular strengths in manufacturing and core accounting. In addition, it provides functions for:

  • Inventory control
  • Warehouse management
  • Transportation management
  • Demand and supply chain planning
  • Material requirements planning
  • Production management
  • Quality assurance
  • Product lifecycle management
  • Asset management
  • Business intelligence

Implementing Dynamics AX properly requires active involvement and input from the business teams. We first learned this the hard way. Unfortunately, our initial implementation (AX4) and subsequent upgrade (AX-2009) were treated as a technical IT project, with minimum business-user involvement and limited AX functional knowledge. Consequently, it resulted in a highly customized ERP that fell short of the full value of our AX investment. 

When we made the decision to move to AX 2012, we decided to take a reimplementation approach. In other words, we:

  • Refocused on business functionality
  • Eliminated customization
  • Cleaned up our master data

To make this work we needed to change the composition of both our project team and our delivery approach. At the same time, we needed to add depth in AX functional knowledge and spend more time with our business operations. This was the genesis of the AX Center of Excellence, or AX/COE. 

The AX Center of Excellence

We published an AX Center of Excellence charter to provide AX implementation and operational support in line with ATC’s business growth and the ability to effectively maintain the AX investment. We were resolved to standardize and align businesses processes across the company to:

  • Increase user productivity.
  • Lower the rate of error.
  • Empower the user with the tools they need to do their daily job.
  • Lower operational costs.

Under the directive of the charter, the AX/COE mission is to provide change in four areas:

  • Guidance: Provide standards, methodologies, tools, and knowledge repositories.
  • Governance: Ensure ATC invests in the most valuable projects and not create a series of modifications that will continually require attention. The AX Solutions team evaluates, documents, and prioritizes all enhancement requests.
  • Continuous Improvement: Provide continuous improvement opportunities that will address operational efficiencies.
  • Shared Learning: Training and certifications, promotion of AX user group meetings, and skill assessments.

As we moved forward, customizations were limited to custom fields to support regulatory and customer reporting requirements. 

Instead of relying on a team of consultants, the AX/COE is primarily comprised of full time employees. ATC’s IT Department supplements the team with consultants if needed to provide specialized skills or excess capacity. To support our continuous improvement initiatives, it is imperative that we retain our implementation knowledge base. We know that consultants eventually leave—taking their knowledge with them—and we don’t want to pay for someone to learn our business again.

ATC’s AX/COE structure is aligned with the best practice ERP support governance model from Gartner, one of the country’s top IT research and advisory companies.

As we’ve integrated implementation with business unit participation, AX/COE has moved from the back office up the maturity curve, assisting process redesign and streamlined implementations. Based on our success, we now have a seat at the table during business strategy sessions—a goal every ERP team strives to attain.

This year, ATC AX Solutions Team will receive the distinction of being named an AX All Star at the AXUG Summit, an annual event that is focused on the educating Microsoft Dynamics AX users from all over the world. ATC will be presenting an informational session called Demystifying Complex Implementations.  This session will focus on how our proven approach not only reduced complexity, time and expense, it also helped us achieve our goal of successfully migrating from multiple ERP’s into a single enterprise model.

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