A Dynamics 365 project is a big undertaking for any organisation.
They always hold so much promise at their start, with the promise of transforming business processes, enhancing customer experiences and driving operational efficiency.
But… they also come with their fair share of challenges that can sometimes lead to project setbacks or, far too often, failure.
I’ve seen it time and time again, where the complexities associated with Dynamics 365 implementations just become too much for some.
One of my goals here at FormusPro has been to always be a guiding light, especially in situations where others projects are encountering obstacles or veering off course.
That’s why I've decided to try and shed some light on, not just the vital role of D365 but also the common challenges encountered in projects, and the profound importance of reviving a project that’s faced setbacks.
D365 Projects, The Heart Of Any Digital Transformation
As I just mentioned, Dynamics 365 projects serve as the heartbeat of digital transformation.
These projects leverage Microsoft's powerful suite of applications to streamline operations, unify data and empower teams.
Whether it's optimising customer relationship management, enhancing supply chain visibility or reducing donor churn, D365 plays a pivotal role in reshaping how a businesses operates in todays (and tomorrows) environment.
Common Challenges Faced by D365 Projects
Despite all that though, or more accurately, because of it, D365 projects often encounter challenges that massively impede their progress, in the worst cases, bringing change to a crashing halt.
These challenges may include inadequate project planning, misalignment with organisational goals, resistance to change, issues related to data migration and integration or worse, relationship issues with a badly chosen Microsoft partner (it does happen sometimes unfortunately).
Recognising and addressing these challenges is crucial to ensure the success of any D365 implementation.
Why D365 Projects Can’t Be Allowed To Fail
Reviving a Dynamics 365 project that’s faced setbacks isn’t just about salvaging a technical endeavour; it's about revitalising the future of a business…. Many businesses in fact.
Even as I write this, I’m aware it sounds like hyperbole but every failed project has far-reaching consequences for all of us, affecting not only the technological landscape of a single firm, impacting employee morale, customer satisfaction and the overall competitiveness of said organisation, but also slows down the pace of progress slightly for us all.
One project will be barely noticed, but when 84% of digital transformations are failing, something needs to be done!
Written By: Andy Martin
Chief Commercial Officer, FormusPro
Understanding The Reasons For Failure
Before any failed (or failing) Dynamics project can be fixed, we first need to be able to understand, not just why it’s failing, that comes next, but be able to recognise the signs that a failure is fast coming down the line… and it’s not always as easy to spot as you’d think.
Some signs to look out for include:
- Lack of comprehensive planning - One of the biggest issues I always find when called in to rescue a failing Dynamics project is the absence of any kind of comprehensive project plan. D365 implementations are multifaceted, involving intricate workflows and integrations. Without a detailed roadmap from the outset, projects are susceptible to scope creep, resource misallocation and ultimately, failure to meet objectives. In fact, many times I’ve seen a project without any objectives at all… and without them how can you benchmark your ROI?
- Misalignment with organisational goals - For a digital transformation to thrive, it has to be closely aligned with the overarching goals of the organisation. Failure to establish this alignment almost always results in a disconnection between technology implementation and strategic objectives, leading to a lack of buy-in from key stakeholders and hindering project success.
- Resistance to Change – Ah, the human factor! It’s an often-overlooked aspect in many tech implementations but it’s literally the keystone to project success. Resistance to change, whether from employees or leadership, will manifest as an insurmountable barrier. Employees might feel threatened by the prospect of adopting new technologies, impacting productivity and the overall success of the implementation.
- Data migration and integration challenges - Smooth data migration and integrations are linchpins to successful Dynamics 365 implementations. Inadequate planning, lack of data quality controls or insufficient testing will all lead to data inconsistencies, operational disruptions and, ultimately, project failure.
Root Cause Analysis
Above are just a few of the main reasons a D365 project could fail but understanding why the reasons behind it faltering aren’t enough. That’s where a Root Cause analysis comes in.
It's not merely about addressing surface-level symptoms but delving into the underlying issues that triggered the setbacks. “Why was there no comprehensive planning? Why wasn’t it aligned with organisational goals? Why was there so much resistance to change? Why did the data migration fail so badly?”
A Root cause analysis attempts to answer those questions as well as serving several crucial purposes:
- Prevention of future issues – It’s said that those who fail to learn from their mistakes are doomed to repeat them. Identifying the root cause of a failure lets us implement preventive measures. By addressing the foundational issues, it’s much easier to create a more resilient framework for future project success.
- Informed Decision-Making - Root cause analysis empowers us to make informed decisions. Instead of applying generic solutions, we can tailor our strategies to the specific challenges that led to a project failure, ensuring a more precise and effective intervention.
- Stakeholder Confidence – With one failure already under your belt, transparently communicating the results of a root cause analysis will help regain confidence you’re your stakeholders. It demonstrates a commitment to understanding and rectifying issues, fostering trust and collaboration as we move forward towards fixing things.
Project Audit Time
Everything I’ve mentioned so far has been in generalisations. To get to the root of your specific problem(s), what will be required is a thorough project audit, or, as I just mentioned, you’ll be doomed to repeat the mistakes of your past endlessly.
The key to a successful project rescue lies in a comprehensive understanding of its current state. A thorough project audit does that, providing valuable insights into the intricacies of the implementation and guiding us toward effective intervention, letting us know where you are, where you should be, and how we can most efficiently get you there.
Why Project Audit’s Are Needed
- Holistic Insight: An in-depth project audit goes beyond surface-level assessments, offering a holistic view of the project. It enables us to identify strengths, weaknesses, and areas requiring immediate attention, fostering a nuanced understanding of the Dynamics 365 ecosystem in your organisation.
- Risk Mitigation: By systematically evaluating the various project components, we can uncover where the risks and bottlenecks are. This proactive approach allows for targeted risk mitigation strategies, preventing previous issues from escalating further and contributing to a more resilient project structure.
- Resource Optimisation: Understanding resource allocation and utilisation is always paramount. The project audit lets us identify instances of resource mismanagement, ensuring that personnel, time, and technology are better optimised going forward for maximum efficiency and impact.
- Alignment with Objectives: Ensuring that the project still aligns with your organisational objectives has to be the final priority. A project audit will allow us to assess whether the initial goals and milestones are still relevant and aligned with the evolving needs of your business.
What Would The Project Audit Look Like?
- Documentation Review: To start with, we’d begin with a (very) meticulous review of any and all project documentation (fingers crossed there is some), including the initial project plan, requirements and design documents. This step provides us with insights into the planned versus actual progression of the project.
- Stakeholder Interviews: Next, we’d look to engage in comprehensive interviews with key stakeholders, including project managers, team members and most importantly, end-users. Their perspectives offer invaluable qualitative data, shedding light on challenges, successes and areas for improvement.
- Technical Infrastructure Assessment: From there, we’d call in our top-level techs to evaluate all the technical infrastructure supporting your Dynamics 365. That would include assessing the architecture, integrations and any customisations that had been made. We’d do that, looking to identify potential technical debt and other areas in which enhancements could optimise operational performance.
- Data Quality And Integrity Check: The next step would be to conduct a thorough examination of your data quality and integrity. Data inconsistencies are often the root cause of project issues. By ensuring that the data migration and integration processes align with best practices and organisational standards, a lot of issues can be resolved quickly.
- Performance Analysis: Once we know the data’s sound, we’d look to start assessing the system's performance against either new or previously established benchmarks to identify any bottlenecks affecting responsiveness and/or user experience. This step is crucial for understanding the practical implications of the project's current state.
- Compliance And Security Review: Although compliance and governance is no one’s favourite bit, it’s important that whilst this is all going on, we verify that your D365 implementation aligns with all sector compliance standards and security protocols. If it didn’t, we’d look to address any compliance or security gaps urgently to ensure the project's long-term viability.
- Cost And Resource Analysis: Finally, once that’s all underway, we’d look to analyse the project's financial aspects, comparing the initial budget with the actual expenditure to better help you attribute ROI of both the initial project, and its rescue. At the same time, we’d also assess the allocation of existing resources to the project to ensure that roles and responsibilities are well-defined and appropriately distributed.
Leveraging Stakeholder Feedback
What I don’t want you to think is that we’d come in, throw our weight around, tell you everything that’s wrong and then just leave. Doing so wouldn’t be fair to us or you as it wouldn’t (couldn’t) identify any root causes, only surface issues.
At its very core, our mission would be to collaborate with you on your journey to project success. One of the cornerstones of this collaborative approach is in recognising the pivotal role that stakeholders play in all Dynamics 365 ecosystems.
Leveraging their insights and expertise through constructive feedback is instrumental in comprehending project shortcomings and steering the course toward revival.
We’d seek to involve them at every step of the way because:
- Diverse Perspectives: Different stakeholders bring diverse perspectives, shaped by their roles, responsibilities and interactions with the D365 ecosystem. Their feedback serves as a rich source of information, offering nuanced insights into a project's intricacies and actual aims.
- User Experience Insight: End-users in particular, provide invaluable insights into the day-to-day functionality of a project. Understanding their experiences, challenges and suggestions is key to refining the system for optimal user adoption and satisfaction.
- Alignment With Business Objectives: Stakeholders, including C-Suite level executives and decision-makers, offer us insights into the alignment of the project with broader business objectives. Their feedback helps ensure that the project remains a strategic asset in achieving organisational goals.
- Identification Of Gaps: Stakeholder feedback is a powerful tool for identifying gaps between expectations and reality. Pinpointing these gaps is essential for implementing targeted solutions that address specific pain points and areas of improvement.
Collecting Criticism Whilst Keeping It Constructive
More than any technical mistake, negativity will kill projects dead. The same can be said for rescue projects. Whilst we need to get to the bottom of what went wrong, it’s also important to keep things positive, with an eye to the huge potential that can be reached by urning things around.
To do that, we’d:
- Regular Surveys and Questionnaires: Deploying regular surveys and questionnaires to gather feedback systematically is a good chance to see what’s going on privately. We’d craft questions that probe into user experiences, challenges faced, and look for suggestions for improvement. This approach always ensures a structured and measurable feedback collection process.
- Open Forums and Workshops: Hosting open forums and workshops where stakeholders can discuss their experiences and concerns work well if directed correctly by an experienced moderator. They facilitate discussions that encourage candid feedback and fostering a collaborative environment in which stakeholders feel part of the new solution, not the previous problem.
- User-Story Workshops: One level down, conducting user-story workshops lets us delve into more specific scenarios and interactions. This approach allows stakeholders to narrate their experiences through real-life scenarios, providing us with context-rich feedback that can inform targeted improvements.
- One-on-One Interviews: Engaging in one-on-one interviews with key stakeholders lets us delve deeper into individual perspectives without the negativity that cam sometimes come from group discussions. This personalised approach allows for in-depth conversations that uncover nuanced insights that almost never surface in larger group settings.
- Usability Testing: It’s also a good idea to integrate a bit of usability testing into the feedback collection process. Observing how stakeholders interact with the system in real-time provides tangible insights into issues and areas requiring enhancement.
- Fostering A Culture Of Continuous Feedback: Finally, beyond any specific feedback collection strategy, we’d seek to foster a culture of continuous feedback in which it’s ok to Fail Fast and Fail Safe. We’d look to create channels with you that provide for ongoing communication, encouraging stakeholders to share their thoughts regularly, and demonstrate a commitment to actively incorporating feedback into the project's evolution.
Restructuring The Project Team
One of the steps no one ever likes to talk about, but is often necessary, is the strategic restructuring of the project team.
It’s vital that all involved realise that doing so isn’t about pointing fingers but recognising that a fresh perspective and alignment of skills is what’s often required to breathe new life into the initiative.
Benefits Of Restructuring The Project Team
- Diverse Skill Sets: Restructuring allows for the infusion of new and more diverse skill sets. Bringing in individuals with varied experiences and expertise will broaden the project's capabilities and foster a more holistic problem-solving approach.
- Fresh Perspectives: New team members introduce fresh perspectives and innovative ideas. This diversity of thought is instrumental in overcoming historic challenges that may have hindered a project's progress, offering creative solutions that align with your organisational goals.
- Enhanced Collaboration: A restructured team can lead to improved collaboration dynamics. Establishing clear communication channels and refining team roles ensures that every member contributes effectively, creating a synergy that propels the project forward.
- Adaptability To Change: Restructuring promotes adaptability to change. As the project evolves, having a team that can easily adapt to new requirements, technologies and methodologies is essential for resilience in the face of evolving business landscapes.
Continuous Learning Once We’re Gone
Microsoft Dynamics 365 is a system that constantly evolves and grows and, once we’ve rescued your project, whilst we’d hope to keep working with you, much more important to us will be establishing governance so that the problems that first led you to us never reoccur.
That’s where continuous Learning come in:
- Adaptation To Change: First and foremost, would be encouraging a culture of adaptability and continuous improvement. In a technology landscape that constantly evolves, your teams need to be able to embrace a mindset of ongoing learning to effectively navigate new changes and challenges.
- Enhanced Team Productivity: Investing in these training programs enhances all of your team’s productivity as well as encourages user-adoption. Well-equipped teams are more efficient, produce higher-quality work and are better positioned to overcome challenges inherent in future Dynamics 365 projects.
- Employee Satisfaction And Retention: Whilst not a direct goal, ongoing training programs massively contribute to employee satisfaction and retention. Employees value opportunities for skill development and organisations that invest in their teams' growth will experience much higher levels of engagement and loyalty.,, especially important after a failed project unfortunately.
Finally, an important discussion to have will be the establishment of feedback loops.
Feedback loops are instrumental in maintaining project momentum and ensuring a dynamic and responsive project environment, throughout its lifecycle.
At every important milestone, we’d host regular retrospectives with you to reflect on the project phase that had just passed, both good and bad. This allows all stakeholders to identify successes, challenges and areas for improvement collaboratively.
As already mentioned, end-user feedback channels and stakeholder surveys would form an important part of these, providing valuable insights into system usability and functionality for ongoing enhancements.
No one likes to admit when a project is going wrong, especially if it means parting ways with your current Microsoft partner, but sometimes sinking bad money after good just isn’t the way forward (in fact it rarely is).
That’s why I also advocate for a holistic approach that combines collaboration, continuous learning, and vigilant monitoring, to prevent issues before they become issues.