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  • Writer's pictureKen Sebahar

Beyond the BC Bits (Part 2): Working Effectively with a Business Central Partner

This Beyond the BC Bits blog series focuses on the non-technological factors that play a crucial role in determining the overall success of an organization’s Business Central implementation project.  Additional topics in this series will include how to properly prepare for your implementation project, planning and managing the project, approaches to training and testing, Apps and customization, data migration and deployment, and long-term management of Business Central.  This series will try to highlight and provide guidance on many of the major factors that could most significantly impact your project’s success.

In this article, we will focus on ways to effectively work with a Business Central partner. What is true is that virtually all organizations will need to rely in some way on a Microsoft Partner to assist with getting Business Central deployed.  What is not true is that all Microsoft Partners are created equally and use the same methodologies for working with clients on Business Central implementation projects.  Understanding how to effectively work with your Business Central partner is crucial to an on-time and on-budget implementation project.

Understand how you will be charged for products and services

There are primarily two major categories of fees charged by a Business Central partner:  products and services.

Products include the Business Central subscription, but possibly also other related software or subscriptions that will be deployed in conjunction with Business Central.  There is some nuance related to how products will be charged, but these charges should be very transparent and easy to understand.  Key elements are how exactly are the subscription or software fees calculated, the subscription term, and the billing frequency.

Services include all of the implementation support services that may be needed to get from the point of deciding to implement Business Central all the way through the first month-end closing and beyond.  There may be significantly more nuance to how services will be charged, and it is very important to fully understand this before embarking on your project.  For example, some partners may offer a “Fixed Fee” implementation, while others will offer a “Time and Materials” implementation where all actual time spent is billed as the hours are incurred throughout the project.  Some partners may also offer a hybrid approach with a monthly fee to cover some types of services while other services are billed based on actual usage or based on milestones reached throughout the project.  Because of all of the ways services may be charged, it is important to fully understand what is (and what is not) included in your estimate.  Also important to understand is what happens when more services than originally anticipated are required to complete the project. 

One final remark on services:  there is no such thing as a “fixed fee” implementation.  A Partner may agree to provide a specific set of services that is detailed out in a project plan for a specific pre-defined price, or fixed fee.  But in the terms and conditions, it will undoubtedly explain that some types of services are not included in this fixed fee, such as detailed design or development of customizations, or data migration tasks.  It could also explain that a set number of hours are included for user training, but if additional training is required then there will be an additional fee.  Finally, it may explain that if the project duration takes longer than the original estimated timeline, that additional fees will apply.  The reality is that most Business Central implementations inevitably encounter one or multiple of these additional scenarios.  So a better term to use would be a “hybrid fee” implementation plan – properly representing that some services will be billed based on a pre-negotiated fee, while other services may be added based on the unique and specific requirements of each organization.

There is no right or wrong way method of defining the services fee structure, and there is no method that is always better or always worse.  There are many Microsoft Partners with many different options available to meet your own preference.  The takeaway here is just to make sure it is clearly understood up-front what is included in your implementation plan.

Review each invoice as it is received

This one seems obvious, but sometimes proper scrutiny is not taken when evaluating the specific charges included on each invoice delivered by the Microsoft Partner during the implementation project.  Be sure that each task on each invoice has been completed as stated as each invoice is received and/or relates to a clearly defined deliverable.  Do not wait until the project is over-budget or behind schedule to review the project budget.  Your Business Central Partner should provide periodic updates of the budget, and these should be reviewed regularly to ensure that the billing is commensurate with the actual progress achieved in the project.

Project Manager reviewing an invoice
Project Manager reviewing an invoice

Volunteer your services to reduce the services budget

Before your Business Central Partner begins any new project task, ask if there are any elements of the task that can be done by your internal project team.  This is particularly important if you are paying for services on a time and materials (as incurred) basis.

Besides potential cost savings, this strategy will more importantly provide your team with a greater sense of project ownership and will ultimately lead to a greater likelihood of project success because your team has become familiar with the setups and workflows within Business Central and will be able to operate the system more independently upon go-live.

A sign that says Volunteers needed
Team effort required

Know who to contact when something goes wrong

Be sure that you have a clearly defined escalation path to address issues that will inevitably arise during the Business Central implementation project. 

An ERP implementation project is a complex task and no implementation project is perfect.  Any issue, no matter how small or large, can be effectively managed – but if an issue is left unchecked, even the smallest issue can snowball into a major issue that can negatively impact the success of your project.

What is most important is that as issues arise throughout the project, they are proactively managed and if needed, escalated to the proper resources within your Business Central Partner’s organization so that an action plan can be put in place to resolve the issue.

A burst pipe to demonstrate an issue that needs to be addressed
An issue needing to be addressed

Coordinate through one project manager

To effectively manage communication between your organization and your Business Central Partner, define one individual as your project manager.  This project manager will be responsible for communicating all correspondence directly with the partner, ideally to a single Project Manager at the partner organization.  This primary communication channel will help reduce mis-communication, avoid redundant work being done by multiple team members, and provide a clear structure for communicating issues and concerns throughout the project.

A visual showing a single point of contact for a group of people
A single point of contact

Your organization is responsible for implementing Business Central.  The Partner is there to guide you.

Do not over-rely on your Business Central Partner to manage your implementation. Their role is to assist your organization with implementing Business Central.  Although the partner may have resources that understand how Business Central works, each implementation project is a unique experience due to the individual personalities and business processes required within each organization.

Much too often, organizations place too much of the responsibility of project success on the partner.  But due to the unique nature of each project, it is each organization and their key team members that are charged with implementing Business Central that will ultimately be responsible for the long-term success of the project.

Define how progress will be monitored and over-communicate often

The primary responsibility of a Business Central partner is ultimately to ensure that your organization is happy with their use of Business Central. Beyond that, each organization must define how they will be evaluating project performance and project success.  This is important so that expectations are clearly defined up-front and expectations can be monitored throughout the project.

The evaluation of the project status is not something that should occur a few times during the project.  Instead, do not be afraid to over-communicate with your Business Central partner.  An ERP implementation project is an infrequent occurrence, and without proper communication, assumptions are made and tasks do not get performed as intended. 

A cartoon depiction of a group of business people over-communicating at a conference table
Some heavy-duty communicating


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