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How to foster a true partnership with your Microsoft Dynamics partner

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AXUG Summit 2016 kicked off with a BANG!

One of the first sessions of the week was hosted by 3 longtime leaders of the Dynamics AX community: Lindsay Garcia of Magpul, a Microsoft Dynamics AX customer; Frank Vukovits, who is one of the “Founding Fathers” of AXUG and has been a long-time consulting partner; and Craig O’Connor, representing Microsoft Dynamics 365 partner, mcaConnect. These three AX veterans led a packed house session on “Managing Your Partner.”

The customer-partner relationship is critical to the success of every Dynamics 365 project.  In this session, the group shared tips and experiences on how to initiate, build and nurture this essential element of system implementations.

Vendor vs. Partner: What’s the difference?

Not every Microsoft Dynamics Partner is truly a partner…some are only vendors.  A vendor is someone that you transact with in a business situation.  An example of this might be the company that you buy copier paper from.  When you are getting low, you order more, and they deliver it to you.

A partner on the other hand, is an organization that builds multilayer relationships with the company supporting their needs, evaluating mutually beneficial opportunities and valuing what each side is adding to their bottom line.  Ensuring that both sides are equally invested and interested in the overall success of the project, lays the foundation for the relationship.  There must be an element of trust between the companies and people involved to have a solid base.

Customers, are you welcoming your partner?

Customers set the tone early in the process as to how they are going to treat the Microsoft Dynamics implementation team throughout the project. Early interactions can deeply influence if the relationship will be customer/vendor or grow into a customer/partner model. Customers need to be aware of this going into the project. What are the expectations from your Management team? What does your corporate culture dictate?  Will you include project team members in company outings? Do you offer comfortable workspaces and allow them to occasionally work remotely? These little niceties go a LONG way towards building the relationship with your partner.

Partners, are you recognizing your customer’s stress?

From a partner perspective, we have to realize that change is hard for people. Each person deals with change differently.  Some fight, some run, some shy away, and some embrace the opportunity.  Since we live in a world where we are implementing projects almost every single day, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that most of our customers have never been through projects like this in their careers.  We need to keep these personality traits in mind and work individually with project members to keep the project on track.

Business-to-business is also human-to-human.

It is important for clients to remember that most consultants leave their families behind for long stretches of time, which at times can cause stress. In order to make your company more successful, they are missing birthdays, sporting activities and other important life events. Treat your consultants with the same compassion and care that you would your own employees or team members – especially during an unexpected crisis.

Realize that the systems we are supporting are VERY complex.  Customers sometimes think that since they are paying a high hourly rate for consultants that we know everything off the top of our heads.  This is simply not realistic.  Throughout the project, it is important to give the partner team time to think, talk privately and research the best solutions for the implementation.

High quality, fast, inexpensive implementations don’t exist.

Customers must understand that Quality, Speed AND Cheap is an impossible proposition.  They can pick any two of these, but definitely not all three.  Most partners can do outstanding work and often we can even do it fast, but it is not going to be cheap.  They can also do work very fast and inexpensively, but it might not be completely tested.  If you want to build a true customer/partner relationship, having reasonable expectations on both sides is essential.  Neither side should feel afraid or intimidated to question the other’s process.  However, neither side should EVER question the other’s integrity.

Open communication is critical.

The cornerstone of building a partnership is effective and open communication.  Have scheduled status meetings, go out for lunch together, meet others within the organization at conferences or other events, and understand each other’s communication styles.  All of these can help solidify the working relationship that will endure the trials and tribulations of an ERP implementation project.  Having the freedom and comfort to tell the other party exactly where you stand on a topic allows them to deal with it directly and efficiently.  It will lead to a better project outcome.

What have you done to create a better partner relationship?

The AXUG Summit discussion could have continued for hours longer. Excitement was high about all the possibilities for partners and customers to improve collaboration and communication. We’d love to hear what you’ve done – and what has and hasn’t worked! Leave your comments below.

CFO Microsoft Dynamics AX