Replacing legacy technology with modern ERP
Several years ago, NASTA decided to replace an Oracle ERP solution that had first been implemented in 2005. Simen Berg Sørensen, IT Manager at NASTA, explains, “Technology changes rapidly, and our Oracle system had become outdated. When we deployed it, we required more than 200 customizations, which made it very difficult to upgrade and maintain it. We were looking for a solution that would enable us to serve customers more effectively and that would give us greater control of our complex supply chain.”
NASTA created a request for information (RFI) document and shared it with a number of possible ERP vendors. Eight of them performed solution demos for NASTA. Three of those had more in-depth conversations with NASTA. The company chose Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012, proposed by Columbus. NASTA deployed Microsoft Dynamics AX together with Import Dealer Management System (IDMS) and Mobile Mechanic from To-Increase and Microsoft partner Annata. Consultants from Annata and Columbus contributed to the design of the implementation project, and NASTA and Columbus completed it together. NASTA also used To-Increase Connectivity Studio to bridge Microsoft Dynamics AX and Hitachi systems.
Performing BPM to build and validate business processes
In ERP implementations, Columbus relies on a business process management (BPM) solution from To-Increase, RapidValue, to capture and formalize business processes. Henrik Anholt, Organizational Development Manager at NASTA, says, “In the analysis phase, Columbus used RapidValue to document our working processes. They created processes in Microsoft Dynamics AX based on their findings. Our team members ran through these processes and either confirmed the steps or asked for changes. That’s how we used RapidValue to establish our shared understanding of business processes. Through RapidValue, we projected how exactly NASTA would benefit from Microsoft Dynamics AX.”
In the next stage, NASTA used the tool to test processes and ERP utilization scenarios. As Sørensen explains, “We worked with RapidValue to perform thorough, systematic testing of all our processes. For me as the the solution architect responsible for testing, documenting test procedures and results in RapidValue made it much easier to follow up on test cases and ensure they would be supported by Microsoft Dynamics AX. The solution worked very well that way.”
Process consistency and effective user training
In RapidValue, NASTA built and tested all processes that take place in the business, including the operational areas of purchasing, sales, finance management, warehousing, logistics, field service, and repair. “RapidValue helped us succeed in one of our objectives, that of deploying Microsoft Dynamics AX close to the standard and keeping it manageable,” notes Anholt. “Today, NASTA employees use the ERP system with very few customizations.”
When it was time for employees to become effective in working with the new ERP system, NASTA put RapidValue to work once they were familiar with the basic navigation and user interfaces in Microsoft Dynamics AX. Sørensen explains, “Initially, we created process documentation in RapidValue when we defined and documented how we work. We refined that documentation based on our testing, and when we needed to train people, it was already there. That’s how we familiarize team members with the modules in Microsoft Dynamics AX. There is no need to prepare user documents outside of RapidValue. Columbus consultants helped us initially create this documentation when we were still new to RapidValue, but we became comfortable with doing so quickly.”
Centralized employee training resource delivers excellent user experiences
NASTA continues using RapidValue as a training resource. Newly hired employees access the solution to understand their jobs and tasks within business processes and gain familiarity with the ERP solution. “In RapidValue, we have gained a powerful tool for training people who are new to the company or assume a new role,” says Anholt. “RapidValue is where they go to learn about Microsoft Dynamics AX and the processes that take place in our organization. Because detailed processes and extensive team expertise are captured in the solution, it is also less of a concern if a person is ill, takes time off, or leaves the company. Other team members can more easily step into a position and learn in RapidValue what it requires from them.”
NASTA employees no longer use outdated Word documents or Excel spreadsheets saved on their computers as process references. As Sørensen points out, “In RapidValue, you always find the most current version of any user training and guidance content. That helps people take the right steps in Microsoft Dynamics AX and makes a big difference in keeping our practices consistent and free from errors.”
A largely standardized implementation of Microsoft Dynamics AX and a high level of process consistency also help NASTA deliver a productive user experience to employees. “Most of my colleagues are not aware of RapidValue as a separate tool,” says Sørensen. “Working in Microsoft Dynamics AX, they click on a help button to look up process references without leaving the ERP system. This also makes life easier for our super users, who are responsible for training their peers.”
Increased ability to win customer loyalty
Success in deploying Microsoft Dynamics AX and ensuring smooth user adoption and increased effectiveness through RapidValue help NASTA fulfill its mission of understanding and meeting customers’ needs. “In Microsoft Dynamics AX, we have more information about our customers easily accessible than we used to,” notes Anholt. “That often helps us anticipate their requirements and be more proactive in supporting them.” For instance, NASTA’s integration of Microsoft Dynamics AX with Hitachi systems provides nightly updates on the amount of hours machinery and equipment were used. When a customer has an active service contract with NASTA, an automatic notification from Dynamics AX alerts NASTA representatives to thresholds when maintenance becomes necessary. They can then get in touch with the customer to schedule a service appointment before any equipment damages or outages can occur.
In the near future, NASTA plans to focus more on optimizing the supply chain and connecting more closely to several suppliers’ systems, which will simplify transactions and communications. Price lists and other information can at that point be accessed directly in Microsoft Dynamics AX instead of in separate files. The NASTA team is also anticipating incremental, nondisruptive process optimizations, for which RapidValue will be essential.
The ERP and BPM managers at NASTA feel highly positive about their experience with RapidValue, Microsoft Dynamics AX, and Columbus. Says Anholt, “It was crucial for us that we adopted RapidValue at a very early stage of our ERP project. I don’t think we would have landed such a successful implementation without it. When I talk to other companies, I suggest that they fully use the solution if they have acquired but not yet taken advantage of it. I also recommend Columbus and its consultants, who guided us through the implementation and accomplished a lot for us.”