The role of the Dynamics Value Added Reseller

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Challenges of BI – Discussion 2 :

In the world of BI, there are key challenges that affect all project; (1) data governance, (2) partner support and (3) user adoption. Looking at each in turn, this is second discussion paper looking at the role of the Dynamics value added reseller.

Does the VAR even have a role?

There are probably 3 distinct phases in which the VAR could play a role;

  1. Assessment, shortlist, choice and sourcing – the planning
  2. Scoping, environment, provisioning and deployment – the doing
  3. Resourcing, data governance, budgeting and project management – the managing

In-house rules?

As a customer, you must decide what outside resources you need to deliver the project, phase 1, 2 and 3 or just one element of the above, depending on your in-house skills.

VAR just a little bit more?

Personally, I believe that, as the trusted advisor, the VAR should aim to have the skills and capability to perform all three roles to be able to deliver an excellent BI project.  As the only way to ensure delivery is to be in control of those three key elements in their entirety.  Also for the customer it gives “one throat to choke” and “one head to roll” or hopefully “one” to stand in confidence and liberate the internal resources from the responsibility of delivery, once the goals, activities and metrics have been agreed.

Vendor agnostic?

And what role should the vendor play?  I am a firm believer in the power of the channel, although not always unequivocally “independent” their opinion is certainly going to be more independent than that of the vendor.

Sadly, the MSDynamicsWorld (1) report quoted that 38% of customers stated that their VAR gave them no guidance.  Interesting!  So where is the advice coming from?  Are customers allowing the vendors to employ their own consultants, who may well be experts in delivering their own component, but unlikely to be true system integrators or have the overall project goals top of mind?

Some quotes from the MSDynamicsWorld report give us a better clue as to where the process and project tends to go astray as these VAR comments show;

  • “Their requirements are usually unclear so the solution cannot be implemented. The cost-benefit of third party solutions is not as expected for the customer. Third party solutions are still ‘boxes’ that [do not] generate the info our customers require in the way they need it.”
  • “This is like any other additional initiative involving the original effort in ERP – championed by a few who either get pressed for time or lose interest when as the project rolls on and out.”
  •  “These projects are technically complicated and require bigger investment than expected, not just for the software but customers need to invest in the labour to bring the project together”

 

Some additional insight can be gained here by talking to those who lead these types of projects every day of the week.

Edward Paice of Harness IT (3) noted; “I would argue that the VAR should be selected because of their industry knowledge as well as their technical skills.  They ought to bring value in both technology and an understanding of the business, so consultants can guide the client through workshops and strategy sessions and assist in framing the project goals and metrics.”

Ed elaborated with an example; “An example might be if you are looking at coverage in a retail or omnichannel world, industry experts would understand when looking at data what it actually means to that organisation, so for instance what would you actually count as stock?  How can that calculation be meaningful without understanding that stock includes that at the warehouse, on the shelves, in the supply chain, at inspection and in quarantine?  And the impact of promotions and discounting that need to be considered for stock coverage.  So data sources may include those outside the immediate company and so this is where the technical knowledge kicks in; knowing that a data warehouse will be required to pool together disparate data structures to make meaningful decisions possible.  A good VAR who understands the convoluted vertical requirements will bring that knowledge to the table.”

It’s not all about the Tech

And to the Magic?

The Gartner Magic (2) quadrant adds their not insignificant weight to this argument by indicating that there is ample opportunity for improvement in market execution and delivery of the solutions.

Referring again to the MS DynamicsWorld (1) report, their research confirmed that; “…technology alone, is not sufficient to deliver the insights that organizations believe they should get from their investment in core systems like ERP and CRM. Dynamics partners and customers will continue to be challenged to commit to the right policies, skills, and plans over the long term if they want to reap maximum value from their data.”

To VAR or not to VAR?

That is an easy question – it’s a yes from me! 

It is all about your choice of which VAR not if you should employ one as far as I am concerned.  And I would err on the side of hiring a VAR that can execute on all 3 phases of the BI project; the planning, the doing and the managing.

Choosing which VAR is an entirely new topic but in essence my recommendation would be to talk to their customers for reassurance that they can execute on all three phases.  Also invest in a proper pre-project workshop to assess, plan and set goals and metrics and responsibilities and put all that in writing.

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References;

  1. MSDynamics World.com released; Investment in BI and Reporting – by Jason Gumpert, published January 29, 2016
  2. Gartner Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence and Analytics Platforms; published 04 February 2016 | ID:G00275847 Analyst(s): Josh Parenteau, Rita L. Sallam, Cindi Howson, Joao Tapadinhas, Kurt Schlegel, Thomas W. Oestreich
  3. Edward Paice –harnessit.com / www.edpaice.com / . http://bit.ly/HarnessIT for LinkedIn