Decision Inc., a global leader in information-driven transformation, engineered the first migration of Microsoft AX2012 to Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations (D365FO) in the country. The migration redefined financial operations for South African premier property company, Attacq.
Attacq, a top 100 JSE-listed real-estate company, currently engaged in developing, owning and managing the Waterfall node for retail, industrial and commercial use, required that its existing financial transactional system – Microsoft AX2012 – be migrated to D365FO, as this formed a critical step in its long-term digital transformation (DX) strategy.
Alongside the need to redefine its existing financial operations infrastructure to align the platform and processes with DX, Attacq had to upgrade as Microsoft AX2012 was reaching end of life. Decision Inc. was approached to ensure the seamless migration of Microsoft AX2012 to D365FO, in a South African first.
Digital transformation has become a definitive competitive advantage for organisations looking to retain their footholds in increasingly dynamic and challenging markets. It allows for the implementation of platforms and solutions that refine operations and productivity and it ensures the organisation has embedded scalable solutions that are capable of evolving alongside the business. However, migration from legacy systems to digitally driven, cloud-based platforms requires that the organisation be cognisant of the risks, the challenges, the process and the results. It’s not as simple as plug and play, there has to be a digital roadmap that ensures the fit is right, the expectations realistic and the timelines accurate.
To ensure the migration from Microsoft AX2012 to D365FO was both seamless and aligned with the company’s expectations, Decision Inc., provided Attacq with a detailed risk assessment that allowed for comprehensive visibility into the business. The result was a robust deployment strategy that provided clear benchmarks on delivery, the parameters within which the final product would operate, and deliverables that perfectly matched Attacq’s appetite and unique market requirements.
“We believe in building solutions that fit with precision into the business, not in embedding solutions that we think might work,” says Wikus Olivier, Business Manager, ERP Division, Decision Inc. “Our highly customised and targeted roadmap ensured that surprises were rare, costs realistic and transition impact minimal. It was built on a foundation of customer collaboration and an in-depth view of their journey and strategic goals.”
“Attacq was running the Microsoft Dynamics AX2012 platform along with a variety of different add-on solutions brought in by service providers throughout its lifespan,” explains Olivier. “In addition, the solution was reaching a point where it would no longer be supported by Microsoft, which meant no service packs, limited digital capabilities and increased system vulnerability.”
Attacq’s need to migrate was driven by more than just the product’s lifespan, however. The organisation wanted to pursue a deeper cloud strategy with technology and innovation at the core of its infrastructure and investment. The move to the D365FO not only provided the opportunity to refine and reposition the system, but to move to the Microsoft Azure data centre that now had a local presence. It opened up a wealth of possibilities that could include the introduction of power apps and power platforms for reporting and dashboards, and a far richer ERP ecosystem. D365FO is the logical successor to Microsoft AX2012 with an impressive maturity that has seen it compete comfortably with competitors on the market. By following this upgrade path, Attacq would be capable of pulling through existing data and system information into a more digitally coherent solution that could run in the cloud.
As with all implementations, there were technical challenges to overcome. Decision Inc. had addressed this concern in the initial phase of the roll-out, recognising that there had to be some space given to the potential technical problems so that there were no hidden surprises. Given that this was the first migration of its kind in South Africa, some technical aspects of the upgrade presented Decision Inc. with some interesting challenges.
“These were related more to the initial implementation in our assessment than to the technology itself,” explains Olivier. “There were some customisations made to the original product (AX2012) for Attacq that needed to be moved and it took in-depth expertise to ensure that these were successfully migrated to the new system. In addition, due to those factors and it being a fairly new ecosystem from a migration point of view, we worked with Microsoft to improve their migration tools throughout the duration of the project.”
The migration process took around six months to complete. It was supported by the robust digital roadmap developed by Decision Inc. and Microsoft provided additional support through its migration toolkits and troubleshooting expertise. The timelines in the original roll-out had to be re-assessed whilst migration tools were upgraded, but proactive planning ensured Attacq experienced minimal disruption as the migration evolved.
“We anticipate future migrations will move far smoother as a result of the work we did on this project,” says Olivier. “There were some tricky elements but they were rapidly resolved thanks to the in-depth expertise of our team. While it was a complex process, we have now established a solid base of experience and now know precisely which routes to follow in the future.”
For Attacq, the migration was delivered with minimal interruption and a final product in alignment with expectations. Every aspect of the process had been detailed from the outset, adhering to Microsoft’s required methodologies and also ensuring that the company’s very specific and unique requirements were understood and met. The new platform has additional functionality embedded which forms an integral part of Attacq’s roadmap that will see Decision Inc. implement new systems and modules as required.
“A lengthy planning process and business needs analysis was conducted. Having D365 F&O integrate into our existing Office365 toolset enabled increasingly efficient collaboration through full cloud capability. While the usual post-migration teething processes were experienced, Attacq remains on track to deliver its year-end results to the JSE, on time,” says Grant Wing, Head of Digital & Enterprise Risk.
Ultimately, for Decision Inc., the solution has allowed for the organisation to further entrench its capabilities in providing reliable, relevant and seamless migration strategies to customers. The project provided the opportunity to manage a complex web of functionality and legacy technology, moving it into a new, digitally driven landscape that’s both stable and within expectations.
“It’s all about helping the customer to derive real business value that goes beyond just money spent,” concludes Olivier. “The real value comes through the productive use of the system after it has been implemented and this was the focus that drove our commitment to making this project a success. We wanted to ensure that Attacq got real business value from their system today, and well into the future.”