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You must take personal responsibility for parts of the Dynamics 365 solution or ask a partner with insight and capacity to do the work.

When infrastructure and business systems began to move into the cloud, many people expected that cloud computing would change the way we work with IT systems. Many people also hoped that operation, maintenance and administration would become a doddle.

The first prophecy proved correct. Prediction number two remained a pipedream.

“I still encounter companies with Dynamics 365 who believe that cloud operation guarantees stability and uptime,” says René Kinberg Nielsen, IT Operations Manager at Columbus Application & Operations.

“Yes. Microsoft does guarantee 99.7% uptime and accessibility. But they only take responsibility for the infrastructure. You are responsible for data, and for the configuration, monitoring and operation of the application etc. This still comes as a surprise to many people,” he says.

Even small errors can result in wasted working days, empty lorries and losses

That means that errors or imbalances in configuration, resource allocation, database or something completely different can easily cause the company’s ERP solution to perform poorly. The possibilities are infinite and small errors can quickly develop from moments of irritation to a costly affair.

I visited one customer where ‘master planning’ jobs were not running. So, the company’s entire production was at a standstill and it was impossible to drive out with goods that day

“We are often asked to present our UpTime service to customers when, for example, nightly batch jobs were not completed. Maybe because the job started to run increasingly slowly, until finally it could not be completed during the night. Or because some sort of locking in the database prevented completion of the job,” explains René Skindbjerg Nielsen. “I visited one customer where ‘master planning’ jobs were not running. So, the company’s entire production was at a standstill and it was impossible to drive out with goods that day.”

This incident illustrates all too clearly the importance of keeping an eye on your Dynamics 365: even when Microsoft honours its obligations to the letter.

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The need for insight, discipline and respect for the classic operating virtues

“It is an integrated application structure that must be monitored, administered and continuously adapted. This requires insight, discipline and respect for the classic operating virtues,” says René Skindbjerg Nielsen.

For companies, however, the challenge is that even a relatively ‘clean’, standardised Dynamics 365 solution is extremely complex. On top of that, there are all the integrations. “Therefore, even skilled IT managers do not really have a chance to identify the problems in advance, or to remedy them when the situation has become acute,” he explains.


Constant monitoring can save money – and nip problems in the bud

That is why for some years Columbus has been providing customers with a service called ‘UpTime for Dynamics 365’. It encompasses an extensive range of services from monitoring to administration, security and updating. For example, the service includes constant monitoring to check whether an application, database, batch jobs and integrations etc. are working as they are supposed to.

“We also check constantly whether upscaling is required somewhere – or, conversely, whether money could be saved by downscaling certain resources. We also make recommendations about which ‘handles to turn’ in 3-6 months’ time so as to nip any potential problems in the bud,” René Skindbjerg Nielsen explains.

However, he notes that there are still companies who believe this is unnecessary, since their ERP is running smoothly.

There are also many ERP solutions that run smoothly right now. But they almost never run flawlessly without database locks or failed batch jobs.

“When I give lectures or meet customers and talk about these database locks, conflicting batch jobs or other performance issues, one or more people always nod in recognition. And we see many more benefits for companies if they react proactively and nip these challenges in the bud rather than struggling to fix them once the damage has been done,” says René Skindbjerg Nielsen.

Specialists have got better at writing reports for non-technicians

We also have an increased focus on the fact that customers do not necessarily have all the technical resources in-house anymore. That is why in recent years we have upped our focus on reporting, so that customers and partners find it easier to understand our Uptime team’s otherwise very technical recommendations.

“We have incredibly skilled, committed people who check first thing in the morning to see if ‘their’ primary customers have incurred any incidents during the night shift, which will need looking at during the day. They’re really on the ball and are ready to talk to customers or, if necessary, a project manager about the measures that have been taken to ensure a stable operating situation.”

All Uptime reports contain an executive summary and a general recommendation section, in which thee month’s incidents are collated in a joint recommendation to the customers, and which is reviewed at the monthly service delivery meeting. This has led to excellent collaboration.

All Uptime reports contain an executive summary and a general recommendation section, in which thee month’s incidents are collated in a joint recommendation to the customers, and which is reviewed at the monthly service delivery meeting. This has led to excellent collaboration.

“In cases where we have introduced the new report format, we spend significantly less time explaining the content of our conclusions to customers. Instead, we discuss how to optimise the platform or scale it to suit the current load situation, and this often saves the customer some money. The discussion is more equal, constructive and satisfactory for all parties concerned,” says René Skindbjerg Nielsen.

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