In my last article I described the general development path of a Dynamics AX application consultant. Now I will review some typical challenges that a consultant faces in ERP, and Microsoft Dynamics AX specifically, at the three main levels of his or her career path. These challenges are correlated to the consultant’s business experience, soft skills, and technical knowledge. The level of challenges vary as the level increases from awareness to proficient to expert.
At the Awareness level, the application consultant is scratching out his career, moving horizontally to shape key components of his skill matrix. An application consultant at this level should have a solid grasp of general business fundamentals such as organization departments, financial entries, and inter-department relations; business terms such as debit, credit, Purchase Order, and Sales Order; core business cycles such as Purchasing and Sales; and industry-specific business knowledge.
The consultant should also take on the challenge of exploring the ERP application’s functions and how they are mapped to the business needs or requirements.
Most managing partners and senior consultants miss a key development opportunity for their junior employees by overwhelming them with focusing on the features and functions apart from the business side of things. This mistake can have a real impact on the new consultant’s career since a consultant needs from the very beginning to understand that the real goal of ERP work is helping customers in bridging business needs to ERP.
Beside the application’s business function, the consultant should understand the implementation phases as defined by Microsoft Dynamics Sure Step, as well as the fundamentals of management information system (Input-Processing-Output), database management, and reporting.
Ideally, the consultant at this stage is also working on documenting business requirements and developing business test scripts based on the workshops he or she participates in with experienced consultants. Exposure to such workshops offers the consultant deeper insight into bridging business needs into application functions, as well as collecting and documenting requirements.
The Proficient level focuses primarily on getting specialized in the ERP application’s functions and related business areas like supply chain, project, HR, CRM and the core of financial modules. Moreover, “proficient” consultants should be building up expertise in a business vertical like retail, manufacturing, services, or public sector.
As I have said previously, Microsoft has set a path forward for AX consultants, starting with AX 2012, that will nearly guarantee specialization in a vertical business domain. These certifications will push consultants closer to industry pains, issues, and solutions to real world challenges through the application with industry best practices. Consultants and partners get ready for specialization challenges.
A consultant at this development stage begins to lead an implementation project activities; analysis workshops, training, deployment, end user shadowing and support. The analysis workshops are the most interesting part for the consultants where he/she gain the business knowledge and understanding how to map customer requirements into the application functions. The consultant should be able to brainstorm ideas, and challenge the solutions with process owners.
Additionally he/she works with technical consultant for customizations, and modifications if required, the technical consultant deliver the solution to application consultant for functional testing, and retesting after bug fixing.
In the design phase the consultants work frequently with Microsoft Excel in master data collection activities like gathering master data sheets, performing master data cleansing, and data mapping if needed.
In the deployment phase the consultant uploads the master data into the application, so he/she must know the mechanisms, prerequisites, and sequence of master data upload.
The proficient consultant should also be delivering training activities to end users, including both standard and specialized training. And post go live, the consultant has a role in supporting and shadowing end users in areas like transactions entry and report generation.
Expert level consultants handle more complex challenges and many of the most important project responsibilities like project deliverables management, requirements, and change management. These job areas begin with the gathering of requirements, communicating with the business process owner, and getting approval in order to move ahead to design and other stages. The consultant should at this point have become more experienced in vertical ERP implementations, approaching a project with a higher level focus on the total end to end solution, not only the function and how it will smooth the business flow.
An expert consultant will face requirements with external integrations, reporting tools, business intelligence requirements, and application access options. The ability to deliver on this growing list of challenges is built on previously gained horizontal and vertical experience and proven business analysis skills.
An expert application consultant participates in solution design and challenges current business process, offering best practices with a willingness to tackle business process reengineering – trickier tasks that are related to the application business logic.
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