R. Jay Jackson, CPA, MCSE, CITP is a Microsoft Dynamics GP Consultant (Certified Master) with over 20 years of Dynamics GP, accounting, operations, and IT systems experience.
Providing implementation, upgrades, training, and support services.
Where do you work? How far do you travel?
Work is performed primarily remotely – nationally and internationally.
The nature of the actual work (other than training and go-live support) nowadays is such that all too often, a consultant travels far to a destination, stays in a hotel, commutes to an office, then sits in a room all day where the consultant accesses a server using remote software. That is a very inefficient, time consuming, and costly way of performing the same activities which could be performed without the travel.
Eliminating the travel expenses and time lost commuting, lunching, etc. allows for increased productivity which translates into lower costs to you and a more efficient implementation without sacrificing quality.
Onsite training and go-live support can be arranged upon request. Other than that, there is no real advantage or tangible benefit to having an “invisible” consultant onsite to push data around while billing or interrupting you all day.
What is your availability?
My clients are often surprised to call or send an email and find me available and working – seemingly 24/7, 365 days per year operating across several timezones to service customers’ needs across the USA and around the world.
Working from a dedicated home office and employing cutting edge smart devices and other tools allows for the perfect work/life balance and maximum availability. But, yes, in case you are really wondering, I do sleep once during the day and once during the evening for a few hours each time and set aside at least one full day per week for just family.
I never take on more work than I can service effectively.
Remote rate typically 40% of Microsoft Partners’ US average standard hourly rate.
All-inclusive onsite rate typically 50% of Microsoft Partners’ US average standard hourly rate.
Per hour (T&M), as estimated (work order), or pre-pay block billing available, subject to minimums.
The rate consulting firms and outsourced staffing firms charge varies depending on local market, but typically ranges between $150-$200+ per hour in the USA. Often, the customer ends up paying for a lead consultant, a project manager, and a trainee (and/or the time it costs to train the trainee). Why do that when you could get a comparable or superior consultant essentially at the same rate the Microsoft Partners pay?
How long does a typical implementation take?
A “typical” implementation is not easily defined. Microsoft Dynamics GP (Great Plains) is a very robust product and each customer’s needs are different – even within the same industry.
That said, and depending on client-side issues, an implementation including training and go-live support can be performed correctly and completely in 3-6 weeks for the “typical” mix of purchased modules and number of users.
As a Great Plains Master, possessing years of implementation experience training new consultants and users, you will save time and costs by using your own staff to assist with the implementation where possible. This reduces implementation time/costs and increases staff’s product knowledge even before formal training commences.
What is your training methodology?
Training should never be rushed and it should always be more than a 2-4 hour presentation of “this button does this” and “that module window shows that”. Training should focus on “why”, not just “how” and be easy for the user to relate what is happening on the screen to processes that are happening on the floor, warehouse, etc. At the end of the project, your users will be very well trained and able to understand the processes and how information entered flows throughout the system. They will be able to handle every required transaction, almost any post-implementation issue, and understand every required reporting tool and reports produced.
Do you perform complex development work?
Special relationships exist with experienced and highly qualified developers who have spent years developing only for Great Plains products and share the mantra that “if it can be imagined, it can be done”.
What is the difference between hiring an independent consultant and using my Microsoft Partner to perform the implementation, upgrade, etc.?
If you hire a Microsoft Partner, that firm may then hire an independent consultant. You pay the mark-up. It is not unusual for a Microsoft Partner to have 1/3 or more of its senior consultants under contract. Typically, the most senior are actually under contract and the more junior (who are paid much less) are the only FT employee consultants. You get to pay for them tagging along and learning at your expense.
Another distinction is that an independent consultant provides labor only and does not sell the product. That means you get the “real deal” when discussing options because there is no commission incentive to steer you to buy software you may not really need. If things go wrong with purchased software, the independent consultant will be on the front line fighting on your behalf for resolution – not making excuses and goading you to accept convenient compromises.
My company insists on using a local firm and their gang of consultants. Can you be our internal adviser?
Yes. After becoming familiar with your business, staff, current issues, and specific needs, the progress of the implementation performed by your Microsoft Partner can be followed on or offsite. An internal adviser can review and advise on things such as project plans (not enough or too many hours, all activities stated?, etc.), invoices, configuration/setup choices and impact, “gotchas”, and other information not typically known to clients. Things that would save you time, expense, and frustration. If it becomes necessary, the internal adviser can step in to keep things moving along (i.e. disputes, consultant turnover, vacations, closings during the holidays or disasters, etc.).
May I use your services for the implementation, then switch to a local firm or other source for support?
Absolutely. Activities are performed in accordance with Microsoft Great Plains’ Best Practices and documented so the next consultant can step right in for a smooth transition.
Post-implementation support (up to 30 days, remote) is standard at no additional charge for labor for qualifying implementations. These are all viable options available to you after the implementation is completed.
Do Contracted Professionals work for Microsoft Partners? Why?
It happens all the time. With rare, high-demand skill sets having significant barriers to entry (education, experience, training, etc.) creating a shortage of people and resources, smart firms are farming out work in increasing numbers to become or remain profitable.
Progressive firms are expanding by keeping a few full-time consultants on staff for on-going customer support and filling their implementation and training staffing needs with contracted professionals rather than keeping several full-time consultants on the payroll with no place to send them.
What tools do you use to perform work remotely?
Remote work can be performed in various ways depending upon the task. Teamviewer (www.teamviewer.com) is the preferred tool, but almost any other remote access tool is possible.
What should I know now about implementing a new system?
Management’s commitment and support for the implementation must be absolute. It is primarily the responsibility of Management to manage the change and acceptance of the new system and processes. Get all users and management involved, informed, and aboard before the consultant gets involved.
Allow them (all of them if possible) to sit in on the sales presentation demo before you buy the product so they can see, understand, and ask questions about what is coming. The demo should happen before you buy the product, not when the consultant is implementing it.
Microsoft Great Plains is a proven product. However, it is not a panacea for non-system or non-process related organizational problems. Management should consider very carefully if their existing “problems” are truly system related or actually people or process related before investing in a new system.
People problems, if they exist, may still remain and no system is going to magically fix those problems. That is a task for your awesome management and people skills.