Deployment methodologies, Part 4: Why Microsoft Dynamics partners go vertical

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By: Alan Earls

Following is the conclusion of a four-part exploration of deployment methodologies used by Microsoft Dynamics partners. Part 1 explores the promise of proprietary methodologies, Part 2 classic and modern project management, and Part 3, signs of project success.

Not every VAR or reseller offers a methodology purposed for a specific vertical, but there’s broad agreement that such an offering makes sense – with some caveats.

“I have been doing this work for a long time and what you find is that every business sees itself as unique, but they are not,” says Bob Caruso, principal, business consulting, at Tribridge Consulting. “Business is business.” Every business in every industry provides a product or service, and faces the same bottom-line realities, he explains.

On the other hand, he notes that every industry believes it is unique and in some cases, they really are. “That’s why you need a commonality of language when you enter an industry market,” he says. “Whether it’s pharmaceuticals or healthcare providers or a distribution business, you want to be able to put the methodology and the issues you are discussing in language they can understand. When you are helping a client to achieve a goal, it is nice to know what they do and coming to that business preloaded and ready is very important.”

Tribridge has developed multiple, verticalized pieces of IP. That includes “a strong market in the judicial space,” for example, with the Microsoft Dynamics 365-based Offender360, for correctional systems to manage their inmate populations. Other solutions focus on healthcare and contract management for professional service companies.

Alongside that IP, Tribridge has developed a verticalized methodology for working with professional services organizations.

In any instance, “You need to show that you are prepared to talk about the challenges and issues of [the customer’s] industry and that your verticalized method or solution actually fits,” says Caruso. The fit will never be 100 percent, says Caruso; but it should be perhaps 80 percent, which jumpstarts change and reduces time to benefit.

Of course, Caruso adds, you can’t apply those verticalizations everywhere because there are so many ways to slice verticals, and therefore, so many potentially distinct verticalizations. “At the core, it is about understanding the particular industry,” he says. “We gain their trust because we speak their language. If they have to teach us their business it will be much bigger challenge.”

Beware that “out-of-the-box” becomes “inextraordinary”

Peter Maloof, vice president for digital experience and disruption at Capgemini., sees the value of a vertical-specific methodology for its ability to not only differentiate a service provider, but to improve client outcomes.

“For the past ten years, everyone in the industry has been delivering best practices right out of the box,” he says. “But since everyone gets pretty much the same box and tries to use what’s in it, you end up competing box-to-box, which means you are getting poor business practices.” That, in other words, is why more specific approaches – tailored to an industry or a company – and not just generic best practices are worth pursuing, for the client and the implementer.

Still, a vertical-specific methodology is no small commitment. Larger partners like Capgemini, Tribridge and Armanino, typically have enterprise customers. For those partners, a vertical-specific commitment of dedicated pre-sales, development and marketing resources is realistic and strategically sound.

SMB partners are more likely to remain vertically nimble. They are more inclined to resist rather than embrace being labeled “the SMB public sector people,” or hospitality-industry specialists, at the risk of narrowing their prospects.

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Other firms that we profiled in Parts 1, 2, and 3 of this series have also chosen to specialize in verticals.

Tim Hourigan, a partner at Armanino LLP in San Ramon, Calif. says there are definitely situations in which a verticalized approach to implementation is needed. The company sells its verticalized offering for the high-tech industry, such as for fabless wafer processing operations and for the life sciences, each with specific regulatory requirements.

And Catapult ERP serves mid-sized customers. Its implementation experience includes (among numerous industries) financial services, non-profit and oil and gas field services, among numerous industries.

For such partners, the vertical commitment includes an implementation methodology that “travels well,” and building teams with industry-specific experience on their résumés.


About Alan R. Earls

Alan R. Earls is a technology writer based near Boston. He has covered all facets of IT, including ERP and CRM for many years and wrote regularly on Dynamics for Microsoft’s ‘Momentum’ midsize business website. He is the author of several books on tech and business history, including Digital Equipment Corporation and Route 128 and the Birth of the Age of High Tech.