Connecting all the time

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Connecting all the time

The following article ‘Connecting all the time’ was published in The Sunday Business Post on April 30, 2017.

Mark Kane, Global Process and Enterprise Architect at Mainstream Renewable Power, discusses how eBECS and Microsoft’s ERP solutions has supported its business on a global and multi-market scale, and how the movement to the Cloud has improved working life.  

Connecting all the time

Mainstream Renewable Power is an independent global developer of renewable energy, with almost 10,000 megawatts in development and nearly 700 megawatts delivered into construction and commercial operation. Mainstream’s core business is to develop, finance, construct and operate large-scale, renewable energy projects in emerging markets. In operation since 2008, Mainstream has projects in South Africa, Chile, Ireland, Scotland, Ghana, Egypt and Senegal and has recently established a joint venture in Vietnam.

When it came to implementing ERP in our business, Mainstream differed from a lot of other startups. From the beginning in 2008, we had a presence in multiple geographies around the globe, with a highly mobile workforce who needed to be connected at all times to our IT systems and to each other. We needed systems that would be intuitive and easy to adopt and available 24/7. For our ERP solution, we needed strong multi-company, multi-currency (including currency triangulation) functionality, as well as exceptional consolidations and reporting functionality – this is where Microsoft stood out over other ERP services.

Agile solutions for an agile business

When choosing our ERP solution, the key strengths that we identified with Microsoft ERP were the run-time flexibility of AX and the inter-operability of the Microsoft Suite in general. We knew that, as a start-up company, there would be forks in the road, changes of direction and ever-changing priorities. This meant the need for our IT systems to be as agile and responsive as the company itself is to new market opportunities. Our goal was to provide world-class IT that would be a business enabler and differentiator for Mainstream. Due to Microsoft’s all-encompassing solutions for ERP, our senior management team adopted IT architectural principles of single supplier (with Microsoft as the software supplier), configuration-only (no customisations), and standardisation (standard laptop image, project and company templates). These architectural principles, particularly the approach eschewing customisations, meant that Mainstream’s IT remained agile and responsive to change, and enabled us to be cloud-ready from the outset. For us, Microsoft enabled us to run our business end-to-end applications, while giving us the ability to plan our growth in a scalable and cohesive way and enable us to respond to the ever-evolving needs of our business. It gave our colleagues familiar tools and helped us optimise our operations with insights that we could action.

Making things simpler with digital transformation

We began our initial roll-out program for Microsoft Dynamics, AX, and SharePoint in 2009. The following years saw us expanding these solutions and in 2014, we successfully began our move to the Cloud with Office 365 – including:

Dynamics CRM Online and Skype for Business. This was hugely successful for us, with positive feedback across the business. Following this, we implemented our Azure wind data management platform and our Share-Point Online solution with Information Rights Management. In 2017, we are expanding our rollout of SharePoint Online and implementing Dynamics 365 for Finance and Service. Our annual IT survey, which goes to all colleagues, has demonstrated a large increase, year-on-year since 2014, of “satisfied/very satisfied” ratings with the IT service catalogue. It’s no coincidence that 2014 was the year in which we commenced our cloud adoption program, with a selling point for colleagues being that it’s “the last upgrade you will need to do”. With software as a service, your software updates with new features and functionality automatically as Microsoft releases them. Not only does this make life easier for our colleagues, but avoids downtime as nobody has to manually upgrade their devices.

A system that understands finance

The next upgrade on our cloud journey is the implementation of Dynamics 365 for Finance, scheduled for January 2018. Our Finance function is a complex one, taking in multiple jurisdictions and now comprising a total of 113 companies, with complex internal and external reporting requirements.

With eBECS, we found a partner that understood that a successful ERP system requires much more than the transactional element and that the true business value of ERP is realised with the quality of the business intelligence that can be extracted from it.

Our strategic IT direction is focused on “software-as-a-service” offerings and fully outsourcing the “nuts and bolts” of IT. With strong supplier relationships in place and our ISO-27001 and ISO-20000 certifications providing independent verification of the security and service levels of our IT solutions, our small internal IT team now focuses on business process improvements and opportunities which add value to Mainstream’s business, instead of being distracted by fixing IT issues.

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