Age UK

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Age UK

Business needs

Age UK is one of the UK’s largest social enterprises, supporting its charitable work for older people by operating a financial services arm, and a retail operation running 450 shops.

In early 2016, Age UK’s board decided to dispose of a business that retailed a personal alarm service. From an IT perspective, explains Age UK’s head of information systems, Terry Willis, this called for Age UK’s single on-premise instance of Microsoft Dynamics NAV to be divided into two.

“One part would go with the business that was being sold, while the other would remain as the enterprise backbone for our ongoing operations,” he relates. “That being the case, we decided to re-think our options from first principles. Rather than simply re-invent what we already had, what was actually best for the organisation, going forward?”

Challenge

The review, carried out as Age UK began to negotiate with potential buyers of the business in question, identified several challenges—and also several attractive opportunities.

To begin with, the existing instance of Dynamics NAV was in the form of Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2009: clearly, there were attractions to moving to the latest version, Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2016.

In addition, explains Willis, the existing system had been heavily customised, chiefly in order to support the business that was being sold. So there were also obvious attractions to moving to a cleaner, more standardised, ‘out of the box’ instance of Dynamics NAV 2016.

Equally, moving to a fresh new instance of Dynamics NAV opened up the possibility of moving to a cloud-based instance of Dynamics NAV, running in Microsoft Azure. Again, from both a cost and operational point of view, the attractions of this were clear.

That said, there were challenges to overcome. What was being proposed would require specialist technical resource, in order to achieve the required separation while continuing to keep both businesses operational.

Moreover, there would be a licensing issue to overcome: the existing Dynamics NAV license was attached to the business that was being sold, meaning that the remaining business would need a fresh Dynamics NAV license.

But Microsoft, realised Willis, was no longer making available licences of Dynamics NAV 2009. Instead, it sold only Dynamics NAV 2016. But until the move to Dynamics NAV in the Cloud was complete, the business would somehow need to license its 2009-era instance of Dynamics NAV.

“I reached out to Microsoft for advice, and Microsoft in turn pointed me to a handful of third-party specialists with the skills to help us,” he relates. “Very quickly, we decided to move forward with eBECS.”

Why eBECS?

Essentially, says Willis, the reason for selecting eBECS to help with the migration of the organisation’s Dynamics NAV system boils down to eBECS’ demonstrated expertise, together with its responsiveness to Age UK’s request.

“We had asked Microsoft for recommendations, and eBECS was one of a very small number of names suggested to us as being capable of assisting us in what we wanted to achieve—so that in itself was a vote of confidence,” he explains.

Impressive, too, was also the way in which eBECS responded, he adds.

“We never heard back from one of the companies to which Microsoft had referred us, and one of the others seemed more interested in talking, rather than action. eBECS responded straightaway, and sent a technical specialist to talk to us almost immediately. As we were under time pressure, it was a level of responsiveness that we appreciated.”

Solution

With eBECS technical specialists working on Age UK’s behalf, matters began to move quickly. First came a resolution of the licensing issue, explains Willis, with eBECS liaising directly with Microsoft—even though, as it transpired, Age UK was to purchase its licence directly from Microsoft, rather than eBECS, in order to take advantage of the special terms that were available to charities.

Next came the separation of the systems, and the re-establishment of a Dynamics NAV 2009 instance that supported the remaining Age UK business operations.

Then, commencing in October 2016, came the start of the migration programme away from Dynamics NAV 2009, and on to Dynamics NAV 2017 running in Microsoft Azure. This in turn required the development by eBECS of a significant number of interfaces to Age UK’s Microsoft Dynamics CRM system.

“As charities go, we have one of the very largest CRM databases to be found in the sector, with over 12.5 million names on it: supporters, beneficiaries, relatives, volunteers, customers, service providers, other agencies, and commercial partners,” explains Willis. “It’s our entire ecosystem—beneficiaries, donors, partners, and suppliers.”

Benefits

From Age UK’s perspective, the project has been a significant success, he reports.

“The business sale wasn’t impacted, and nor was the effectiveness of our ongoing operations, which were able to carry on operating as usual on Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2009 until we were able to complete the transition to Azure.”

And the move to Dynamics NAV running in Azure has brought operational efficiencies and savings, as well as simplifying and streamlining Age UK’s operations.

“We’re a large social enterprise, generating profits in order to support the charitable arm of the organisation,” sums up Willis. “Microsoft Dynamics NAV helps us to earn those profits—and Microsoft Dynamics NAV running in Azure makes us even more efficient. In achieving that transition, eBECS played an important role.”

Solution overview

1001 to 5000 employees.
Age UK is one of the UK’s largest social enterprises, supporting its charitable work for older people by operating a financial services arm, and a retail operation running 450 shops.
eBECS
Retail
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