Air Partner

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Air Partner

Business needs

In late 2015, air charter and aviation services specialist Air Partner came to the conclusion that its legacy installation of Microsoft’s Dynamics NAV ERP system was no longer suitable for its needs. Extensively customised, , it had lost the confidence of users across the business, who either used it inconsistently, or relied on spreadsheets for compliance and financial ‘roll up’ purposes.

In short, it needed replacing. But with what? A fork in the road clearly beckoned: should the business upgrade to a newer version of Microsoft Dynamics NAV, or move to Microsoft’s more feature-rich Microsoft Dynamics AX large enterprise ERP system?

Challenge

Although the business was a committed adopter of the Microsoft technology stack, Air Partner’s internal IT organisation recognised that advice from a specialist partner would help them to make an objective decision between these two choices.

But equally, it saw, it might be unwise to rely on the guidance of the IT vendors with which it had worked on previous Microsoft Dynamics NAV and Microsoft Dynamics CRM projects.

Looking for a reliable source of impartial and objective advice on the question of Microsoft Dynamics NAV versus Microsoft Dynamics AX, Air Partner encountered eBECS, and quickly reached a decision to solicit eBECS’ views on the issue.

A short two-day on-site evaluation followed, leading to three clear conclusions, and an overall recommendation. First, Air Partner’s assessment of the suitability of its existing elderly Microsoft Dynamics NAV installation was correct: replacement was called for. Second, as Air Partner had also surmised, it was possible to transition to Microsoft Dynamics AX. But third, there was no real reason for doing so: no aspect of Air Partner’s operations really required Microsoft Dynamics AX’s richer functionality, and moving to Microsoft Dynamics AX would only add cost.

The recommendation: stay with Microsoft Dynamics NAV—but upgrade to the latest version, with eBECS as the implementation partner.

Why eBECS?

But before the project could proceed, relates Air Partner’s project manager and head of transformation, Linzi Barber, it turned out that Air Partner’s board of directors required eBECS to explain why an eBECS-implemented upgrade would not run into difficulties similar to those encountered by previous IT projects.

And the resulting presentation to the board, she adds, amply underscored the view that engaging with eBECS had brought a different calibre of IT expertise to Air Partner.

“There was no doubt that eBECS appeared to know what it was doing, and that it had the people and the skills to undertake the project,” she sums up. “We agreed a clear list of project success criteria, and work began.”

Solution

That said, she stresses, there were undoubted challenges ahead. It had been decided that the new system would go live at the start of the next financial year, in May 2017—and by now, it was already September 2016, with the Christmas and New Year holiday period looming.

It was also evident, based on Air Partner’s previous experiences, that extensive user acceptance training would be required, which would call for bringing to London the appropriate personnel from Air Partner’s operations across North America and Europe.

And finally, the new system would also have to be integrated with Air Partner’s legacy ‘Axis’ booking and quotation system. Longer-term, this could be replaced—but for the time being, it was a fixture, and a fundamental part of how Air Partner operated.

“The timescale was extremely tight, and very challenging, and it is to the credit of everybody in the business that we successfully achieved it, and went live as planned,” sums up Barber.

Benefits

And with the new system in place, the sought-for benefits—many of them enshrined in the project success criteria agreed between eBECS and Air Partner’s board—began to emerge.

A stable, reliable, and supported ERP system, for instance. A common system across the entire Air Partner group—meaning less reliance on to spreadsheet-based period-end roll-ups. And full compliance from a legal, tax, and regulatory perspective.

From this base, says Barber, there will start to come a more efficient and scalable finance function, and better and more timely management information.

More to the point, she stresses, the real benefits of the system will start to be felt outside the finance system, and right across the Air Partner group as more and more people interact directly with it. And with fewer manual processes and spreadsheet-based ‘workarounds’, she observes, the expectation is that Air Partner’s employees will become more productive, and more satisfied in their work.

All in all, she sums up, the project is on track for complete success—something of a departure from past experiences.

“The timescales were tight, but we delivered—which is how we like to work at Air Partner.”

Solution overview

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