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Mainstream Renewable Power
Founded in 2008, Mainstream Renewable Power designs, develops, and operates renewable energy installations around the world. But building and operating onshore and offshore wind and solar farms brings complex ERP and CRM challenges – from stakeholder management, through to regulatory compliance, accounting for multiple legal entities, and transacting with a global network of partners and subcontractors. An integrated set of Microsoft products, headed by Microsoft Dynamics AX, Dynamics CRM, and SharePoint brought Mainstream on stream in record time.
Dublin-based Mainstream Renewable Power operates from 12 offices in 8 countries and specialises in large-scale wind and solar energy projects. Mainstream CIO John Shaw, cites the example of ‘Smart Wind’, a 4,000 megawatt offshore wind farm off the Yorkshire coast, developed in partnership with Siemens Project Ventures, to see both a good showcase of Mainstream’s capabilities, as well as a representative set of the challenges Mainstream faces from an ERP and CRM perspective.
When it comes to ERP, for instance, every one of the company’s projects – underway on 4 continents – must operate as its own legal entity, separate from all others.
People and project resources may work across multiple projects, but costs and revenues are unique to the legal entity in question – yet be capable of being rolled up into a single Mainstream chart of accounts.
And from a CRM perspective, there are extensive stakeholder relationships to manage, adds Shaw.
Partners, regulators, landowners, utilities, certainly – but also a host of other interested parties, ranging from fisheries authorities through to shipping and defence interests, each of which must be consulted about the presence of an offshore wind farm in busy coastal waters. Inevitably, too, Mainstream makes extensive use of subcontractors and third-party specialists, and relationships with these also fall under the remit of CRM.
“In fact, the number of actual customers is quite small – it’s basically those companies that buy a completed renewable energy installation from us, when it has been built and commissioned,” sums up Shaw. “But the challenge of stakeholder relationship management is very real, and in such a highly regulated industry, it’s vital to deliver CRM comprehensively.”
As a start-up company founded in 2008, Mainstream defined the company’s IT Strategy from a blank canvas, explains Shaw.
But Microsoft was the obvious ‘front runner’, he relates, and the decision was quickly taken to deploy Microsoft Dynamics AX as the company’s ERP system, and Microsoft SharePoint as a collaboration and document management tool, both of which were fully operational by mid-2009.
With its built-in links to Microsoft Project and Microsoft Outlook, SharePoint provided an ideal way to keep project teams in touch with each other as the business grew in Chile, South Africa, Canada, USA, Germany, Britain and Ireland.
Microsoft Dynamics CRM came next, in 2010, together with its Master Stakeholder Management functionality, explains Shaw. Again, he says, the logic was clear: as the business and its projects grew in complexity and scale, it was vital that stakeholders were engaged professionally, with a full audit trail of consultations, permissions, lease agreements and other project documentation also safely recorded and stored.
“Although we use 33 Microsoft products, the core pillars are Microsoft Dynamics AX, CRM and SharePoint” says Shaw. “Microsoft Technology underpins everything we do – from project management through to procurement, and from stakeholder relationships through to paying the bills.”
And the role played by eBECS has been critical, he adds: “eBECS fully understood what we needed to do, and have played a leading role in enabling our business growth.”
What have been the benefits of structuring Mainstream so extensively around Microsoft’s products and solution architecture?
“The ability to grow from a standing start into a multinational business” says Shaw “yet retain the same core set of applications with the certainty that we have a future-proof IT strategy”.
What’s more, he points out how each pillar of Mainstream’s Enterprise Architecture has deftly made full use of powerful niche capabilities not always found in competing solutions. From SharePoint’s document management functionality, to AX’s ability to handle multiple legal entities, and CRM’s ability to deal with multiple stakeholder relationships, Microsoft Technology underpins almost every aspect of Mainstream.
And looking forward, he adds, Microsoft’s Technology road map and extensive investments in new capabilities are already helping to drive Mainstream to the next level in its growth.
“The coming year will see us moving our SharePoint and CRM functionality to the Cloud, and upgrading AX to Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012,” he notes. “We also plan to fully evaluate Microsoft’s project accounting module, and AX’s Earned Value Analysis functionality.”