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Solving the Microsoft Dynamics Paradox

The stars were radiant and crisp as they dotted the sky in between streaming ribbons of dark clouds. My friend Fred and I stared into the night sky at the moon while standing in the open meadow on the edge of the San Mateo Wilderness in the Santa Ana mountains.  We had finally gotten a break after a long day of activities with the YMCA Indian Princess Program and our daughters were soundly asleep in their tents.    Suddenly, a meteor appeared and streaked across the sky between the clouds, and just as fast disappeared over the horizon. 

Solving the Microsoft Dynamics ParadoxAll was very quiet and still; Fred slowly turned his head and looked at me and said “I saw a UFO once, in a field like this.  It flew in pretty low from the right side, and went out of the field to the left”.  I really did not know what to say.  Fred was an accountant, and was a down to earth guy, never known to make up stories or exaggerate the truth.    “Okay? Tell me more about what you saw” was about all I could say.

In 1950, while working at Los Alamos National Laboratory, physicist Enrico Fermi had an informal conversation with colleagues where he crafted what we now know as the Fermi Paradox.   The Fermi Paradox simply states that the apparent size and age of the universe suggests that many technologically advanced extraterrestrial civilizations ought to exist.  However, the hypothesis appears inconsistent with the lack of proof to support it.

The Fermi Paradox is a conflict between an argument of scale and probability, and the lack of evidence.   There are an estimated 70 sextillion stars in the visible universe.  Assuming that there would be a small percentage of life on some planets circling the stars, there should be a great number of civilizations in the Milky Way alone.  Given life’s tendency to colonize new habitats, it would be likely given the 13.7 billion years history of the universe, that an extraterrestrial would be standing right here in front of us.  Yet, as of this moment we have no concrete proof of this happening.    There have been many attempts to solve the Fermi Paradox, but at the time of this writing all have failed.

Dynamics NAV has for many years been a very popular, stable, and robust COTS (commercial off the shelf) software package.  There are now over 65,000 companies in the world that are using Microsoft Dynamics NAV, and there are a significant number of professional resources in the world that have been implementing Dynamics NAV (Navision) for 15 years or more.   

There was once a similar paradox in the Microsoft Dynamics NAV universe to the Fermi Paradox, which had the same elements of conflict between scale and probably, and lack of evidence.   Looking at the lineage of Dynamics NAV, I could draw the conclusion that the majority of past Dynamics NAV implementations should have been successful given the stability of the product, the number of implementations, and the size and maturity of the community of professional NAV implementation resources.  Unfortunately, until the last decade, Dynamics NAV projects were not as successful as they could have been.  Much like the lack of extraterrestrial proof in the Fermi Paradox, there used to be a lack of proof that ERP implementations were really as successful as we would have liked them to be.

There have been many studies over the years that have attempted to measure the success of ERP implementations.   One of the most famous is the “Chaos” report that is produced by the Standish Group every few years.  Started in 1994, the Chaos report made the statement, and provided evidence that only 16% of ERP implementations were successful.  The remainder of the projects were either challenged or failed.

In the recent 2012 Chaos Report the success rate of projects has increased dramatically.  The difference in project success rates between the 1995 and 2005 reports can be attributed to the use of Agile methodologies to control, monitor, and manage projects.   Agile projects in the 2012 Chaos Report show a success rate of 42%, where Waterfall projects continue to show a lesser success rate of 14%.  

We have solved the Dynamics Paradox; project success rates are on the increase in the last decade.  We now engage the client by incorporating key stakeholders as project team members.  We document and manage the project by driving execution with user stories that document and solidify requirements.  We execute and verify client satisfaction in short bursts of work called sprints.  Above all we focus on, and deliver business value to the client. 

Today, we know how to prepare and manage projects better than we did 10 to 15 years ago.  Agile project management is not science fiction, but techniques that can be used on Dynamics NAV implementations here and now.   We have been able to solve the Dynamics Paradox by changing the way we prepare for and approach project management.

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