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Is DevOps the Microsoft Dynamics Differentiator?

DevOps, the emerging field that aims to build collaboration between development and operational teams in a world of ever-changing software requirements, is making its way into Microsoft Dynamics partner methodologies.

In response to the DevOps movement, platforms like Microsoft Azure and DevOps-specific software are providing the tools that support accelerated methodologies for technology implementers. Could these practices and tools provide the differentiator to boost Dynamics ERP adoption in the enterprise space?

The term DevOps is used to describe methodologies that support continuous improvement during software development, integration, testing and live rollout. Coined in response to the traditional adversity between development and operations teams, DevOps helps organizations implement and update business management systems at the pace of change today.      

While Microsoft has been on the DevOps bandwagon for a while, Azure clearly gives the company more motivation to promote the approach. Microsoft recently sponsored a research paper, "Why DevOps Matters: Practical Insights on Managing Complex & Continuous Change," that looks at the challenges companies are facing in getting real traction with the collaborative implementation approach.

Peter Joeckel, president and founder of TurnOnDynamics, sees a growing need and interest in a DevOps approach to implementations, especially in Dynamics AX engagements.

"DevOps has grown up in the SAP and Oracle enterprise worlds," Joeckel said. "As Dynamics AX moves up into that space, partners can start to take advantage of the concepts as a differentiator."      

Experienced with Dynamics AX manufacturing implementations, Joeckel sees the challenges organizations deal with first-hand.

"There is a tremendous amount of pressure on the operations folks today to respond to change quickly. Those can be driven by social media or online requirements. Most of those changes require programmers," Joeckel said. "Any kind of processes, skills and toolsets that keep the development cycle going more efficiently is an advantage to these businesses."

As an example of how DevOps tools are changing the way ERP implementations are done, Joeckel cites the complexity of testing ERP-related customizations in the networked environment that can encompass the entire organization.

"Think about the typical network. It's big and messy. That is the reality," Joeckel explained. "If you develop and test in a pristine environment like VMware or Azure, you'll often find that you have missed something and everything blows up." 

As an alternative, Joeckel has been using the Kubisys on-demand test environment tool specifically designed for DevOps testing and staging. "With Kubisys, you make an exact replica of the production environment for all of your development, testing and training," Joeckel said. "It's incredibly difficult to do that in the real world. Being able to do it with the push of a button is nothing short of amazing."

According to Joeckel, Kubisys is being used for some of the largest Dynamics AX implementations. "As the number of large Dynamics AX projects increases," Joeckel said, "there is a need to bring these processes and tools onboard."

Joeckel sees the growing number and availability of DevOps tools as a real differentiator for Dynamics partners. With every Dynamics partner claiming to have more experience than the rest, potential customers ignore that trite message and focus on price.

"ERP implementation has become a commodity," Joeckel said. "But with DevOps tools, an ISV, hosting partner or VAR can add actual value by implementing faster, better, cheaper and taking a huge amount of risk out of the process. That is a real differentiator."

Joeckel sees this approach, and the Kubisys tool, as beneficial across the Dynamics space. "While the tool is currently being used in the larger projects, it offers the potential to improve life in any project with a lot of development work, including CRM projects," he said. "It's an exciting time in the Dynamics world. There is great opportunity."

As Dynamics ERP and CRM partners take on larger and more complicated engagements, the processes and tools that they use to manage implementations becomes more important. Competing with the big consulting firms requires knowledge and mastery of the current best practices. For those partners who want to set themselves apart, incorporating implementation practices and tools that support the concepts of DevOps is a good place to start.

How are you using the concepts of DevOps to improve implementations? Add a comment below, or send me an e-mail and let's share your story.

Posted by Barb Levisay on January 29, 2015 at 9:02 AM


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