Inside Look: Western Computer VP Shares ERP Implementation Insights

ERP implementation

Greg Williams, VP of Strategy at Western Computer, discusses key considerations for ERP implementation with Microsoft Dynamics 365 ERP solutions.
Greg Williams, VP of Strategy at Western Computer, shares insights on successfully implementing Microsoft Dynamics 365 ERP solutions.

In an exclusive interview on the Software Spotlight podcast, Greg Williams, Vice President of Strategy at Western Computer, provided an inside perspective on key considerations for companies implementing Microsoft Dynamics 365 ERP solutions. With over 15 years of experience at the Microsoft Gold Partner, Greg has worn many hats – from consultant to project manager to sales solutions to leadership roles. This diverse background gives him a comprehensive view of the entire ERP lifecycle.

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In an exclusive podcast interview, Greg Williams, VP of Strategy at Microsoft Gold Partner Western Computer, shared his insights on successfully implementing Microsoft Dynamics 365 ERP solutions. With over 15 years of experience, Greg discussed navigating the realities of replacing heavily customized legacy systems, adapting to the “Amazon Effect” on distribution, and the value of an experienced implementation partner.

Greg's Journey at Western Computer

Greg joined Western Computer in 2007 as a consultant, going onsite to help configure Dynamics ERP to meet each customer's unique needs. He then took on project management responsibilities, overseeing implementations from planning through go-live.

After that, Greg assisted the sales team with pre-sales activities like presentations and solution scoping to ensure opportunities were properly defined before kicking off projects. For the last decade, he has been in management, most recently as VP of Strategy.

“My role is to be the glue between sales and delivery, making sure we set the right expectations with customers and can deliver on those promises,” Greg explained.

The Realities of Replacing Legacy ERP

One of the biggest challenges Greg highlighted is that companies looking to modernize often have 10-15 years of heavy customization, integrations, and process investments built into their legacy ERP systems.

“They take for granted all the work they've done over the years – all the customizations, add-ons and integrations. And they think they can just rip all that out and replace it in 6-12 months with a new ERP,” Greg said. “Fully replicating that functionality in a new system in that timeframe is extremely difficult.”

The key, according to Greg, is careful planning to phase in the new ERP's capabilities over time based on what the customer can realistically absorb. Some functionality may be deprecated if no longer needed while prioritizing the adoption of the ERP's latest innovative features.

Adapting to the “Amazon Effect”

Greg discussed the radical impact of changing customer expectations around speed, convenience, and visibility into order status – dubbed the “Amazon Effect.” Where companies previously shipped full pallets to retailers, they now must also fulfill individual online orders for direct-to-consumer delivery.

This has completely transformed warehouse management, staffing needs, and required distribution efficiencies. Western Computer helps customers integrate their ERP with e-commerce platforms like Amazon, shipping solutions, and inventory management systems to meet these new omnichannel demands.

“Before direct-to-consumer, if you were a distributor you just shipped pallets to big retailers. Then all of a sudden you needed to also ship 100 individual boxes to consumers that same day,” Greg said. “It completely changed warehouse operations, staffing levels and fulfillment processes.”

The Value of an Experienced Microsoft Partner

As a Microsoft Gold Partner, Western Computer has a breadth of expertise across the full Microsoft Dynamics 365 portfolio – ERP, CRM, Power Platform, analytics, and AI solutions. Their consultants average 10 years of experience.

Greg explained that Microsoft relies heavily on its partner ecosystem to deploy, customize, and support its business applications for customers. This partner-centric model allows Microsoft to focus on product R&D while enabling companies like Western Computer to cultivate deep domain and industry expertise.

“Microsoft is different from companies like Oracle that are happy to work directly with customers,” Greg noted. “Microsoft scales through partners – we are their secret sauce for implementing these transformational solutions.”

Navigating the ERP Landscape

While Microsoft Dynamics 365 is Western Computer's flagship ERP offering, Greg noted they frequently encounter other major players like Oracle NetSuite, SAP, and Sage when companies are evaluating their options.

Most new implementations are cloud-based, though Greg said they occasionally still get requests for on-premises deployment from customers unwilling to trust the cloud. However, the cloud model enables continuous innovation without disruptive upgrades.

Balancing Customization and Upgrades

One potential challenge in the cloud can be balancing customization needs with the ability to adapt future product upgrades and enhancements from Microsoft seamlessly. Greg explained that their strong relationship with Microsoft product teams helps them understand roadmaps and steer customers away from excessive customization that could hinder the adoption of innovation.

FAQ on ERP Implementations

How long does a typical ERP implementation take?

Most ERP implementations take 6-12 months, though more complex projects can take up to 2 years. Careful planning and phasing is required.

What are the biggest risks in an ERP project?

Scope creep, inadequate change management, and unrealistic timelines are major risk factors that can derail ERP initiatives.

How does Western Computer ensure successful ERP adoption?

Their proven methodology emphasizes comprehensive training, documentation, and business process re-engineering to drive user adoption.

What role does data migration play in an ERP project?

Data migration from legacy systems is critical. Western Computer has tools to analyze, cleanse, and map data into the new ERP system.

How does Western Computer stay ahead of ERP trends?

Their close partnership with Microsoft, combined with decades of real-world experience across industries, keeps them at the forefront.

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