Solution Architecture for Dynamics 365 Implementations

Solution architecture provides an overall blueprint of the business processes and applications in an advanced Dynamics 365 implementation. Architecture is more important now than ever, but its contribution is still often underestimated and rarely understood.

To fill this common gap in understanding, we’ll explain:

What Solution Architecture Is

Solution architecture provides the big-picture plan that aligns business processes to solutions in an implementation project. It is developed by your solution partner, often documented in a “solution blueprint,” and supported with a “solution design proposal.”

Dynamics 365 solution architecture should also align the plan for the client’s specific solution with Microsoft’s general roadmap for its business applications.

Strong solution architecture can be helpful in all Dynamics 365 projects, but it’s an essential element of multi-application or otherwise advanced projects.

Diagram showing solution architecture connecting business needs and processes with new and existing applications

Risks of Neglecting Solution Architecture

If an advanced Dynamics implementation is not developed with architecture at the forefront, it may seem like the project is moving along smoothly at first. But over time, serious problems will be revealed:

  • False assumptions: Your solution partner may not have challenged your assumptions deeply enough to help you determine your true business needs and the right solutions for them. They also may not have helped you consider alternative processes to increase your efficiency in the new system.
  • Wrong applications: A particular business application may be implemented for processes it’s not well-suited to, because your solution partner didn’t step back to consider the big picture and the different kinds of data involved.
    • For instance, we sometimes find that an ERP system has been inefficiently used to track detailed customer interactions that should be handled by a CRM system.
  • Data silos: Your data won’t flow well from one system to another.
  • Misaligned roadmap: Over time, your solution will become less rather than more powerful, because it isn’t aligned with Microsoft’s roadmap for the products.
  • Blocked business growth: The friction in your solution then slows down your growth, because it won’t let you scale your output without inflating your headcount.

Implementing a multi-application solution without strong architecture is like starting to build a railroad from two ends without first taking time to map the exact connection points in the middle. It may feel like you’re making quick progress at the start, but in the end, the lines won’t link up properly.

If your Dynamics implementation project is struggling with problems like these, and you’d like a second opinion on it, please feel free to contact us. We have helped several clients who found themselves in this tough situation.

Does Your Project Need Extensive Solution Architecture?

In general, if your project involves multiple applications, it will need a strong focus on solution architecture to be successful, but there is a bit more detail than that.

This conversation should be had with a skilled Dynamics Partner, but the following chart should give you a quick sense of where you may fit.

If your implementation meets all the criteria in the “doesn’t need” column, your project probably doesn’t need extensive solution architecture. If it meets any of the criteria in the “needs” column, your project probably does need extensive solution architecture.

Factor
Doesn’t Need
Needs
Number of Applications Being Implemented

1

More than 1
Integrations
Few
Many
Implementing D365 Finance & Operations
No
Yes
Company Size
SMB
Larger

 

How Solution Architecture Has Changed

In the past, solution architecture was often seen as a strict, small set of functional and technical issues that most non-technical leaders did not need to consider.

But three things have changed in recent years:

  1. More sophisticated software: Organizations have and are implementing more complex software solutions.
  2. Greater need for efficiency: Businesses have become more protective of their employees’ limited time, and want to get away from staff manually entering the same data into multiple systems. So they need their systems to share data.
  3. Microsoft developments: Microsoft has developed the Dynamics products toward easier and more powerful interoperability. This overall direction flows from the One Microsoft strategy down to technical features like Dataverse and Dual-write.

For any advanced Dynamics 365 project, solution architecture is now essential.

The Solution Architecture Skillset

A good architect is a technical expert who understands how all the products and business processes work together. By contrast, most ERP or CRM consultants are specialists in a specific area and/or product.

The architect also needs to be able to see similarities and differences between your business and other businesses they have already had experience with.

That business experience allows the architect to ask insightful questions and confidently engage in tough conversations with you to determine your underlying business needs. Then the architect can match those needs up to the best technical solution.

How Much Does Solution Architecture Cost?

For an advanced Dynamics project, we tend to see that the costs for solution architects’ billable time are 10–15% as much as the professional services associated with the execution of the project. (For comparison, project managers’ billable time usually represents around 25–30%.)

In general, solution architects cost more per hour than other Dynamics experts, because they need to have expertise in the whole business stack, not just one product or functional area.

Note that, with Encore, solution architecture is not an optional line item customers can add or subtract to their projects. Either your project needs it (and won’t be successful without it) or it doesn’t.

The Process of Solution Architecture

When architecture is done well, it looks seamless to the client. That’s because solution architecture is largely about foreseeing and solving problems that would otherwise go undetected until they negatively impact your project timeline, budget, and overall success.

To provide some more visibility, here’s an overview of some of the steps our solution architects take.

In the presales phase of an advanced D365 implementation process, a solution architect should help to scope out the project as a whole.

In the more detailed analysis step that follows, the architect should ask probing questions about your business applications and needs, and help match your answers up to the capabilities of the potential business applications you could leverage.

And then, in the solution modelling step, the architect is a technical lead, especially guiding the interconnections between the different parts of your solution.

Overall, a solution architect is responsible for strategic road mapping, solution design, and mentoring of clients and delivery team. They review the requirements and design documents, participate in steering committee and project meetings, and help navigate executive-team awareness of the solution design as needed.

The Encore Advantage for Solution Architecture

Few other Dynamics partners understand and prioritize solution architecture to the same level as Encore.

Rather than rushing to deliver cookie-cutter implementations for our clients, we take time to strategically engage with you about what your next 5 years or more will look like. That picture of your strategy then informs the solutions, configurations, and integrations we recommend and deploy.

One of the main attractions of the Dynamics 365 product line is its flexibility. But to fully take advantage of that and enhance your business, you need a partner to help you develop a comprehensive vision for your strategy and technology.

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