Why your Dynamics AX Project Manager doesn’t need AX experience

Cognitive group microsoft dynamics jobs and recruitment PM

You might think that the most important criteria when hiring Microsoft Dynamics AX specialists is experience of the software. For the majority of Dynamics AX positions, a degree of Microsoft Dynamics AX knowledge is essential, however for Project Managers it is often agreed that this can actually be a major disadvantage (the Project Manager is more likely to get sidetracked with the functional side, for example) and can also unnecessarily limit the volume of relevant candidates available. Here we look at why experience of SAP, Oracle, JDE or Baan can be more beneficial than Dynamics AX knowledge when considering your next Dynamics AX Project Manager…


Microsoft Dynamics AX is growing… FAST

Over the last 10 years the Microsoft Dynamics market has exploded in terms of budget size, project complexity, team sizes, product capability and market share. It’s no longer a surprise to hear of Microsoft Dynamics projects at Fortune 500 companies with a £/€15 million budget, across 20+ countries and with teams of 50 people, which used to be more common in the SAP and Oracle world.

This growth brings with it a level of expectation far higher than in years gone by. As the product matures and budgets increase, so does the project complexity – this means methodology, documentation, process, business change and communication are increasingly important to ensure a project is delivered successfully. As a result, the job of the Project Manager is more demanding than ever.


Dynamics AX could learn from its elders

Traditionally, Microsoft Dynamics AX experience has been the key criteria for evaluating skills in AX Project Managers. However, as projects  have evolved, the most suitable candidates often have less Dynamics experience, and instead bring knowledge of the scale and complexity from the more mature ERP products such as SAP, Oracle, JDE or Baan.


Project Management methodology

Project Managers need to deliver…….. well, the project. They do not require a detailed knowledge of the product but instead a disciplined background of a proven project management methodology is of vital importance. They must be able to create the plans, governance, documentation, communication strategy and deadlines for the functional and technical specialists to follow.


The ERP university of life  

ERP Project Managers who are experts in specific sectors such as retail, manufacturing, logistics and professional services also bring with them a greater range of examples, scenarios and lessons learned from similar sized ERP implementations.  This helps them to predict and identify problems in advance that could be missed by an AX product expert who may lack the depth of industry experience on a similar size project. Failure to spot these issues could waste millions of pounds and weeks of hard work from the team that a project cannot afford to accommodate. The danger on the biggest projects is that the smallest mistakes are amplified and can create a larger knock-on effect.


Importance of relationship management

The greatest benefit of considering Project Managers who are sector specialists rather than product experts can be the credibility and confidence they generate. By being able to communicate more effectively with key stakeholders and understand the unique issues and challenges of each individual, the Project Manager provides insights and direction that drives the project forward. As Microsoft Dynamics AX projects grow, implementations are as much about business change, conflict resolution and stakeholder management, meaning Project Managers need to be able to build trust and relationships as quickly as possible. This will happen more naturally when the Project Manager can demonstrate relevant sector knowledge.


All things considered, relevant sector knowledge and a background in a mature ERP should be higher on your wish list than Dynamics AX experience. This will also open up your search to a much wider ERP candidate pool.


Cognitive Group are specialists in Microsoft Dynamics jobs and recruitment with a focus on Microsoft Dynamics AX, Microsoft Dynamics CRM and other roles in the Microsoft Stack. Get in touch!

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  • Mark Richards

    Totally disagree – you can not be an effective project manager involved in any ERP Deployment unless you have experience with a specific product. To suggest otherwise is simply a way to cover for your own lack of knowledge and experience.

  • sudhakar

    Not at all possible can you suggest the same to SAP or Oracle it will be rejected outright.

  • Ash

    I disagree a Project manager who has at least one AX implementation under his belt would greatly benefit a new AX project. SAP, JD Edwards and Oracle are all different and knowing the pitfalls of each one will not benefit someone who is implementing AX as AX has its own set of issues for example in data migration or security that is unique to AX.

    A customer would rarely feel comfortable having a project manager running an AX implementation without any prior knowledge of AX.

  • Charles Lowe

    The comments below actually reinforce the article. Too many people in the Dynamics arena are used to small projects where, I will totally agree, the PM often has a hands on role.
    However, when you are talking £15m, multi-country projects with large teams, then the Project or Programme Manager has a very different role as described in this article. The PM is a manager to provide stakeholder management, direction and governance.
    Because AX is new to this space, it is very difficult for somebody who has only done AX to have the skill set to manage senior stakeholders across different countries and cultures to ensure success.
    So I agree that this is where the actual knowledge of a specific ERP is not essential for a large project as described here.
    Sadly, this also means that experienced AX PMs are unlikely to have done large enough projects to be considered for a global SAP or Oracle project – YET!
    As people have the opportunity to manage large AX projects, then you will see AX PMs able to move the other way.

  • Cognitive Group

    Thanks for all your responses everyone and some interesting views.

    Just to say that this blog is not just us creating ideas but based on feedback we receive from clients of what is already happening in the market you work in. Several projects, including Microsoft’s flagship projects are following this route, finding that mature ERP experience is proving to be more successful than the previous method of focusing on AX.

    The content behind the blog comes from our view of only working in the Dynamics industry and hearing first hand why so many clients and partners have failed when implementing AX in the last 10 years. You are right to say that AX experience makes life easier, but that was not the point of the blog. This is true on smaller projects as we have seen over the last 5-10 years, because the complexities and budget are smaller and so project management methodology is “not quite as crucial” to the final outcome.

    However, times have moved on… and very quickly, and the role of a PM has evolved from a hybrid PM/Consultant to an out-and-out Project Manager. We operate in a market where projects are significantly more complex than 5-10 years ago and we have seen that if you use the same approach and methodology on a £15M project that you would on a £1M project you are going to struggle and more likely than not the project will fail due to unexpected errors.

    Our view is that for the more recent larger AX projects, there are very few PMs in AX who can say they have done this before and know how to scale their methodology from a £1M to 15M project. This is why many of our clients (both end users and consultancies) have looked away from AX on these biggest projects and prefer to look to a background in ERP on relevant scale project that also has the relevant industry experience.

    Love to hear other people’s thoughts on this subject – what is your view?