With the current lockdown impacting every business in some way, DAC Systems has been able to remain operational thanks to the Microsoft cloud ecosystem.
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in more than half the world’s population entering a period of self-isolation and, in many countries, the temporary closure of all non-essential businesses; South Africa’s having been extended to the end of April.
Where possible, employees and business owners alike continue working, but from home. However, many have found this extremely challenging for a multitude of reasons. This ability is essential to business’ survival and enable industry to reduce the lockdown’s negative economic impact. Decision-makers in organisations that can continue operations are under significant pressure to ensure they operate as normally as is possible. This can only be achieved via the use of digital solutions that empower employees to fulfil the same functions from home as they would normally do at the office or client sites.
As a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner and Systems Integrator, DAC Systems is in the fortunate position that all its employees were already familiar with the technologies and many were, in some way or other, already working remotely when the pandemic hit. However, the company still had to ensure that all systems were running optimally so that there would be no unforeseen issues and interruptions to communications whilst at home. And of course, it had to continue supporting its customers with any issues they might have.
“From an operational perspective, DAC Systems’ ability to deliver has had little to no impact as a result of the lockdown. Whilst we have had to implement certain procedural changes to allow for the management of the entire company remotely, all our work is ultimately digital in nature and as such continues unhindered. Using Microsoft cloud technology as the foundation, we can remain focused on completing our projects and supporting customers albeit remotely,” says Gary Regan, COO at DAC Systems
He says DAC Systems uses several Microsoft solutions, including:
- Dynamics 365 for Finance & Operations
- Dynamics 365 Human Resources
- Dynamics 365 Sales
- Dynamics 365 Customer Service
- Microsoft 365 which includes, amongst others, the following:
- Exchange Online
- Project Online
- SharePoint Online
“The entire organisation runs in the cloud. So, by definition, our employees can access whatever they need and have access to from anywhere on the planet and at any time. The fact that they are sitting at home becomes almost inconsequential in that regard. The single biggest challenge we do face from a delivery perspective are where clients have not adopted these technologies. In some instances, we assist to rapidly migrate their essential functions to these platforms but where this is not feasible, we continue to provide support to the best of our ability where we still have remote access to the client,” he says.
Chris Willemse, CEO at DAC Systems, believes the biggest contributor to a great cloud experience is connectivity which remains an issue in certain geographical areas.
“Across our employee base we cover a variety of connectivity solutions including fibre, wireless, ADSL, and no connectivity at all. Residential fibre is not yet prevalent in the metros and business fibre is too expensive for home use. The coverage in the rural areas also need to be addressed. Hopefully, the surge in demand for home connectivity will address coverage as well as cost issues to the benefit of all,” he says.
Financing done digitally
Gary Carter, chairman at DAC Systems, says the company has been a proponent of digital solutions for many years. Given how digital transformation has become such a business imperative, the work DAC Systems has been doing in this regard has been paying dividends during the lockdown.
“For instance, six months ago, we made the strategic decision to migrate to Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Finance & Operations in the cloud. This enabled us to resolve any issues even before the lockdown was a possibility. Our project management systems have always been in the cloud and with finance coming on board, the systems are running absolutely perfectly,” says Carter.
He believes that it is especially the Microsoft dashboarding function that delivers significant financial insights needed to be more agile in response to rapidly changing market conditions.
“The Microsoft Financial Insights using Power BI, combines data from the general ledger and subledgers to give a more complete picture of the financial health of the organisation. This means we have complete oversight of any potential issues and can action red flags accordingly,” he says.
Razia Rahman, Financial Manager at DAC Systems, believes the cloud-centricity of the Microsoft solutions means the various teams at the company can maintain their workflow and become more productive in the process.
“While most of us might be missing the dynamics of the office environment, working from home brings a more focused approach. The various components of Microsoft Dynamics 365 integrate effectively into all our operations, so everything has been running smoothly. Furthermore, the Microsoft Teams unified communication solution has become one of our most useful tools,” she says.
This empowers all team members to be in touch with one another and it provides collaboration features that optimise their work projects.
“We are still fulfilling all accounting functions as if we are still in the office. Our Microsoft ecosystem has provided us with the peace of mind to carry on as normal,” she adds.
Becoming digitally aware
Carol-Anne Regan, BD Coordinator at DAC Systems, believes the lockdown will result in companies looking for more effective ways to work with digital tools.
“Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Microsoft SharePoint have been key enablers for us in this regard. The integration between these solutions sees us use SharePoint as a document repository with notifications being mailed to team members when there are new files for viewing. We can customise who receives notifications and then everything happens automatically. Exco has sight of this and can view the pipeline to see any opportunities with Dynamics CRM providing relevant insights,” she says.
She says that Microsoft Teams has also been an essential tool for the company.
“Even though we have been using Teams for a while, it has become an indispensable tool during the lockdown. Without it, we would not be nearly as productive as we are now. From remote meetings, video calls, and desktop sharing, to team collaboration, we can do everything digitally we would ordinarily do in the office environment,” says Regan.
This has resulted in our collaboration on Microsoft Teams going up by 178%.
“It also does not have to be all work. We ran a social event on teams with 33 employees for two hours. During the time we chatted, played games, shared our screens. It was incredibly effective. Afterwards, Teams provides a summary of the communication, and you can see comments, files, and chat, with everyone able to refer to it,” says Kirk Schafer, Human Capital Director at DAC Systems.
“Even before the lockdown, we were comfortable with the technology. It was part of our daily routine. However, the day the lockdown started all our communication migrated to Teams. Everyone got off their phones and embraced Teams as the go-to solution without any prompting from management,” he says.
One area that has been somewhat challenging is in sales.
Derek Sargent, Microsoft Solutions Specialist at DAC Systems, says the sales function is more difficult when doing so remotely.
“Sales is usually something done face-to-face. People prefer to meet in person and establish trust before being pitched a product or service. However, with Microsoft Teams we are doing as much proactive work as possible with potential customers highlighting the importance of digital solutions during times of crisis. What we are seeing is many companies just trying to get to grips with surviving this period of uncertainty,” says Sargent.
From a human resources perspective, Teams and SharePoint have been invaluable.
“The HR department has all the information for good management and employee communication with everything happening via Outlook, Teams, and SharePoint. For example, SharePoint is where the information is stored and from where it is disseminated. Our department can share all relevant documents with everyone in the organisation. We can share news and announcements, with SharePoint even serving as a collaboration platform,” says Bernadette Froelich, HR Manager at DAC Systems.
Andre de Villiers, PMO Manager at DAC Systems, agrees that SharePoint and Microsoft Project have been instrumental in the success DAC has had in working remotely.
“Microsoft Project is an incredibly stable platform on which to manage internal and external projects. We have used the tool to proactively monitor our clients and identify potential problems before they impact operations. Microsoft has been the perfect environment for us as it delivers on everything we expect and sees us continuing with operations as per usual,” says de Villiers.
Whilst it is difficult to predict what will happen to the economy once the lockdown ends and beyond, Willemse believes the tools DAC is currently using will enable them to handle most scenarios.
“In order to support our clients during this time of distributed working, it is imperative that we are able to operate efficiently. In turn, this will lead to our service delivery being of agreed standards. We believe that our toolset is not just ideal for services companies, like ourselves, but also for most back-office functions across most industries. The lockdown has given us a lot of things to think about and the way we work and interact with our employees, clients, and prospects will change forever and we need to be ready for this change,” concludes Willemse.