Mid-Continent Instruments and Avionics Case Study – Dynamics 365

Liftoff for Strategic Technology Modernization with ERP in the Cloud

Microsoft stopped supporting Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 in April, 2022. However, many companies still use this ERP system on-premises and need to move to another solution. The Sikich ERP team helps them gain the benefits of Microsoft Dynamics 365 and the modern cloud by performing efficient, no-risk, nondisruptive transitions. Instead of simply shifting the current state of clients’ organizations to another ERP foundation, we treat this modernization as a strategic opportunity for taking advantage of transformational opportunities. Our engagement with Mid-Continent Instruments and Avionics (MCIA) showcases what such an ERP collaboration can look like.

Approaching an ERP Upgrade as a Transformational Opportunity

MCIA serves the global aerospace industry as a leader in the overhaul, exchange, repair, design and manufacturing of aircraft instruments, avionics and advanced power solutions. Cindy Highbarger, Senior Vice President of Finance and Operations at MCIA, says, “We have a very diverse product line. We also ship to over a hundred countries worldwide. We [support] fixed-wing rotor craft, military, commercial, general aviation, experimental aircraft. But our competitors as well are diverse. And so having a strong management system, a strong ERP system to manage all that data in inflow and communication to our customers is critical to us.”

A Sikich client of many years, MCIA deployed Microsoft Dynamics GP many years ago and eventually transitioned to Dynamics AX 2012. Mike Sanders, Director of Information Technology at MCIA, says, “Sikich consultants have a great understanding of our business. The feeling you get working on a project with Sikich is that they are experiencing the same concerns that you have, whether they’re onsite or not.”

When it was time to move to a new platform, MCIA had several business goals in addition to updating ERP:

  • Improve responsiveness to customers.
    Provide team members with better access to data.
  • Automate and accelerate business processes.
  • Strengthen cybersecurity and disaster recovery capabilities.

Sikich consultants have a great understanding of our business. The feeling you get working on a project with Sikich is that they are experiencing the same concerns that you have, whether they’re onsite or not.

Mike Sanders, Director of Information Technology

Mid-Continent Instruments and Avionics

The Entire Organization Participates

First, Sikich consultants performed a Cloud Readiness Assessment, which yielded a set of recommendations to help MCIA prepare its data and processes for a fast, smooth transition to the cloud. Next, we implemented the following:

Treating employees equitably and respecting their expertise are key aspects of MCIA’s business culture. The executive team invited the workforce to support and contribute to the software project, solicited employees’ input, and made certain that they were comfortable with their new ERP resources. When the Dynamics 365 ERP platform was ready to go, MCIA pushed out the go-live date so everybody could receive comprehensive training.

Business-Driven Integrations Close Capabilities Gaps

MCIA had integrated a number of ISV solutions and software tools developed internally with AX 2012 to meet specific functionality needs, some of which were business-critical. For the teams using these software tools, maintaining existing integrations and enhancing them in the cloud ERP environment were important concerns. Sikich transitioned current AX 2012 integrations to Dynamics 365, including:

  • Docufire
  • Halo Reporting
  • Hubspot
  • k-eCommerce
  • Logistyx Technologies
  • MCIA’s own Shopfloor App, Item Inquiry Form, and Document Migration utility

MCIA decided to add two ISV solutions to the Dynamics 365 cloud in order to replace manual processes with automated workflows for tax calculation and bank reconciliation. Therefore, Sikich deployed and integrated CCH Sure Tax sales tax calculation software and the SK Global Banking & Treasury Automation solution, collaborating with both ISVs to accomplish the best possible outcomes without any issues. To fully activate the SK Global solution, we worked with several banks doing business with MCIA to ensure smooth, bidirectional data flows between MCIA customers and financial institutions.

Forging Ahead During the Pandemic

MCIA’s ERP modernization took place during the pandemic, and Sikich delivered all stages of the project remotely through Teams. Throughout the engagement, we maintained open communications channels with MCIA executives, IT, and business groups to keep them appraised of our progress and address potential bottlenecks. “The ability to be remote and use Microsoft’s technology through the cloud greatly improved our ability to go forward without having to have any stoppage of work,” Sanders comments. “I was pleasantly surprised with working with Sikich during the pandemic because of their flexibility.”

Commenting in a post-project survey MCIA shared with Sikich, a stakeholder said, “Overall the project went really well, we were able to complete it in 10 months, which is impressive considering the scope. Good planning, execution, tracking of timelines, and early action to avoid road blocks helped the project deliver with minimal disruption to users.”

It’s so much easier to access information now than it had been before and getting back to that real time data. Our people traveling overseas don’t have to worry about time differences. They can get all the information they need.

Cindy Highbarger, Senior VP of Finance and Operations

Mid-Continent Instruments and Avionics

Enabling Anytime, Anywhere Productivity

Today, working in Dynamics 365 in the cloud together with Teams, MCIA employees can access their ERP and collaboration capabilities from anywhere. Sanders comments, “The cloud environment gives us much more mobile ability for our sales team, as well as remote work from some of our employees.” Team members navigate Dynamics 365 and Teams seamlessly, drawing on ERP data and functionality in Teams meetings and chats. MCIA is about to upgrade its phone systems with Microsoft Phone System—a fast-growing part of the Sikich practice—and expects to deliver superior customer experiences by using Teams-extending telephony together with Dynamics 365 Marketing.

Highbarger says, “It’s so much easier to access information now than it had been before and getting back to that real time data. Our people traveling overseas don’t have to worry about time difference. They can get all the information they need.”

The Next Step for Translating Data Into Value

As part of the technology modernization, MCIA transitioned from Bring your own database (BYOD) to an Azure Data Lake, which will allow more advanced, real-time reporting and data analytics in integration with Halo Reporting. Sikich trained MCIA developers in using Azure DevOps (ADO) to fine-tune these data insight capabilities with direct queries to Dynamics 365 tables as well as the Shopfloor App and Logistyx software.

Commenting on the use of ADO in the survey at the end of the project, one of the developers said, “Without ADO the team would have struggled to complete tasks on time… Once we understood how to use it, it was very easy. The project approach was very effective. [ADO] served well as a platform for monitoring code changes and associating them to conversations and issues. It was effective that we had all of [our] team in ADO so communication was direct and quick.” Summarizing what working with data is like today, Sanders states, “we were able to generate information that gave the decision makers and the operational side, the ability to preplan and understand their process flows going forward. So they became smarter and more effective at what they were doing.”

Securing the Digital Environment

The productivity and business insight accomplishments MCIA realized in the ERP modernization would compound the company’s elevated risk level without strengthening cybersecurity at the same time. An additional benefit realized was moving from an off-site disaster recovery solution to a cloud based environment to streamline any necessary recovery. By deploying its business-critical technologies in the Microsoft Azure cloud, MCIA also benefits from Azure advanced cybersecurity capabilities and can confidently ensure the continuity of customer services and communications.

Owning the Future

MCIA realizes that it can accomplish far more with Dynamics 365 and Teams than it initially envisioned for its ERP modernization. In the near term, the company is going to explore the Advanced Warehousing module more in-depth and looks forward to interacting with other manufacturers in the Microsoft cloud. Stakeholders expect to work extensively with the Microsoft Power Platform and Logic Apps and take advantage of AI and mixed reality with Microsoft HoloLens.

In the survey, a team member commented, “This was a successful project. I’m glad we got upgraded to D365 as this will allow us to explore additional features and functionality in the future. We have a good basis for future growth.” MCIA’s Director of Supply Chain, Marissa Williams, says, “We have great expectations for D365 which have already been realized, but we definitely feel that we’ll grow into it more as we move towards the future.”

Here to Help

At Sikich, we expect to help many other organizations make the move from AX 2012 to Dynamics 365. To streamline these projects, we are continuously incorporating our insights and best practices into the Sikich HEADSTART methodology. This can greatly shorten the time-to-value for many more clients. Built around Microsoft Lifecycle Services, HEADSTART comprises complete, production-ready models of the Dynamics 365 solutions that typically meet 80% or more of clients’ requirements. It includes a business process library with hundreds of standardized, best practice-driven processes for various industries.

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