Planar Case Study – Dynamics 365

Innovating Digital Vision with Cloud ERP

Global Leader in Display and Digital Signage Solutions Standardizes on Microsoft Dynamics 365 as its Core Business Management Solution

After the migration from on-premises ERP to Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance and Supply Chain in the cloud, Planar manages its operations in the U.S., Asia, and Europe on a single, scalable technology platform. For technology users, the new ERP serves as the sole resource to manage their work and find information. Contributing industry and technology expertise, Sikich helped Planar deploy Dynamics 365 to meet its goals and requirements.

The Sikich development group we worked with were very responsive. They got things ready for us to test as quickly as we could. They were extremely helpful.

Doug McLauchlan, Senior Programmer Analyst


The Next Step for a Critical Technology

Leading display provider Planar is celebrating its fortieth anniversary in style, winning awards, including two Best of InfoComm 2023 and three InfoComm 2023 Best of Show, and garnering worldwide acclaim for innovating visualization technology. Planar’s LED and LCD video walls, large-format LCD displays, transparent and interactive displays, outdoor displays, and desktop and touchscreen monitors are found wherever people need to see what matters to them. They are in event spaces, museums, theaters, broadcast studios, airports, healthcare facilities, retail locations, governmental coordination and response centers, workplaces, and sports venues around the globe. Praveen Sharabu, Vice President and Global Head of IT at Planar, says, “We bring your vision to life through multiple formats of displays. Most of what we sell is custom, and every installation for us is a project.”

Planar is headquartered in Hillsboro, Oregon. The company’s manufacturing facilities are near headquarters, and in Slovakia. In Corvallis, Oregon, OptiTrack, a business unit of Planar, offers high-performance optical tracking cameras and motion capture software that supports film, gaming, sports training, and biomechanical solutions. For many years, Planar has relied on ERP systems to run its complex business. “ERP is fundamental to our business,” says Sharabu. “ERP facilitates our finance and supply chain operations management and helps us work with the suppliers, distributors, and partners who provide parts and create solutions together with us.”

For over 10 years, Planar’s ERP system was Microsoft Dynamics AX, implemented by Sikich. Running on-premises, Dynamics AX supported U.S. operations. Planar business groups in Asia and Europe used different ERP systems. Once Planar decided to take advantage of the modern cloud, it was obvious that on-premises software would not be part of the company’s technology journey.

Modernizing on a Scalable Cloud Platform

Planar decided to collaborate once more with Sikich, this time to modernize its ERP environment by deploying Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance and Supply Chain Management in the cloud. Explaining Planar’s goals for the project, Sharabu says, “Cloud first is a digital transformation decision and a goal for all our systems. In the cloud, we can scale, operate flexibly, and use the same set of core services across geographies. By standardizing on one platform and ecosystem with Dynamics 365, we can address the challenges of latency, uneven performance, and trying to customize for the functional and compliance requirements of different geographies.”

In addition to reducing IT team workloads by offloading infrastructure management and software updates to Microsoft, Planar expects to benefit from the elasticity and scalability of a cloud ERP platform. “With Dynamics 365, we can scale up and expand out, adding features that we didn’t have or didn’t enable previously,” Sharabu adds. “We will also be able to move into tighter integration with our suppliers and partners. Sikich helped us get to a point where we can realize these objectives with our cloud ERP.”

In helping Planar deploy Dynamics 365, Sikich used an important element of its HEADSTART implementation methodology and resource: preformatted, stringent test cases. Sikich consultants managed the test runs and also trained ERP users on their new software tool.

Technological obsolescence played into Planar’s decision to adopt a cloud platform. Sharabu recommends that businesses transition to the cloud if they are still using on-premises software. “You’re behind if you choose to continue with on-premises technology,” he says. “Software companies have stopped supporting and evolving on-premises products.”

One ERP Solution for a Worldwide Enterprise

At Planar, Dynamics 365 runs in integration with several other business systems, including Salesforce as the CRM solution, product development software, and engineering solutions. Planar manages planning, manufacturing, procurement, accounts receivable and payable, sales order processing, inventory, warehousing, and return orders. Comparing cloud-based ERP to the previous solution, Doug McLauchlan, Senior Programmer Analyst at Planar, says, “It’s easier to get things done in Dynamics 365. The interface is so much more usable.”

Close to 400 Planar employees in the two Oregon sites and in the company’s locations in Europe and Asia work with Dynamics 365. Planar IT managers used Task recorder in Dynamics 365 to help employees review and simplify their activities in the new cloud ERP environment. Soon after the deployment, IT managers noticed that administrating Dynamics 365 was going to be a different experience than what they were used to. “Dynamics 365 is a more modern system that is easier to maintain,” says McLauchlan. “Security configuration, too, is simpler. You can get a lot of information directly from the security user interface without burrowing into the Application Object Tree the way we did previously.”

Streamlining IT and Accomplishing More for ERP Users

Following the Dynamics 365 implementation, IT managers streamlined the technology environment. Instead of tracking return management authorizations (RMA) in a custom application developed internally, they transitioned RMAs into Salesforce, which integrates with Dynamics 365. Sikich consultants assisted with simplifying repair management, which also relied on custom-built software. Using canvas apps in Microsoft Power Apps, they created a Power App to capture repair-related information and provide real-time data updates between the ERP and CRM systems.

Planar collaborated with the Sikich development team when it was time to connect the new cloud ERP to data collection on the shop floor with scanners reading barcodes into a specialized solution. IT wanted to keep the process simple for the shop floor engineers and also needed to make certain that testing information, parts numbers, and other details were accurately transmitted into forms in Dynamics 365. “The Sikich development team worked hard on helping us find a solution,” says McLauchlan. “They changed how Dynamics 365 forms worked and found different ways to make that data transfer happen.” The developers’ involvement was key to the success of the ERP project when it was necessary to finetune Dynamics 365 for Planar’s requirements. McLauchlan comments, “The Sikich development group we worked with were very responsive. They got things ready for us to test as quickly as we could. They were were extremely helpful.”

Another assignment for the Sikich developers involved replacing a software tool that was not cloud-ready to enable a print server to connect to Dynamics 365. That way, Planar employees can continue to print the close to 15,000 different labels which go on each part of every Planar product. The developers also adjusted some manufacturing processes in the ERP solution to fit how the company’s operations work.

With regular Dynamics 365 updates broadcast by Microsoft on the cloud platform, Planar IT looks forward to keeping the ERP system always current with the latest enhancements. IT managers also expect to achieve more with integrations and data flows between ERP and other business systems. “Dynamics 365 will be the one place where people can go to meet their business needs,” notes McLauchlan. “It will be hugely helpful that we now can display data from external systems directly within Dynamics 365, push just one button to link to Power Apps, and view Power BI reports directly in Dynamics 365.”

Sikich helped us understand our requirements, designed a solution, and implemented it. As our trusted partner, I expect them to continue maintaining their great track record as we go forward together.

Praveen Sharabu, Vice President and Global Head of IT


Getting People to Participate in Their Transformational Software Project

Following the successful cloud migration and deployment of Dynamics 365 facilitated by Sikich, Sharabu advises businesses to diligently prepare people and processes when they anticipate a comparable milestone accomplishment. He says, “It always pays to do some upfront business process analysis and document the outcomes you desire. Often, people focus more on certain screens, fields, or pages, and forget that these tools serve to enable a business process. You should document the current process state and think about what it might look like outside of the software system.”

Companies also need to consider how the everyday work and experiences of technology users will change. “Regular cloud software updates can change things on the fly,” Sharabu points out. “You have to prepare and train your users for that. The more adaptable and flexible they are, the more they will get out of the new cloud system.”

Sharabu feels that easing the transition by inviting people to explore and provide feedback on technology about to be implemented can make a big difference in the success of software projects that change how individuals and teams work. “Think about what the users’ journey looks like and give them time to get used to the new system and understand how it works,” he recommends. “Everybody learns differently, but the ongoing involvement of your technology users is extremely important.”

Creating Value from Software Synergies

In addition to Dynamics 365, Planar uses Microsoft 365 and other Microsoft technology extensively. The company expects to accomplish more through strategic integrations and by making greater use of the capabilities of these software tools. Sharabu says, “We’ve invested in this technology ecosystem and want to use it to the fullest extent. I’m excited about efficiencies and other improvements we could realize with Dynamics 365 in such areas as invoicing, payment processing, and warehousing, and by integrating more closely with our suppliers’ systems.”

The integration of Dynamics 365 ERP and Power BI can be highly beneficial as Planar creates a connected software environment that truly meets employees’ needs, keeps them informed, and helps them take the right next steps. McLauchlan explains, “I want to start looking at workspaces that fit our roles. For example, in sales order management, we could easily present information from various modules in Dynamics 365 in a single workspace that integrates both with Power BI and a third-party warehousing provider.”

Partner with Shared Goals and Proven Ability to Deliver

Planar stakeholders feel that the right technology partner can make or break the success of a project. Therefore, evaluating a potential partner is an important step. “You hear horror stories when companies get into technology implementations and their partner runs into challenges,” says Sharabu. “It’s important to spend time with a potential technology partner to see if you can have a trust relationship with them and whether they can deliver a successful implementation.”

Technology consultancies need to offer relevant insight and have a stake in the results they help clients achieve. Sharabu notes, “We expect a partner to bring in their industry expertise and prior experience from similar implementations. They should also understand the outcomes we want to realize for our business and make them their own. They’re not there to simply implement and walk away.”

In Planar’s view, Sikich exceeded these demanding criteria, delivering above expectations. “Sikich has been working with us for over 10 years, a kind of longevity that is practically unheard of,” says Sharabu, who signed a contract with Sikich for project-based support from expert consultants. “I have already recommended the company to somebody else looking for a technology partner. Sikich helped us understand our requirements, designed a solution, and implemented it. As our trusted partner, I expect them to continue maintaining their great track record as we go forward together.”

Ready to take your company
to the next level?

Contact Us