Building a one-stop-shop with Microsoft centric environment

Phillip R. Kennedy, Director-IT, Pandora Jewelry
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At PANDORA we are a full Microsoft shop, completely transitioned to O365. We run Dynamics AX for ERP internationally and Dynamics GP in the Americas. We have a mature implementation of Dynamics CRM (XRM) that we have been developing on for about 6 years. As an early adopter of Microsoft Azure and having a global deployment of custom B2B Portal solution, we developed on Azure about 5 years ago. This solution is running in about 30 international markets and processes over 60 percent of our wholesale sales transactions. The PANDORA Cloud portal also provides document sharing and self-serve reporting to our retailers. We are running Skype for business globally and have transitioned to Enterprise Voice in the Americas. We are fully virtual on Hyper-V and our BI solutions are running on SQL Server. We run System Center to monitor and manage our global infrastructure. And are planning a global project later this year to transition our on premise SharePoint based intranet into SharePoint Online along with Yammer, OneDrive for Business and Delve.

Two of our biggest technology successes are our XRM deployment and our PANDORA Cloud built on Azure. Our Dynamics XRM solution serves as a one-stop-shop for our internal teams to find any information related to our wholesalers and retailers. This includes typical location and contact information but also provides a method of collecting data to aid in performance scorecards. The tools provide metrics to help gauge people performance and store performance. We do this by tracking store visit activities for each of our field team members. The roles include territory managers, visual merchandisers, trainers, and key account managers in addition to the management teams and support staff. Each role has a corresponding set of visit forms tailored to the information that is a key to their specific job. We track business plans for all of our retailers and help support them toward meeting these objectives. We also help develop full marketing plans, track sell-out performance and inventory turns. This information is a key in strengthening the relationships with our retail partners and using our knowledge to help them manage their PANDORA business more efficiently.

I was actually part of the team that was involved in selling the Dynamics CRM solution to PANDORA and came onboard sometime after the initial implementation. At the time there was a business need to track the activities of the field merchandising team through store visit reporting, tracking training, and uploading, cataloging photos. We recommended CRM as a good fit with the idea it would be a familiar and flexible platform enabling PANDORA to grow with the system. This is exactly what we have done. The initial pilot included about 50 field staff and was a great success going live within four months. Next we brought on the Sales and Marketing teams and eventually IT.

Some non-typical XRM development that we have done includes an IT asset tracking system. This was built in-house and addressed an immediate need as we had no other system at the time. We were able to take advantage of the user data in CRM and build a few custom entities to handle the asset information and issuing. For our Supply Chain and Merchandising teams we proposed handling our Product Master Data management in CRM and built this along with integration into our ERP system. This setup provided additional flexibility and auditing which is not found in our ERP without a great deal of expensive customizations. We were able to provide this solution very quickly using in-house resources and continue to customize this workflow as needed to support additional product requirements.

Our PANDORA Cloud solution built on Microsoft Azure has provided an invaluable resource for our retailers to easily find any PANDORA information related to their location or dealer type. The ordering system is capable of providing template and package suggestions, along with pre-order and return functionality. The system also gives wholesale availability for each SKU. The site being developed with the latest web technologies supports responsive design and mobile device compatibility. Running the solution in Azure gives us the ability to efficiently manage our highly seasonal business by ramping up during key times of the year like Valentines, Mother’s Day, and the winter holiday seasons while scaling back during non-peak times. This isn’t possible through an on premise deployment of a web solution. We are also able to support a highly Agile development environment providing production enhancements to all sites every 3 weeks and performing global deployments in a little over an hour little to no disruption. This puts us in a unique position to take immediate feedback from our markets and deliver requested functionality within weeks.

The PANDORA Cloud being a one-stop-shop for our retailers has given them the ability to run their own reporting to find backorders, open orders, invoices, returns, order status, and statement information among other things. This capability freed up our Customer Service department reducing call volume and overall supports spend, by 80 percent enabling them to focus on addressing real issues. The document sharing capability provided a single source to distribute and obtain marketing and sales materials greatly streamlining our partners’ communication process. Overall, we have been very happy working in a very Microsoft centric environment as it provides us the best balance of familiarity, capability, and speed of development at a reasonable cost. It also helps us simplify our technology landscape by reducing the number of platforms we deploy and manage. Some lessons learned have been to, not be too quick to go with what some may have tought as an industry leader in a specific technology vertical without considering all that is involved in deploying, integrating, and managing disparate solutions. We have found that the recent development advancements at Microsoft are far outpacing many others in the industry and appreciate the efforts to streamline the work required to deploy and manage Microsoft technology solution

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