Sonical is delighted to be part of this Customer Story released on Microsoft Global. We are happy to have been given the opportunity to show that large projects can perfectly be delivered by smaller Dynamics partners. Together with Daxperience we joined forces as A Collective and achieved great results.
Read the story brought to you by Microsoft:
Leading innovation service provider sets new industry standard with D365.
Azelis is the world’s foremost specialty chemicals and food ingredients innovation service provider, bringing high-quality products, technical expertise, and local service support to 15 specific global markets. With more than 60 laboratories and over 3,000 employees in 57 countries, the leading chemical distributor continues to develop the right formulations for success and growth. From personal care to pharmaceuticals to environmental solutions, Azelis is at the heart of everything that touches our daily lives.
But what’s at the heart of Azelis? For a company operating in such a complex space, the answer is surprisingly simple: relationships. Their commitment to “be the connectors and creators behind endless new possibilities, touching the lives of people everywhere, in ways that are both everyday and extraordinary” isn’t just a promise to customers and partners. It’s a promise to everyone who is part of making the company what it is. Their principle of “digital with a human touch” combines the company’s two passions, innovation and connection. Their leading formulations across markets are impressive, but just as impressive is their commitment to individual stakeholders’ daily interactions and experiences. Making someone’s day easier is as important as making sunscreen more effective or laundry detergent more environmentally friendly.
“Innovation through formulation” is their north star, and not just in the lab. It covers the investment in digital tools and technologies that allow customers, partners, and employees to experience Azelis with ease, clarity, and efficiency. And that’s why Azelis relies on Microsoft as a trusted partner to formulate a fully connected, cloud-enabled solution across the entire enterprise.
Running up against barriers to scale.
Next to organic growth, mergers and acquisitions (M&As) are part of Azelis’ business strategy. Acquiring several companies every year, the company saw annual revenue go from €1.8 billion to €2.8 billion (2021) in three short years. But the nearly constant need to integrate new platforms, people, and environments was outpacing the scalability of their legacy enterprise resource management (ERP) system. In 2018, system integrations were conducted on-premises with data centers around the world, each requiring technical application maintenance contracts with external partners.
Envisioning a cloud-enabled future offering end-to-end services, Chief Information Officer Pepijn Karsmakers began the migration to the cloud with Azure Virtual WAN. This made sense as a first step to connect their vast global network and strengthen collaboration. While it was an important milestone in their digital journey, Azelis couldn’t fully take advantage of the huge investment that Microsoft makes in areas such as security and performance.
With an M&A growth strategy, scaling up was challenging, too. New servers had to be installed and configured and many partners engaged—all while hoping there was still capacity in the data centers for additional virtual servers. The process was laborious and time-consuming, siphoning off 25% of their team’s time for maintenance and repetitive technical application management activities.
Equally concerning, new releases took the system down for half a day, resulting in more lost time. Weekend workers frequently encountered a system that was unavailable due to updates, prompting calls to the already stretched IT department.
The Azelis ethos around innovation made it a business and culture imperative to swiftly integrate new people and companies into the organization while maintaining the flow of business, uninterrupted by downtime. Karsmakers started looking for a better solution.
Unlocking a different world.
The company’s digital transformation strategy is based on three pillars: Azure, Microsoft 365, and Dynamics 365. Scaling up is faster than ever after moving to a cloud-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution with Dynamics 365. Where the Azelis team felt as though they were always pushing the limits of the legacy system, with Dynamics 365 they feel limitless. The time that was previously required for maintenance is now reinvested in value-added activities like integrations and connecting with principals and customers—activities that have immediate impacts on the business.
From an IT perspective, there is considerably less to worry about as well. Frequent downtime and weekend distress calls are things of the past. With Dynamics 365, updates are scheduled during light usage periods and take no more than an hour and a half. Business can continue with the focus where it should be—on services.
From an operations and user perspective, Jan Witvrouwen, ERP Director for Azelis, says, “It’s a different world.” Getting into the ERP system used to be a lagging, clunky, multistep process. It’s now two links, and users can start work immediately. “This is digital in practice,” explained Witvrouwen, which is critical in attracting the best talent.
Doing more with less.
Upgrading to Dynamics 365 in 2022 was a pivotal step on the company’s roadmap. CIO Karsmakers and his team regard the switch to Dynamics 365 as an effective way of doing more with less: less paid to external consultants, less time spent integrating new entities, more uptime. Remarkably, Azelis went live with 71 entities at once. And the modern environment supplied by Dynamics 365 made scaling up and switching from the legacy AX 2012 solution seamless.
Integration with other Microsoft tools like Excel and Outlook added to the immediate value Azelis realized with Dynamics 365 Finance and Supply Chain Management. As just one example, the tedious task of creating a typical 50-line purchase order went from 10 minutes to literally seconds. Said one finance manager, “We finally have Excel upload for purchase orders in Dynamics 365! This is so exciting, I have tears in my eyes because now we can create or update multiple lines in one go!”
Other seemingly minor upgrades, like approving orders from an email rather than having to open another application, add up to big savings. The increase in efficiency creates a better experience for the user, which is passed on to the customer. And in the modern Dynamics 365 environment, all the company’s data sets talk to each other across the enterprise. End-to-end services connect the customer portal, the principal portal, and their e-Lab, resulting in faster time to value.
Losing control, gaining productivity.
Moving from AX 2012 to Dynamics 365 seemed almost risky at first. In the old model, the Azelis team had full control over all components of the system. Switching to a hands-off approach seemed daunting. Their concerns were quickly alleviated, as the freedom of automation replaced the stress of controlling every aspect of the system themselves. In fact, Azelis is the model for AX 2012 customers wondering whether transitioning their ERP systems is the right move. The time the Azelis team used to spend on managing their on-premises solution was swiftly reallocated to improved business support, driving productivity and results.
The Microsoft FastTrack team guided Azelis in its use of telemetry to optimize opportunities and meet user expectations. CIO Karsmakers couldn’t be prouder of what they were able to achieve. “The collaboration with Microsoft was very, very strong and didn’t let us down,” he says. “Thanks to FastTrack, any performance doubts were allayed before go-live.”
Now, performance satisfaction is at record highs. The Azelis team has received excited comments from colleagues regarding the new system’s user-friendliness and speed despite extraordinary physical distance.
Centering change management on relationships: The secret ingredient to success.
Azelis executed a structured change management approach that, unsurprisingly, centered on relationships. They used all available communication channels, segmented audiences, and produced guides and documentation, but they credit their success mostly to the personal touches that define Azelis. Being close to their users meant keeping feedback loops open and taking the time for calls with local entities to provide support and simply hear how their experience went. Leadership’s notable enthusiasm buoyed the heavy project, viewing it not as an IT project but as an enterprise-wide undertaking. The company’s interactive, multi-disciplinary change management approach reflected that.
Implementation partner A Collective, a collaboration between Sonical and Daxperience, joined Microsoft in making sure the company’s goals were met. A Collective principals were impressed by the holistic approach Azelis employed to engage all stakeholders from the very beginning. The partners credit solid preparation, realistic timelines, organization-wide investment, and positive pressure to their ability to finish user acceptance testing a staggering two months before go-live, with no need for last-minute fixes.
Karsmakers was clear that Dynamics 365 was part of the foundation of the overall digital strategy. “We made history doing this project,” he says. “In-budget, on-schedule, high-quality, and with a great team. Bringing this whole environment into the Dynamics 365 ecosystem, we are now a fully cloud-enabled company on a global scale. Successful ERP projects are possible!”
Realizing business value.
Dynamics 365 is the backbone of everything Azelis sets out to achieve. The cloud architecture, modern environment, reliability, and scalability that Dynamics 365 provides is equal to the challenge of understanding local needs and maintaining a personal connection as a global enterprise.
But improved usability, higher productivity, and enhanced cybersecurity are just a few of the benefits Azelis has already realized. Dynamics 365 is helping the company develop new digital services while minimizing their carbon footprint, another key strategic goal. Dynamics 365 “fits in our overall strategy of how we can integrate new companies faster, how we can connect more securely, how can we do more business with third parties more easily, and how to be more energy-efficient,” says Karsmakers.
With everything in the cloud, Azelis saves on the infrastructure costs that are associated with on-premises solutions. Aside from the cost savings, Azelis benefits from—and contributes to—Microsoft corporate environmental objectives to be carbon-negative, water-positive, and zero-waste by 2030.
Enjoying a boundless ecosystem
The successful implementation of Dynamics 365 has already revolutionized the company’s ability to quickly integrate and scale, but the benefits don’t end there. “It’s also about building up capability and possibility,” says Karsmakers. “With the Dynamics 365 ecosystem, we can achieve things we could never have imagined.”
Always looking forward, the CIO is excited about moving from reporting to insights. With AI-powered guidance, prediction of cash flows, and identification of supply and resource constraints combined with relationship intelligence, opportunities to get even more value from the company’s investment in Dynamics 365 are endless. “This is no longer about an application choice,” he says. “We have the environment. Now it’s about the data, the processes, the efficiencies, the efficacy, the insights, the innovation, the operational excellence—that is what we can focus more on instead of technology discussions and which type of app we need.”
The reliability, agility, and precision of the Dynamics 365 end-to-end, fully integrated platform will scale as Azelis grows, supporting the company’s relentless drive for innovation and connection.
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