Angela McDaniel is Chief Administrative Officer of Ascende, formerly known as Employee Benefit Solutions, a premier human capital consulting firm. Ascende operates as a proactive, strategic partner to clients to enable improvements in their ability to remain competitive for human capital talent and to support enduring and quantifiable improvements in their business operations, while also building a firm committed to attracting, engaging, and retaining exceptional people.

In 2012, Ascende, who was already working with Microsoft partner Tribridge, made the decision to move its Microsoft Dynamic CRM and GP products to the Concerto Cloud. For Microsoft Dynamics GP, Ascende is using core financials, business portal, HR and payroll. The company has experienced significant performance improvements as a result of moving Dynamics to the cloud.

1. What started you down the road of moving Microsoft Dynamics GP and Microsoft Dynamics CRM to the cloud?

We recognized that we needed to either invest further and forever into internal IT, or defer to the experts. If we were to commit to keeping up with hardware and software for our solution internally, we were going to have to invest in at least one additional IT employee. We saw that in avoiding hiring that additional employee, we would experience a 50% return on our investment in the cloud right off the bat.

We are a human capital and benefit consulting firm, so we do have the skill set for that business, but not technology consulting. We knew that we needed to keep our IT folks focused on supporting our benefit consultants, and let outside technology consultants such as Tribridge and Concerto Cloud Services do what they do best, which is manage IT applications.

2. Were those applications previously on-premise?

Yes they were. Although our Microsoft Dynamics GP implementation was never cumbersome for us, we had a very complicated call center environment we were managing with Microsoft Dynamics CRM, and it was tough to make it stable internally. We brought in outside consultants to help us, we paid Microsoft for a Health Check, and invested in man hours with Tribridge, and we couldn’t get Microsoft Dynamics CRM to a stable state. We knew that we needed to start over, and it ended up being a beautiful decision.

3. Why did you choose Concerto Cloud Services to implement Microsoft Dynamics GP and Microsoft Dynamics CRM?

For us, it was a seamless transition. We look at Concerto Cloud Services as an extension of our partner Tribridge and their dependable, reliable and easy service.  And I say easy because we are able to communicate so efficiently with Concerto, and get to where we need to be very quickly. The efficiency is what makes my job easier. 

4. Was there a critical event with your previous systems that made you say “We really need to move to the cloud”?

After we invested in Microsoft’s Health Check service to try to make our Microsoft Dynamics CRM system stable, and it didn’t work, we knew we needed to do something different, and do it right. We had been using Microsoft Dynamics CRM for three years at this point, and it was stable enough for us to operate, but we were not keeping up with the latest versions of the product, and were concerned about our call center and its guaranteed 99.99% uptime. We thought “it should not be this difficult, and we know who can make it right.” And we were right! While I can’t say that Concerto Cloud Services saved us from a complete system meltdown, I think our story is even better because we were forward-thinking enough not to have the meltdown or spend the extra money in the first place.

5. Was there anything about the cloud that made you or your team hesitate?

In the beginning, some were concerned about security, especially when it came to putting our payroll data in the cloud. We are benefit consultants who manage law-mandated protected data for hundreds of thousands of records. At the end of the day, we rolled over to the cloud and had proper security in place without a hitch.

6. How complex was your Dynamics cloud implementation?

Every consultant we have ever worked with has told us that we are sophisticated and complicated for a small company. We did choose to move to the cloud when we did because we were no longer going to have a call center in-house, which simplified the migration a bit for us. 

7. What was the project’s biggest challenge?

Not only did we move two applications (Microsoft Dynamics CRM and GP) to the cloud, we also upgraded them at the same time that we moved them. It went off without a hitch.  Additionally, we are using several third party applications which are also in the cloud. Concerto Cloud did a beautiful job working with the third party companies. They dealt with the hardware, software, vetting out the provider, and working with them through development. It was all seamless for us. We never had to get involved with another company or outside personnel other than Tribridge and Concerto.

8. What’s the advantage of the cloud for your organization?

For us, the cloud gives us experienced support, and reliable uptime. When we have problems, they are solved. We estimate that the cloud has saved us approximately 10 hours per month in quantity and reliability of uptime, or an estimated 6% in time savings.

9. What advice would you give another decision maker about the benefits of migrating to the cloud?

My advice would be to stick to the business you do best. If it’s not in your core skill set to manage IT infrastructure and applications, go to the cloud. And then just forget about it – that’s what I do. If technology management is not your core business, give it to someone else.

As an executive at a consulting firm, my relationship with Tribridge and Concerto Cloud is a walking example of what we strive to maintain with our own clients.