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Partner Keeps Rodgers and Hammerstein Humming

Dynamics AX is one of John Elmer's favorite things. Elmer is vice president of IS and controller for the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization, which, believe it or not, is an outfit that owns the intellectual property created by, well, Rodgers and Hammerstein, the famous Broadway songwriters.

Prior to implementing AX 3 in 2005, R&H was trapped in a web of proprietary ERP-like applications, which were expensive to develop and maintain. Then, along came Dave Weiner (like, perhaps, a wind sweeping down the plain), at the time the practice manager for Cole Systems, a New York-based Dynamics partner. (Weiner is now transitioning into a position with Dynamics consultancy Kineticsware.) By now, you know the end of the story: Cole and Dynamics AX stole the show at R&H. But it wasn't a sure thing from the outset.

R&H, a privately held -- still owned, in fact, by the families of the composers -- company based in (where else?) NYC, has an unusual business model. It owns intellectual property, not actual property. So while organizations that want to perform, say, Carousel, will buy the rights to it well in advance of a performance, the sale doesn't really "happen" until the lights come on.

"We've got some odd metrics in our business," Elmer told RCPU. "We'll book business today, and it's actual booked business, but the recognition isn't tied to the order, it's tied to a specific set of criteria around dates, the actual dates of performances people put on."

Weiner and Cole Systems, in a story probably more Hollywood than Broadway, entered the R&H derby as an underdog to mighty SAP in 2004. But when SAP wanted to explode R&H's budget, Weiner stepped in with AX and a note of simplicity -- music, incidentally, to Microsoft's ears.

"We did a simple analysis of the business," Weiner said at Convergence. "We spent a couple of hours onsite. John said a canned application is not going to do what [R&H] needed to do. We crunched through it and piled on a little bit of code and showed them the business working on the system."

"They pulled an all-nighter," Elmer recalled. "After two meetings with our user groups, they threw together a working model of our process. AX out of the box -- it was just amazing. It blew everybody away."

Probably not unlike Debbie Reynolds on Broadway in Oklahoma! (Um, right? OK, now's the time to confess that we don't really know much about musicals here at RCPU. It's too bad R&H couldn't have owned the rights to, say, '70s and '80s sitcoms -- then we could've dropped in some serious references. As it is, your editor sort of remembers seeing The Sound of Music on TV as a kid, but that's about it. It had something to do with Germans, or possibly Austrians, or both. Anyway, we digress.)

After a five-month implementation, AX was up and running. Elmer liked it so much that he signed up to roll out the forthcoming AX 2009 (due by the end of June) early as part of the Technology Adoption Program (or TAP, which also seems fitting for Broadway). He's a fan of 2009, too -- especially the BI capabilities ("Executives are not good at working too hard to get to anything; we can show them the pretty charts and graphs," he said) and the Office 2007-based AX 2009 interface. The latter took a bit of getting used to, but Elmer says that he and the R&H staff -- it's a company of about 50 people -- have embraced it.

Elmer's also pleased to know that Microsoft -- which has started publishing information on forthcoming versions of Dynamics suites 18 to 24 months in advance of their release -- is keeping him updated on what's happening next with AX.

"You know that down the road there's something coming," he said. "We won't have to sit here waiting."

What that says, of course, is that Microsoft is following the first rule of show business (whether it knows it or not): Always leave them wanting more.

Posted by Lee Pender on 03/20/2008 at 1:21 PM


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