To provide state-of-the-art products, equipment and exceptional service to its dental practice customers, Dental Directory needed to integrate its financial data across its sales and service areas.
Dental Directory teamed with IBM to implement a consolidated general ledger system to provide financial data support to both its distribution and service businesses.
Three-month implementationachieved by using a tightly-coupled integration team
Integrates customer dataacross systems to deliver lower costs and better financial control
Supports overall strategyby providing a technology foundation for business capability expansion and growth
Business challenge story
Transforming dentistry with technology
When most people go to the dentist, they don’t give a second thought to the chair they’re sitting in. But today’s dental chairs have become sophisticated pieces of technology. They’re almost self-contained dental offices in themselves, with their own water supply, electronics and lighting, and many now boast a portable x-ray machine. Dentistry itself has become increasingly high-tech. For example, dentists can now offer instantaneous inter-oral scanning for dental impressions instead of requiring patients to bite down on a plastic mold and sit quietly to take an impression of their teeth.
Dental Directory supplies both the simplest and the most complex dental equipment to more than 12,000 practices across the UK. Because it stocks more than 27,000 items in its warehouses, Dental Directory can provide almost every piece of dental equipment a practice might need. In the past few years, the company has expanded its strategic vision to become a service partner as well as an equipment provider for the industry. Today, if a practice needs a dental chair, Dental Directory can sell, install and provide service for the life of that chair.
“Dental Directory wants to be in a position where we can become the number-one service provider for dental practices. Thus, we’ve embarked on a journey to invest in the right businesses and technology,” says Kevin Jezzard, IT Consultant with Dental Directory. “Now we want to create an integrated customer-facing portfolio of both equipment and services.”
To achieve its goal to create new revenue streams and customer relationships through its services business, Dental Directory realized that it needed to integrate several distinct internal IT support solutions that accompanied previous business acquisitions. “It’s all about having a really good CRM system and a really good ERP system. We needed the ability to start managing and bringing together a portfolio of our customers across all these different acquisitions, such as field services for various specializations,” says Jezzard.
An experienced systems integrator himself, Jezzard turned to IBM to help consolidate the company’s CRM and ERP systems. First, IBM helped implement a CRM solution, followed by the Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Field Service solution. Finally, it was time to consolidate the company’s financials into a single general ledger system, which presented a particular challenge to Dental Directory.
“It’s fine if the general ledger always remains the same,” says Jezzard. “But often the goal posts move, and the chart of accounts changes over time. The bit of the puzzle we were missing was a professional services team to help us pluck out the bits of data, create something new and then connect it to our IBM Planning Analytics tool.” Once again, Dental Directory turned to IBM.
Consolidating data to drive transformation
Dental Directory teamed with IBM Consulting Services for Microsoft to implement the Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations solution and create a new, consolidated general ledger. Together, IBM and Dental Directory created a statement of work and an aggressive three-month implementation schedule to pull the data from existing systems into the new general ledger and connect it to the Planning Analytics solution.
IBM provided a project manager, a solution architect and the experts that could import the data into the new general ledger system. “That was the expertise we needed and that’s the expertise that IBM was able to provide,” says Jezzard. “We were able to work really closely with IBM and the guys that they put on the ground.”
The project followed a “two-in-a-box” staffing methodology, in which every resource from IBM paired up with a counterpart from Dental Directory. This meant that, rather than handing the project over to IBM and walking away, Dental Directory stayed involved in every aspect of the implementation and transition. “We had regular stand-up project governance meetings to bring any problems or issues to the table, so we could resolve them quickly,” says Jezzard. The company also brought in a finance subject matter expert just prior to the project go live.
Jezzard attributes the project’s success to the close working relationship that his company quickly established with the IBM team. “Nobody should go to a service provider such as IBM and think they’re just going to wave a magic wand. You’ve got to put the time and effort in. I think this concept of two-in-a-box is sometimes a challenge for businesses to adhere to, but it is the right concept.”
It was particularly challenging to complete the data transition in the short timeframe allotted. “When you’re moving a data set from a legacy system to a new system, that data set has got to be ready to go, it’s got to be clean and formatted,” says Jezzard. “Otherwise somebody at IBM is left picking up a data set and moving it, knowing that it’s bad. And nobody wants to do that.”
Finally, to ensure a smooth transition to the new system after go live, Dental Directory ensured that it had trained resources to manage the system, and IBM provided additional application management support services for several weeks. Jezzard concludes: “That transition is really key because a lot of projects of this nature can go very wrong if you just implement them and then suddenly walk away. If users struggle to understand or become familiar with the new system, that’s when problems can really start.”
Providing exceptional, data-driven service
In just three months, Dental Directory and the IBM Services team implemented the Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations solution. Working closely together, they moved data from the company’s existing systems to create a new, consolidated general ledger that connects to the company’s Planning Analytics software.
Jezzard attributes the successful deployment in part to the level of expertise that IBM brought to the table. “IBM can bring out a high level of professionalism from the people that they work with, helping you achieve your goals, aspirations and objectives,” he says.
The tight coupling of the combined IBM-Dental Directory team also contributed to the project’s success. “A successful project needs a partnership model. You have to be prepared to partner with a vendor, and then you’ll get the best experience during the project—and that equates to achieving your goal,” says Jezzard.
The Microsoft Dynamics 365 implementation builds on previous system consolidations and implementations, and Dental Directory expects to apply these improvements to enhance the expansion of its services business. “This is the start of a journey around replacing our legacy systems into a full ERP, and that will help us to create a synergy for products and services,” says Jezzard. “We’re bringing together all of our acquisitions, all of our services, all of our work flows into one. From that we can create tailored data warehouses where we can analyze the data and work with our customers to create a better experience of using our services.”
Technology is changing the dental field, and Dental Directory wants to be at the forefront of that change. “We need to be working very closely with dentists as technology progresses,” says Jezzard. “For example, the Internet of Things has a place in our future because if we can tell how often a piece of equipment is being used, we can predict when to maintain and repair it.”
Jezzard sees no limit to how Dental Directory’s forward IT trajectory can help its field teams to provide more effective services. “We may see onsite engineers wearing a pair of AI goggles to interact with a more senior engineer back at headquarters so that we can get a first-time fix.”
Founded more than 35 years ago, Dental Directory has become one of the largest full-service dental dealers in the UK. It supplies about 12,000 dental practices with everything from toothbrushes to specialized dental chairs and imaging systems. The company works closely with those practices to provide the product knowledge and service that they need to operate a modern dental practice.
Headquartered in Witham, Essex, Dental Directory is part of the Integrated Dental Holdings Group (IDH), which also includes My Dentist. The company employs more than 500 people across the UK.