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Avanade lays IT foundations for condo developer

InfrastructureTridel Avanade

For anyone who has ever considered real estate in the Greater Toronto Area, there’s one name that has likely popped up consistently.

At this very moment, Tridel Corporation, possibly the biggest condo builder in the region, is developing over 20 new communities. Its history, which spans some eight decades, also spans 80,000 homes.

One would think that a company like this would have good IT.

Well, according to Tridel, this was not the case until recently.

“It was blowing up on us,” said Ted Maulucci, chief information officer at Tridel.  He explained that the previous platform, which Tridel was using until 2009, required workarounds, constant cleanup, had no real-time reporting, and was even forcing the company to create separate databases for each entity under its umbrella.

Granted, Tridel is a complex company.

With each new community, the corporation sets up what is essentially an independent organization to run operations.  While some companies have perhaps a handful of entities under a single umbrella, Tridel has 400.

According to Maulucci, the turning point came when the old platform released its single database version.

“At that point we knew we were getting a nasty conversion irrespective of what we do here,” said Maulucci.

While he was secretly gunning for a switch to Microsoft Dynamics AX – it was the inspiration for Tridel’s own former software – he let the rest of the company come up with their requirements.

Together, the different departments evaluated four different platforms, and made a joint decision to implement AX, Maulucci said, thanks to its scalability and flexibility.

Yet the first implementation of AX fared no better.

According to Maulucci, with its former partner, Tridel was not able to get the platform off the ground.  Due to the complexity of the 400 entities, which involved different funding mechanisms and reporting methods, combined with what Maulucci described as weak project management from within Tridel, the project fell through.

“We were not able to convert our data, we were not able to operate on it,” Maulucci said. “We just couldn’t run the business.”

Enter Avanade.

The Mississauga-based Microsoft-oriented IT consulting firm was already familiar to Tridel, but it was the size and reach of the company and its ability to offshore that won Maulucci over.

“One thing about hiring a consultant is that you want to know that they’ve done it before, that using them is going to make it cheaper, faster, and easier than doing it on your own,” said Maulucci.  “Whether or not the Toronto office had the experience really didn’t matter because Avanade could call on different parts of the world and find different examples. There’s a lot of depth in the company.”

When Avanade was brought on board in 2011, they were able to salvage some of the work done by the previous partner on converting to AX 2009.  It wasn’t long, however, before Tridel decided to upgrade.

According to Michael Vidas, senior business development executive at Avanade who worked on the migration, Tridel was the first enterprise in North America to upgrade to AX 2012 when it was released that year.

With AX, Tridel has been able to navigate and capitalize on Toronto’s real estate market, which has not only grown in size but also complexity, Maulucci said.  This includes the way increasingly larger communities are structured and how projects are financed.

At the end of the day, it’s about being able to create consistent repeatable processes that mitigate risk, as opposed to simply focusing on improvements in ROI, Maulucci noted.

“This is an operating discussion. A lot about this ERP platform and the implementation of something like AX is that it’s fundamental to how we operate,” Maulucci said, adding that of all developers that were around in the 60s, Tridel is the only one that survived.

With AX as well as Dynamics CRM in place, Tridel was able to implement tools which include workflow, mobility, employee self-service, essentially “all those pieces that we are able to leverage and are starting to leverage, because those foundational pieces are in place.”

“We know how we set up our account structures, how we operate processes, how we report,” said Maulucci. “All those things become the key success factors in the survival of the company.  Unless you have the right set of tools, you can’t even operate as a business.”