Dynamics AX helps Citta Design’s ambitious future

An innovative New Zealand furniture and design company with global aspirations is set to become one of the first organisations to go live with Microsoft’s newly-released Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) flagship solution Dynamics AX.

The Auckland-based brand Citta Design is midway through a cloud-based transformation program that will see a profound shift in the way staff and customers interact and will allow the ambitious company to better realise its plans for the future.

Dynamics AX, which has been designed on and for Microsoft Azure, empowers businesses to run their operations more intelligently bringing together a set of ERP, business intelligence, infrastructure, compute and database services in a single offering that enables organisations to run industry-specific and operational business processes that are extendable with specific solutions from partners.

Citta Design has been operating for 18 years, designing, manufacturing and selling high end furniture, textiles and homewares. With a design team of six, Citta releases two seasonal collections each year inspired by a country or a city. The current collection was inspired by 1970s Berlin.

Until four years ago the company was a wholesaler, with around 1600 international and national wholesale customers from New Zealand, Australia, North America, Japan, South Korea and Singapore.

In 2012, Citta wanted more control to shape its brand story and made the bold decision to move into direct retail by opening a series of stores. While 50 per cent of its market remains wholesale, the increased focus on retail sees the company with 12 stores, including stores in Auckland and Sydney, with  ambitions for a much bigger presence in Sydney, Melbourne and elsewhere.

Citta also has online retailing, which is growing ‘exponentially’ according to COO Grant Taylor and a strong social media presence.

Grant Taylor, COO, Citta Design

Mr Taylor, who joined the company a year ago with a CIO background, said one of the reasons he was in the job was “because the owners of this company believe that IT is the critical enabler to make all that growth happen. There’s a lot else that you depend on in terms of great stores, great products, and great staff, but without really fantastic systems to help that, it becomes a lot harder.”

After having experience in Dynamics AX in his previous job and with Citta already using Dynamics AX 2012, the decision to upgrade to the Azure-based Dynamics AX was made relatively quickly, although the company did look at competing systems.

“I know how important performance and transaction speed is to a retail environment,” Mr Taylor said. “The fact that it was running on Azure is pretty reassuring. The benchmark performance has been really good, and the replication model around our core systems that we have in production just gives you the assuredness that you will have continuity of service, as down time costs money.”

Citta is now a totally cloud organisation, with Office 365, SharePoint and its CRMOL and ERP systems all running on Microsoft’s Azure platform.

“One of the key benefits for us is actually just improving our own internal processes through using the system, getting all our core data that would live in spreadsheets as best as possible into the system, so that everything can be managed and monitored,” he said.

“The transparency that the new AX is bringing us around reporting, and the ease of reporting using Power BI is really useful as well.  And the integrations with CRM Online for a new loyalty program that we hope to put in place soon will be really fantastic.”

However, Mr Taylor said he believed the major advantage of Dynamics AX will be allowing a new level of in-store interaction between staff and customers.

“We’re going to have mobility in our stores, and we’re going to be running that off a tablet.  We will store all our technical copy, our web copy, and our product description information in AX, and when our store staff speak to our customers they can do so with a tablet, and one of the neat little features that AX offers is a comparison. 

“So they can actually be sitting on the floor and talking to somebody about the quality of cotton sheets versus polyester sheets, the different characteristics that our products have, and use that as a tool to up sell, or just find the products that they actually want. And that’s actually all inside AX, it’s not anywhere else.”

I think it will help improve the quality of the experience for the staff, I think it will help with product training and familiarisation for staff.  I aim for that to lead to an improved customer experience. 

“We’re already doing really well instore, but I think if we’re wanting to have a great experience and have great stores, then we need tools like this to be able to deliver that.”

Citta Designs ERP implementation is being run by international Microsoft partner Sable37, which specialises Microsoft Dynamics AX and CRM Online.

“I can’t actually speak highly enough of Sable, they’re an amazing implementation partner who just have the best people,” Mr Taylor said.  “It’s been a total partnership where they have been incredibly supportive of what we’re trying to achieve.

“They have their own AX7 modules that they have developed and that we’re taking on board to make the whole experience even better.”

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