5-minute Q&A — Olthof Homes’ IT Manager, Anthony Rettig
Headquartered in Northwest Indiana, Olthof Homes is a production homebuilder delivering hundreds of homes per year across three geographical markets. Inevitably this means a lot of financial and operational data is generated, and as the company plans to grow it has implemented an ISV-built ERP HomebuilderONE built inside Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations (F&O).
Following the discovery that getting the data it wanted out of the system in a meaningful form was not as simple as it had hoped, Olthof Homes turned to ZAP to solve what had become an increasingly challenging issue. We caught up with their IT Manager, Anthony Rettig, for a 5 minute Q&A to learn more about their experience and how ZAP Data Hub were able to step in and rectify the problem.
Hi Anthony, many thanks for taking the time out to join us today, much appreciated. First of all, can you introduce your business and specifically, your role in the business?
I am IT Manager for Olthof Homes, a production homebuilder located in Northwest Indiana. We build hundreds of houses currently spread across three different geographical markets. To facilitate the level of growth we are targeting, we implemented an ERP called HomebuilderONE, which is an ISV solution built inside of Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations or what many refer to as F&O for short.
You are a ZAP Customer. Can you describe the decision process of becoming a ZAP customer?
The process of becoming a ZAP customer started in a place of frustration. We had gone live on F&O and were building reports using OData, which quickly failed due to performance issues. Then we started building them on top of data entities exported to a BYOD database, which we also quickly pushed the limits of. We were really at a loss because the data entities in both core F&O and our ISV solution simply didn’t give access to all the data needed for reporting.
I went to the market looking for a solution to solve two problems: 1) we needed a data warehouse to function as a single source of truth for all reports, and 2) we needed access to all of our data in the F&O database while we wait for Microsoft to go generally available with their solution that will allow one to export F&O tables to an Azure data lake in near real time. I talked to two different vendors who have created solutions to make data warehousing easier but neither had solved the problem of access to data and were proposing what seemed like an unreasonable solution, and that was to create data entities for each table we needed for reporting.
It was around that time I was talking to a friend of mine in the industry who recommended we take a look at ZAP Data Hub.
What were characteristics of the ZAP offering which were appealing to you and your company?
It was love at first sight. On the first phone call I was floored. Tanner and Rich showed me a proprietary solution that solved what seemed to be impossible or at least unheard of apart from Microsoft’s solution: ZAP can extract data from tables in D365 F&O. Let me say that again in a different way just in case it’s not clear because for those of us in this space it sounds too good to be true. ZAP can export data directly from D365 F&O tables to an Azure SQL Managed instance or SQL VM. Of all the features that ZAP provides, none compare to this, and I’m just really surprised how few people in the F&O space know about this solution. We have all been wildly frustrated with lack of access to our data and anxiously waiting for Microsoft to make their solution with the data lake generally available, and the entire time that’s been happening ZAP has quietly existed in the background with a solution that is already ready for production. While it’s not real time data, it is complete, it is easy and it is very reasonably priced for the value it provides. I wish I had enough time to spend hours letting people from other companies know there is a readily available solution to the pain they are in the middle of.
Has your business changed as a result of ZAP? Can you provide an example or two?
The biggest change we have seen as a result of adopting ZAP is the ability for the BI team to meet expectations and build the reports and visualizations the business is asking for. It seems elementary, but prior to ZAP, our hands were tied, and it was awkward, quite frankly. “No, sorry we can’t build that report. We don’t have access to the data without getting a F&O developer involved.” That answer was only going to fly for so long, and it was causing a tremendous amount of stress for both the business and the BI team who were unable to solve problems. I mean many of us are in IT because we love using technology to solve problems, so thank you to the development team at ZAP for solving a problem and helping us be the heroes!
Lastly, what advice do you have for companies who are potentially trying to recreate what ZAP automates?
I’m going to speak specifically to the feature of ZAP that we are using – the F&O data connector. I don’t know why one would develop their own F&O syncing utility or go the route of having a F&O developer create data entities for all the tables needed for reporting. Both of those solutions would be downright crazy given what ZAP has already built, is offering and what will eventually come from Microsoft.
You can read more about Olthof Homes and ZAP Data Hub in the official case study here.
Are you interested to see how ZAP Data Hub can help to transform your business? Request a free demo with us here and a member of our team will get back to you.
Alternatively, if you’re interested to hear insights, learn best practice tips and read the latest news around BI analytics, data warehousing, data management and ERP reporting, feel free to check out our blog, Talk Data To Me.