Reflections on Microsoft Dynamics ERP After Four Months with Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central

Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business CentralI started this blog back in June 2011 to contribute back to the Dynamics GP Community from which I’d been drawing information since I started working with Dynamics GP in the July of 2003. There were quite a few contributors around at the time including David Musgrave, Mark Polino, Mariano Gomez, Belinda Allen, Victoria Yudin, Leslie Vail and Mohammad Daoud amongst quite a few others. Other contributors have come along since and quite a few have disappeared through time as their careers took other paths.

In September of this year my career also took a change which means I no longer work with or blog about Dynamics GP (other than a few posts from by backlog and some SQL scripts), but am now working and blogging about Dynamics 365 Business Central. After just over 19 years of working with Dynamics GP I decided that it was time for a new challenge and I changed role to work for 4PS UK, a long time Dynamics NAV and latterly Dynamics BC partner specialising in software for the construction and civil engineering sectors in the UK (sectors in which I do have some previous exposure).

Why did I make the change from Dynamics GP to Dynamics BC? Well, while Dynamics GP has a roadmap which runs through 2028, it is no longer getting the investment it once did and the messaging around its future from Microsoft isn’t great. This investment pattern is in part because it is a mature system which has all the basic functions one would expect of an ERP system and also has a thriving ecosystem of third party add-ons available which extend that functionality further.

The enhancements made to it are guided by suggestions from the community as to which improvements it wants to see.

The other part is that Microsoft’s attention is on other products, like Dynamics BC. Dynamics GP gets updates based on client requests, regulatory and security updates and updates to keep it compatible with other Microsoft products (like Office).

The roadmap for Dynamics GP isn’t to 2028, but is to that date and beyond. I fully expect that Dynamics GP will have a life beyond 2028 and sites using it will be able to continue to do so for 10, 15 years or more without issue as long as they continue to apply the updates. As with Dynamics BC, GP is on the modern lifecycle which means one major release a year with new functionality and clients are expected to apply each upgrade as it becomes available.

However, even with this roadmap, I think that as time goes by there will be fewer clients using Dynamics GP and this was something we’d already been seeing through the years up to my leaving ISC in August 2022. More and more clients were looking at their system and the incompatibilities which were arising with other Microsoft products like Office, although these could be mitigated by upgrading to the latest version of Dynamics GP or implementing a third party product such as Spindle, and then taking a look around at the competing ERP solutions.

Microsoft don’t help Dynamics GP partners and clients with some of the announcements they put out, including a recent one at a Dynamics conference which was followed by a rapid attempt at walking the statement back and doing some damage control.

One of the problems with Microsoft’s stuttering messaging around Dynamics GP is that it prompts companies to research alternatives which may or may not be from Microsoft. This is often capitalised upon by competitors and even some Microsoft partners who have misinterpreted messaging from Microsoft, such as this article which states Microsoft will end-of-life Dynamics GP in 2025 which they then retreated from in an update while leaving the main (erroneous) message intact.

I spent years as a consultant assisting the sales team and having to fight against rumours of Dynamics GP’s demise; this all started back in 2008 with “Project Green” which was a mooted merger of all of Microsoft’s ERP systems which they looked at and decided wasn’t feasible. However, the idea of this was constantly raised by competitors.

In recent times, one of those competitors was Microsoft itself with the cloud-based Dynamics 365 Business Central which Microsoft are heavily pushing (along with Dynamics 365 Finance & Operations which is derived from the older Dynamics AX product). Dynamics BC is popular with Microsoft as it is cloud-based (mainly cloud-based although it is possible to use it on-premise) which means a monthly subscription revenue.

Dynamics BC is often described by both Microsoft partners and Microsoft itself as an “upgrade” or “migration” from Dynamics GP. I’ve been working with Dynamics BC now for four months and even that brief experience has confirmed my impressions when I only had experience on the Dynamics GP side of the fence.

On his blog in October, David Musgrave said:

While I have very limited experience with Business Central, talking with people who do, leads me to want to debunk the phrase that you can “simply migrate from Dynamics GP to BC”.

Moving to Business Central is not a Migration. It is a complete re-implementation on a completely different system with a completely different user interface, completely different processes and completely different data model and does not bring in any historical data. It will require time and expenses to implement as well as time and expenses to train users. This is a very costly process and one that is completely unnecessary any time soon.

Like David, this was the impression I always had and, admittedly with only four months experience working with Dynamics BC, I would say that this is exactly correct. Dynamics BC and Dynamics GP are entirely different systems with differing functionality, strengths and weaknesses. The only similarities is they are both ERP systems from Microsoft.

If you’re a Dynamics GP client looking to “upgrade” then your upgrade path is to the latest version of Dynamics GP; it is not to “upgrade” to Dynamics BC as this is not an upgrade, but the implementation of a whole new system. There is no less work required to “upgrade” to
Dynamics BC than there is to “upgrade” to an ERP system from SAP, Sage or other competitor. I actually think Microsoft have failed to understand this point in the failing messaging to Dynamics GP clients or at least don’t want to openly admit to it.

Based on some of the discussions I’ve had with people or seen online, partners who talk to their Dynamics GP clients about “upgrading” to Dynamics BC, rapidly reach a point where the client understands the workload involved in the “upgrade” and that it isn’t an upgrade, but a reimplementation. Some follow through with the implementation of Dynamics BC, but others look around at the alternatives, something which I’ve seen a few US-based Dynamics GP partners do and, rather than take on implementing Dynamics BC, they take on a competitors ERP system as their new main offering. Other partners are fully open with clients that it is a wholly different system and should be regarded as such.

My other issue around working with Dynamics GP is that, in the UK, there are fewer and fewer partners working with the product and even fewer who work with it as a core product; most offer at least one other ERP system and look to get their Dynamics GP clients to implement that other system. This limits employment opportunities, as there are now only five partners in the UK I can think of who work with Dynamics GP.

For clients using Dynamics GP this also means that there are only five partners who they can go to for support and many of those clients have, across the years, often worked with several of those partners and moved their support elsewhere. This can also encourage clients to look into migrating to other systems if they feel they can’t get the support they need. I imagine the situation in the US is different as it is a larger country with more partners, although there has been a significant consolidation in the market with partners being taken over to form larger companies (this is also what happened in the UK a few years ago with Calyx Software, later called m-Hance, taking over a number of smaller partners).

So with limited opportunities for employment and fewer clients using it as time passes, I decided it was time for me to move on from working with Dynamics GP. I did look at some of the competing solutions outside of the Microsoft sphere, but ultimately concluded that a Microsoft ERP was the best choice as pretty much all of the software I am used to working with are from Microsoft, so this would keep my other technical skills relevant.

I did briefly look into Dynamics 365 F&O, but decided that Dynamics BC was a better choice for me at this point in my career.

I am now four months into learning about Dynamics BC and still have a lot of learning to do (and I expect I always will have a lot to learn, as I was still learning about Dynamics GP after 19 years). It is a capable system, which can easily be extended and usually is sold with sector specific functionality, and has its own strengths and weaknesses as a system. I’ve been posting a lot of articles on Dynamics BC which are “how to” on simple elements in BC and will continue to do so, but as time passes, I expect the articles to gain more depth and variety as I learn more about the system.

This turned out to be a lot more GP and less BC than I expected when I started writing, but I guess that’s natural as I have far more experience with the former than the latter, although this should continue to change.

One of the surprises when I looked at the articles I’ve posted in 2022 is that I have written 97 articles on Dynamics GP and 106 on Dynamics BC.

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