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Thinking about implementing or upgrading your ERP system to Dynamics 365?

26 Sep 2018

Since its launch in July 2016, how has Microsoft Dynamics 365 evolved?

When it launched, Microsoft wanted to create a platform that was able to seamlessly integrate a number of different programmes in one place, allowing customers to combine different Microsoft applications, such as their ERP systems and Office 365. 

Microsoft’s aim was to target businesses who previously felt that adopting an ERP system or Dynamics platform was too daunting. Dynamics 365 overcame that hurdle by helping businesses to implement the technology without having to make a large investment. Instead companies can pay a user-based licence fee each month for a basic ERP system that is integrated with Office 365’s suite of applications. This means that the customer can extend the platform how and when they chose to. 

At launch Microsoft set out to make Dynamics 365 more accessible, integrated and user friendly and they’ve certainly achieved that.

But users have been slow to adopt. ERP users are, by nature, are slow to adapt to new solutions and have been taking their time.

Dynamics 365 Business Central is for SMEs who don’t require the full capability of the Dynamics 365 modules.  It covers the full range of Dynamics NAV capabilities and acts as an all in one business management solution, helping smaller businesses to effectively manage finances, sales and operates.

Are there any benefits of having your ERP in the cloud versus on-premise?

Cloud and on-premise both have their advantages. Those who have previously used on-premise platforms will know that having your ERP on-premise is more time consuming.

With on-premise, businesses are responsible for the security and maintenance of their ERP systems - although this is often done by a partner or a third party.

Dynamics 365 infrastructure on the other hand is hosted in the cloud meaning Microsoft will maintain the infrastructure, potentially saving businesses time, money and skilled resources.

What are the benefits of investing in Sana Commerce and Dynamics 365 together?

Sana Commerce’s products are able to reuse all of a business’s logic inside the ERP. For example, if you place an order within Sana it will automatically be reflected in Dynamics 365 as the information is able to integrate with the different systems seamlessly.

By using both Sana and Dynamics 365 together, our customers are able to request invoices online, be provided with product suggestions as well as customer specific price calculations, offloading some of the work previously done by customer service teams in a bid to automate the end-user’s experience.

Integration also means that information entered in one system can trigger an alert or action in another. If a quote is raised on Sana it can trigger an action in the CRM system for a follow up.

What have been the benefits of being an early adopter of Dynamics 365?

The main benefit of being an early adopter is the ability to have the latest version of the software at all times. Updates and patches take place quickly and easily meaning users are assured of the security and workability of the platform. 

What have been the main challenges with Dynamics 365?

Unfortunately, if you’re a business who currently uses Dynamics GP there is no clear-cut upgrade path. Without a SaaS equivalent and no Dynamics 365 counterpart, Dynamics GP users have to invest in a new ERP solution. Microsoft however has said it will continue to support those on the Dynamics GP platform. If you’re a Dynamics AX user there is an option to migrate to Dynamics 365 however you will have to operate without some of the customisations that were previously available on Dynamics AX as Microsoft continues to push a more standardised solution. 

The main challenge of Dynamics 365 is the lack of customisations. If a business wants a new customisation it needs to create it in a way that it doesn’t directly impact or change the base workings of the ERP system, but instead extends it in a way that allows the system to run as normal. While it is possible to be able to extend how the platform works, there are limits as some customisations can’t be extended in Dynamics 365.

What are the most popular customisations within Dynamics 365?

Dynamics 365 allows for on demand integration. Since add-ons can be installed by the customer whenever they want, and not change the way in which the webstore works they’re increasingly popular.

Since the launch of Dynamics 365 how has the platform evolved?

Microsoft has brought out a number of different upgrades, some of which have been minor bug fixes as a posed to major software reconfigurations. For those on monthly subscriptions, these upgrades have provided a constant value stream, as businesses aren’t being taken offline or have to prepare for a big upgrade, instead more and more applications are being added to the platform while still in use without a big upfront payment. Microsoft aims to make these applications more integrated to allow them to work together within the same business process.

How would you like to see the platform evolve within the next five years?

Microsoft has a product management feature that allows businesses to give descriptions of products. However, they are restricted to a certain amount of characters because these descriptions are aimed at the internal ERP system alone. There is a real benefit to lengthening these descriptions and adding additional text capabilities. If this information is made accessible and used outside of the ERP this could allow for easier integration and assist other roles within the business such as marketing.

Are there any upcoming trends?

The recent upgrade of Dynamics NAV to Business Central, which is now available both in the cloud and on-premise, has delivered more features whilst integrating seamlessly with a business’ CRM, reporting system and ERP. With Business Central Microsoft is aiming to enhance the customer experience by making it more personalised. Now users will be able to build their own suite of applications rather than having to buy with the Business or Enterprise edition.

It’s expected that Dynamics NAV will be replaced by Business Central later in the year to coincide with the availability of the on-premise version.

Additional integration with other technology, such as Cortana, will help users to bring a greater understanding of what their customers might buy and drive improved demand forecasting. We expect to see Microsoft heavily invest in AI to help drive customer experience.

We’ll also see an increasing use of AppSource as an app store for ISVs and Microsoft partners, such as Sana Commerce customers, with add-ons that can be simply downloaded in one click. Microsoft’s aim with AppSource is to allow customers to self-service when selecting their ISV options. As a corporate app store the platform delivers customers a simple installation process with minimal hassle. While users won’t need a developer or coder to integrate the add-ons, they will need to configure them.

Currently for some smaller ISVs AppSource remains a challenge as all solutions have to be validated by Microsoft. It’s not as simple as uploading your software or add-on. There are some requirements that need to be met to ensure only the solutions that are technically sound are available. Hopefully this will become easier in the future as AppSource continues to evolve as a platform. 

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