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Top 4 Reasons To Migrate From Great Plains To Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central

This article discusses some key reasons companies migrate from Microsoft Dynamics Great Plains (GP) to Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central (BC). Topics include:

  1. Software manufacturer’s support
  2. On-premise and Cloud insights and explanations
  3. Productivity and collaboration
  4. Common questions and answers

GP and BC are enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems found within the Microsoft Dynamics product line, focused on providing core business functions, such as general ledger (G/L), accounts payable (AP), accounts receivable (AR), inventory, projects, manufacturing and so on.

GP, which has been in the market for years, is mainly deployed locally (also known as “on-premises”). Whereas BC, having been built as a Cloud-native product, is commonly deployed as a web-based solution. Features, advantages, and constraints of the aforementioned ERP systems and hosting options are explored below.

Software Manufacturer’s Support

Background

Software manufacturers, such as Microsoft, provide support for their products. However, depending upon the age of the software and if an incumbent product has entered the market, support levels change over time. The key is understanding when a product leaves full support and transitions to a declining support model.

Full support provides many benefits to the user community:

  • New features to enhance the value of the ongoing investment;
  • Hotfixes (adjustments in the codebase) and bug mitigation, released with a sense of urgency;
  • Constantly updated training content, incorporation of users’ feedback, and documentation;
  • User forums where the community submits feature and operational requests which influence future software releases.

Declining support provides legacy benefits inherited from full support. The transition from full to declining support is significant as the software slips into a vulnerable state. Years ago, when cyberattacks and ransomware violations were not as common, some would justify a product slipping out of full support. However, the modern reality makes it necessary that companies consider the possibility and take measures to protect themselves against lost time, ransomware attacks, complicated workarounds to salvage data and business processes, escalating support costs, and frustrating user experiences. In addition, the following may be expected with the sunset support model:

  • No feature updates;
  • Limited, if any, hotfix and bug patches;
  • Stagnant training content.

Many only look at the conversion cost from one ERP system to another from a capital (professional services) and an expense (change in monthly fees) perspective. Although these factors need to be considered, when dealing with ERP software, which runs the business, one cannot ignore the significant risk added to the company when a product transitions from the full to declining support model. The key is planning for the transition; luckily, Microsoft provides ample notice when a system is headed for a sunset support condition. This means that companies can connect with their ERP partner early and have them assist in assessing business requirements, preparing migration time and budget estimates, along with the return on investment (ROI) plan for moving to a modern ERP system.

On-premise and Cloud solutions

Background

ERP systems primarily operate in either an on-Premises model or a Cloud model. Each of these models contains similar requirements, such as:

  • Server(s), depending upon the size of the organization;
  • Operating system (e.g., Windows version) and peripheral software (e.g., SQL Server);
  • Installation, maintenance, and upgrades of the ERP system, operating and peripheral software;
  • Remote connectivity.

The tables below break these down further and provide a comparison between both models, highlighting cost and effort.

Server(s), depending upon the size of the organization
Element
Cloud
Cost Effort
On-Premises
Cost Effort
Backups LOW ZERO LOW MEDIUM
Hosting, off-site ZERO ZERO MEDIUM LOW
Hosting, on-site ZERO ZERO ZERO LOW
IT infrastructure ZERO ZERO MEDIUM MEDIUM
Server hardware ZERO ZERO HIGH MEDIUM
Operating system and peripheral software
Element
Cloud
Cost Effort
On-Premises
Cost Effort
Identity management LOW ZERO LOW LOW
Backup software LOW ZERO LOW LOW
Report services ZERO ZERO MEDIUM MEDIUM
Windows servers ZERO ZERO MEDIUM LOW
Installation, maintenance, and upgrades
Element
Cloud
Cost Effort
On-Premises
Cost Effort
Backups LOW ZERO LOW MEDIUM
Hosting, off-site ZERO ZERO MEDIUM LOW
Hosting, on-site ZERO ZERO ZERO LOW
IT infrastructure ZERO ZERO MEDIUM MEDIUM
Server hardware ZERO ZERO HIGH MEDIUM
Remote connectivity
Element
Cloud
Cost Effort
On-Premises
Cost Effort
RDP software ZERO ZERO LOW ZERO
VPN annual (e) ZERO ZERO LOW ZERO
VPN hardware ZERO ZERO HIGH MEDIUM
VPN software (c) ZERO ZERO MEDIUM LOW

Although the infrastructure installation, maintenance, and upgrades are addressed in the third table above, the most significant cost and effort are seen with the upgrade of the ERP software. Each client’s installation and time between upgrades vary; however, most have these obstacles to overcome when considering an ERP system upgrade.

Customization

Modern ERP systems, such as BC, can be configured instead of customized. The difference is that a configured system is easy to upgrade as the core code of the manufacturer is unaltered. However, many ERP systems (e.g., an outdated version of GP) provide core functionality only. Thus, end-users are often compelled to customize the software to meet their organization’s workflow requirements. Although well-customized software may fit like a glove short term, it generally mortgages the organization for many years to come. These “custom” fields, flows, and reports make upgrading exponentially more complex. As such, many legacy ERP systems have not been upgraded in many years.

Effort

The effort to upgrade an ERP system is substantially lower for configured only (modern) systems than configured and customized ones (old systems). For example, an upgrade for BC is usually as effortless as automatic Windows upgrades compared to multi-month, multi-thousand dollar upgrades of older ERP systems.

Risk

  • Cost
    Modern ERP systems, such as BC on the Cloud, are upgraded without any cost. However, older versions of on-Premises ERP systems not only require substantial recurring (about every five years) costs to upgrade but are also prone to run over the initial estimated cost. As a result, money may need to be reallocated from different programs, the project may stall, or the upgrade scope may need to narrow down taking away ERP features and convenience from users, undermining, thus, the very objective of the upgrade.
  • Time
    It takes time to plan and execute an ERP upgrade project. This involves time commitments from the ERP partner and C-level decision-makers and end-users. The latter two groups have to find time for an ERP upgrade on top of their day-to-day business duties. If an ERP upgrade project runs beyond the estimated timeline, chief officers and users may find themselves in a situation where they need to decide to put off their vacation or a business trip and continue supporting the upgrade. An upgrade may also involve some ERP (and other) systems downtimes, which may be a substantial risk, especially for some businesses.
  • Cybersecurity
    The frequency of cyber and ransomware attacks has changed IT perspectives on risk. Many legacy ERP systems run on a local server installed within the organization’s physical infrastructure. Assuming the network is hardened and the ERP system operates on an air-gapped network with limited users, the risk is low. However, today with hybrid work environments, it is common to see these systems extended for remote access via VPN tunnels and other similar technologies. Remote connections change the security model significantly. Cloud-native solutions, such as BC reduce, these risks as they are designed to battle software attacks.

The aforementioned factors, along with many others, need to be considered as companies assess their ERP solution’s short- and long-term viability. Many companies find that when it comes to modernizing their ERP solution, it is not the question of “if” but instead of “when” + ”how.”

Productivity and Collaboration

A car takes individuals and cargo from point A to point B. Similarly, an ERP system is a vehicle to take businesses and business processes from point A (their current state) to point B (their target state). To continue the analogy, any working vehicle should have a working engine, good wheels, clear windshield, etc., but are all vehicles the same? No, a modern Formula 1 vehicle is not the same as the car most people drive to work; a cargo vehicle or a full-size SUV or pickup is not the same as a light sedan. Similarly, both GP and BC have several similar base features—they both have G/L, AP, AR, but are those features the same, and is this all that BC has to offer? No. Some features are briefly examined below.

  • Chart of Accounts (COA): a great number of G/L Accounts in GP (usually due to segments) is made much simpler (fewer accounts and without segments) and otherwise more efficient and effective due to Dimensions in BC.
  • Dimensions: besides uncluttering and otherwise improving the COA structure, Dimensions in BC are also used to:
    • Improve reporting to the scale (up and down), which would have been otherwise impossible in GP;
    • Enhance data entry accuracy – Dimensions can be made mandatory on G/L Accounts to ensure that users must specify a Dimension to be able to post a transaction;
    • Solidify business processes – Dimensions can be used only to allow certain combinations, such as only allowing selling certain lines of products in some areas, but not others; only certain users or groups of users can interact with certain Customers or groups of Customers, but not others, etc.
  • Reporting: a great number of out-of-the-box reports for financials, inventory, resources, projects, manufacturing, fixed (capital) assets, etc., can be leveraged by users. Additionally, several easy reporting tools are available for users to build their reports (no coding necessary). Either way, reports can be viewed in the system, printed, or output in DOCX (Word), PDF, and XLSX (Excel) formats.
  • Collaboration: as part of the Dynamics 365 (and more broadly, Microsoft) line of products, BC natively integrates (no code or technical knowledge is required) with other Microsoft products and beyond, including:
    • Power BI for modern visual dashboards;
    • Power Automate for efficient and effective ways of automating business processes;
    • Power Apps to collaborate with external and internal stakeholders and for a variety of purposes, including offline work in remote locations;
    • Power Virtual Agents bots (similar to those on the modern website) to help increase productivity in BC;
    • Automatic FX exchange rates are regularly updated in BC based on an external service (e.g., Bank of Canada – a free service);
    • Bank Feeds for automating bank reconciliations;
    • Outlook for email notifications, especially for approvals, generating Sales Quotes and Invoices and more;
    • Teams for communicating efficiently and effectively regarding BC data with team members and for simple edits of BC data right within Teams;
    • Word to redesign documents (e.g., Sales Invoices, Purchase Orders, etc.) and output reports;
  • Cognitive services: BC takes advantage of Azure and other tools to introduce machine learning for forecasting, financial management, inventory processing, etc.
    Easy and flexible search: BC makes searching for functions and data intuitive and fast while users’ filters can be saved and reused or shared with other users.
    Application-level security: roles and permissions: BC makes it possible to create user Groups and assign Roles and Permissions to individual users.

Common Questions
and Answers

Contact Us

BC has been around since 1984 but has been known under several different names, including “Dynamics NAV.” A lot of features have changed since then. Today, BC is a modern ERP system that can be hosted on the Cloud, On-Premises, and Azure. In addition, it has a lot of new features to save time for users and help organizations automate their processes.

Yes, BC has automatic updates. It offers the ability to test upcoming updates in a Sandbox environment. These updates are safe and have been relied upon by thousands of organizations worldwide for years now. Automatic updates in BC (on the Cloud) are incremental and come at no additional cost.

Depending on the organization, this varies. Popular features include:

  • AI (artificial intelligence);
  • Automatic bank reconciliations;
  • Cash Flow Forecasting;
  • Direct debit;
  • EFT (ACH) processing;
  • Automatic Remittance Advice (for Vendors, contractors, and employees);
  • Integration with Power BI, etc.

The OCR function is a base feature in BC, which may be further enhanced based on companies’ needs. However, it is worth mentioning that the external service used to “read” invoices as images may require a fee, depending on the provider.

It depends. Generally speaking, the cost to upgrade GP is comparable to migration to BC. ERP systems usually require upgrades every five years, making GP even more costly in perspective. BC hosted on the Cloud does not require any upgrades at all as these happen automatically and at no additional cost.

There is no “one size fits all” hosting type of BC. It depends on each organization. With BC, however, there is a function to easily move from the Cloud to the on-Premises hosting and vice versa.

BC can integrate with payroll systems. Typically, this is achieved with an API, natively or via middleware. Some payroll software providers have built-in connectors for BC making these integrations straightforward and low cost.

BC uses Dimensions that simplify the COA structure. See above for more details or contact us.

BC financial reporting features several out-of-the-box reports, report-building tools, multiple export formats, and Power BI integration.

BC has “Intercompany” and “Consolidation” Modules which accommodate any number of legal entities at no additional costs. Intercompany transactions are automated.

BC supports many languages out of the box at no additional cost. New languages and even language variants are added periodically. In addition, language settings can be applied to individual language entities.

This varies depending on an individual organization. KMicro attempts to take the mystery out of this answer by providing:

  • Affordable fixed-fee packages;
  • Free assessments to determine the optimum BC implementation plan;
  • Consultations to listen and answer questions;
  • Scheduling a walk-through demonstration of the system.