Dynamics 365 Cloud ERP: Easier, cheaper and more manageable

29.8.2016 -

Microsoft’s new Dynamics 365 cloud ERP system challenges companies to consider changing their processes and modes of operation but offers easier deployment and cost-effectiveness. Firms will not lose the unique processes that confer a competitive advantage when they deploy the system, rather they will be managed with Dynamics 365 standard system and partners’ vertical and value-added solutions. The deployment of a system without modifications requires management support and strong change management for business reform.

Pay only for what you need

Under the 365 Dynamics name, Microsoft gathered together Dynamics CRM, Dynamics AX and Dynamics NAV Project Madeira solutions and integrated them more deeply into Microsoft’s other Azure solutions. The stack includes elements such as Microsoft 365, Power BI reporting, Cortana analytics and the Azure IOT platform. The solutions are available in Microsoft’s Azure cloud.

What is the central idea of the concept? To adopt a standardised ERP solution and acquire additional value-added solutions developed by partners in the AppSource application store.

In the past, it was possible to acquire Microsoft’s ERP solutions as a software rental, but now Dynamics 365 rental licenses could include only the desired ERP functionalities (such as Sales or Customer Service), as well as the Power BI solution. It will no longer be necessary to buy or rent an entire ERP solution solely for a handful of use cases.

And, as a partner, Solteq can add wholesale and retail sector value-added solutions to the unit. This model – based on use and need – makes licensing easy and scalable.

Diagramme of Dynamics 365 complete solution:

Dynamics 356 solutions

Processes to fit the system, or a system modified by processes?

One advantage of a standard solution is that it reduces the risks and costs associated with project and system life cycles. At the same time, deployment lead time becomes shorter. Also, suppliers enjoy the benefits of replicability and productisation. This is nothing new, but it still holds true.

In terms of Dynamics 365, a decision relating to a standard model and a plan to stick with it is an even more essential checkpoint in embarking on a company’s IT upgrade project. Do we modify the system to fit the firm’s processes or do we adapt the processes to fit the system?

I have seen several companies that have enjoyed business benefits from innovative processes. They are something you don’t want to lose. The most critical changes have to be made, but there is no need to rush with less critical ones. However, it is first important to work with a partner to determine if there are appropriate vertical or value-added solutions available for the company’s needs.

Before implementing a cloud ERP solution, it is essential to critically and carefully evaluate needs. The most rational move would be to replace the traditional modifications list with prioritised business requirements and a change management plan. This provides a basis to apply the required parameters to the standard Dynamics 365 system and selected vertical solutions. If any modifications are required, they should be evaluated only after there is sufficient experience with the system.

What is a typical challenge with ERP projects? Often the challenge is how to manage change for end users who stand to lose usability or efficiency when switching to new standard processes. Change management is often the customer’s responsibility but the partner has assumed a more important role in this regard. Although the goal is to use the standard system without modifications, companies often bend the rules. Only later on do we appreciate that we should have stood firm. Consistent change management and artful communications are the best tools for these situations.

We partners must focus on selected industries and must be true experts in business and change management, so that we can help companies achieve their goals in deploying the system.

Vertical and value-added apps for business

Vertical and value-added apps for business have previously been perceived as overall extensions running through a particular business area that extend their tentacles into each ERP module. Examples include the auto dealer Annata IDS and the retail sector LS Retail that Solteq offers. Nowadays, verticals can include a small pricing engine add-on a partner has developed into an extension that can be tailored to your needs by setting the appropriate parameters. The extension supports many different pricing models, and includes good user instructions. The partner then uploads it into Microsoft’s Appsource marketplace where it can be easily accessed for use.

PowerApps and Microsoft Flow are new Microsoft tools that allow end users to create applications or workflows without having to write any code. PowerApps provides visual tools for application design; processes can be illustrated as a flow chart using a visual editor. The application can also harness functionalities of mobile devices such as a camera or GPS signal. This is an extremely useful solution for many business challenges such as designing mobile apps for end customers.

Microsoft Flow can be used to create automated workflows between applications and services such as Twitter, Slack, Google Drive, Dropbox and Office 365. Both tools are ideal for developing fast and productive value-added products and process automation.

Dynamics 365 cloud solution and its related support functions are now more easily available than ever and Microsoft is betting big in it. Every company launching an IT upgrade project should also renew its cloud strategy to more broadly embrace an ERP system, or should at least evaluate the option. With a standard ERP and the right vertical solutions, it is possible to significantly save on costs and add value to the business.

Jussi Kiiskinen

Jussi Kiiskinen

I am a professional with 20 years’ experience in ERPs and projects. At Solteq, I have worked with Microsoft Dynamics ERP systems helping customers and colleagues achieve business and deployment goals. Currently I am taking ERP to the cloud and am responsible for cooperation with our partners.

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