In order to keep up with digitization in the corporate world, even classic business applications are on trial. In many companies there is need for action in order to map all segments across the value chain in future by an integrated solution.
At Microsoft the traditionally separated fields of ERP and CRM are growing together under the umbrella brand “Dynamics 365”; the integrated business application suite “Business Central” is a major part of this. Modern software solutions like this offer lots of opportunities, but the scope of implementing such a system should never be underestimated.
Even though new business applications have different pricing models than before and even offer leasing models, the implementation and conception of such a software solution is still a major investment. And even if manufacturers keep talking about “self-service” and there is no longer a need to provide your own hardware, for complex business processes it will always be necessary to include consultants with experience from other similar projects. Many companies will have to check and adapt their existing processes to the parameters specified by the new software. To this end, lots of plans and discussions are required to ensure the success of the project. So it’s worthwhile to keep the following principles in mind before launching a new project.
Microsoft announced the official name and release date of its new cloud ERP solution. Dynamics 365 Business Central will officially be available in April.
The cloud-based all-in-one business management solution, which was formerly known as Dynamics 365 “Tenerife”, will have the full functionality of Microsoft Dynamics NAV. The On-Premise version will continue to exist.
Starting April 2nd,Dynamics 365 Business Central will be available in 14 countries (including Germany) in two price packages: “Essential” and “Premium”. The “Essential” version contains all the key modules, such as those required for finances, operations, sales and customer service, as well as human resources, project and supply chain management, whereas the “Premium” edition has additional modules for service order management and manufacturing.
Business Central is intended to upgrade entry-level accounting software and ERP legacy systems easily and quickly. Updates are performed automatically by the cloud solution to eliminate complex upgrade processes. The basic functionalities integrate with other Microsoft cloud services (e.g., Office 365) and can be customized and extended with PowerApps, Microsoft Flow, and Power BI for specific, growing, and changing business needs.
Microsofts’ primary goal is to create a flexible cloud platform through automated tasks and workflows (using familiar tools such as Office, Outlook, Word, and Excel), networked data and intelligent technologies to offer users a standardized and efficient way of handling business transactions. The created company networking will be helpful to make informed decisions. Dynamics 365 Business Central has also a new modern user interface to provide a better overview and increase productivity.
With the enhanced user experience, its extensibility, and the full functionality of Dynamics NAV, the all-in-one business management solution offers many benefits – particularly for companies, which are looking for a flexible solution that grows and changes with them just as their requirements.
Commercial applications have not been left out of the discussion on comprehensive digitization of our environment. While digital solutions are only now starting to take up a central and active role in numerous areas of our everyday life, e.g., autonomous driving, many operations of all serious companies and industries have been inconceivable without IT for a long time. In fact, these companies were the driving force behind IT development long before the private sector.
Today’s digital transformation is not just about technology. Rather, it entails a comprehensive strategy that puts organizations and business models to the test of implementing new ways of interacting with people, data, and processes. A significant part of the added value will be in the digital sector in the future. This has consequences, not least for business software. The roots of many ERP systems still date back to the 1980s and the systems have continuously been adapted over time to suit the respective requirements. Another update will not be enough to adapt the software to meet today’s requirements for the comprehensive digitization.
Why do we also have to rethink our business software?
Today customer relationships work more differently than a few years ago. The market transparency is many times higher and the opportunity to operate internationally has become much easier – competition is diverse. That makes it even more important to establish a stable and reliable cooperation with our customers, that guarantees the same level of quality across different situations. Studies foresee that the “customer experience” in dealing with a company is becoming increasingly important and will soon be just as relevant as “price” or “brand”.
Skills shortages are not an industry-specific problem. Our corporate resources are limited and the productivity of each employee is critical. Fast training, project-oriented way of working instead of controlled routines and teamwork across different locations are the keywords that now set the bar for the IT infrastructure of a company. Attractive workplaces must be modern and meet the desire for flexibility and mobility, which knows a new generation of private software usage habits.
Technology enables speed and flexibility. In today’s environment, the features a software should keep are changing fast. New business models emerge and increase competition constantly. Many companies are forced to act, to stem the loss of market share at least. Companies that offer their own new and better IT-based services can gain new customers quickly and offer well-targeted and individual products and services. With Dynamics 365, Microsoft has rethought the conventional ERP and CRM concepts and launched a solution that is well suited for a modern business applications architecture.
On Directions EMEA 2017 in Madrid, Microsoft brought more clarity into its release plans and published the latest roadmap for its products.
The release of the new On-Premise NAV version is scheduled to take place on December 1st this year named Dynamics NAV 2018. Another release – Dynamics NAV 2018 R2 – will be launched in spring 2018, just like the full-featured Cloud/SaaS variation, which is still known by its codename Dynamics 365 “Tenerife”. With the replacement of the preliminary product title, a renaming of the products can be expected.
For the upcoming releases Microsoft announced again some interesting innovations and improvements. These include an even more intensive Office 365 integration (e.g. through the Common Data Service and the possibility to edit book sheets in Excel), an optimization of the Web Client and the visual appearance (e.g. personalization of the workspace) as well as new Standard Web Service APIs.
More information and details will be posted soon on this blog. All important product news will be also available for our customers and interested parties on our Business Day 2017.
With the advanced development of the Microsoft product world, the opportunities to connect individual services and solutions are also increasing more and more. For example, Microsoft Flow simplifies the workflows between preferentially used cloud-based apps and services. Additionally own apps can be generated, adapted and shared with other users by PowerApps.
By Microsoft Flow, users are able to set up automated workflows between their preferred services and apps, to synchronise files, to collect data and to receive messages accordingly. Templates are already contained in Flow for this purpose; however, the user is also free to create his own workflows that correspond to his own work processes and process requirements. Essentially, Microsoft Flow includes the following features:
Delivery of a message as soon as a folder or file has been updated.
Automatic collection and organisation of business data.
Continuous synchronisation of data so that all folders are always up-to-date.
Automation of approvals, e.g. by means of immediate messages via e-mail, Yammer or Twitter.
By connecting the various apps and services, automatic workflows, for example, can be created between Microsoft Dynamics NAV, Office 365, SharePoint, Outlook, Dynamics 365, Yammer and many other applications. In concrete use cases, for example, e-mail attachments could be saved in a SharePoint library, automatic Yammer postings could be created when a new CRM sales opportunity is created, important Outlook e-mails could be copied into OneNote, Dynamics CRM leads could be created from Excel tables, and much more. The interactions between the individual applications are almost unlimited. You can see an example of the creation of a workflow with data from Dynamics NAV 2017 in the following video:
In November last year, Microsoft launched its new cloud-based solution Dynamics 365 on the North American market. Release in four more European countries is planned for this year. The Business Edition of the product, which includes Dynamics 365 for Financials (Project Madeira), is based on Dynamics NAV, but varies from the ERP system in many aspects.
Although Dynamics 365 for Financials includes some of the functions of Dynamics NAV, it is not meant to and will not replace it – Dynamics NAV will be developed further in future as well. Unlike the latter, which can be run on-premise, via a private cloud or Microsoft Azure, Dynamics 365 for Financials is a purely cloud-based solution. Since the features of the platform are reduced mainly to basic functionalities of the financial accounting areas, sales and purchasing, it is particularly suitable for small and medium-sized organisations. The simplified functional scope, the high user-friendliness of the intuitive application, as well as assistants and tutorials ensure comfortable acclimatisation and quick understanding in Dynamics 365 for Financials – especially for beginners. Dynamics NAV, on the other hand, comes up with far more extensive processes and additional modules (e.g. assets, production, service and project module), but is also more complex in use.
Comfortable platform expansion via apps and extensions
The flexible cloud platform Dynamics 365 for Financials enables to put the entire system individually together for oneself from various business apps and to adapt it to the requirements of the company, the industry or the role of the user. The corresponding applications can be obtained via Microsoft AppSource and can be supplied and used independently of each other.
For example, you can start with a few fundamental apps and add more as needs rise. The solution deployed includes only functionalities that are actually required in day-to-day operations. Thanks to this flexibility of Dynamics 365 for Financials and the opportunity to implement changes and expansions even without the help of the IT department, it is possible to react quickly and easily to the constantly changing market or company conditions.
Starting with the current 2017 version, the classic Dynamics NAV can also be expanded conveniently thanks to the extensions available. In addition, basic objects in NAV can be changed directly, thus allowing even the most customised adjustments. Updating the respective additional modules in Dynamics 365 for Financials and Dynamics NAV has different levels of difficulty. While Microsoft updates the applications acquired via the AppSource along with the basic application on a monthly basis automatically, extensions installed and basic objects adjusted in Dynamics NAV must always be migrated separately in the event of an update.
In July, Microsoft released an update for its cloud-based solution “Project Madeira”. This offers the users some interesting new expansions in addition to a number of small improvements.
The innovations mostly affect the interaction between “Project Madeira” and Outlook, the improvement of the sales documents and the connection to Dynamics CRM.
New features in Microsoft Outlook
Outlook now is equipped with certain new functions. From an appointment in the Outlook calendar, you can directly open the “Project Madeira” add-in, for example, in order to get an overview over the customer associated to the respective meeting. It is even possible to create and send an invoice for the appointment – without leaving the application.
A further possibility is, to send e-mail attachments (e.g. invoices as a pdf file) directly from the Outlook add-in to the list of “Incoming Documents” in “Project Madeira”. Then they can be forwarded to an OCR service which converts the received information into a digitally useable format. The entire process is carried out in the Outlook add-in. By the way, the user will also be informed there as soon as a software update is available.
Expansion of sales and delivery documents
The sales documents in “Project Madeira” have been expanded with a number of important fields. The changes now allow information in relation to the transport service and the tracking number to be recorded, which allows a better traceability for the delivery of goods.
Adding own article attributes
Inventory articles can now also be labelled with various characteristics. The user can define his own types of attributes (e.g. colour, country of manufacture or size) and add these to the articles in addition to the built-in item characteristics. The inventory can subsequently be filtered using the various attributes. This makes the search for specific articles easier for both the user and the customer.
Linking with Microsoft Dynamics CRM
“Project Madeira“ already contains basic customer relationship management and opportunity management. If the available functions are not enough, it is now possible – supported by a setup guide on the Business Manager homepage – to create a link to the Microsoft Dynamics CRM in order to use its comprehensive features (e.g. in the area of marketing and customer service). This means that data from “Project Madeira” and information from the CRM can be connected seamlessly.
Further additional expansions can be installed via the “Extension Management” webpage. These include the verification and correction of all addresses in “Project Madeira”, as well as a simplified migration of data (e.g. customers, vendors and items) from Opera or Sage to “Project Madeira”.
With Microsoft Dynamics 365, Microsoft has announced a new platform for cloud-based services that will enrich and correlate the current ERP and CRM applications. Furthermore, the future offer is to include new business apps for domains such as finance, marketing, sales, and customer Service.
Microsoft refers to this service as “end-to-end suite for smart cloud-based business”, which will be available from autumn 2016. The user will then be able to use the individual applications as required. In the event of changing requirements or new challenges, the solutions can then be readily expanded by the new services – allowing users to only pay for what they actually need. Pricing details regarding Dynamics 365 are yet to be announced by Microsoft.
There will be two Dynamics 365 editions – a Business and an Enterprise Edition. The Business Edition Financial will be published this fall in the US and Canada, followed by its release in four European countries and the worldwide availability of the associated sales and marketing module in 2017. The worldwide availability of the Business Edition Financial is planned for 2018. There is no official release date for the also announced Enterprise Edition of the service, yet.
Moreover, the cloud service will natively integrate the two tools “Power BI” and “Cortana Intelligence” in order to support companies in the field of predictive analytics and regarding specific recommended actions based on their data.
Additionally, the integration of Dynamics 365 and Office 365 is intended to increase productivity, especially when working in teams, through the use of structured workflows. In order to facilitate the processes of managing and analysing data, both solutions draw on the same data model. For example, the applications are linked using “PowerApps” or the “Flow” tool already available with Office 365 today.
The perfect app for your business requirements
Via the new AppSource platform already rolled out by Microsoft, the various applications published so far can be viewed. On the one hand, entire industry solutions can be procured, and on the other hand partial solutions which enrich a default solution for specific purposes and corporate requirements. Look for more Details in the following video:
Up to now, we are not able to provide any comprehensive information on experience of the quality and compatibility of the individual offers. However, we will continue to keep you up to date here. Please feel free to provide your own experience as a comment.