Digital Strategies for Microsoft Great Plains Sunset End of Life

Written By: Eric Kimberling
Date: March 24, 2023

Microsoft recently announced that Great Plains will no longer be supported after 2028. Many organizations are now asking, "What do we do now? How do we move to the next technology that we're going to deploy as an organization?" So, what exactly do you need to do and know about the Great Plains end-of-life and your future path forward? That's what we want to talk about today.

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Not too long ago, Microsoft announced that they would be sunsetting Microsoft Great Plains. Great Plains, if you don't know, is a product that Microsoft acquired years ago, and surprisingly, many organizations are still using it. However, Microsoft is now focusing on Microsoft Dynamics D365, and is trying to move its customers off of older, legacy platforms like Great Plains. With this looming deadline hovering over the market and Microsoft customers, the question becomes: what do we do, and how do we move away from Microsoft Great Plains? Even more fundamentally, what is the right solution or path forward?

Manufactured Sales Tactic

The first thing to understand and acknowledge in the situation with Microsoft's end-of-life with Great Plains is that this is a manufactured sales tactic. Software vendors like Microsoft are trying to force their customers off legacy products onto their newer products, partly because it's more profitable for them to have you move to the new product, in this case, Microsoft D365, but also because it's impossible for an organization like Microsoft to maintain effectively multiple systems. So that's a big part of it too, is they want their R&D dollars to go into one platform rather than spreading themselves too thin trying to focus on Great Plains, Navision, Axapta, and other legacy products, rather than just putting all that R&D money into D365. So that's a big driver of it as well.

But regardless of what the vendor's self-interest might be, you really have to look at your self-interest. What is it that you need as an organization? What makes the most sense for you? One thing that we notice in the market is that a lot of times, Microsoft Great Plains customers operate with a sense of panic. They feel like they absolutely have to be completely migrated off that system by 2028. Well, it would be ideal if you could be off an unsupported product by the time the product becomes unsupported, it's not the end of the world if you have some sort of overlap. It does put your business at risk, of course, there's some definite risk to it. But you need to operate at a pace that makes the most sense to you.

And too many times, organizations will operate with such a sense of panic in trying to move away from a sunsetted product that they end up implementing a new product very poorly. So what you really have to do is assess the risk of both situations. If I remain on this old product for longer than I'd like, how does that risk compare to the risk of implementing a solution more quickly than our organization is able to consume?

Now, presumably, if you've been using Great Plains for a long time, you've had years or decades to get used to that solution, to mold it to fit your business and your operations, whereas a new product like d365 or any other ERP system in the marketplace is going to be a lot different than Great Plains, and it's going to require some adjustment and some learning from your organization. So the key here is to really operate at your own pace, not at the vendor's pace, but your pace. Yes, you need to be aware that Microsoft will no longer support the product after 2028, but then again, a lot of organizations are still using products that haven't been supported for decades. I would not recommend that by any means, but it can be done, and a lot of organizations do that. You just have to assess the risk of both situations and do what's best for you.

Great Plains To D365 Is Not A Simple Upgrade

Now let's assume that you've decided that you are indeed going to move away from Microsoft Great Plains in the near future. The next question becomes: what system do you look at? One of the natural options that organizations look to is Microsoft. If we already use Microsoft Great Plains, why not look at the latest and greatest from Microsoft, which would be Microsoft Dynamics 365? And one thing that Microsoft and its network of value-added resellers are doing is convincing organizations that it's a simple upgrade--you're just upgrading from Great Plains to D365. Unfortunately, that's not true at all. Great Plains and D365 are totally different platforms, totally different systems, with different underlying technologies, different functional capabilities, different strengths, different weaknesses, and it's just going to be a re-implementation of technology. Not to say that D365 isn't the answer for you--it may very well be--but a lot of organizations that are comfortable with Microsoft and are already Microsoft shops are going to naturally gravitate towards D365 as an option. However, even if you do choose D365, you want to make sure that you recognize that it's not a simple upgrade. You want to treat it and plan for it and invest in it as though it's a full-on implementation, because that's exactly what it is.

Evaluate Your Other Software Options

If D365 is not an option you're interested in, or even if you are interested in evaluating D365, you want to make sure you understand what your options are. There are a lot of options out there beyond D365 that will allow you to automate your business and help you scale for growth. Now, I'm not going to go into great detail here about the strengths and weaknesses of all the different systems in the marketplace, but I encourage you to check out my YouTube channel for reviews and rankings of different ERP systems.

The point here is to recognize that there are a lot of options in the marketplace. You have your Tier 1 options, which are the bigger ERP software providers like Microsoft, who provide D365 and others. But you also have SAP and Oracle as two other examples that provide broad system capabilities for larger organizations. If you're a smaller mid-size organization, you also have other options beyond D365. You have Infor and Epicor, Workday and other Tier 2 solutions that are built more for the mid-market and even smaller organizations as well. In addition, there's a whole host of best-of-breed solutions that focus on individual pieces of a business. There are also industry-specific solutions that focus on manufacturing, government, financial services, or whatever your industry might be. So, you have a lot of options to choose from. I encourage you to make sure that you explore your options and understand what the strengths and weaknesses are of those options against your business needs and requirements.

Define Your Transition Plan

Now, once you have evaluated your options and defined the system that you think will best help you move away from Microsoft Great Plains, you need to ensure that you have a solid transition or implementation plan. There are a few things to note about your implementation plan. First, you want to ensure that your plan is realistic and includes realistic assumptions and understanding of the time, cost, and effort required to deploy the technology and process changes that come along with it. Second, you want to make sure that your plan includes time to define your future state, especially if you have outgrown Great Plains to the point where it no longer supports your business. This is even more important as it gives you a clear vision of how to deploy the new technology to support your business going forward. Finally, you want to ensure that you have a solid change management plan in place because even if you are moving to Microsoft D365, and especially if you are moving to a non-Microsoft product, the change impact to your organization and the people in it will be greater than you might think. Therefore, you want to make sure that you have a solid change management plan that allows you to mitigate risk and implement the replacement solution as efficiently and effectively as possible.

If you are looking to strategize an upcoming transformation or are looking at selecting an ERP system, we would love to give you some insights. Please contact me for more information eric.kimberling@thirdstage-consulting.com

Be sure to download the newly released 2023 Digital Transformation Report to garner additional industry insight and project best practices.

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Eric Kimberling

Eric is known globally as a thought leader in the ERP consulting space. He has helped hundreds of high-profile enterprises worldwide with their technology initiatives, including Nucor Steel, Fisher and Paykel Healthcare, Kodak, Coors, Boeing, and Duke Energy. He has helped manage ERP implementations and reengineer global supply chains across the world.

Author:
Eric Kimberling
Eric is known globally as a thought leader in the ERP consulting space. He has helped hundreds of high-profile enterprises worldwide with their technology initiatives, including Nucor Steel, Fisher and Paykel Healthcare, Kodak, Coors, Boeing, and Duke Energy. He has helped manage ERP implementations and reengineer global supply chains across the world.
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