Things to Consider Before Upgrading to Microsoft Dynamics 365

Written By: Eric Kimberling
Date: June 13, 2018

For the first time in my 21-year career, the major ERP vendors are all going through a massive transition – and all at the same time. This makes it tricky for organizations upgrading to Microsoft Dynamics 365.

Microsoft has been in the ERP software space for quite some time. It has grown largely through acquisition of multiple products, including Great Plains, Axapta, and Navision. Those products were acquired and folded into the Microsoft umbrella shortly after Y2K.

Over the years, the products appealed to different markets. For example, Great Plains primarily appealed to smaller organizations looking for a back-office financial solution beyond Quickbooks. Axapta appealed to mid-size manufacturing and distribution firms. These solutions were typically deployed on premise instead of in the cloud.

Now, nearly two decades later, Microsoft is beginning to merge the best of multiple products into Dynamics 365. Cloud is the primary deployment model. The product is gaining traction with mid-market, upper mid-market, and even the upper market. Recent data also suggests that D365 is gaining traction in market share at the expense of SAP S/4HANA and Oracle Cloud ERP.

But, there are some things to deliberate when considering a Microsoft Dynamics 365 implementation. Whether you are upgrading from Great Plains, Axapta, Navision, Solomon, or some other non-Microsoft ERP system, here are some things to consider:

Understand the scope of functionality of Microsoft Dynamics 365

If you’re a current user of Great Plains, Navision, or Axapta, the functionality that you have come to expect may or may not have been migrated to Dynamics 365. The company is further along migrating some functionality more so than others, such as with core financial and business intelligence processes. The product has not reached full maturity yet in other areas. Be sure to clearly understand what scope you are or aren’t getting with the D365 solution as part of your independent ERP evaluation process.

Microsoft CRM is a mature cloud solution within the Microsoft Dynamics 365 platform

Fortunately, Microsoft’s CRM solution has been gaining traction in recent years. Even prior to D365’s launch, Microsoft CRM product had been providing a viable alternative to Salesforce to make inroads with larger organizations. This helped Microsoft move upstream from the typically small to mid-size customers of its legacy Great Plains and Navision products. As a result, its cloud CRM offering is more robust and mature than some of its ERP counterparts.

Are you really ready for the cloud?

Cloud deployments may sound good, but many find that they don’t actually want a cloud solution once they fully understand the implications. In recent months I’ve been working with two clients with global operations. Both are struggling with connectivity in remote locations. They are still deploying Microsoft D365, but cloud deployments can be easier said than done. Be sure you understand the risks, costs, benefits, and tradeoffs before fully committing to this flagship cloud offering.

Don’t assume organizational change management will be easy

Dynamics 365 has a distinctly Microsoft look and feel, so it can be tempting to think that organizational change management and workforce transitioning will be easy. It won’t be. Its implementation will still require business process changes, new roles and responsibilities, and most likely some major cultural shifts as well. This has been an important factor in my experience as a Microsoft Dynamics 365 expert witness. Investing in your organizational change management strategy is a key success factor for Microsoft Dynamics 365 implementations.

Bottom Line: Define a clear digital strategy and roadmap to address your needs

Whatever system you do or don’t choose, the decision shouldn’t be done in a vacuum. An independent comparison of SAP S/4HANA, Oracle Cloud ERP, and Microsoft Dynamics should be an input into your decision process. And your decisions should be part of a bigger-picture, longer-term digital strategy and roadmap that is aligned with your overall corporate strategy and objectives.

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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