Migrating from Dynamics GP to D365 Business Central
Author: Ryan Pekrul
So you want to take your business to the cloud. Dynamics GP has been great. It’s comfortable, it’s widely used and supported across North America, but let’s face it…it could use some updates to take advantage of newer technologies offered by other systems. Moving to a more modern platform can provide many advantages to an organization. However, migrating from an on-premise to cloud deployment can be a large undertaking and the advantages offered may also come with a cost – Dynamics 365 Business Central (BC) is no exception. Throughout this article, we aim to highlight topics that should be considered when contemplating a migration from Dynamics GP to Dynamics 365 Business Central. Start by taking a look at the advantages of migrating.
• Improved Platform/User Experience – Dynamics 365 Business Central offers a more modern look and feel which allows users to take advantage of enhanced dashboards and other AI features in Microsoft’s Intelligent Cloud.
• Opportunities On-The-Go – The system also allows for connection via mobile apps for both iOS and Android devices, another feature that puts the user at an advantage. Users are no longer limited by stationary devices but can now stay connected to their clients and team members wherever they go.
• Reduced Infrastructure Hassle – With D365 BC being offered as hosted service in the cloud it results in reduced server maintenance by the infrastructure staff. Due to the system being delivered via a web browser it also results in minimal installation/setup requirements.
• Increased Frequency of System Updates – Microsoft provides major updates every 6 months, typically in the spring and fall, containing a significant amount of system enhancements. The platform supports organizations with stricter change management requirements by providing sandbox environments to facilitate testing prior to deployment and scheduling features for the update processes.
• Increased Integration Options – D365 BC runs as an application within the Office 365 tenant. That means tighter integration with other Microsoft Office products your organization already uses. The more an organization leverages the Office 365 platform, the deeper that integration. Some features that can be provided are automated email logging within D365 BC, access via Outlook Add-ins and Import/Export utilities via Excel Add-ins.
• Powerful Expansion – D365 BC also provides the ability to easily leverage other Microsoft products such as Power BI for increased dashboarding/visualization and Flow for improved workflow, notification and system integrations.
As you can see, there are many advantages to D365 BC, and it stands in contrast to Dynamics GP. Understanding these key differences will help you in your migration process.
• Licensing Model – Gone are the days of larger upfront software costs and yearly recurring maintenance. D365 BC is licensed on a subscription basis as are many of the related software extensions offered in the AppSource marketplace. Need to increase or decrease users one month? This can’t be done with GP, but for D365 BC, that’s not a problem. Just contact your partner and make any adjustments as required.
• Supplemental Software and System Integrations – D365 BC and Dynamics GP are written in different software code. So what does that mean? That means the 3rd party software offered for each system is different as well. Many of the vendors that traditionally supported Dynamics GP are making the switch, just as clients are. Since this is an evolutionary process, do not assume that all products currently in use by your organization will be compatible with D365 BC (though many already are). Each system that interacts with your Dynamics GP solution should be assessed to determine D365 BC compatibility or an equivalent replacement can be identified. We will touch more on that later.
• Business Process – D365 BC and Dynamics GP handle some processes slightly different. That means existing processes at your organization may need to change to accommodate those differences. Identifying system power users and champions within each business process is a good first step you can take before migrating your system over. These key individuals must be involved to ensure the project is a success. You can also review how open to change the staff that interacts with the system is. This answer can help identify the potential project duration and identify the best time to make the change.
• Level of Direct Data Access – Organizations coming from on-prem deployments like Dynamics GP are used to having direct database access to perform data clean-up, resolve issues and flexibility in developing database customizations. With D365 BC being a hosted system, direct database access is not available, but the ability to interact with system data is available via web services. Reviewing the internal technical skillset of resources prior to embarking on migration will help the company determine whether reporting and customization efforts could be performed in-house or may be relevant criteria during the partner selection process.
• Failing to Assess – System changes affect many areas of an organization from IT and Developers/System Integrators to Financial End Users and Business Intelligence Analysts. Failing to review the requirements of each area and obtaining buy-in upfront can create un-necessary challenges once the project is underway.
• Viewing the Project as a Migration vs a Re-Implementation – Even though we use the term migration throughout this article, for many organizations the effort is not as simple as taking data out of one system and importing it into another. What is really happening is a system re-implementation. It requires assessing current systems, functions, and processes to determine whether they can remain intact or require updates or software replacements to provide similar functionality in the new platform. Depending on the number of systems that interact with Dynamics GP, this can be relevantly simple or highly complex.
• “Going it Alone” – After reading the first few mistakes it is easy to understand why migration from GP to BC requires guidance and coordination from resources that understand how to navigate these types of efforts. These projects typically require both internal and external resources. Though possible to self-implement, it may quickly become more challenging than initially perceived.
• Unrealistic Expectations – Throughout the analysis process, requirements will arise from all stakeholders. Of these, it is key to understand which are critical. Lack of prioritization and attempting to meet every stakeholder expectation can easily turn into the never-ending project and/or cause significant budget overruns. An example of a common requirement is that many financial end users want full historical transaction detail in the new system (sometimes for audit and/or reporting purposes). This is possible, but recreating history takes a significant amount of resources (time and money). It is key to understand the driver for a requirement and if legitimate, there may be multiple solutions. In this case, an alternative to importing directly into the new ERP could be selecting a data warehousing software that supports both Dynamics GP and D365 BC. That product would then be used to pull the required data from both systems and easily consolidate information for consolidation purposes. Each ERP would then remain for inquiry purposes should more historical detail be required.
Getting From GP to BC
• Document Key Business Processes – A key step that can be done ahead of the project kick-off is documenting any of the critical processes to the business. This adds clarity to the current state of processes, allowing incoming partners to help accurately assess the fit of D365 BC. It can set expectations of items that may need to change and allow the organization to perform a self-assessment of any inefficiencies.
• Data Migration Tools Available – There are multiple tools provided by Microsoft to ease the transition between the systems. There is no need to build custom integration processes using antiquated tools like Integration Manager as there was in Dynamics GP. Most of the data sets with D365 BC offer pre-configured Excel import processes (either from the window with the system or via configuration packages). If your organization is pleased with the current GP configuration, utilizing the Dynamics GP to BC connector or Intelligent Cloud replication process (requires GP 2018R2) could be alternative options to quickly migrate existing data into D365 BC.
• Partner with a Partner – Now that it is clear that migration from GP to BC may not be a simple process, it is easy to understand why it is critical to select the right resource to aid in your transition. Not all D365 BC partners are equal in terms of support, level of expertise and certifications. A key differentiator among partners would be whether they are Microsoft Cloud Service Providers (CSP) or not. This allows them to provide end-to-end assessment, design, deployment and support services to all MS cloud services in your Office 365 Tenant (Exchange, Azure AD, etc.). It also provides a single point of contact from a licensing perspective. The ideal partner is not only one that understands Dynamics GP and D365 Business Central, but also supports the other Office 365 services due to the integrated nature of D365 Business Central. In addition, they should be a valued advisor that offers valuable assistance and provides the ability to grow with your organization.
Hopefully, at this point, you’re not scared off about the migration. Instead, you have some insight into what can be a complex process. Dynamics 365 Business Central offers an exciting opportunity to leverage technology not previously available in Dynamics GP. As a Microsoft CSP Provider, FMT can help you get from point A to point B.
Questions? FMT is here to help guide you through the process. We have helped numerous businesses in a similar dilemma and want to provide you with the reliable data and insights you need to make this important business decision. As a 4-Star NetSuite Partner and Microsoft Gold Partner, we understand that your business is unique and won’t fit a pre-determined mold. We can help you select and implement the right ERP solution for your business, so you can get the maximum value out of your system. Give us a call at 833-827-4275, if your company is ready to remove and replace systems that are doing a disservice to your company’s growth.