Forks in Your Dynamics GP Roadmap: 4 Paths Forward

You may have heard that Dynamics GP is dead. It is not dead.

But if you’re on GP, you need to do 1 of 4 things to keep your company’s ERP alive, secure, and competitive. Each of these 4 paths has different short-term and long-term advantages — like cost, security, Microsoft Office integration, and artificial intelligence. (See our quick comparison table.)

Some of the options involve transitioning to a more modern Microsoft Dynamics 365 ERP, Business Central and/or Microsoft Azure Cloud hosting and insights. With all these options, it can be confusing to find the best path for your company. But I’m going to break down the core information you need get started.

If you’re ready to skip ahead, click on one of these:

1. Overview: What Is Happening to GP?
2. The 4 Paths Forward for GP Customers
Quick Comparison Table
Option A: Transition to Dynamics 365 Business Central in the Cloud
Option B: Transition to Dynamics 365 Business Central On-Premise
Option C: Upgrade GP and Get Cloud Sync
Option D: Stay Where You Are and Renew Your BREP
3. How to Start Deciding

What Is Happening to GP?

Once again, GP is not dead. In fact, you can continue on GP in 2 different ways (options C and D).

New innovations in cloud storage and streaming, new technologies in automation and AI, and new cybersecurity risks like ransomware have created opportunities and threats for your company.

The options I’ll explain in this article can position you to

  • Strengthen your data security.
  • Gain long-term cost-savings, especially through hosting in the Microsoft Azure Cloud.
  • Access intelligent insights through AI and machine learning.
  • Empower your mobile workforce.
  • Increase productivity through integration and automation.

The 4 Paths Forward for GP Customers

Option A. Transition to Dynamics 365 Business Central in the Cloud

You change to a new Dynamics ERP and host it on the Microsoft Azure Cloud. This option requires the most effort up-front, but also creates the greatest savings and other benefits for your company over the long-term. Learn More.

Option B. Transition to Dynamics 365 Business Central On-Premise

You change your ERP, but you stay on-premise. This option requires the same amount of effort as the first path, and yields fewer savings and other benefits. However, it may be the best fit for certain companies. Learn More.

Option C. Upgrade GP and Get Cloud Sync

You stay on GP, but upgrade to GP 2018 R2 or a later version. Then you get a Cloud Sync to access AI, machine learning, etc. This option requires a medium amount of effort up-front, and lets your company begin accessing some cloud benefits without transitioning your whole system. Learn More.

Option D. Stay Where You Are and Renew Your BREP

You stay on your current version of GP, and renew your BREP. This option requires the least effort up-front, but gives no long-term savings or cloud benefits. How long this option remains viable for you depends on your current GP version and usage. Learn More.

Quick Comparison Table of Paths and Benefits

Paths
Benefits Business Central in the Cloud Business Central On-Premises Upgraded GP with Cloud Sync Stay Where You Are and Renew Your BREP
Up-Front Effort High High Medium Low
Long-Term Cost Savings Yes Partial — You still have to pay for updates and infrastructure No No
AI & Machine Learning Yes Yes Yes No
Improved Data Security Yes No A little — Applies to your replicated data only No
Mobile Workforce Yes Yes Some — For reviewing your replicated data No
Increased Productivity Yes, with seamless Office integration, plus Flow and PowerApps Yes, with seamless Office integration, plus Flow and PowerApps Some — Flow and PowerApps using your replicated data No

For help determining a precise cost comparison for your company, contact us.

Next we’ll dive into each of these 4 options in more detail.

Option A: Transition to Dynamics 365 Business Central in the Cloud

Dynamics 365 Business Central is Microsoft’s next generation of intelligent business applications. However, the interface in Business Central is very similar to that in GP. So even though it’s a new ERP for your team, much of it will feel familiar.

Still, of the 4 paths, this one represents the biggest change for a company on GP. So I have included a lot of extra detail.

Microsoft Office Integration and Other Productivity Boosters

Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central integrates seamlessly with Microsoft Office 365. I would say our clients’ favorite feature of this integration is the ability to invoice right from within Outlook.

Lots of times, I’ve heard from clients on GP, “We don’t want to be going in and out of so many different applications. We just want to be in one application.”

I remember once seeing a presentation by Bill Gates at a Convergence conference. It must have been 13 or 15 years ago. And he got up on stage, and he stood there, and he said, “You know, in my world, I look in the future. And I think the accounting system should be run out of Outlook.”

And we were all like, “What?”

But, you know, now we have that ability in Business Central. So, for example, if you’re in Outlook, and you have sent an order off to someone, if they send an email back saying, “Well, I want three widgets, not two widgets,” you can actually change it right from the email.

Here’s what that looks like:

Furthermore, with Dynamics 365 Business Central, you can use Flow to automate repetitive business processes, use PowerApps to build your own apps, and let your team access your ERP from their phones or tablets.

Read more about the enhanced productivity features in Dynamics GP vs Dynamics 365 Business Central.

Business Intelligence in Dynamics 365 Business Central

Power BI and Cortana Intelligence are natively embedded in Dynamics 365 Business Central, giving you predictive insights, prescriptive advice, and actionable next steps.

Here’s a great use case: You can have Power BI automatically send a text message to you when a KPI or other metric goes up or down. That way if your overdue invoices are skyrocketing, you don’t have to wait for the quarterly report to find out.

Additionally, Azure IoT, the Internet of Things, brings in device data and enables pre-emptive action in business functions like field services.

What Is the User Pricing for Dynamics 365 Business Central?

Dynamics 365 Business Central licenses normally would start at $70 USD/user/month ($89.60 CAD). However, there is special pricing available for a limited time for Dynamics GP customers moving to Dynamics 365 in the Cloud.

What Is the Minimum Number of Users in Dynamics 365 Business Central?

There is no minimum number of users. And furthermore, you have the ability to quickly scale up and scale down your users, which in our traditional sense of Dynamics GP we were not able to do.

Maybe you have a cyclical workforce — you get 20 or 30 additional people at different times of the year. Well, in Dynamics 365 Business Central, you can add those users in one month and then take them back off again the next month.

How Much Are the Server Costs for Dynamics 365 Business Central in the Cloud?

Zero dollars. You don’t have to pay for servers, the rooms that hold servers, or the electricity bills for the servers. All the hosting is taken care of by Microsoft. That’s the biggest reason that this path gives you such huge savings.

Security: How Secure Is the Microsoft Azure Cloud?

For most companies, your data is safer in the Microsoft Azure Cloud than in your own server room.

A Microsoft & YouGov study[2] reveals that 1 in 4 SMBs are targeted by cybercriminals. And the Better Business Bureau reports the average loss is $79,841.

Many SMBs are not ready to face this new era of threats on their own. That’s where the Microsoft Azure Cloud comes in. Microsoft invests $1 billion a year and has 3,500 experts in security. They have a whole site just on their security and what they offer. The security just on the physical premises of the Azure servers is very tight, and that’s without going into the credential security.

Furthermore, Microsoft 365 threat protection is informed by literally trillions of diverse signals that are received every day from a variety of sources, like the more than 1.2 billion devices scanned, or more than 750 million Azure users account authentications.

Can Dynamics 365 Business Central Do Payroll?

Yes it can! It works through a couple of different apps. In fact, one of the teams involved is the same one that helps maintain the GP payroll functionality.

A Dynamics partner can help you select the best app for your particular payroll needs.

Is Transitioning to Business Central an Upgrade from GP?

No. It’s a new implementation, even though it’s still within the Dynamics family and Business Central uses a familiar interface.

You should start with a needs assessment by a Microsoft Dynamics Partner to determine the best fit with your business. Contact us to learn more about a needs assessment by Encore.

Option B: Transition to Dynamics 365 Business Central On-Premise

In this option, you go to Business Central without going to the cloud.

On-premise Business Central gives you almost the same productivity and intelligence benefits as Cloud Business Central. That means, for instance, you can invoice within Outlook, automate business processes with Flow and PowerApps, let your workforce be mobile, and receive AI & machine learning insights on your KPIs.

However, it does not improve your data security with cloud storage. Your data is still only as secure as your server-closet door.

Pricing for Dynamics 365 Business Central On-Premise

Business Central On-Premise doesn’t give you the greatest long-term savings, because

  • You still have to pay for updates.
  • Most importantly, you still have to pay for your server infrastructure.

However, for regulatory reasons, option B may still be the right path for some companies. (If your compliance concerns are about what country your data is stored in, note that you can request to have yours stay in the Azure servers in the US and Canada). And in some companies, your stakeholders simply may not be ready for the change to the cloud.

Option C: Upgrade GP and Get Cloud Sync

This option lets you stay on-prem and stay on GP while still getting some of the AI and machine learning benefits of the cloud. It works through what we call “cloud sync.” (You may also have heard Microsoft representatives talk about “GP Intelligence Cloud,” “Intelligent Cloud,” or “Intelligent Edge.”)

To do this, you have to be on GP 2018 R2 or a later version, so you may need to upgrade.

What Is a Cloud Sync?

Cloud sync means you take your data and replicate it in a read-only Business Central environment. Cloud Sync lets you

  • Log on, run reports, and do inquiries much like if you were using Business Central.
  • Take advantage of AI and analytics through Power BI. (For instance, you can set up text-message alerts for outstanding invoices or other KPIs.)

This works by giving you access to a portal containing KPIs that have been created using your replicated data. (They are the same KPIs that exist for companies running their businesses on Dynamics 365 Business Central.)

Limitations of Cloud Sync for Dynamics GP

But KPIs are only as meaningful and relevant as the data that’s being replicated. To get the full advantage of these KPIs, you would have to move fully over to Business Central.

This path won’t bring everything from Dynamics GP up into that cloud sync.  So, for example, some sales and inventory forecasting, and the late payment predictor are not available.

Note also that you have to schedule that sync regularly. So, for example, it could happen once a week. It could happen every day. The frequency depends on how fresh you need your data to be.

What Is the Price of Cloud Sync with GP?

Along with your normal GP costs, you would also get some intelligent cloud licenses. The first one is $20 USD ($25 CAD) and then the subsequent users are $1 USD ($2 CAD).

But, for instance, if you had 10 GP users, it doesn’t mean you have to have 10 licenses for this intelligent cloud. You could buy just 1 or 2. Also, these licenses are per user per month.

So, for instance, for three US employees, the intelligent cloud licenses would total $24 per month, and that would let those employees take advantage of the intelligent cloud insights.

Option D: Stay Where You Are and Renew Your BREP

We support all our clients, whatever stage they’re in. Microsoft is not saying that you absolutely must transition to Business Central, the cloud, or cloud sync. You still can stay on GP, stay on-premise, and continue on your BREP — that’s your annual maintenance.

This means, depending on your version, you may not need to upgrade your GP immediately. But you should review the roadmap for GP (see below).

Obviously, this is the option that requires the least effort on your part. However, it also means you don’t get any of the new security, productivity, or long-term saving advantages of Business Central or the cloud.

Why Do I Need to Renew My BREP?

By continuing your BREP you get the following benefits:

  • Access to upgrades & updates
  • Access to Microsoft Dynamics CustomerSource
  • Online training & certifications
  • Latest info on your Dynamics product and services
  • User groups and customer forums
  • Technical support, knowledge base and newsgroups
  • Ability to buy new modules, users, licenses
  • Protected list price
  • Transition investment credit
  • Avoid lapse fee

What Is the Roadmap for Dynamics GP?

New Dynamics GP releases are currently planned out as far as 2023. Starting with the October 2019 release of Dynamics GP, there will be 3 service packs per year that will include new functionality.

How Long Does Microsoft Support for GP Solutions Last?

Support for the October 2019 and later releases will be on the modern lifecycle, meaning that it lasts for 12 months after each service pack’s release.

However, each version of Dynamics GP up to 2018 R2 will still be supported for 10 years from its date. That’s mainstream support for 5 years and another 5 years of non-mainstream support. So if you’re on GP 2015, you will be supported on that version out to 2025.

But if you’re using Canadian Payroll, you will need to make a change sooner. Tax tables are only offered for the first five years. So, if you’re on GP 2015 and you’re using Canadian Payroll, you will start having problems in 2020 unless you upgrade.

What Support for Dynamics GP Can I Get from a Dynamics Partner?

A Microsoft Dynamics partner can provide training, guidance, and other kinds of support. Our own support offering is Encore Care. We have different Encore Care packages, depending on your needs. The one outlined in the image below is Encore Care Unlimited.

Outline of Encore Care Unlimited

We’re always asking ourselves, how do we make sure that our customers are getting the most out of these applications?

Because, oftentimes, the original people on your company’s staff who did the implementation are no longer with your organization. And the information they’ve passed on to someone else on your team might be incomplete. Dynamics ERPs are super, super feature-rich, and, oftentimes, customers don’t leverage all of the power on there.

So please do reach out to me and my team if you’re interested in getting more support from a Microsoft Dynamics partner.

How to Start Deciding

You should start a conversation with a partner as early as possible, so we can support you.

I have been speaking with one Encore client, for instance, who are considering the GP Upgrade with Cloud Sync. They aren’t ready to upgrade right now (they’d like to do it next summer), but we’ll be meeting together every month to make sure we map out their future carefully.

To get you a more exact estimate on pricing for each path, we have a total cost of ownership calculator to help make these decisions. It’s in Excel, and we can put in variables to help you see your options.

Here at Encore, we’re not just a GP company or just a Business Central company. We have clients of both kinds. We are a solutions company, and we will support you in whatever path is best for you.

If you’d like to speak with me and my team to explore that TCO calculator together, to start a needs assessment, or just to talk through the best strategy for your business, please contact us.


[1] All pricing is subject to change without notice. Always contact Encore for the most current product pricing.

[2] Source: Small Business Cyber Security Study, Microsoft & YouGov, April 2018.

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