Apply Microsoft Dynamics Features to meet business needs

When you assess a Microsoft Dynamics ERP solution, look beyond the idea of it being the product. Open the door to flexibility and scale by seeing Dynamics as the platform, upon which you adapt and scale your business.

Traditionally, Microsoft Dynamics ERP solutions have delivered a single, fully embedded set of features to meet business needs. The “product” in this sense is the whole Dynamics ERP solution, whether that be NAV or AX. This ERP product was normally implemented via a significant implementation project, over one or more phases, introducing new systems and revising data and business processes.

The features contained within the ERP product were often a combination of Microsoft standard features, ISV and 3rd party features, and customisations.

Several factors have come together in the Dynamics sphere over the past few years that gradually evolve the concept of “product” and what it means for business solutions. These factors are:

  • Extensibility
  • Software as a Service
  • Integration

Let’s look at these in a little more detail.

Extensibility

The technical architecture of Dynamics now enables modular solutions, which extend the core standard ERP offering from Microsoft, without modifying the core. This enables easier subsequent maintenance and upgrades. It also makes modular solutions transferable between different Dynamics deployments. While extensibility is a long-established concept in software engineering, it does bring a new way of thinking to Dynamics NAV in particular, because of the traditional NAV selling point of easy customisation being a strength.

Software as a Service

Dynamics AX embraced SaaS with its transition to Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations, Enterprise Edition. Dynamics NAV is now on the verge of a SaaS offering, with the long-anticipated launch of Dynamics 365 “Tenerife”.

Microsoft have announced that this will be on 2nd April 2018 and are calling it Dynamics 365 Business Central. Stay tuned for more information on that front over the coming weeks.

SaaS for Dynamics enables a lower cost of entry, in terms of number of users and functional scope. You can choose, for example, to start with using core Finance functionality for a handful of users, then expand to using other Dynamics 365 features, add more users, and extend your solution to embrace other integrated elements of the Microsoft stack such as Office 365 and Power BI. There will also be the opportunity to add modular IP from K3 and its partners, including cloud services.

Integration

Built-in integration technology has become easier to set up and deploy in Dynamics. One of the main original drivers for ERP was the inability of disparate systems to interact with each other, thereby requiring all operational and financial data to be held in a single ERP database.

In Dynamics NAV 2016, we saw in the introduction of Data Exchange Definitions as a way of configuring data exchange via SOAP-based web services, without needing to write bespoke code. NAV 2018 further enriches integration capabilities with the introduction of the API Page Type.

K3 also offers the DataSwitch suite of integration solutions (batch and real time), which provide seamless integration between Dynamics and other K3 and 3rd party systems. As such, you can now more easily use Dynamics as the ERP core for your business but integrate with specialist vertical solutions outside of NAV that scale and adapt to your business needs (and your customers’ requirements).

Commercial and Strategic Viewpoint

These technical advances enable a shift in the investment strategy for business solutions. There is a general shift from capital investment to operational expenditure on business technology solutions. Business decision makers and budget owners are demanding a faster time to value from their solutions, and a more flexible approach to both scale and functionality.

Consumers in turn are driving demand for these strategies. Retail is a good example of this, where consumers expect seamless introduction of new channels and personalised experiences. You can’t rely on an occasional large change in your business technology stack to adapt to these expectations.

At K3, we have been listening carefully to feedback from our customers, assessing new technical possibilities that will address the strategic needs outlined above.

Dynamics as the Platform for your Business

This leads to the concept of Dynamics as the “platform” rather than the “product”. Rather than Dynamics 365, for example, being a single large product, consisting of a fixed set of features spanning your whole business processes, think of it as your business technology platform. For example, start at the core with Dynamics 365 Sales (CRM) and Business Central. Then pair it with Office 365 for your business productivity requirements, integrated seamlessly with Dynamics 365.

Now think about the capabilities that are specific to your industry vertical and your individual business, that are all fully compatible with the Dynamics platform, and which interact seamlessly with each other. Some of those capabilities are delivered via products that are available within the Dynamics platform, such as LS Retail front- and back-office store capabilities, and K3 Invoice Matching. Other products are available through K3 DataSwitch integration, such as iOne.

Dynamics as a platform gives you a scalable starting point to embark on this journey. A host of Microsoft, K3, and partner products and vertical features can then complete your business technology solution, scaling and changing over time, yet built upon a solid platform.

Want to find out more about how K3 can support your business transformation, just get in touch at marketing@k3retail.com