Legacy Software Review: Microsoft

In this edition of The ERP Advisor podcast, special guest Carly Shube joins us to explore the landscape of Microsoft legacy software and provide an outlook for the future.

AX, NAV, GP, SL…in and amongst the acronyms lies a fascinating story of how Microsoft sidestepped building its own ERP by acquiring existing software. Or so it thought.

Fast-forward to today, where Microsoft Dynamics 365 and Business Central have largely replaced Axapta, Navision, Great Plains, and Solomon. While Microsoft will continue to support these legacy products, moving to a modern cloud ERP software is not a simple upgrade.

Current users of Microsoft legacy software products may be wondering what the next steps are in their ERP journey. Should they follow the migration path that Microsoft has established in order to maintain relationships with current customers, or should they venture out into the market and select a brand-new platform?

Let’s explore the benefits of upgrading to a new application as well as the consequences that follow from discontinuing the use of Microsoft legacy products. To begin, we will look at how it all started.

History of Microsoft Legacy Software

Despite international recognizability and use, Microsoft had humble beginnings in the ERP world. The company established its first ERP products through the acquisition of preexisting platforms rather than through the creation of its own ERP application.

At the dawn of their ERP journey, Microsoft purchased Great Plains, which in turn has recently purchased Solomon. Shortly thereafter, their search went international, and they discovered Navision, a company from Denmark, which had just acquired a Danish ERP provider called Axapta.

From there, Microsoft marketed the four products as Dynamics GP, Dynamics SL, Dynamics NAV, and Dynamics AX; however, these abbreviations proved to be confusing to customers. Microsoft also tried to market all four products as a single ERP called “Dynamics”, but some customers only wanted one of the offerings, forcing Microsoft to move to sell and support the four products separately.

When Microsoft decided to upgrade its ERP platform, it consolidated and rebranded: Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central is commonly used by smaller and midsized organizations, while Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations, otherwise known as Finance and Supply Chain, is for larger organizations.

Common Risks Associated with Microsoft Legacy Software

Current users of Dynamics GP, Dynamics SL, Dynamics NAV, and Dynamics AX may experience some of the following pain points:

  • GP: Requires different instances and databases for multi-company use; pulling data from different instances is cumbersome.
  • NAV: Facing end-of-life and end-of-support, but is overall a good product for manufacturing companies, especially those conducting international business.
  • SL: Unsupported by many companies today, making it particularly challenging to customize — companies who once supported SL and other legacy applications have moved on to working with products such as NetSuite solutions, Acumatica, or Sage.
  • AX: Many AX implementation partners have been acquired by large consulting firms that are urging them to get onto newer products that are relevant in today’s market. AX also requires a full-time IT consultant to provide the necessary support.

Upgrading to Microsoft: The Benefits

If you are on a Microsoft legacy software product, you may feel like you need to look at a completely new platform in order to upgrade. While we always recommend staying up to date in your research of a new ERP, we do not want you to assume that going back to Microsoft will result in disaster.

Microsoft’s newer ERP products bear little resemblance to their predecessors. Even if you choose to stay loyal to the Microsoft platform, a solid ERP implementation can make Microsoft feel brand new.

Benefits of staying with Microsoft include:

  • Microsoft has created a simple migration path with incentives to upgrade to their products.
  • Microsoft software is flexible. It can be customized to fulfill the needs of different companies and industries.
  • Many companies build applications based on Microsoft’s core products, allowing easy access to tools that are closely integrated and fully functional with Microsoft.
  • The software for Business Central and Finance & Operations was created in such a way that clients would be able to incorporate their own technology into the platform without impacting the core on an upgrade, allowing for customizations to stay intact.
  • Customizations can be done at a reduced cost due to the familiarity of Microsoft in the marketplace.

Tips for Upgrading Successfully

Whichever application you choose, here are some ways you can make the transition as smooth as possible, even if you choose to migrate to a different solution.

Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late

Depending on what legacy software your company is using, Microsoft has, in most cases, given current users a 10-year window for support. So, while you do have some time, you do not want to transition at the last minute. ERP implementations are often measured in months and years, not days and weeks.

It is important to give yourself plenty of breathing room to do your due diligence in looking for a new application. The goal is to avoid an issue with the sunsetted software, leaving your company with no support. Along with this, the more time you give yourself to research the market, the more negotiating power you will have when you find your next ERP.

Find Out Your Requirements

As you begin the search for a new solution, you must first determine your needs. Look at any issues you face with your current software. What pain points would you like to resolve with a new application? What are you hoping to get out of the software? What does new software offer that would make its implementation beneficial to your company? Make a list of everything you want to correct, then compare it to the products available in the marketplace.

Pick Your Product Carefully

After you find products that appear to be a good fit, you can begin narrowing down your search. Do not be afraid to level up — but also do not seek more than what you need. It is not necessary to pay for extra features when they will not be utilized. It is better to find the right size product than to pay for something that will provide many unnecessary, ultimately unused features.

Do not simply look at the Microsoft marketplace. Look around and remember that there may be many more products available today than there were when the legacy software was purchased.

Find the Right Implementation Partner

Conduct thorough research when the time comes to select your implementation partner. Do not merely go with the first firm that you find. If you already have a trusted advisor in another area, perhaps an accounting firm that you have used for years, remember that while they may be great accountants, they likely do not have expertise when it comes to ERP products or implementation partners, so it is best to involve true ERP experts in the decision-making process.

Remember No Implementation is Easy

All implementations will have their own set of challenges. No matter what Microsoft legacy software products you currently have, there is no immediate need to panic about making an upgrade. Rest assured Microsoft is doing the right thing for its customers by offering a lengthy support system.

If you are ready to make the change, feel free to reach out to us for help. ERP Advisors Group has the experience it takes to assist you in all of your company’s ERP endeavors.

Ask Us About Microsoft Dynamics 365

Narrator: This is The ERP Advisor.

Today’s episode — Legacy Software Review: Microsoft.

Juliette Welch: Shawn Windle is one of our speakers for today. Shawn is the founder and managing principal of ERP Advisors Group based in Denver, Colorado.

Shawn has over 20 years of experience in the enterprise software industry. Carly Shube is our guest today. Carly is a consultant at ERP Advisors Group and has brought her background and experience in accounting and customer service to our team.

On today's call, we will explore the landscape of Microsoft legacy software and provide an outlook for the future. Carly and Shawn, thank you so much for joining me today.

Shawn Windle: Hello.

Carly Shube: Thank you.

Juliette: Happy to have you. OK, so today we are continuing our series review of the different legacy software applications and today is Microsoft. And this is a big one to cover because Microsoft has an incredible legacy of software that seems to have roots in so many different software platforms including AX, GP, NAV and SL.

Shawn, I'm going to start with you. This is huge. Can you start us off with an overview of Microsoft legacy software?

Shawn: Yeah, I was thinking about this this morning on my way into work with my wife driving very fast in her new car, but it's been interesting over the years with Microsoft Strategy.

Microsoft as an organization — I mean, they've just completely delivered on the productivity tools, namely office, as well as Windows as an operating system over the years. And it was interesting to see that they had gone through an acquisition strategy for ERP.

So, they didn't write their ERPs back in the day. Now there's tons — there's probably billions of dollars’ worth of [series] B investment in those products, I'm certain of that, but they sort of went back —and this is what I was really thinking about — was they went to the market and looked at that time, and I'm thinking we're talking like early 2000s. Our Digital Marketing Manager actually put up a pillar page on our website that has much more details about this — which is a beautiful site by the way because of Shaun, I always have to plug Shaun because he's the guy behind that you never get to see — anyway, the bottom line was they went out and bought Great Plains which had bought Solomon and then they also went internationally and looked at a company called Navision which had bought Axapta.

So, they bought both organizations and got four products and, oh by the way, built CRM, too. I believe CRM is built from scratch. If there's anybody who's on the call who knows otherwise, just ping us and tell us, as I always say, correct us. We're not totally in the depths of every single app that we work with. We don't know all the details because we do work across all the vendors but we do know people that do.

But, now you had two different companies, four different products, and what we saw initially was Microsoft was sort of taking the forward loop trying to merge them into Dynamics.

There was this concept that we would have Dynamics, and I can remember being with a client here in Denver – a company that makes braces — and we were looking at Microsoft products and it's like, OK we're going to have two going forward, there's going to be a bigger one and a little one, and they're going to be called Dynamics. We're just going to call everything Dynamics. So, then you saw Dynamics AX, Dynamics GP, Dynamics NAV, Dynamics SL, and that really confused the market. It was very confusing, because the thing about all those products is they are great install bases.

There are probably folks on this call today that have been using those products for a long time. They're really strong, durable applications that have a broad-based cross-industry fit. You don't really see that with a lot of products.

But anyway, you have these great products, great market, and then Microsoft, in the way that Microsoft does, tried to sort of – I shouldn’t say manipulate, that’s a little too strong – but sort of tried to change the messaging to say, hey it’s just one ERP called “Dynamics.”

That was sort of the “message,” quote unquote, that was poured out from what I observed. I've known people who've worked at Microsoft for decades. They may say something different. Again, say it, but that's what I observed.

It didn't work. There were way too many companies on GP and NAV internationally. You know NAX and NSL and these customers are like, “I don't want to change if I don't have to like, I really don't want to change.”

So, Microsoft did the right thing and said, “OK, fine. We'll support all four products for a while.”

And now, we're starting to see Microsoft has made a huge investment in the cloud-based products of business Central which was NAV rewritten and then also the Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations or Supply Chain. And then there's other products for that, that's the bigger one, so you might hear F&O, FNSC, E-I-E-I-O.

Juliette: All the acronyms.

Shawn: All the acronyms, that's right. So, there's really two Microsoft products going forward. That's what I want everybody to understand; there's just two.

So, then what if you're a GP customer? What if you're a SL customer? We just talked to a company that runs SL and they customize the heck out of it and they're like, “We don't know what to do.”

That's a little bit of the background, Juliette, and why this is such an interesting conversation around Microsoft is that a lot of installed customers out there, tens of thousands.

I would even say 100,000 customers, literally — maybe that’s a little too much — tens and tens and tens of thousands of customers that are sitting here saying, “what do we do?” And Microsoft has a migration path — we just helped a client, Carly and I did earlier this year, who was on GP to move on to the F&O, the bigger product the F, finance — and there were some price incentives for doing that, but it is a whole brand new implementation, so it really does leave you wondering, “OK, I could get some discounts on the software, which is actually pretty low cost anyway, but it's a big implementation. Do I change?” So, that's why I was really excited about this topic was to give some more stable datums for people to have as they're looking at this situation. Does that make sense?

Juliette: It makes sense, and almost to the point where, correct me if I'm wrong, that if they don't continue supporting what you needed to support, and you have to move on and it's a whole implementation, then do you stay where you are or do you find something completely different? Is that right?

Shawn: That's it. Now everybody on this call has to remember, Juliette is not a salesperson for us.

Juliette: Or a technical person in any way.

Shawn: That’s perfect because that's exactly where our real clients are in that position. Like, do we move on? Do we upgrade? What do we do? You got it.

Juliette: Right. So Carly, Shawn mentioned that you were working with a client evaluating Microsoft recently. Can you share with us some of the experience that you've had researching that? But then also what you've learned from the process?

Carly: Yeah, you know we have quite a few clients that are always looking at Microsoft, it's a name that everybody knows, so you almost are remiss to not look at Microsoft just like you were remiss to not call Kleenex when looking for a tissue.

So, having a really — it's a really solid product and you really do look at both the business central, that smaller product and the larger product, the finance and something — operations or supply chain, depending on the size of your organization. Smaller organizations under 100 million — maybe even under 200, 300 million — are going to want to look at Microsoft Dynamics 365 business central or BC. The cost of implementation, generally — I'm going to always say generally, because there's always some give and take for the larger product — the Finance and Operations is going to be more expensive. From a software perspective, they're actually both pretty affordable, but if the implementation is where there's a big difference.

The Microsoft products — which is what they're known for. They're very — it's very flexible and is really good, especially for those clients that have a desire to do their own customizations, post the implementation, writing some different databases, and things like that like that. They really want to be able to get in and play with it a little bit more than they can with some other products that are a little bit more rigid, and you don't have the ability to kind of dive into the data.

Just like everything, there's always pros and cons, but that's one of the pros about Microsoft. That and the familiarity in the user interface, it's designed to be built with their office products, their productivity products. So, you have a lot of familiarity from that perspective.

The people that are able to do the technical work, the coding and such don't have to be these super specialized, 45 years’ worth of experience — I may be exaggerating on the 45, but — just years and years of experience.

You can get really solid help from an internal IT resource perspective a lot easier with a Microsoft product, so there's some really interesting bonus factors for looking at a Microsoft product. It again it comes down to what size you want and — it's hard to say. You can also go with that larger product and just get the finance piece if you are more of a — you don't need the other stuff because you have something else running that. It is really cool being able to see that and there are a lot of people coming off of Navision or NAV or GP or Great Plains or all of the various names that you want to call it, which kind of confused people back in the day, it’s still confusing.

But looking at pulling all of those off, especially as Microsoft is starting to play around with announcing the idea that they're going to sunset support of the product or whatever. So, there is some pretty interesting things that if you — especially if you are on it — you should definitely always go through looking at other products, but definitely include them in your product because it is a whole new product. It really is.

Juliette: If you can customize it to what you need to fit your needs right now, is that something that they do? That different companies do?

Carly: Oh yeah, so some companies will have customized the product themselves for a specific vertical — industry verticals, such as JustFoods which is, I bet you guessed it, foods. You're right, it’s in the name.

AkoyaGO which is built on — both of those products are built on the Microsoft Business Central or BC product based. And then akoyaGO has gone off in the customization for nonprofit. And then you have JustFoods going into the food product line. And then you can actually do the same thing with the F&O product, where HSO and EAC, EAC 360 have customized the product for more large-scale professional services type of needs. But then, of course, the smaller organization that just wants to get the basic BC platform can go behind the scenes and say, “I really want to do this custom script or this table. Let me go ahead and tinker with it behind the scenes for a very specific need that one particular client has versus an entire vertical chain.”

Juliette: So, with that, Shawn, if you're going to do a customization or a different installation or update for the legacy software, what sort of issues can customers expect to face and what does the technical support look like with that?

Shawn: That’s a great question, and it even reminds me when I first was introduced to — I always had to take a deep breath before I say the names, come on, Microsoft — but Microsoft Dynamics 365 AX, right? Or Microsoft Dynamics 3— AX it was called 15 years ago. I'm one of those 45-year guys. Not really, probably just 25.

Juliette: It comes with a lot of experience.

Shawn: And a lot of freaking gray hairs. I think I pull them out every day.

No, but it's interesting because that AX platform which then evolved to Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations finance and supply chain. It was built to be a custom platform.

And if you look back, I think to the mid 2000s when you really started to see that platform come into the market, at that time a lot of organizations were going through upgrades and stuff from SAP, and some of the bigger — even JD Edwards or Oracle. And the upgrades were a nightmare because they had all this custom stuff.

Well, I'm just going to say F&O, Finance and Operations, make it simple. But that product was actually architected in a way where clients could layer in their own technology and their own customizations, and it wouldn't impact the core on an upgrade. So, you could upgrade the core and then your customizations would just move along with it.

It's never that easy, but it was architected with that concept in mind. So that product in particular is really geared towards those organizations, like Carly said, where — we're talking to a ProServe company right now that is looking at taking a line of business app that they run for insurance adjusting and they're like, “Hey, maybe we should rewrite that in Microsoft, right?” They're looking at several options with several different vendors, but it's a really interesting option because now the total cost of ownership of the technology apps that we have is cheaper. We only buy LG TVs — like Erica and I for our house and for the office, because we know the remote and once you get to know that technology in multiple places it's just cheaper to run, so that F&O platform provides that capability.

But like Carly said, Business Central, which is the smaller app, is available for extension, and the beauty of both of those products is that they're Microsoft-based, and a lot of people know Microsoft Technologies versus a Workday or whatever, where there's just less people that do the implementation. So they're good products for extensibility for sure. And even to the point where, like Carly said, some implementation partners said, “Well, we're doing the same extensions or customizations for all of these clients in architecture, engineering, construction, AEC. So why don't we just bundle all that code that our clients just paid us to write, but we're going to take the IP on it” — watch those contracts. “And then we'll resell that to future clients.” So good extensibility as platforms.

Juliette: Yes, so continuing on with that, Carly, and also with continuing on with your experience working with our clients, can you talk to us about implementation partners with industry specific solutions for Microsoft products?

Carly: Yeah, so as an overarching thing, there are lots of Microsoft partners. There's a lot it.

It’s a very straightforward product. It's a household name and it has that customization, easier-ish customization. That was a lot of extras. So, there’s a lot of partners out there and there's a lot of partners that will say, “Hey, we do it all” and then you have some partners that are saying like JustFoods. I only do food or nonprofits, or construction or professional services or manufacturing and then getting way down into micro-verticals of each of those, and it really comes down to, when you're looking for a partner, looking to see what their relevant experience is, maybe what location they're located in. Sometimes it's important to the client that their partner is in the same time zone or is able to have a much more broad reach because I have 10 or 20 locations in the US or globally. So, there's big and small partners that range through the whole gamut.

You can get like a single shop, but two big, giant global organizations — and that will help you do all of this from both from a technical perspective, but then also from an implementation perspective and the sales and there's just some really interesting and options out there, and it comes down to digging through the research and finding that particular one where you fit in the most with and figuring out if you guys click. Because sometimes they'll have the most amazing technical techniques, technical expertise, but they're too technical for you. You’re saying, “Hey, I want to make a chair,” and they go, “OK, so we need to first take the — I don't know anything about chair making, that was a bad example — but all the tools and all of the names and you're going, “OK, what?” And you two are not really understanding each other, so it's finding the expertise, but then also finding the expertise in a way that you guys can communicate to each other so that — everyone has a personality. You have to be able to mix with them all.

Shawn: I think, Carly and Juliette, I would add to that that as I'm thinking through the different apps in the market that we work with, if I think about Infor, SAP, NetSuite, Oracle, Workday, Unit4, I think of Sage — all the Sage products. Probably Sage and Microsoft are somewhat of this way actually, but the Microsoft partners have usually been around for a while. They have more experience in different industries and have helped clients solve different business problems which is a great thing honestly, and it's one of the factors that we use — I should just say Carly because she does all our selections, but that we use to determine the right fit for an implementation partner with a client on the Microsoft side, especially because they've done all the vertical, the industry experience. And then even down to micro vertical level.

It’s a differentiation of the Microsoft products. Actually, we're seeing that even at this the services firm globally that we’re — frankly, the partner solution is spot on. It's perfect. But can it scale to the next size? And there's other considerations that we’re thinking with, especially if anybody is on the call from that particular client or that particular partner, we’re not there yet, but they are going to probably be a finalist though.

But the point of what I'm trying to say is to reiterate what Carly said, that you need to really take the time to get to know the Microsoft partner and don't just go with the first firm that you end up with.

Sometimes — I'm not going to say any names even though I really want to, but I'm not going to — sometimes our clients will go to somebody who's a trusted advisor for some other relationship, like an accounting firm, there I said that, and they say, “Oh yeah, we do Microsoft.” “OK, great, well let's go for it.” “OK, well our you know our rates are here and you know we have. We have some industry experience.” “OK, fine, let's go, that doesn't matter great.” And then the client calls us later and says the project went terrible and da da da da, we went with our accounting firm because we have a relationship, and it was a terrible problem. Don't do that. Don't do that.

Your accounting may be the absolute right partner to go with, but just ask about industry experience specific to what you do as an organization and get to know the implementation team. That's what we say for everybody, but it's really applicable in this Microsoft space, because there are companies that just do Microsoft implementations that are independent companies that are 25–50 people and up, hundreds of people, that have great experience that you maybe are never going to hear about unless you do a little bit of research. So go online and type “Microsoft Dynamics 365 ERP” and then put in your industry and you would be amazed what comes up after that.

That's a trick that we do, frankly, because there's so many partners — we also call our 1-800-Microsoft guy named Clint. I’d say, “Hey Clint we got this client here. Who do you think we should go with? They’re this size and all this other stuff.” And we also do our own research and based on our experience, because it's a really nice differentiator for the Microsoft products are the implementation partners.

Juliette: Well, that seems to be a recurring theme on any call we've had in the several years we've been doing this is that the implementation partner is pretty much key to success because you have to work with them and trust them to be successful and have it go how you need it to go. And you don't want to have to change partners in the middle of it. Then what?

Shawn: Yep, that's exactly right, yes.

Juliette: So that’s a huge recurring theme we have seen through the years. No matter what we're talking about.

Shawn: And data migration.

Juliette: That's right, data migration, too, exactly. So listen, we had a question come in. Does Dynamics 365 have an out-of-box ASC 842 revenue rec module or similar yet? Or is it still customization only?

Shawn: Great question.

Juliette: Is that something that you can answer?

Shawn: Nope, I have no idea.

Honestly, if we would have talked about ASC 606, yes, but I don't know about this particular pronouncement.

Juliette: OK, well maybe we can do some research and we'll get back in touch.

Shawn: Totally, yeah, and it's interesting because — OK, I try to give you all tips and tricks when we do these calls, I really do want to help. That’s why we do this whole thing. So, here's how we will find the answer to that question. It's the confessions of an ERP advisor.

I would say two out of ten questions, we don't have a clue. We still looked at them like hmm, that's interesting, I'll get back to you. And then I'm like, “How are we going to find out?”

Here's how we'll find out the first thing, the first part of this question is: does say Dynamics 365? Remember when you say Dynamics 365 — you can’t say that. It's Dynamics 365 Business Central or Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations, two completely separate codebases. And chances are the more complex stuff, especially around accounting, is going to be handled in, Carly…

Carly: Dynamics 365 Finance and something.

Shawn: That's right, unequivocally right. Before Business Central, Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance is going to have it, so great.

Now we say, “Hm, which partners have we worked with that are really strong on the financials of Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance and something? And I would probably think of the firm that we just did — a quarter-billion-dollar hospitality company with its international and that name of the company was Arabella.

So, we would call Arabella and say, “Hey guys, how's it going? Hey, we got this question, what do you think?” And they're like, “Blah. Here's the answer.” And we say, “OK, well, do you have something that can substantiate that?” And they respond, “Yeah, here's a white paper or whatever.” And we find out the answer.

So that's sort of the secret that we have is that, again, not knowing the apps down to the feature function level at that level, but we know the right people to call, people we can trust — and by the way, if Arabella gives us the wrong answer, we'll never work with them again, and they just got like a $1,000,000 deal a couple months ago.

So, it's a good way to use us anytime, so we will take this question and we'll find out and get back to you.

Juliette: We will definitely reach back out, so moving on, Shawn, I want to ask you about CRM, Microsoft CRM and HCM. Can you speak to the terms of feature functionality if people are interested in that?

Shawn: Yeah.

So again, CRM is a separate platform from Business Central and Finance and Operations, so separate product. And again, if I'm saying this wrong, definitely tell me, but if anybody on the call may have a different viewpoint, tell us, but that's what we're observing. It's a separate product, but it comes fully integrated out of the box with the Microsoft products, especially F&O. But now, is there an additional charge for that integration? I'm not sure, but it's part of our due diligence process that we figure that out.

Now, you have DCRM, which honestly D365 CRM is really the only major competitor to Salesforce. It really is. There's no other product that has the platform capability that Salesforce does, and the scalability of size. So that's a great solution to look for as an alternative to Salesforce and the fact that it can be fully integrated into a single platform with the ERP products. There's a lot of the same technology underpinning — it's all Microsoft. Now, are there two different instances that are running? Again, my experience has been yes, but we're about to actually go way under the covers with them, and so we can put out a pronouncement on that for sure.

But it's a strong product, very configurable, and can meet lots of different industry needs. And again, the benefit is same sort of plumbing or same technology underpinning that then can be plugged in well with ERP.

Now, HCM is very interesting. If you had asked me that question like a year ago, I would have said, “What are you talking about?” There's no HCM for Microsoft. Well, there actually is, and it's — one of the vendors we recently worked with said, “Look, if you're a company or a nonprofit organization or govern municipality or whatever you are, if you're coming off of Ceridian, ADP, UltiPro — any sort of a common Human Capital Management platform, more than just payroll — you're probably going to not like Microsoft HCM yet. It's being developed, but if you don't really have much in place now, just payroll systems, and you do want to have that employee lifecycle HR core, it's not a bad solution. It beats a spreadsheet.

So, we expect that product to evolve overtime. But again, the benefit there is the single platform of Microsoft with your ERP, CRM and HCM — that's very compelling on a flexible platform that folks know, and you can go and get a Microsoft developer for a reasonable amount of money versus some of the bigger ERP vendors.

Juliette: So, Carly, let me ask you this, if someone is looking to upgrade from a legacy Microsoft product, can you talk to us — I know this is a big question but — what's involved with that?

Carly: That's a good question, and there's a lot involved.

Kind of the very first one is: what are your needs? What are your requirements? What are you looking for to get out of your software?

And then it's to go look at the products out there on the market.

And I think something that we've said throughout is don't just look at the next level up if it's going to be an entire new implementation, which Microsoft would be if you're coming off of a legacy app. It's a whole new product.

So, go look at other products out there. Don't just look at the next Microsoft product. Don’t not include it but see what's out there and recognize that no implementation is ever as easy as they say. And that an upgrade or an uplift still is an implementation, and it still needs to be looked at from all angles to make sure that you’re really thinking through the requirements that you need from a software. Does it really meet those requirements from an implementation partner perspective? From your perspective? Are you trying to make a “square peg/round hole” scenario? Or are you really thinking through the product and recognizing something that's really interesting about Microsoft — and a lot of other partners, too. I don't want you to dismiss that — but Microsoft is kind of like the sun. And they have all of these different bolt-on products orbiting them and you can say, “Oh hey, I need this specialty QMS program or this specialty project management or this specialty this or that.”

And there's probably going to be — and we say fully integrated with a little bit of air quotes — but it'll be much more integrated than just randomly finding an app out there in the market. I forget the exact word, so please forgive me, and like Shawn says, we're willing to be corrected.

So you go out there and you're like, “Hey Microsoft marketplace, I need an app that does this and that,” and then you can find a bunch of different apps and they're going to be more closely integrated and fully functioning with marrying up the products with the actual Microsoft Core product so you can be able to not have to spend an exorbitant amount of time putting them together from the back end. So that's something unique, and that's something to also look at for yourself.

And then when you know you’re sizing your selection, don't go solo into the Business Central Market if you have these more complex, robust, deep accounting requirements or supply chain requirements. You might actually have to go to that next level up to get that requirement from the Finance and Operations or financing supply chain product. You know you don’t want to go too low and then same with the other way, you don't want to go too high. You want to make sure that you're not going, “Oh, we want it all,” and then you buy it and it's only 60% used and you have a bunch of stuff you're not using, because it does cost more and the implementation costs more, and it's a lot more to maintain.

So, there's always those nuances and I guess I would just say when you're coming off of a legacy app and you're looking for your next evolution, look both within the Microsoft world and outside. Look within the Microsoft World and outside of it, because there's going to be some options that weren't available 15-20 years ago when you first got on the product.

Juliette: Right. And that's due diligence for any software platform.

Any company, any needs, right? It's just finding out what you need and what works for your company.

Shawn: Yeah, but I do think you — I feel like I’m in the dark here, I turned the lights off, but maybe that wasn’t the right thin — Anyway, with the Microsoft specific though, Carly is right, because several years ago, you basically had the mass products and the Great Plains and Solomon, right?

Fifteen years ago, and 20 years ago, probably even earlier than that. There weren't a lot of Tier 2 or Tier 3 ERPs that you could choose from; everything was bigger. JD Edwards was in there maybe a little bit bigger. But that's not the case anymore. There are several really strong ERP applications that meet that Tier 2, where it's accounting and several other areas of the business can be automated with these applications and they can handle things like multi-currency, multi company on the accounting side, internal controls, SOX compliance. So, there are more options in the market today than there used to be when a lot of clients only had the option of Great Plains and Mass 90.

So, I think we're coming to the end of our time, so just wondering, any final words —because I know we could just continue this conversation forever — but just a few final words on if someone is thinking of staying, doing the bolt-ons, upgrading, or just trying to find something else? What would you say?

Shawn: I can offer a couple things, and then Carly, definitely feel free to.

So, some common pain points that we see that lead to moving, OK?

GP is multi company. GP requires different instances of the app and different databases for each company, which the modern apps don't. That world goes away, right? You don't have to maintain the same chart of accounts and dah dah dah, and there's tools that can help you manage that in the GP World and partners that we know who can help clients with that. But, there comes a point — I'm thinking of a hospitality company we worked with that's probably still on GP, but they had 75 instances of the software, and then there was a tool that would help them with consolidation. That’s the old way of doing things, so that's a big reason why companies get off of GP.

The NAV world was very manufacturing-centric, very international use. We haven't really talked to a client on NAV in a while. Well, actually that's not true. We had a laser engraving machine company recently that was on NAV, and they liked the flexibility of it, but they knew that it was end of life.

And that's applicable across all of the acronyms, AX, NAV, GP, SL. And so, for them, they really did need to look outside for either the upgrade or for another app. They happen to choose an Infor product on the SL side.

That one is interesting because there's not a lot of folks that support SL. Like at all. We happen to know a couple people and we sort of covet them for clients who say, “I am on SL, I don't want to change, is there anybody out there that can help?” We do know some people that have that expertise for sure. Because we don't want you to change unless you have to and yadda yadda yadda, you know the thing we always say about that, don't change unless you have to.

So that's a tricky part on the SL side is that I need somebody to come in and write a custom report or do something for me. Well, good luck finding him because they all move to NetSuite or Acumatica or the Sage products.

And then from an AX perspective, Axapta, it's sort of the same thing where that is an easier migration over to F&O or F&SC. So, a lot of the folks that we used to go to for AX — a lot of those implementation partners have actually been bought, which is very interesting, and they've been rolled into very large consulting firms. And those larger consulting firms are pushing their people to get onto the newer products so they can stay relevant in the market. So, you do have sort of the same thing where there's not a lot of folks that support these the legacy products. But for AX — whenever our clients selected AX we always say, “Don't just select AX. You have to get a guy or a gal that you're going to hire full time that's going to help you with the care and feeding of this thing. You want that person on staff and even those people have started to move on to other technologies and could be F&O.”

So those are just some of the concerns that I see in the market on those four products that folks should keep in mind that it is probably time to look at some more apps.

Juliette: Carly, what about you? What are you seeing?

Carly: Kind of just a general trend of — I will 100% reiterate the Great Plains GP product being the multiple instances for each one.

Shawn: Carly was a user.

Carly: I was a user. I also — from having the accounting background, I always keep a little piece of my heart in accounting — but having to pull reports and books and accounting and all of the information piece by piece or have an extra kind of — I call it the data sucker — after coming out of it, it’s painful and you don’t have to anymore, you just don’t.

And that's pretty much across the board with all of the new apps, and just from a best practices on a sunsetting thing, we do always say don't change unless you have to. Don't change at the last minute.

Shawn: Yep.

Carly: Because you don't want it to break and have it be gone.

And so, give yourself some breathing room to really be able to go out and do the due diligence of evaluating software, being able to implement, being able to just have a little bit of breathing room. The last thing you want to do is have an “uh-oh” moment and you're like, “We'll just keep staying on it. We love it so much.” And then it breaks, and it's already been sunsetted and then no one can help you fix it and now you're like, “Oh my God, if we don't get something in the next like month our business is going to be shut down because it's all broken.” And I'm going nuclear there a little bit, but just give yourself some breathing room is really what I would say.

Shawn: One last thing, too, I want to be clear with everybody that that Microsoft does have sort of a 10-year window for support, right?

So, just because you're on Dynamics GP doesn't mean you're going to not get support tomorrow. And you do have to ask the question: what version of GP are you on? Because there are different horizons for sunsetting that you really do have to look at. So, your implementation partner — here's the thing: we do the same thing, right? When you're talking to your GP support provider, you should find out if they're also doing math — or, I'm sorry, Business Central. If they're doing Business Central and they're doing GP support, there's a good chance that they're going to be objective in giving you what is actually what Microsoft says.

It's hard to call somebody at Microsoft and get this data, by the way, so you have to rely on your partner. If the partner you use today is really just doing GP and only GP, you're going to hear a different story potentially, not that it's wrong, it's a pitch. Everybody started pitching for what they're trying to say. So, just get the actual information. You might have to call a couple different partners. Call us, we'll get you in touch with different folks that we work with and trust.

And to Carly’s point, you don't want to be stuck at the last minute. But know that there is a horizon here that Microsoft isn't pulling the plug. Even though they may want to from a business sense — because it's a hell of a lot cheaper to get everybody on these cloud products and the margins go through the roof — but they're not doing the wrong thing. They're not going to pull the rug under from people to say, “Hey, you have to get out of this thing.” And we really appreciate that.

Microsoft, even Oracle, these larger organizations — they do a good job with that. Some of the medium sized folks don't. They're like, “Yeah, you're out. You have to move.” And we'll talk about some of those in our next call.

But Microsoft is doing the right thing for the customers, so just get the data for what's real for the version that you're on. Carly, do you think that makes sense?

Carly: Yeah, I guess just a little bit longer version of what I’m saying. But yeah, you’re not going to get kicked off tomorrow but don’t dismiss looking at tomorrow. Just start looking. Give yourself the breathing room. That's kind of the point.

Shawn: That’s multi-million dollars’ worth of value right there, because unfortunately, we do have clients that come to us at the last minute and there's no negotiation room. So, the longer time period you have, the more choices you have and the better you can negotiate.

Juliette: No need to panic, right?

Shawn: Right.

Juliette: But be prepared.

Well, a lot of good advice. Thank you for sharing all that and thanks again for your time meeting with me today.

Carly: Thank you.

Juliette: Thank you everyone for joining us for today's call. Please let us know if you have any questions. You can call us or email us; we're happy to help in any way we can, just let us know. Join us for our next call scheduled for Thursday, June 10 when we continue our legacy software review focusing on SAP. Please go to our website erpadvisorsgroup.com for more details and to register.

Narrator: ERP Advisors Group is one of the country's top independent enterprise software consulting firms. Advising mid to large sized businesses on selecting and implementing business applications including ERP, CRM, HCM, business intelligence, and other enterprise applications which equate to millions of dollars in software deals each year across many industries.

This has been The ERP Advisor.