What are the differences between the Business Central Premium vs Essential versions and can a manufacturing company conduct a Microsoft Business Central implementation using Essentials?

Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central is a leading edge cloud ERP system, released by Microsoft in the Spring of 2018. By the fall of that year, the product had been finalized into two key versions: Business Central premium and Business Central essentials.

Essential Version

The essential version of business central is $70 US ($90 CAD) per full user per month, and includes about 85% of the core functionality of the product. You have full accounting, warehousing, purchasing, sales, project accounting, human resources and many other modules out of the box with Business Central essentials. There is a light weight CRM capability within the product (although many customers choose to add the Dynamics 365 Sales Professional addon for a more complete CRM capability).

Premium Version

The premium version of Business Central adds two core modules:

  • Service Management in Business Central
  • Production Management in Business Central.

Service Management in Business Central is a module that allows a company to create and book "service orders" - which are usually conducted at the customer and involve some kind of service activity and perhaps materials or parts. Service Management also allows the creation of service contracts, for ongoing maintenance activities. Businesses who sell and service products often need this module. For example, a company that sells industrial equipment might also have a service team that goes to the customer site to repair or maintain that equipment.

Production Management in Business Central is a module designed to allow a complex multi-level structure of bills of materials and routings including scheduling and managing production of finished goods. There are other ways to handle manufacturing that are not production manufacturing, and not every company needs the level of sophistication provided by this module.

Manufacturing with Essentials

Business Central Premium vs Essential - Deciding which version can be hard

When considering Business Central Premium vs Essential versions for your manufacturing business you may think that it is 100% necessary to use the Premium version. That is not the case. It depends on a few factors and what is important for your company. When Sabre conducts a Microsoft Business Central implementation, we look at these categories of requirements to find out which version (Business Central premium vs essential) is right for the customer.

Assembly vs Production Management in Business Central.

One of the first decisions in a Microsoft Business Central implementation for a manufacturing environment comes down to whether you are going to use Assembly or Production Management. This is going to define whether you should have the Business Central premium vs essential level subscription. There are a few cases where a company using Assembly might want Service also, but that is fairly rare. The Assembly module is a "light weight" manufacturing module embedded in the essential level product. The Production Management module is much more robust (described above) and is in Premium.

4 Factors impacting the Assembly vs Production Management in Business Central decision

When trying to determine Business Central premium vs essential level requirements, you need to consider a few factors. These factors are among the most critical for a Microsoft Business Central implementation in manufacturing.

Here are 4 factors that we use to determine what level of manufacturing might work for a customer.

Job Costing Detail Required

If your manufacturing business needs very detailed job costing, such as "it took 33.5 minutes to setup our CNC lathe, and we produced 548 parts on the lathe in 7.22 hours of work with a 2.5% scrap rate" then you probably need Production Management.

On the other hand, if your business needs only rough job costing, such as "we used $275 of actual material, plus an estimated $150 of labor and made 22 parts - so $19.32 per part" you can likely use Assembly Management.

Multi Step Manufacturing

Most manufacturing is multi-step. You need to perform a number of different operations in the fabrication or machining process, and each step takes a period of time after which production proceeds to the next step.

There are 2 ways to address this.

  1. Create a new item between each step
  2. Use a routing, that tracks the status of each step (started, partially done (with Qty), done).

If your business would not need choice 2 - either because the production process is so simple that you don't have any significant time between these routing steps or it doesn't matter, or the process is done in one step alone - Assembly might be workable.

If your business creates an item between each manufacturing step, then Assembly is also a viable choice.

If you need routings, and need to track the status at each step of manufacturing, then you need Production Management in Business Central. The decision about Business Central premium vs essential is pretty easy to make if that is the case.

Scheduling

If you require machine level scheduling and loading for your facility - you almost certainly need Production Management in Business Central. The Assembly Management modules in Business Central do not have a robust scheduling capability. You can sequence and plan your assemblies, and use that to dispatch work to your facility. You can have a due date on an assembly. The ability to schedule individual pieces of equipment or departments using Assemblies is very limited (almost non-existent).

Outsourced Manufacturing

The last and most important factor in the Business Central premium vs essential decision is whether your business does or wants outsourced manufacturing capabilities. This is much harder to do with Assemblies - and requires "ugly" work-arounds to achieve. It can be done - but in general if you are sending materials out to contractors to have work done on them, you are going to need Production Management in Business Central.

Manufacturing Walkthrough Video

Choosing Business Central premium vs essential licenses can be a bit complicated if you are a manufacturing company. This video outlines several of the points that we've discussed in this blog and gives a reasonably brief high level overview of most of these concepts.

Conclusion

Hopefully this document helps manufacturing companies that are looking at or considering a Microsoft Business Central implementation. Choosing between Business Central premium vs essential licenses is a fairly big decision and definitely impacts the costs of the project.

At Sabre, we usually recommend that smaller manufacturing companies making their first move to an ERP system (especially where they have limited staff time and resources) use Assembly Management to start. Although Assembly Production BOM are two different modules, upgrading from the one to the other is not a massive exercise.

Migrating bills of materials from Assembly Management to Production Management in Business Central is actually a fairly easy process. It can be done easily by exporting the Assembly BOM details into Excel, making small changes, and re-importing the same into Production BOM.

Sabre offers our Bronze manufacturing Microsoft Business Central implementation pricing in the $30,000-$35,000 range depending on the type of manufacturing. This usually involves using Assembly Management. Customers who need production management are typically about 50% more expensive to implement as the features and functions are much more complicated, and more deeply integrated into the system,

Need some help?

Have more questions about Business Central Premium vs Essential level pricing? You can find the Microsoft Business Central Capabilities page here. Want some assistance with a Microsoft Business Central Implementation? Give us a call at: (519) 585-7524 x.45 or contact our team, we're excited to talk with you soon!

Examples of Dynamics 365 pricing for licenses and implementation budget costs

Dynamics 365 Pricing can be very confusing if you are not familiar with it. At Sabre we've been working with the Microsoft Dynamics product line for a long time. The intent of this blog is to help demystify Dynamics 365 Pricing, whether it be for Business Central, Sales, Customer Service, or Finance and Operations.

In addition to the price of the software, companies need to be aware of other costs. Support contracts with the training provider. Addon modules that are considered critical. Supplementary products that add a lot of value. All of these need to be considered part of the analysis of Dynamics 365 Pricing.

Microsoft is constantly reworking and changing the pricing of their different Dynamics products. This has been going on for some time, and frankly leads to confusion. In this article, I am going to try and give you both examples of the cost of the software and also what you should budget for your implementation for different scenarios. I will focus on Manufacturing or Distribution oriented costs as that is my area of expertise.

At Sabre we specialize in Business Central and Dynamics 365 Sales (aka CRM). As such the estimated budgets for those products are going to be a lot better than the budgets I give for other products. Even so, you should be able to walk away from this article with a good sense of the budget you will need, as a business, to implement.

For more information on Dynamics 365 Pricing you can visit the Microsoft official page and (most important) download the Dynamics 365 License Guide. I'm going to focus on US Pricing as US buyers are going to be the most common buyer of Dynamics. For Canadian Dynamics 365 pricing you can look here at the Microsoft Canada pricing page and multiply the implementation costs by 1.2 as an approximation.

Definitions related to Dynamics 365 Pricing

Here are some important definitions used below:

  • Named User: This is the only way Microsoft Dynamics 365 user licenses are offered (with some minor exceptions). Think of a Named User as being a license for each email address of users who use the software. Generally this is each person with access.
  • Device User: This is the exception to the named user. Device users are generally for operating a barcode scanner in a warehouse, a POS device in retail, or a time keeping device in a manufacturing shop. I won't list these except as part of AppSource costs.
  • Full User: A full user has the most access to read and write data in the software. Full Users are sometimes attached to the module (a Full Finance user) and sometimes to the product (a Full Business Central user).
  • Team Member: All Dynamics products offer a very inexpensive "Team Member" user. In this way Dynamics 365 Pricing is better than some competitors who do not offer this "light" user. Team Members can read all information in the product, and can edit and write limited amounts. Where possible I'll give some examples.
  • ERP: Enterprise Resource Planning. An all-in-one software product designed to manage all aspects of a business. This is the apex predator of software.
  • CRM: Customer Relationship Management. Microsoft CRM was renamed Dynamics 365 Sales and Customer Service and split into 2 licenses about 4 years ago.
  • Small and Medium Business (SMB): In Microsoft Terms, a business with under 250 computers (this is debatable but as a general rule is pretty good).
  • Enterprise: In Microsoft Terms, a business with 251 or more computers.
  • Microsoft AppSource: Microsoft AppSource is an app store where customers of Dynamics 365 products can select addons.
  • Support: Although Dynamics 365 is supported by Microsoft, that support does not include consulting or training support. I will estimate support (below) based on what Sabre would charge. Some products might also require inhouse staff to manage - so this will double for that purpose.
  • Attach License: Some products (like Business Central and Sales Professional) can be "attached" to each other to create a larger license at a discount price. The Attach License must be combined with an existing license assigned to a user. So Joe@company.com who already has a Full user license of one product, can "Attach" a lower cost Full user license of a 2nd associated product.

Dynamics 365 Products

Dynamics 365 Products we Analyze

Sales, Customer Service

Dynamics 365 Sales and Dynamics 365 Customer Service are essentially the old CRM Online product. These products come in an Enterprise and Professional level. I give examples of the pricing of these products below.

Business Central

Dynamics Business Central has two "levels" of product, the Essentials and Premium. These are described more below. Business Central is a product in the Dynamics 365 family that Microsoft is currently investing heavily into. It is one of the most rapidly growing products in the entire Microsoft portfolio, and is often bundled with Office 365.

Business Central is a Small and Medium Business (SMB) class ERP product.

Finance, Operations (and Human Resources, Commerce)

Dynamics 365 Pricing gets really complicated once you get to the Finance and Operations product. This is the Microsoft Enterprise class ERP product.

We know a lot about the implementation and costs of Finance and Operations. The complexity of the pricing requires examples in order to make it clear.

Dynamics 365 Pricing we won't address

These products are less common in the market and not something Sabre is comfortable commenting on.

Field Service

The Field Service product is technically related to the Dynamics 365 Sales and Customer Service Enterprise modules, and does not have Professional level pricing (which is why it is separated out). The pricing is basically the same ($95 for a full user, $20 attach licenses).

Marketing

Dynamics 365 Marketing is a product that competes against Hubspot and Marketo (as some examples) and unlike the others is licensed by site - meaning your entire business pays one price regardless of the user count.

We have no experience implementing the product, so we'll have to defer to some other blog writer. I will give you a little bit of my best guess as to what you should expect, at a minimum so you can understand if this product is for you.

The pricing starts at $1500 per month per site, and can be attached for $750 where your licenses exceed a threshold. Implementations are pricy (but I don't fell confident pricing it out).

Many Others

And there are many other products we won't touch on here. There are almost too many choices within Dynamics 365 pricing to keep track of.

Implementations

I am going to give a budget for implementations. It's a bit hard to estimate the implementation budget for some products, very easy for others. There are 2 types of implementations in the market. If I mention an implementation is based on "market rate" or "market price," it is the time and material type and based on my understanding of "cheap" implementations of this type.

Fixed fee: Very uncommon. A few partners (like Sabre) will offer a true fixed fee, but not many.

Time and Material: Very common. Most partners offer these types of projects.

If there is some kind of limit to the number of hours offered in a quote, then it is a Time and Material quote. Eg: A Sabre Fixed fee has no cap on the hours that a project can take. If it takes 150 or 250 hours - it is the same price (notwithstanding monthly support and software costs). A quote that says that it is fixed at $15,000 and includes 80 hours is not a fixed fee - it is a block of time. Be cautious when getting a quote and make sure you compare apples to apples.

Dynamics 365 Pricing for CRM
Dynamics 365 Pricing for CRM

Dynamics 365 Sales or Customer Service (CRM)

Sabre does work closely with customers who have Dynamics 365 Sales and/or Customer Service (more often the Sales product to be frank since it has basic Customer Service capabilities). Dynamics 365 pricing for these products come in two levels, Enterprise and Professional.

The Enterprise products are significantly more full featured, and have no effective limits on the ability to customize them. The Professional Products have a sub-set of Enterprise capabilities. They are much more limited in terms of being customizable. Sabre is more focused on the Professional Level as we generally prefer to work where there are not excessive levels of customization.

Within Dynamics 365 Pricing there are two other CRM products: Dynamics 365 Sales Premium which is Dynamics 365 Sales Enterprise with the Sales Insights Add-In; Dynamics 365 Relationship Sales which is Dynamics 365 Sales Enterprise bundled with LinkedIn Sales Navigator; and we note that both these products are beyond the scope of this document.

Some minimum user levels apply to the Premium and Relationship Sales modules.

Sales and Customer Service Dynamics 365 Pricing

Professional: $65 per month per Named Full User.
Enterprise: $95 per month per Named Full User.
Premium: $135 per month per Named Full User.
Relationship Sales: $162 per month per Named Full User.
Attach Licenses: $20 for Business Central, Finance and Operations, Sales, Customer Service etc... (Enterprise licenses cannot be attached to Business Central as of this writing).
AppSource Apps: Prices Vary
Support: Around $30 per user per month

Examples:

A company with 3 sales users looking to implement basic sales opportunity tracking with Sales Professional.

3 x $65 Sales professional Users = $195 monthly
Add: $150 Support monthly
Implementation: $4,000 (based on Sabre fixed fee)

A company with 10 full users looking to implement sales opportunity, sales quotes, orders, invoices with a price catalog with Sales Professional with the basic Customer Service in Sales.

10 x $65 Sales Users = $650 monthly
Add: $300 Support
Implementation: $10,000 (based on Sabre fixed fee)

A company with 40 full users that wants to make customizations to support a special business need, will have 15 pure Sales users, 15 pure Customer Service users and 10 users who are both. Will also have 40 more users who access the customizations primarily.

25 x $95 Sales Enterprise Users, 25 x $20 Attach Customer Service, 15 x $95 Customer Service, 40 x $8 Team Members = $4,620 monthly
Add: $1,200 Support
Implementation: $40,000-100,000 (based on market prices)

Dynamics 365 Pricing for ERP
Dynamics 365 Pricing for ERP

Business Central (ERP)

Business Central licenses are actually one of the simpler to understand. Of the Dynamics 365 pricing rules, there are not many exceptions regarding Business Central. Business Central and Sales Professional (or Customer Service Professional) are considered to be part of the Small Business "Suite" of Dynamics 365 products. I'll give examples of combinations below.

The Premium Product is basically Essentials plus production manufacturing modules and field service (field repairs or depot repairs and service) modules. For Manufacturing companies of a certain level of complexity, the Premium product is required, but very small companies can get by with Essentials and the Assembly modules.

Business Central Dynamics 365 Pricing

Essentials: $70 per month per Named Full User.
Premium: $100 per month per Named Full User.
Attach Licenses: $20 for D365 Sales Professional and $20 for D365 Customer Service Professional
AppSource Apps: Prices Vary
Support: Around $60 per user per month (minimum of $300).

Business Central Manufacturing

Sabre is most familiar with this kind of business. If you are a manufacturer and are smaller and simple, an Essentials license from Dynamics 365 pricing should work. Mid size or above manufacturers will definitely need the Premium license of Business Central. We add the typical number of team members we find that customers want in the examples.

Examples:

A company with 3 full users looking to implement inventory control, bills of material, purchasing automation and core accounting would receive a quote from Sabre of about $33,000 budget (plus or minus a bit).

3 x $70 Essentials Users, 3 x $8 Team Members = $280 monthly
Add: $300 Support monthly
Implementation: $33,000 (based on Sabre fixed fee)

A company with 15 full users looking to implement Inventory Management, Bills of Material, Production Scheduling, MRP, Job Costing, and core accounting would receive a fixed fee quote from Sabre of about $60,000-$85,000 budget (the range varies depending on the number of modules to be trained).

15 x $100 Premium Users, 10 x $8 Team Members = $1,580 monthly
Add: $900 Support, $500 budget for Addons
Implementation: $60,000-85,000 (based on Sabre fixed fee)

A company with 30 full users that is a full manufacturing company that wants a lot (not necessary all) advanced functionality training should have a minimum budget (based on Sabre's pricing) of about $105,000. In this scenario let's say they also want 25 CRM users (15 inside people who also have a full Business Central license and 10 outside sales people who just use CRM).

30 x $100 Premium Users, 20 x $8 Team Members, 15 x $20 Attach Licenses, 10 x $65 Sales Professional = $4,110 monthly
Add: $1800 Support, $1000 budget for Addons
Implementation: $105,000 (based on Sabre fixed fee)

Not Business Central Manufacturing

At Sabre we don't many of these implementations (just distribution) so it's a bit harder to estimate a price. This would be companies in areas such as pure distribution, professional service, not-for-profit, finance, government, health care etc... With very few exceptions the Dynamics 365 pricing at the Business Central Essentials level is all that is needed.

Essentials: $70 per month per Named Full User.
Attach Licenses:$20 Dynamics 365 Sales Professional and Customer Service Professional
AppSource Apps: Prices vary
Support: Around $60 per user per month (minimum of $300).

Example Implementations:

A company with 3 full users looking to implement "Quickbooks" type functionality.

3 x $70 Essentials Users, 3 x $8 Team Members = $280 monthly
Add: $300 Support monthly
Implementation: $15,000 (based on market pricing)

A company with 10 full users looking to implement supply chain or project accounting type functionality (ie: either buy and sell with warehousing, or project time tracking with revenue recognition). Often these projects expand beyond that level as they use addon products from Microsoft AppSource.

10 x $70 Essentials Users, 10 x $8 Team Members = $780 monthly
Add: $600 Support monthly, $500 AppSource
Implementation: $60,000 (based on market pricing)

A company with 50 full users looking to a complex suite of product features.

50 x $70 Essentials Users, 30 x $8 Team Members = $3,740 monthly
Add: $3000 Support monthly
Implementation: $200,000 (based on market pricing)

Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations (ERP)

Finance and Operations is the enterprise class ERP system from Microsoft. That means that it is intended for businesses with 250 or more computers. That is not to say some businesses that are medium sized won't implement Finance and Operations. We do see it from time to time, but smaller businesses usually don't have the budget for this product.

There are several products (all at the same or similar price level) that are part of this broader product suite in Dynamics 365 pricing:

Finance: Accounting features and functions
Supply Chain: Inventory management, Manufacturing, Distributions
Commerce: Retail (online and brick and mortar)
Human Resources: Staffing, Performance, Tracking, Compensation
Project Operations: Project management, Resources, Costs

These 5 products are really under one umbrella. Once licensed for one product, adding any of the others is $30 per user per month through an Attach license. In addition the Sales or Customer Service modules can use an Attach license at $20 per user.

Implementations for even "simple" Finance and Operations projects are unlikely to run less than $200,000. The product is much deeper in function and capability than Business Central (for instance) which makes the training more difficult. Partners who claim to implement Finance and Operations for much less than shown should demonstrate examples where they have been successful.

Dynamics 365 Pricing

Finance, Supply Chain, Commerce: $180 per month per Named Full User.
Human Resources, Project Operations: $120 per month per Named Full User.
Attach Licenses: $20 for Sales, Customer Service
Attach Licenses: $30 for Finance, Supply Chain, Commerce, Human Resources, Project Operations
AppSource Apps: Prices Vary
Support: Around $120 per user per month (either inhouse or outsourced)

User Minimums for Dynamics 365 Pricing

In the past there was a 20 user minimum for Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations pricing. I am going to assume this is still the case, as companies with fewer than 20 full users should not really be looking at the F&O product.

Examples:

A company with 20 full users, a combination of finance and supply chain looking to implement multi-location warehouse and distribution functions between about 5 different locations in 2 countries and 5 states or provinces.

10 x $180 Finance, 10 x $180 Supply Chain, 5 x $30 Supply Chain Attach licenses = $3,750 monthly
Add: $2400 Support monthly, $1000 AppSource
Implementation: $250,000 (based on market)

A company with 50 full users looking to implement human resources, manufacturing and distribution at 2 locations (one manufacturing and one warehouse). In addition, 50 Sales and Customer Service Enterprise licenses will be required with 25 stand alone sales, and 25 Customer Service for full users to use.

20 x $180 Finance users, 30 x $180 Supply Chain, 5 x $30 Human Resource attach, 10 x $30 Supply Chain attach, 25 x $95 Sales Enterprise, 25 x $20 Customer Service attach = $12,325 monthly
Add: $7500 Support per month, $3000 AppSource
Implementation: $500,000 (based on market)

Conclusion

Hopefully this set of examples helps put into perspective the budgetary ranges for different Microsoft Dynamics 365 pricing examples, Sabre focuses on the Dynamics 365 Business Central, Sales and Customer Service products. We know enough about the Finance and Operations product suite to provide some ideas of the costs and budgets that you should be prepared for.

Business Central is going to cost about half the monthly operating cost and license costs, and about 1/3 or less the implementation costs as compared to Finance and Operations. Sales Professional and Customer Service Professional are, by their nature, lower in implementation cost than the Enterprise versions because they are usually selected when low customization and simple features are required. Enterprise is going to always be more complicated and costly if it is selected over Professional - because there is no reason to pick it except for advanced features that require advanced training.

Need some help?

Looking for pricing for Business Central or other Dynamics 365 products? You can find the current pricing at Microsoft.com. If you need help with Microsoft Dynamics 365 pricing, especially trying to price implementations for Business Central or CRM, give us a call at: (519) 585-7524 x.45 or contact our team, we're excited to talk with you soon!

Is Business Central a viable upgrade path for a Dynamics GP Manufacturing customer?

Sabre Limited started as a Visual Manufacturing ERP after market support company. Our first 100 to 200 customers were all users of Visual Manufacturing who needed expert manufacturing consulting to use the system better. In 2008 we began down a path to become an expert Dynamics GP manufacturing partner. Had we started this process 10 years earlier, I'm sure it would have been easier, but over time it became clear that Microsoft (and our market) were moving a different direction.

By 2012 Sabre added the Microsoft Dynamics NAV product to our portfolio. Within 3 years we were exclusively selling NAV to new customers, and our hard earned expertise in Dynamics GP Manufacturing had less and less value.

Ironically the Business Central product has brought us back towards Great Plains and let us brush off that Dynamics GP manufacturing expertise again. We find ourselves being asked to help GP customers and partners move to Business Central - especially those in the manufacturing sector.

Our Ranking of Dynamics GP Manufacturing vs Business Central Manufacturing

In this article we are listing different areas of GP and Business Central, and trying to draw a comparison between them. In each area we will be scoring a winner or offering a tie. Sabre is scheduled to present more or less the same information for the Business Central User Group at the Community Summit North America.

Generic Features

Customization

Business Central Manufacturing- Winner!

The customization tools in Business Central are miles ahead of the technology in Great Plains. Dynamics GP Manufacturing is very difficult to customize or change. This has lead to only a few ISV products, but also means that if it is not an exact fit for your business, it can cause issues. Our experience with Business Central is there are far fewer "out of system" processes.

Integration

Business Central Manufacturing- Winner!

Once again, the Dynamics GP manufacturing modules are just not integrated into the whole ERP as well as they are in Business Central. Simple things like the way inventory is consumed or output from manufacturing orders in GP vs Business Central is way more streamlined. The "odd" look and feel of manufacturing in GP compared to the rest of the system doesn't exist in Business Central.

Purchasing

Blanket Purchase Orders

Business Central Manufacturing- Winner!

The blanket purchase orders in Business Central work more as you would expect and want. They are commitments to purchase a certain amount, and although there is a delivery schedule of sorts, you place releases against the order and receive against those releases. This is more like what we expect from an ERP and seems to make more sense than the way it's implemented for Dynamics GP manufacturing.

Purchase Requisitions

Dynamics GP Manufacturing - Winner!

Frankly, the purchase requisition system out of the box in Business Central isn't as good as the one out of the box in Dynamics GP. (You thought we had nothing nice to say about GP didn't you!). The Business Central requisition worksheet is a poor substitute but does work for most cases (just not as nicely).

Outsourced Services

It's a Tie!

In our opinion the outsourced purchased services in Dynamics GP manufacturing and Business Central both have basically the same design and function. GP does a few things better, BC does some other things better. Overall neither product comes out on top.

Sales Order Management

Sales to Manufacturing Integration

It's a Tie!

The basic function of Sales Order to Manufacturing Order integration, or Sales Order to Production Order integration are basically the same. Once again, Dynamics GP manufacturing does a few things a tiny bit better, Business Central manufacturing does some other things a little better.

Product Configurator

Dynamics GP Manufacturing - Winner!

Once again GP comes out on top - mainly because GP actually has a Sales Configurator out of the box with the product. Whether this configurator is a great one or just mediocre doesn't really matter. Both products have a large number of available, optional ISV addons to draw from.

Project Manufacturing

Business Central Manufacturing- Winner!

Not precisely a Sales Order Management module - but the GP Project Accounting just totally fails the test as a manufacturing module. The equivalent in Business Central is much better. Sabre has taken this module (the Jobs module) and added extensive capabilities with our Sabre ETO Addon as well.

Assemblies and Kitting

Business Central Manufacturing- Winner!

The kitting and assembly capabilities of Business Central are much easier to use and work with than the same in GP. The ability to do some minor customization in this area to facilitate it as a light weight alternative to manufacturing really stands out.

Shipping

Business Central Manufacturing- Winner!

It seems like a simple thing, but Business Central is inherently designed for environments where the due date of the order might be in the future because stock needs to be built for the sale as opposed to being on a shelf. It also supports printing and tracking each shipment made, assigning a packing slip number and keeping a record of the shipment. These are simple things, but most manufacturers need them and they are just easier out of Business Central.

Production Manufacturing

Out of the Box Features

It's a Tie!

In general the features of Business Central and Dynamics GP manufacturing are fairly similar. The two systems MRP and MPS modules are fairly robust and capable. The Bills of Material and Routings (not withstanding the SUPER BOM used in Configurator) are also very similar.

Data Loading and Integration

Business Central Manufacturing- Winner!

If we could give Business Central double points for this one we would. The ability to import BOM, Routings, Machine Centers etc... into BC from excel and other sources is built into the system and requires no third party solutions. It is incredibly easy to work with the Business Central system in this regard, as opposed to Dynamics GP manufacturing which is almost entirely closed off.

Conclusion

If you are using Dynamics GP manufacturing today and are considering the move to Business Central, we would highly recommend giving it a look. We didn't touch on supply chain, warehouse and inventory control, finance and other modules. Some modules (like accounting) are definitely stronger in Great Plains. Are those extra strengths and features used by the majority of manufacturing companies? No! In our experience the features of Dynamics GP that make it stand out are not necessarily the ones that a manufacturing company even uses. Business Central is just a more "logical" product for a typical manufacturer.

Need some help?

Looking for pricing for Business Central or other Dynamics 365 products? You can find the current pricing at Microsoft.com. If you need help with a Microsoft Dynamics implementation, especially executing one remotely, give us a call at: (519) 585-7524 x.45 or contact our team, we're excited to talk with you soon!

Since the pandemic began, the world has discovered the cloud. This is true in so many ways, and for the one very obvious reason. From Zoom to Teams to Microsoft Dynamics cloud ERP software, if you are a cloud vendor - the world is beating a path to your door.

For the Microsoft Dynamics cloud, it is Business Central that is really leading the way. The year over year growth of the product was already industry leading.

"The Microsoft Dynamics Cloud is Lead by Business Central"

To understand a little of why cloud is so different it helps to look back at previous technology and the path that has lead to this time.

History is repeating itself … kind of.

It has been a while since September, 2008.  It was at that time that Lehman Brothers went bankrupt, and marked the beginning of the Great Recession. 

Shortly after, federal programs (here in Canada) started to pop up to support businesses investing in technology. There were a number of these programs, each geared to help a different type of investment.  As an ERP technology company, we soon had customers coming to us and asking if we knew about these programs. Many of these programs still exist, and help customers moving to the Microsoft Dynamics cloud.

Most of them were fairly focused, and in the early days of the recession, were very easy to apply and receive funding for.  These programs made a big difference to businesses who needed to improve their technology and who were otherwise hit hard by the downturn.

The ERP Crunch

From about 1998 to 2001 there was a huge refresh of ERP systems.  This means that a large number of businesses, especially small and medium manufacturers, replaced their ERP as part of Y2K. 

The general rule of thumb for an ERP system is about 10 to 12 years between refresh / replacement.  So in about 2008-2009 you would have expected a second boom of ERP replacements.  The Great Recession put a big dent into that.  It wouldn't be wrong to guess that companies who had the choice to do a minor upgrade between 2009 and 2015 would choose to do so rather than replace the system.  There were also a lot of companies that put off any replacement. As the 2010s moved on, the Microsoft Dynamics cloud began to develop with the AX product moving to a Software as a Service model, as did the Microsoft CRM product, but not everyone jumped on the bandwagon.

And so today we have a lot of businesses that put off their ERP upgrade during the Great Recession, and are running very old technologies that are not at all suited to remote work. 

And we all need to get use to Remote Work.

Client/Server

The prevailing technology in the late 90's through to the late 'aughts for ERP was called Client/Server.  Client/Server is intended to maximize the use and value of each individual computer a company has.  It's a form of distributed computing in which each client (your desktop or laptop) does a lot of the work and analysis.  The server (that big computer in the back room) mostly just acts as a storage system that the clients connect to.  The server is a "Dumb Server" for practical purposes.

Prior to the move into the Microsoft Dynamics cloud, most Dynamics products were Client/Server or descended from them.

In a Client/Server environment, the two computers need to be more or less directly connected to each other.  Those blue wires that go into the walls need to directly connect the Clients and the Server.  Because the client is receiving and sending so much data to the server, running across a Wide Area Network (WAN or Internet) is just too slow for words.  You can grow the coffee beans, roast them, grind them, brew your pot and have your first cup by the time a report has finished running.

To get around this limitation we run Client/Server software on a "Terminal" server when we want to use it remotely. This is usually intended as a work around when staff can't be at the office.  It's not very efficient and has a lot of drawbacks, but in 1999 it was fantastic compared to the alternative.

Cloud

Probably from about 2012 or so, the prevailing technology for new ERP became the Cloud.  Nobody is working on new, cutting edge ERP technology that is Client/Server. Those Microsoft products not moving to the Microsoft Dynamics cloud are sort of stuck as Client/Server products, which is why they are essentially obsolete.

Cloud doesn't necessarily mean the server is hidden in the alps somewhere, and you are connecting via Elon Musk's secret satellites.  It just means the server does all the computations and calculations, and the clients are "dumb terminals."

If you are thinking … "Wait, that sounds like what it was like before the 90's," - you're right.  Most ERP systems in the 80's were designed to run on dumb terminals and the Server did all the work.  Those servers were outrageously expensive, and as we bought the much cheaper and more prolific "smart" desktop computers, it made sense to move the calculations off the super expensive server and to the individual desktops.  The servers got cheaper and dumber.  The desktops were more expensive than the dumb terminals, but could do way more (Lotus 123, Word Perfect, ERP etc…).  Thus we arrived at Client/Server.  Also remember - this was before the Internet was a thing.

Cloud technology eliminates the need for the "Terminal" server, which is good.  It means that your printing, cutting and pasting, saving to your local C:\ Drive … all those good things are much easier.  It is way, way easier to work with a Cloud ERP and move data back and forth from Outlook or Word or Excel into and out of it.  Cloud ERP are designed to run on a Smart Phone, Tablet, Notebook, Macbook, Chromebook … any kind of modern computer.

Microsoft Dynamics Cloud is Dynamics 365

Microsoft is one of the big leaders in Cloud today. The Office 365 cloud has become the standard for cloud email and storage.  In fact, Microsoft has transformed itself from a classic computer software business to a cloud services business.  It's a remarkable transformation really, Microsoft was far behind Google and Amazon at the start of the last decade. Now the Microsoft Dynamics cloud and Microsoft Office cloud are considered industry leaders.

That transformation to Microsoft Dynamics cloud has been with their ERP and CRM products.  They started with the CRM platform, which was already web based and ready to move to the cloud.  They had four ERP systems to choose from, and they migrated their AX (big enterprise) product to the Microsoft Dynamics cloud first.  That transition was completed by about 2015.  From the other three products they needed to choose at least one as their Small Business ERP (to Microsoft, a Small Business has less than 250 computer users).

Microsoft announced Dynamics 365 Business Central in April of 2018. It was a rebranding of their Dynamics NAV product, the most cloud ready of the three remaining ERP and the last ERP system that will join the Microsoft Dynamics cloud.

Keeping in mind that Microsoft has bet the farm on Cloud; Business Central is their flagship product for the SMB market and is one of the most exciting and revolutionary products introduced into the ERP market in years. 

Business Central is the flagship product of the Microsoft Dynamics cloud

Business Central has the advantage of the enormous legacy of Dynamics NAV experience and expertise.

Cloud Equals Choice

One of the characteristics of cloud technology is that it's not just a product, it’s a platform.  An iPhone fits perfectly into this paradigm.  What made the iPhone so successful wasn't the quality of the product, it was the Apps that were available for it.  Those apps for iPhone are available because Apple made it EASY for people to create apps.  That system for creating apps is the platform.  That apps exist in such plenty, makes the iPhone popular.  Which came first?  The iPhone or the iEgg app? (I didn't check but I bet $10 there's an iEgg app or will be).

This means that in the Microsoft Dynamics cloud - Microsoft wants an ecosystem of addons and enhancements being worked on by many, many developers and businesses around the world. In this way someone is always trying to build a better mousetrap, and so long as the platform is popular people will try and make some money on it.  Once people create apps for the Microsoft Dynamics cloud, the platform becomes more popular.  It's a virtuous circle. Capitalism at it's finest. 

Microsoft has made it entirely free to develop apps for Business Central and the rest of the Microsoft Dynamics cloud. They have created very high quality training materials for developers to learn how to create these apps.  If you, as a business, wanted to write an app for Business Central, you could do so today. You don't even need to purchase a license.

This has created a product that has begun to grow dramatically in the feature choices available. It will almost certainly get to the point where businesses need ERP consultants as much to help them curate which apps to choose as to train them in the software.

COVID and the Microsoft Dynamics cloud

So now we come full circle.  It is like 2009 today, but it is nothing like 2009.

In 2009 there was a global collapse of the financial markets, much like there was in 1929.  The banks started to go out of business.  They were over-leveraged, and unstable. 

As the banks declined, they stopped lending to any but the safest businesses.  Any entrepreneur trying to get a cash infusion was out of luck unless they had collateral to match, and housing was collapsing at the same time.  It was a bad scene.

The COVID Recession is nothing like that.  Banks are more than willing to lend, in fact the government is giving them money so they can lend more.  The governments are ready to unload buckets of cash on businesses and individuals.  They want to desperately keep people employed.

And businesses will reopen, and business will return.  It won't be all better by October, 2020.  But I would bet that by October 2021 things might be back to something like normal.  The recovery won't be long and drawn out because of financial limitations.  It will be long and drawn out because people will want to stay close to home and avoid public places.

They will shop, online.  They will buy food from restaurants, for take-out.  They will want a job, that is safe.

As a manufacturer, you are likely finding that employees working from home actually is much more productive than you expected.  If you haven't experienced this yet, you probably know other business owners or managers who have found this.  Fortune 500 companies are reconsidering how much office space they really need.  The experience of their staff working from home has been very positive.

But now you need the tools to enable this. Welcome to the Microsoft Dynamics cloud.

You would not want an engineering designer to work from home with crappy technology that is not designed for it - so you (should) look for cloud based design solutions (there are a number - and they really work).

Your ERP is no different.

Now is the time to take advantage of the government funding programs that are popping up like weeds.  Business will return, but it most likely won't be like it was before.  The chances that people will need to work from home, at least some of the time, for the foreseeable future is very high.   

In some states and provinces, there are going to be limits on how many employees can be in your facility based on the size.  Anyone who can work from home in the Microsoft Dynamics cloud will open up a slot for someone who has to work at the office.  Each additional productive worker in a factory makes you a lot more money.  Each employee who can work effectively from home (it turns out) is way more productive than anyone thought they could be.

This is the time to look at the Microsoft Dynamics cloud and probably, Business Central. This is especially true if it can be deployed and trained remotely.

Need some help?

Looking for pricing for Business Central or other Dynamics 365 products? You can find the current pricing at Microsoft.com. If you need help with a Microsoft Dynamics implementation, especially executing one remotely, give us a call at: (519) 585-7524 x.45 or contact our team, we're excited to talk with you soon!

Here at Sabre we are experts at implementing Microsoft Dynamics manufacturing systems, particularly Business Central manufacturing.  That's not entirely bragging - it is based on a well respected thought leader.  Malcom Gladwell says that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert at something.  Our typical competitor might implement one manufacturing project out of every 5.  So their average consultant would take something like 25 years to achieve 10,000 hours of practice.  We do exclusively manufacturing, so we achieve in 5 years what takes them 25 years.

We've been doing this since 2002 - so we have a lot of practice.

We've been implementing Microsoft Dynamics manufacturing with Business Central since 2013, which is still more than enough to make the claim that we are experts.

In addition we exclusively implement in the SMB market - which I would describe as being those manufacturing companies with between 20 and 500 employees.  Realistically we don't work any customers over 250 employees - but the difference between 250 and 500 isn't all that big once you get into those sizes.  For those larger businesses, we would avoid any mixed mode as that is just too complex.

Challenges of Implementing Microsoft Dynamics Manufacturing at an SMB

Now we can get into the meat of the matter.  Implementing Business Central manufacturing at SMB companies (and in general , implementing any ERP in SMB manufacturing) can be a pretty difficult business.  A lot of it depends on the culture and the background of the SMB.

I break SMB into two basic sub-classes:

The Family SMB

This is often (but not always) a smaller SMB with the agile, entrepreneurial spirit of the original owner and the team that started it.  The team at these companies are "make it happen" types, that typically came up from the production floor or started in the business when it was still very small (and it might still be very small).

The Corporate SMB

These can be larger than the Family SMB, but not always.  Sometimes the smaller start-ups actually have the Corporate SMB structure.  This SMB has a bit more corporate experience and likely more outsiders have been hired in management. These companies are starting down the path of building the structures that larger enterprises have.   They usually have strong ERP experience and might even have some Microsoft Dynamics manufacturing experience.

The Family Culture

Often we find what I call a "Family" SMB.  This doesn't necessarily mean that the family that started the SMB are still the owners, or lots of family members work there (but it might). What I mean when I say "Family" SMB is that the management style and culture of the business is that of a family business.  For practical purposes these SMB manufacturers are usually actually a bit smaller in staff size.  We find they are between 20 and 100 employees. The simplicity that can be had with Microsoft Dynamics manufacturing can be really beneficial in this culture ... if they can wrap their heads around it.

The business is often made up of senior management who have been there for a long time, and often have organically grown into their positions.  There is a resistance to bureaucracy in these companies in an effort to stay agile and entrepreneurial. This is a strength of the business, and definitely has a lot to do with how they reached this point.

The managers are almost always working managers - they are doing practical work every day,  experts in getting "parts out the door".  As with everything there are advantages and disadvantages of this culture.

Are you a Family Culture?

If you answer yes to the majority of these questions, you are probably one of these kinds of businesses

  • We value experience working here more than education or external experience.
  • Most of the managers worked their way up into the position.
  • The Owner/President has an open door policy and people use it.
  • We have a fairly flat management structure.
  • If we have an ERP, only a few people are "strong" in it.
  • We have many informal "Islands of Information" using Excel or other tools.
  • We have a lot of systems that are informal (we know what to do, nobody is overseeing it with documented guidelines).
  • The culture values getting things done.
  • We don't have a formal budgeting process, or if we do, nobody actually follows the budget once created.
  • Middle Managers do specific tasks required to get product made or shipped.

Like I said, companies can be larger than 100 employees and still fall into this category, creating challenges with Microsoft Dynamics manufacturing projects.  The Small SMB in this case isn't small in size, but is trying to keep the management culture of the small business.

When we work with these businesses, we find a few things are true.

  • There isn't a lot of experience with ERP among the management.
  • The managers are very busy, and are the subject matter experts about the system.
  • Data exists in Silos or "Islands of Information" controlled by managers or power users but not centralized.
  • A senior manager (either the owner or one step from the owner) is much more likely to be part of the ERP team.
  • The ERP team do better seeing how the ERP works (hands on) rather than planning how it will work (theory).

Here are a few tips to keep in mind to ensure your Microsoft Dynamics manufacturing implementation of Dynamics 365 Business Central goes as well as it possibly can.

keep decision makers involved in business central manufacturing projects
Keep the decision makers involved in the project

Keep Decision Makers in the Project

Microsoft Dynamics manufacturing ERP is not an "out of the box" software you just turn on and it's ready to go for your business.  It is a system that is going to require a number of choices along the way to ensure it works how you want it.  The same team can implement Business Central manufacturing with entirely different outcomes just through a few small changes in decisions. This is a good thing!  It means it's flexible enough to be changed and adjusted no matter what you do. 

In these businesses, the top person needs to make the decisions in a lot of cases. They need to buy in to the Microsoft Dynamics manufacturing ERP or they will be disappointed with the outcomes. Staff are used to doing things off-the-cuff which is good getting parts out the door but bad in ERP.

Do Not Second Guess the System

These businesses are used to being agile and creative.  They have solved all kinds of issues that come up in day to day manufacturing by adjusting, changing, creating and inventing.  While being trained and running simulations through Microsoft Dynamics manufacturing there is going to be a strong instinct to do the same. You need to park that creativity for a while, until you see how the system works end to end in the real world. That creative instinct has led customers to create customization solutions looking for problems, and end up spending much more than they needed to for little benefit.

Best Practices Really are Best

It's usually the best idea to let the consultants configure the system for you as a "first pass" and put in place the best practices (best ideas) they've seen at other businesses like yours.  This really helps streamline the process.  If the consultants set the system up for you, do NOT accept it without checking.  You need to get your hands into the system (decision makers and power users alike) and try and break it.  You should be doing this for at least a few months.

Data Collection and Consolidation for your Microsoft Dynamics manufacturing ERP Implementation

Almost certainly the hardest part of the implementation for this business will be getting their Microsoft Dynamics manufacturing ERP data into the system.  If the consultants know what they are doing, they will help you look for your data and collect some samples. They’ll format the samples "correctly" based on what your needs as they see them. These will become templates you can follow to do the rest of the data.  Before you try and collect all data and consolidate it for loading, do the best practices testing I mention above.  It will save you massive wasted time to first know that what you are collecting is both what is needed, and is collected correctly.

I have seen companies spend hundreds or even thousands of hours collecting data before they really understand the ERP, only to throw it all out and start over again.  Don't try and second guess what is needed.

Bring in outside Help to Improve your Success

Finally, be ready to bring in some outside help to improve your odds.  If nobody in the organization has any ERP experience as well, I suggest finding a local Generic ERP Consultant or a Project Manager with experience as an ERP analyst.  They can guide your team and give you the right plan for what you need to do and change internally. The outside Microsoft Dynamics manufacturing ERP vendor (like Sabre) can’t do that effectively for you. 

Business Central manufacturing doesn't come with a guide as to how you should change your business or culture.  Sabre are pretty good at giving high level guidance, but the consulting on business change is not part of our process.  It's too expensive to rely on us when you can get some really good local people for much less.  They don't know Business Central and you don't want to pay them to learn; but they know ERP as a concept and that is what you really need.

Family Culture SMB often Misjudge Staff ERP Skills


This is my last point, and a huge risk at the Family SMB.  Sometimes these businesses have a member of the team that everyone regards as the "Expert" in ERP.  This person is the one outsider that worked with ERP at previous jobs.  Be warned; lots of people work with ERP and don’t really understand it.  If someone was part of the implementation team, and lead or was a primary member of the project they may be knowledgeable.  If someone worked with the system, but had little to do with setting the entire system up, they are just users. They don't necessarily understand the system.  Consider yourself warned!

The Corporate Culture

The other type of SMB is what I call the "Corporate" SMB.  This SMB has hired externally for management more often than they have promoted from within.  They have decided that for the business to reach whatever next step is needed in it's growth, the structure of middle management is required.  There is a more well established structure of reporting within the business, but this carries with it more overhead and devolution of decision making. 

A lot of the managers or staff in this type of SMB have perhaps worked with Oracle, SAP or other Tier 1 (ie: Very expensive) ERP. They may have come from backgrounds where they had access to very large IT departments and could request things and get them without worrying about costs.  There is often a mix of the older, family type management and the newer management.

The experience with the really complex, very powerful systems works against a successful Microsoft Dynamics manufacturing implementation.

These businesses are sometimes growing quickly and might be implementing the Business Central manufacturing ERP because the experienced staff recognize the massive benefits it can bring (having worked with them) but might have unrealistic expectations also.

Are you a Corporate Culture

If you answer yes to the majority of these questions, you are probably a Corporate Culture.

  • We value education and external experience very highly.
  • We are looking for staff who have worked at more structured enterprise manufacturers.
  • There is a hierarchy to the management structure, and we are trying to follow it (not so open door as it was).
  • We see "Islands of Information" as a huge problem.
  • The newer management expects a lot of features and functions in our ERP (which it may not do).
  • We are trying to or have already documented our processes (if there are informal systems, we don’t really want to keep it that way).
  • The culture is trying to eliminate chaos and impose some kind of order.

Companies who are pursuing this can be quite small, even a start up.  The Corporate Culture SMB might be small in size, but is trying to develop a management culture of an enterprise business by implementing Microsoft Dynamics manufacturing.

When we work with these businesses, we find a few things are true.

  • Some of the team have worked with SAP, Oracle or other large enterprise ERP systems and might have unrealistic expectations of Business Central manufacturing.
  • The managers might not be the subject matter experts - but there are power users who definitely are.
  • There is a goal to digitize as much as possible and roll out the ERP to replace as many paper or disconnected systems as possible.
  • The senior management is much less likely to be part of the ERP team and instead middle management will lead the project.
  • The business is more likely to hire a Project Manager or other outside support for the project.

Unlike the Family Culture, the Corporate Culture tends to have a lot more knowledge of ERP and is more likely to be successful with their implementation.  That said, there are still some risks to this group that you should keep in mind.  Your experienced staff may have seen an ERP like SAP with incredibly complex processes. They may not really understand that this was backed by IT departments with dozens or even hundreds of staff that made it all work. There are a few things to watch for related to this.

For those of you in the Corporate Culture, here are my top tips.

Understand where Business Central manufacturing fits in the market

There will almost certainly be employees in your environment who have worked with systems where their previous employer has spent 10 million or more implementing an ERP.   A very basic Oracle or SAP implementation will run several million dollars at least.  Dynamics Business Central manufacturing is the best mid-market ERP system in the cloud today, and it will not cost a million dollars to implement (certainly not how Sabre implements it). At the same time, it can't do what a million dollar ERP can do. Make sure your staff understand the strengths and weaknesses of Microsoft Dynamics manufacturing and are realistic about what it will do for you.

Do not have unrealistic expectations of staff

Remember that your team members wear multiple hats and have a lot to do. Trust the consultants expertise and recommendations to create an achievable phase 1 expectation. Instead of a 2 year project to implement all features in the first go, pursue a 6 month project to get early adoption and then roll out features every few months until you have the full implementation after 2 years.  You are better off getting 80% of the benefits of Microsoft Dynamics manufacturing in six months with little or no customization and increasing to 100% of the benefit after 2 years - than getting 0% of the benefit for 2 years and then 100%.  The latter approach is cheaper too. For those who have heard of Agile project and development, this is that concept applied to ERP.

People | Processes | Technology


When your new managers join the business, they may immediately start pushing for a new ERP.  Usually the new team members are shocked at how bad the existing ERP system (or lack of one) is. They know that the processes they want to change need the technology of Microsoft Dynamics manufacturing ERP to make it work.   

The fact is sometimes the existing staff that have been there since it was a Family Culture have no idea how to implement ERP. They certainly don't have experience using ERP and they don’t understand the ramifications of the integrated nature of the system. 

Talk to your Microsoft Dynamics manufacturing ERP consultants and get their feel for your staff skill.  Don't take it for granted that all your staff can handle all your plans.  There has to be a balance between People, Processes and Technology.  If the people are the weak link, you can design a process and use the technology to a level that still generates great benefits while not setting the team up for failure.

Need some help?

Looking for pricing for Business Central or other Dynamics 365 products? You can find the current pricing at Microsoft.com. If you need help with a Microsoft Dynamics implementation, especially executing one remotely, give us a call at: (519) 585-7524 x.45 or contact our team, we're excited to talk with you soon!

Sabre is a company that has successfully migrated from an all on-site Microsoft Dynamics implementation methodology to an all remote implementation methodology over the past five years. Our specific skills are with Dynamics 365 Business Central, and our remote deployment refinement has focused on that product.

As a company experienced in remote deployment, we are in a unique position to share our experiences and expertise during this remarkable time. Given the new reality of COVID-19 and the global pandemic, the need for expertise in implementing ERP remotely (and maybe more important, at receiving a remote implementation) is something nobody could have anticipated. 

Our experience is that remote deployment, particularly for the SMB (Small and Medium Business) is more efficient and less disruptive than traditional ERP.  It reduces risks and can greatly reduce costs. 

Here’s a bit of a summary of our findings: 

5 Drawbacks of the Traditional Microsoft Dynamics Implementation 

  • Very Disruptive: The “three or four day” Consultant visit is highly disruptive to your staff, who have jobs to do and fall badly behind during training.  The first few weeks after the consultant leaves is spent catching up.  
  • Homework Never Done: As said, much of the four weeks between these intense visits are not used to complete the “homework” that has been assigned.  Experience says that only the last 2 or 3 days before the consultant returns is spent working on these activities.  
  • Diminishing Returns:  Long consultant visits create diminishing returns as staff “zone out” and lose focus by the end of the first day.  This is why colleges do not teach courses in three or four back to back eight-hour days. 
  • Imperfect Memory: Your team and the Consultant have not really seen each other since the last visit, and everyone needs to try and remember things as they were left a month ago. This results in wasted time and money. 
  • Intermittent Contact: While they are away, the consultant is spending a week at each of the three other clients they have.  It is very difficult to reach them during regular business hours and impossible to get much of their time. 
Microsoft dynamics implementation
A Dynamics 365 Implementation is a very complicated project

6 Benefits of a Remote Dynamics 365 Implementation

  • Brief Sessions: Remote sessions are kept short – 3 hours at an absolute maximum.  Staff do not lose an entire week and are more focused.  We selected this length for the same reason college lectures never exceed 3 hours.  
  • More Contact:  Consultants are not tied up for full weeks at other Microsoft Dynamics implementation clients. They are available with much more frequency to both conduct training and check in to see how things are going. Consultants behave more like instructors and can tutor their “students”. 
  • Better Rhythm: Sessions are more evenly spread out (level loaded in Lean terms) which creates a good rhythm in the project.  Things are moving along a little bit each week. 
  • Homework Complete: Short sessions mean less homework. Staff have a few days to get a few hours of homework done between sessions.  Feedback on incomplete homework is faster. 
  • Recordings for Review: This is the biggest benefit that we have seen. Brief sessions can be recorded so staff can review and re-watch. These videos become training materials for new staff in the future.  
  • Smaller Teams: Since the training is done in more frequently but in smaller recorded sessions, smaller trainee teams tends to work out much better. 

and finally 

  • Social Distancing: A remote Microsoft Dynamics implementation is by its nature entirely social distanced, something critical in today’s world. 

Just an aside: You may be interested in
my other post on Dynamics 365 Implementation mistakes.

Traditional Microsoft Dynamics Implementation Methods

At Sabre we followed the traditional ERP deployment in the past.  

The traditional Microsoft Dynamics implementation was built around in person sessions, presented in a board room to a group of customer employees.  The conventional wisdom was that customer staff needed to see the trainer to learn. That the in person, “look them in the eyes” approach was best.  Since the customer was paying for the time, they would pack those board rooms with staff.  This seemed logical and obvious.  

Full day sessions were a necessity, because with the drive time it was impossible to visit another customer.  The customer and the consultant needed to maximize the amount of time spent on-site during the Microsoft Dynamics implementation.  It often was the case that without the consultant present, the staff didn’t make any progress.  Sometimes the consultant was a very (very) well paid babysitter.  We always tried to provide the most value possible, but frankly there were times we really were there just to warm a seat. 

When customers were further away, travel time was much longer. Overnight stays were required. It was necessary to have a three- or four-day training session. Returning to do a one day touch up training refresher was not practical. Staff were unavailable to see other customers. Scheduling became more difficult. The customer staff were even less likely to do work between visits.  Who wants to work on “assignments” when they know they’re going to be tied up for an entire week next month. 

Why the Traditional Dynamics 365 Implementation was Terribly Inefficient 

The cost of a service is very much related to how efficient and risky it is.  One or the other party needs to pay for the inherent risk in any service.  A traditional Microsoft Dynamics implementation is extremely inefficient, and very risky. 

If you think about all the risks that are loaded onto the customer, it’s remarkable that people continue to want to use this in-person approach even today.  Let me list some of the risks inherent in the process: 

  • You can’t control how well employees absorb information and failure to understand will increase costs.  Sometimes this is due to the training being provided as part of the Dynamics 365 implementation, but most of the time it is simply a fact that different people learn at different speeds. 
  • You are paying for at least a whole day if not several days on site. Any disruption (eg: A surprise customer visit) can add up to very large costs very quickly.  
  • You pay for the travel time and the fares and accommodation of the consultant, which can be high even before the first minute of training occurs. 
  • Almost all Microsoft Dynamics implementation training is bespoke, so there is no curriculum, text book, training DVD or other resource to draw on.   
  • You don’t want to pay the consultant to keep notes and records; and your staff are probably not very good at record keeping.  This results in rework. 
  • Every time the consultant returns for a day there is a wasted time reviewing materials; checking on status; catching up on vacation stories and other wasted activities. 
  • Not all staff learn at the same rate, so generally the consultant works to the lowest common denominator – meaning most staff are wasting at least some of their time waiting for their colleagues.  It also means the consultant is being paid to teach slowly, not quickly.

Ways a Remote Microsoft Dynamics implementation Increases Success and Reduces Risk 

If you look at the risks above, you can see that the traditional approach looks like a terrible way to teach people a complex technology and ensure they are able to use it successfully. 

There is one area of society where we regularly teach complex ideas and expect people to successfully understand it and apply it in the real world: college.  The goals of a College course are not the same as those of a Microsoft Dynamics implementation, but they are similar.   

If you apply the techniques used in college to a Dynamics 365 implementation, you get a very different looking implementation approach; and you really change the risks.  Replacing the inefficiencies and high risk of the traditional ERP method with this “college course” style, addresses many of the risks we mentioned before. 

  • You divide the Microsoft Dynamics implementation into “streams,” and focus on both training and setting up the system in each stream. 
  • You hold shorter 3 hour sessions about once a week, like a college class. Cancelling or missing one session has a dramatically lower impact than missing a day or two. 
  • Delivering these sessions on-line is much more palatable to your staff; and reduces essentially all the travel costs. 
  • Employees who are having trouble with the content can re-watch video recordings of the sessions. 
  • Bespoke Microsoft Dynamics implementation training which is recorded provides resources to use for other reasons, such as training new employees. 

And a Sabre specific finding… 

  • Start with smaller “classes” and pick the strongest learners to participate.  Once they are really comfortable with the system, invite more staff and these “power users” can coach and help the weaker team members. 

The risks are fewer, and more manageable: 

  • Staff decide not to participate and don’t do any homework or activities between sessions. 
  • Staff are too busy to participate, and are not given the time to make the project work. 
  • Staff cannot learn except in an “in class” environment. 

These three risks can be mitigated by picking the right staff to participate in the project, especially in the beginning. 

How you can Make your Remote Microsoft Dynamics Implementation Successful

It may seem obvious, but executing the Microsoft Dynamics implementation correctly is the key to the whole thing. Setup is mostly about loading the right data into the system; and deciding how you will use it to process that data into a working business system.  The Microsoft Dynamics itself usually has a “best practices” workflow that it is designed to execute.  Sometimes this is adjusted, but as a general rule of thumb you should follow the out of the box design. 

The workflows in Dynamics 365 are a bit like a spider web; there is more than one path that can be followed to achieve an outcome. This spider web is what makes a Microsoft Dynamics implementation so difficult. Knowing which path to follow depends on your specific business needs and processes.   

As a company looking to implement Microsoft Dynamics there is a very important step that can make this process successful.  For some companies, this is relatively easy. For others it can be extremely hard and very stressful. 

Companies that have a good understanding of how an ERP works are going to generally be more successful implementing it, because they will have experienced this workflow before. ERP systems have used more or less the same process flow for decades.  Although no two ERP are exactly the same, they (almost all) follow the same general design pattern. 

Companies that have never worked with a fully integrated ERP system like Microsoft Dynamics are going to find the process much harder.  As the consultants explain the process, it will be hard to understand as it is very different from the manual processes most businesses use.  One of the best things a company in this position can do is hire an outside ERP consultant to work with them, or a contract employee to join the team during the implementation.  We call this a Business Analyst, and we’ll explain it in more detail a little later. 

In either case, this path finding exercise is best done by a small group of “power users” who drive the Microsoft Dynamics implementation.  These should be people who are comfortable with technology, and who know the business from end to end.  Often these are senior staff members that are trusted by management to make the right decisions on how things should be.  This should always be a trusted group, and only when they have validated that the right choices are made, should more staff be brought in. 

If this is done right, you will have a system that is basically ready to hand to your entire organization “ready to go.”  You want the rest of the company to learn and then demonstrate they can use the new software, but the heavy thinking and analysis will have been done by then.  At this point it should be a matter of “here’s the new software, and here’s how it works.” 

The Business Analyst

As I mentioned above, one of the more important skill sets that is often lacking in the small business is the business analyst.  The BA is someone who understands the basic flow of an ERP system, is good with software, and (usually) who knows your business.  You can definitely find this within your team, especially if you have already been using an ERP system.  The BA is going to understand the system holistically, and is going to guide the team through the Microsoft Dynamics implementation and be a leader.  You may have more than one of these people on your team. Generally, you’ll know who they are. 

Sometimes there isn’t someone on the team that can fill this role.  This usually happens when you don’t have an existing system and there isn’t any deep experience in the group with this kind of software. 

This often leads to trying to outsource the role.  

If hiring someone as a consultant to fill this role, it is very important when choosing a BA to focus on these skills: 

  • Experience with ERP systems in the same class as the one you are buying. 
  • Experience in your industry. 
  • Experience with a minimum of 8 ERP implementations. 
  • A good Project Manager 

It can be counter productive to find someone with experience in the ERP you are purchasing.  This for a few reasons: 

  • You are already paying the consultants to have that experience. 
  • They will almost always be at significant a premium if they are any good. 
  • They may have bad habits from a previous Microsoft Dynamics implementation.
  • They will often see the consultants as competitors and it can create conflict (especially if they are not as strong as they claim and are threatened). 
  • It may lead you to select someone with too little implementation experience. 
  • It may lead you to select someone little to no experience in your industry 

The last 2 bullets are the most significant as they can create huge problems for the implementation if the BA doesn’t understand your business or has a lack of experience.  

The business analyst can make or break an Dynamics 365 implementation, especially if the rest of the team is weak or not engaged in the project. 

Trust the Dynamics 365 Implementation Consultants

This section applies to both kinds of business (those with ERP experience and those without).  The reasons are not quite the same. 

If you want to keep your costs down (whether you have a BA on staff or not) you want to follow this advice. 

If you are from the organization that hasn’t got a lot of ERP experience, and you choose to skip adding a BA to your team, then this is critical.  You will need to rely on the ERP consulting firm you’ve selected to guide you through the implementation.  In much the same way that you are going to select a BA, you should select this company. 

You should look at a Dynamics 365 implementation vendor or consultant who: 

  • Has specific experience and ideally specializes in your industry. 
  • Who’s consultants regularly work on projects of your size and for businesses like yours. 
  • Have a good process that matches much of what we’ve discussed above. 
  • Are honest about the risks and the difficulty. 

If you find this vendor, then you need to trust them!  This is a hard thing to do, because you’re going to change your business fairly radically with a new ERP.  They are going to suggest things you may not understand, and they will tell you that other companies have done the same thing successfully.   

If you don’t trust them, you need to look elsewhere. 

Be very careful of the vendor who promises that it will be easy. It is hard work to execute a Dynamics 365 implementation.  It can be made easier, if you approach it correctly, but it is never easy. 

Need some help?

Looking for pricing for Business Central or other Dynamics 365 products? You can find the current pricing at Microsoft.com. If you need help with a Microsoft Dynamics implementation, especially executing one remotely, give us a call at: (519) 585-7524 x.45 or contact our team, we're excited to talk with you soon!

Dynamics 365 is a brand rather than a product, and as such there are a number of different products under that brand. There are two basic versions of Dynamics 365 Manufacturing ERP systems, each of which supports manufacturing and supply chain businesses.

The older product in the Dynamics 365 product line is Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations. Finance and Operations was previously known as Dynamics AX and Dynamics 365 Enterprise. The newer product is Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central. Business Central was previously known as Dynamics NAV. Both products originated in Denmark, and were acquired together by Microsoft in about 2001.

Dynamics 365 Manufacturing comes in 2 versions: Finance and Operations and Business Central

Sabre works exclusively with customers with Dynamics 365 Business Central, but we know a enough about the Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations (aka Dynamics AX) to help you in your decision. Each of these systems serves a different market, and both Dynamics 365 Manufacturing ERP platforms are robust and well suited to those markets.

In this article I am going to try and give you some guidance as to what the best choice would be for your business. I'll ask a series of questions and depending on whether the answer is yes or no, you can score one for Business Central or for Finance and Operations.

Workers reviewing Dynamics 365 Manufacturing data on a laptop

#1 - Do you have an IT Department

The first question to help choose the right Dynamics 365 Manufacturing ERP is about an IT department. We are not talking about having one IT technician or network administrator here. A department should have a manager or Chief Information Officer, one or more systems analysts, one or more programmers, some network administrators and desktop support and probably a project manager.

Score 1 for Business Central if this seems overkill. Score 1 for Finance and Operations if you definitely have that kind of team.

#2 - Is your budget over $500,000

This is a really easy way to measure which Dynamics 365 Manufacturing solution is the right one. Dynamics 365 Pricing is really different between the two systems. Finance and Operations starts at $180 per month - but for most manufacturing companies they will be paying about $210 per month per user. The minimum user count is 20, so that's about $4200 per month to start.

Note: All this pricing is in USD

Business Central starts at $70 per month, and has no minimum. For full Dynamics 365 manufacturing in Business Central you'll get the Premium version for $100 monthly. Sabre finds most customers start with about 10 users during training, so you can get going for about $1000 a month.

In addition to the cost of the software, the training for Finance and Operations is well known to be much higher than for Business Central. The system is much more complex and advanced, and whether you use it or not, the extra features must be accounted for in training. Expect to spend no less than $250,000 in training Finance and Operations.

Sabre Training and Implementation programs for Dynamics 365 Manufacturing with Business Central start at around $30,000 plus support costs - and can get up to $145,000 for very complex implementations (usually companies with at least 30 full users). Even including the software licensing during training - customers can easily keep an implementation under $40,000.

In this case you may not be able to exclude Business Central based on price, but you can definitely exclude Finance and Operations. If the Finance and Operations price is out of your budget, score one for BC. Otherwise give both products a mark.

If you want to learn more about Business Central you should read some more here.

#3 - Do you Need Enterprise Financials

Do you have financial requirements that include things like:

  • Multi-Jurisdiction taxation (generally Europe, Asia and North America - not just Canada and/or the USA) and regulation compliance
  • Sarbanes-Oxley and other public company requirements
  • Multi-Currency, Multi-Location, Multi-Entity analysis
  • Government contract overhead and rate management and reporting

If you are looking at these and thinking "yes - we definitely need advanced financials like this" then the Dynamics 365 Manufacturing ERP that gets the point on it's score card is Finance and Operations. If you do not need these, then you can give both products a mark.

#4 - Are you a Mixed Mode Manufacturer

A Mixed Mode manufacturer is one that does a combination of types of manufacturing. For instance, if you process manufacturing (eg: Chemical, Food, Cosmetic or Pharma) and separately manufacture packaging in a discreet manufacturing environment - that is mixed mode. If you both do volume production of repetitive product, and engineer to order - that is mixed mode.

This condition is especially true if you have a vertically integrated manufacturing business with locations that supply each other with product.

Looking at the Dynamics 365 Manufacturing features, you should score 1 for Finance and Operations if any of these are true:

  • You have at least 3 manufacturing facilities in at least 2 different countries that supply each other
  • You have at least 5 different manufacturing facilities with 3 different modes of manufacturing that supply each other.
  • You have over 500 manufacturing employees.

You could have any one of those 3 bullets and still give Business Central a point, but if you have 2 or more of these as true then the point goes to Finance and Operations and BC gets zero.

#4 - Are you too big for Business Central

The last test for Dynamics 365 Manufacturing is going to check to see if you are too big for Business Central. Business Central is a bit too small of an ERP for most companies of over 100 full ERP users (full users would be accounting, purchasing, logistics, supervisory, scheduling etc...) excluding the time tracking or material handling users. That would be a $10,000 a month Business Central subscription, about $20,000 a month for F&O.

This isn't a hard and fast rule, but unless the business has a very uniform business model across that many users, it's unlikely that Business Central is the right product.

Score 2 points for Finance and Operations if you are over 100 full users.

Dynamics 365 Manufacturing Infographic

Below is an infographic we've crated that explains the Finance and Operations vs Business Central in a more visual way.

Dynamics 365 Manufacturing
Dynamics 365 Manufacturing ERP Systems Compared

If you need help with a Dynamics 365 Manufacturing systems choice, give us a call at: (519) 585-7524 x.45 or contact our team, we're excited to talk with you soon!