Two years ago I started working at Schouw Informatisering. My involvement is centered towards the product development arena. Schouw is a Dutch company with industry focus on Food and Fresh Produce with IP’s on both NAV and AX. Implementing not only in the Netherlands by ourselves but also abroad by enabling strong VAR partners. This year Schouw celebrates its 20th Anniversary. Needless to say, we have quite some experience under our belt.
Last week, the launch of Dynamics 356 Business Central was announced for the 2nd of April 2018.
Written by: Dänny Hellemons, Product Development Manager
First of all, let’s jump back to where it all started for me. The year is 2016 and I just started at Schouw, learning the essentials about NAV and AX and our IP’s on both ERP platforms. One thing that I quickly managed to learn was that both ERP platforms are flexible in their own setup and configuration, customizations are embedded in both (in AX that’s called over layering), furthermore many horizontal add-ons are available and above all, there’s a strong community of verticals. This flexibility is one of its strengths but at the same time also its biggest pitfall. There’s heavy customizations on two ends. On the one hand there’s the IP itself (product) embedded in the core ERP code. On the other hand, there’s customer (project) customizations. This leads to complex upgrade scenarios and heavy investments in time and money both for the customer and the ISV, eventually ending in an unwanted expanding gap between the current state of my ERP as the heart of my IT landscape and the one I need, the one I wish for.
At that same time, AX evolved into AX7, a Cloud SaaS based ERP platform, now known as Dynamics 365 for Finance & Operations. Furthermore, Project Madeira was introduced and shown for the first time. Also being a SaaS based ERP platform but acting as a successor for NAV. Now known as Dynamics 365 Business Central. Later on in the summer of that year, the Dynamics 365 platform was introduced. As expected, excitement arose. But when the dust eventually settled, so did a lot of questions. The first steps seemed to be difficult, the platform was not quit finished and adoption was lacking. Let me give you my two cents on this situation.
First, Dynamics 365 is not just an ERP platform. Sure, we also have CRM Online, but we already had that. We have Microsoft Apps showing up, all branded as “D365 for”, e.g. Marketing, Sales, Retail, Talent etc., purpose driven functions with a rich experience and strong process focus. Microsoft Partners are enabled to deliver and share a wide range of applications through the Microsoft AppSource. An ecosystem evolves. Next to this the Dynamics 365 platform gives us the capabilities of BI, AI, cognitive services and much more. But most of all we have Azure, a combination of solutions and tools to enable us to do and interact with the cool stuff. Trust me, I’m a nerd ;-). When have you ever been enabled to deliver your solution to your customer to this extent? Afraid of vendor lock-in? Then try to build everything yourself and keep up ;-).
Dynamics 365 is Cloud based. Also delivered On Premise. Sure as a transition path into the Cloud, it’s inevitable. But in a step-by-step process, without forcing you if you just can’t or do not want to at this moment in time. We are currently in the process of an On Premise setup for Dynamics 365 for Finance & Operations.
Mass customization… The challenge is, will it be flexible enough to allow us to build our industry focus IP and to deliver/ implement the solution our customer needs? This is done on both ERP solutions by using events and extensions. Sure we are just getting there for NAV, but it’s been in place for Finance & Operations a while now. Based on our experience, start rethinking and rebuilding your solution and Microsoft will deliver on the promise to provide you with the processes and events you need once you get involved. We have a few cases of over layering left, BTW which are on the Microsoft shortlist/ backlog for Finance & Operations. The real challenge is to come up with a blended approach of using platform capabilities. A combination of the right tools for the right job. Not every function needs to be in the ERP. In which case why build/embed everything into the ERP? Build purpose driven Apps “on top off”, based on the Common Data Services for Apps, extend using functions frameworks to allow for heavy customization, integration, connection. Above all, envision how it could or should be. Define your new UX, how do you want to support the business processes of your customer?
We have spent the last few months on defining our functional framework (product matrix) for our Business Central (NAV) solution, the decomposition of it all and how these functions relate and are based on and rely on ERP functions. That’s a starting point to rethink and blend. We started making use of an Event Driven Architecture with Azure Event Grid functions, which also allows us to tie everything together in a loosely coupled manner providing us with greater flexibility than we ever had. And you want your customer to be more responsive to business moments and events? The same Event Driven Architecture allows you, next to having BI on Common Data Services for Data Analytics to make a researched decision, to move to real time decisions.
Microsoft has always been partner led. Microsoft delivers on the platform, the tools, the approach. By delivering solutions, we as partners bring meaning to all of this for our customers; a new journey on the Dynamics 365 platform. The promise is ready enough for all of us to get on board. Functions will be added and the technology will stabilize. Now let’s embark on this journey. We already started doing this for Dynamics 365 for Finance & Operations last year. First we just migrated our IP to the new platform. Now this summer we will deliver a Dynamics 365 food solution with all the capabilities you can expect from a Dynamics 365 for Finance & Operations enabled vertical. Faster than I thought we would. The biggest step is to build skills, a.k.a. your readiness.
I was lucky to experience this transition, good timing, great challenge. Next stop Dynamics 365 Business Central. See you around.
Want to know more about Dynamics 365 for Finance & Operations? Follow the webinar, 19 April 2018 (in Dutch).