By: Dann Anthony Maurno
Remember the surprise Microsoft Dynamics GP announcements that made waves in 2017?
No, you do not, as there were none. That’s not to say that enterprise software is supposed to be about surprises. But as the Dynamics 365 roadmap and segmentation plans became more clear this year, the GP community also came to understand that their beloved product would remain supported and under active development, but future advances are almost certain to come at a slower pace.
So, on the surface, Dynamics GP seems like it is entering its twilight years. But SMB partners and their customers are undaunted. Partners, for example, continue to embrace the possibilities of Azure for both infrastructure hosting and for full deployments. And both Microsoft and the GP community seem eager to continue incorporating key cloud technologies like Power BI, Flow, and PowerApps into the product where they can.
And perhaps most significant, just last week Microsoft revealed some open empathy for (and realism about) its SMB customers, partners, and products. The company’s CVP & CFO for Commercial and Enterprise Dave O’Hara told Credit Suisse Analyst Michael Nemeroff:
We see legacy as a great asset because we have all these customers running these products. And our responsibility is to make sure that our cloud offerings work with those existing products, so that they don’t have to go through some nasty transition…there is no other company on the planet that has the array of offerings that we have.
No, he advised, on-prem products (the bulk of Dynamics GP installs) will not just fade as the cloud grows; Microsoft will maintain those products and be ready for customers’ hybrid and full-cloud transitions.
Several Microsoft Dynamics GP experts and SMB enthusiasts lent their intelligence to MSDynamicsWorld in 2017, and following are their most read how-to and opinion pieces.
“Have they written this market off?” asked Technology Management’s James Crowter, referring to Microsoft’s SME/SMB market strategy. It seemed a fair question to ask in September of this year. After all:
Which SME events have Satya, Scott, James Phillips, who heads Dynamics from a product perspective, or Alysa Taylor from Dynamics product marketing attended? Marko Perisic was left alone to try to deliver and then defend the abortive strategy at Directions US last week to traditional Dynamics SMB partners.
Recalling James Phillips’s presentation at Ignite, Crowter observed that it’s an enterprise-focused conference, as Convergence became. “SMEs don’t take the time to go to events like that, the time and expense doesn’t warrant it,” writes Crowter. All of which raises the questions among SMB partners:
Do Phillips and the rest of the Dynamics senior team only ever meet enterprise customers and enterprise-focused partners?…Aren’t any of the SMB partners big enough (despite doing massively more turnover collectively) to spend time with? How do they get feedback about this market at all?
As the author or co-author of five books on Microsoft Dynamics GP (e.g., Real-world Business Intelligence with Microsoft Dynamics GP), Fastpath Director of Client Services and Microsoft MVP Mark Polino is invested in the power of the pen. He believes in books.
But does the Microsoft GP Team, or the millennial generation? Starting with GP 2015, not all GP manuals were updated; only those with significant changes. Moreover, they moved to PDFs, then online versions, creating “a weird game of hide and seek where users had to open different version locations to find all the manuals,” says Polino. And since then, GP 2015 and 2016 documentation has moved to blog posts – but not necessarily to Dynamics GP’s Help system. Polino writes:
I’m willing to accept a world without manuals because ultimately the information is more important than the delivery vehicle, but the information has to exist. In the case of GP, many of the new items aren’t making it into the Help system. Other information only exists in blog posts and that content isn’t nearly deep enough. If the manuals aren’t going to be reasonably updated then the information needs to move to Help and the search feature in Help needs significant improvement.
General journal entries are fraught with the peril of fraud. Without proper segregation of duties, any one of a group of users can create a fictitious account with journal entries against it. Dynamics GP offers mitigating controls – but, in addition to Transaction Entry, general journal entries can be made via two little-known and easil forgotten features: Quick Journals and Clearing Entries.
Fastpath’s Mark Polino alerts us to this propped-open door in the back of the building; also how to close and lock it. He writes:
Allowing users access to Quick Journals and Clearing Entries represents a gaping hole in the mitigation strategy for journal entries in many organizations.
Fortunately, this is an easy fix. Simply remove the Quick Journal Entry and Clearing Entry windows from any tasks that allow journal entries. It’s that easy.
Successful SMB ERP partners will embrace market shift to cloud apps like Dynamics 365, says Microsoft GM Paul White
Yes, Microsoft is committed to supporting your Dynamics GP instance; it is also committed to moving you to Dynamics 365. In an interview, former GM of Dynamics SMB Paul White said of NAV, GP and SL:
All products go forward. Our commitment to cloud and Dynamics 365 changes nothing about our commitment to Dynamics NAV, GP and SL. We respect the investment that customers and partners have made in these products. We are committed to helping them make the most of their investment.
At the same time, Microsoft announced an offering to migrate existing NAV, GP and SL customers to Dynamics 365. The majority of existing Dynamics customers chose to buy perpetual licenses, but when they are ready to move to the cloud, said White, Microsoft wants to help them “trade in”:
This “trade in” takes the form of a 40 percent discount on the first 3 years of their subscription to the Business Edition Plan. We want Dynamics 365 to be the most compelling option for any existing NAV, GP and SL customer. Some part of that story is about the product/service we offer. Some part is about the range of additional solutions that our Partners make available in AppSource. Some part of that story is commercial.
This interview was conducted by Guus Krabbenborg at Directions EMEA 2016, and was originally published as part of the Directions EMEA 2016 Business Report, a publication of Partner Master Class and QBS Group.
In theory, a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) and Remote Desktop Services (RDS) are two means to the same end. And RDS may seem the “lower-hanging fruit” of the two, but cautions Concerto Cloud Services Solution Consultant Rob Curls, it’s not a great desktop replacement strategy because it doesn’t provide a good user experience. What happens on the RDS server can impact all users, meaning that one user’s memory-intensive session can grind the office to a halt.
But with VDI:
Resources that are associated with a virtual machine are dedicated specifically to a user. So you don’t have the same ‘noisy neighbor’ challenge or that issue where a user may run amok with the processor.
And, VDI offers greater protection against malware:
VDI brings individual users’ machines and consolidates them in the data center. So if you have a dispersed workforce that is working with sensitive information that would typically be on a local work station out in the field, all of that data is now secure.
“I appreciate early adopters,” writes DataSelf CEO Joni Girardi. But after 25 years of software development (including his own product, DataSelf Analytics), Girardi urges medium-sized businesses to err toward mature technology.
One pitfall is the “me-too mindset” – that an organization must throw itself into artificial intelligence and onto Hadoop to be competitive (else, why would there be such buzz about them?).
Girardi takes the surprising position, “If I need improvements, I hesitate before reaching for any upgrade”:
I like to sell upgrades for my software as much as the next vendor. But I’ve found that prudent customers think hard before they go for it. Is the faster performance, squashed bugs, and more polished UI worth it? Inevitably, new versions bring new bugs. Some features are of no use to many users. In my own office, I’ve found that current versions usually do the job just fine.
The short story is, a company that cannot stand the potential disruption and expense of living on the “bleeding edge” shouldn’t go there just yet.
Does a test environment that is painfully slow and poorly configured offer a realistic test at all?
No, argues Fastpath’s Mark Polino; they are a low priority, thus don’t get enough resources in terms of memory and processors. But cloud environments like Azure can make great options for test environments (even if the primary system isn’t in the cloud).
And they are a powerful asset:
A good test environment makes it easy for users to play with new features. This helps avoid testing in production and the inherent risks that come with that. If it’s hard to get to test, production may be at risk.
On top of which, test environments are perfect for training, eliminating the dangers of new users processing transactions in production.
Finally, test environments are a secret weapon in disaster recovery. Creating one from a production backup validates the backup process, and a well-designed test environment refresh can validate a company’s disaster recovery process.
With Microsoft Inspire 2017, the company offered a fresh take on its Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) of many years. What it delivered was “shock and awe,” with a sales-org shakeup at Microsoft coming just days before, and some clear messaging that Microsoft’s vision favors innovators over the “general purpose” partners.
Guus Krabbenborg of both QBS Group and Partner Master Class gave MSDynamicsWorld readers an overview of trending topics and guidance as where partners should focus at Inspire 2017. Among the key areas:
- Product strategy and branding: The twelve months prior left partners asking, “Is Microsoft’s mantra Cloud First or Cloud Only?” and “Exactly what will be available, when, and where?”
- Cloud opportunities: With the internal reorganization to “One Microsoft” came the “One Commercial Partner” model – Krabbenborg advised partners to demand a better understanding of how they would be managed moving forward, and Microsoft delivered that.
- Vision for the future: Traditional ERP partners must brace themselves for Microsoft’s enormous growth plans in the CRM domain for FY18. So partners can expect recruitment of thousands of new CRM partners worldwide, who today are working with Dynamics ERP, Office 365, and/or competing CRM solutions. So advises Krabbenborg, “Especially for the existing Dynamics ERP partners, it’s wise to watch for readiness programs that provide support and assistance.