By: John Silvani
Over the past four years we have moved many companies from their older on-premises Dynamics GP systems to browser-based applications built on the Microsoft Dynamics cloud platform. These new solutions give organizations easier access and more efficiencies than they had before.
In making the decision to leave the on-premises world, similar concerns come up across many of these implementations. Most of them are entirely reasonable, and the work we do together with users to improve adoption and manage change also demonstrates the magnitude of the transition that is underway in enterprise software for buyers, vendors, and service providers.
- Performance – GP users are used to their software having a “fat” client with the server in the closet behind them. With GP the on-screen feedback was usually immediate. Press a button and the screen changed or the report was done. Moving them to a world in which the server is hundreds or even a thousand of miles away changes everything. And performance can change. Today’s response can take a few extra seconds as there are any number of uncontrollable variables between the user’s computer and the servers holding their information. Accounting systems by their nature are transaction-based and very different that the typical web-based applications that only deal with one record at a time.
- Browser Issues – The Dynamics GP client is a dedicated application for accounting information and nothing else. By design this client does a lot of internal data validation and controlled access from 3rd party extensions. Along comes a browser with all its extensions. Watch a movie on Netflix in one tab and run your accounting system in another. Nobody closes their browser between applications, clears its cache and opens their accounting app. And don’t forget that each browser works a little differently. Ever see sites that work better in Chrome than IE? Users expect the same experience each time they open an application, but today their browser has remnants of shopping on Amazon or the other tab just froze in an online game.
- Server Access – With GP on-premises consultants have access to the server and the raw data it holds. It could be direct SQL queries or ODBC access, but there were always ways of getting directly to the data to fix an issue, write an application, or import/export data. Cloud platforms are shared between many separate users, and for security and integrity you can only access the data in the tools or methods the developers allow. Your query of a million records will slow everyone else on the platform. You may be limited to specific development languages, access protocols or even time limits for execution. It often feels like you have one hand tied behind your back.
So how do you overcome these issues? Education. Both consultants and clients need to be educated about how to work with this new architecture. To start, remember some of the benefits of a cloud platform:
- Anywhere, real-time access – no RDP or special settings, no software to install, only a browser and an internet connection needed.
- No setup or installation – you can start using the application immediately. No weeks of installation on servers.
- Data reliability and security beyond what most companies can afford – redundant hardware, power and communications. 24/7 system network monitoring. Most guarantee 99.999% uptime. Most users will never have to deal with system issue.
- Almost instant scalability – go from 30 to 300 users almost instantly. No upgrading hardware, or internet lines.
- Software always current – no need to plan yearly upgrades.
I think a lot about the ways organizations should work with cloud systems, but in the end it really gets down to educating the users on how to work differently. How to multi-task in ways that weren’t possible before. We recently had a user that complained their reports were taking 10 to 20 seconds longer to run. We showed them how they could have a second browser tab open and work on another task in the application while the report was rendering. Suddenly it became more efficient than the old system.
Consultants also need to be educated on all the tools and techniques available for the platform. Most software providers have built access points for third parties or consultants to use and have secure method of authentication. Also, be aware of the limitations of the platform and how to work around them. You can usually accomplish the same thing but need to do it differently. Instead of executing a SQL query against the database you may need to write a workflow to update the data.
In the end our customers have been very happy with their platforms, their reliability, their access, and even their performance. It is just different.