Dynamics GP vs. Dynamics 365 – Keys to a Successful Upgrade
Dynamics 365 Business Central replaces GP and unifies the finance function with the rest of the business. Dynamics GP, formerly Great Plains, is a suite of accounting and ERP software for small and medium-sized businesses purchased by Microsoft in 2000.
The platform provides SMBs with access to more robust financial tools than you’d find in other “entry level” accounting systems. Inside, you’ll find tools that support manufacturing processes, allow users to manage several companies and business units, and an integrated payroll functionality.
GP isn’t as adaptable as other Dynamics solutions— but this is by design. GP comes with some baked-in guardrails that enable faster implementation. It also integrates with ISV solutions and 3rd-party data sources, making it easy to sync the accounting stack with the rest of the business.
GP users can perform all the same accounting functions in D365, with some major upgrades. But, they’ll also unlock new features and functionalities that extend beyond accounting. D365 offers way more business processes right out of the box. That means you’ll get a more cohesive ERP system than GP, which relies heavily on 3rd-party integrations.
Dynamics BC comes with a whole library of out of-the-box reports and integrates with Power BI. Instead of manually creating and emailing spreadsheets, D365 users can instantly generate reports. What’s more, D365’s automatic updates mean you’re always up to date with changing standards and new innovations. No need to worry about workarounds and security patches.
What are the Biggest Hurdles Clients Must Overcome to Successfully Migrate from GP to Dynamics 365?
It’s important to emphasize that the real difference between Dynamics 365 and Dynamics GP is that they’re two distinct products. While Microsoft does offer tools that can help you bring existing data and business processes into the new system, “migrating” from GP to D365 isn’t a true upgrade. GP represents one of many ERP tools in your stack. So, what you’re really looking at is a two-part process.
First you’re consolidating all relevant data and processes. Then from there, you’re migrating what you want to keep to the new system.
Here’s a look at some of the challenges you’ll want to prepare for:
Rethinking Everything About How You Work
Moving to the cloud has a significant impact on how employees work. Understanding the tremendous differences between the two systems is important. Business Central is a new system that requires you to rethink your business processes.
This problem can be addressed by removing the features you don’t need and optimizing the ones with the greatest impact on the business. But, it takes a lot of planning and documentation to get this right.
Customizations & 3rd-Party Apps
One of the main benefits of migrating to BC is you’re relying less on ISV solutions and 3rd-party vendors to run simple tasks like cutting a check. At the same time, consolidating all these data sources represents one of the biggest challenges organizations face during the migration process.
With GP, reliance on 3rd-party applications can make migration difficult. In part, because you’ll need to learn the language that different vendors and apps use to describe processes and organize data. That means, you’re adding this extra layer of difficulty to the process. First, you’re decoding the various nuances and terminology from each system to ID gaps and overlapping functionality. Then, you’re making that decision about which processes to migrate, replace, or improve. Beyond the logistical challenges of tracking down processes from disparate systems, clients also struggle to evaluate potential solutions.
You’ll find that within Business Central, most of the functionality you relied on ISVs for is included out of the box. A variety of extensions and application enhancements can be found on AppSource. Your partner can help guide you to choose the best ISVs for your needs.
Data Migration Wizard
Microsoft provides a data migration wizard to help users (coming from GP versions 2015 or later) get some of their data into the new system. The wizard only migrates the financial data you need to start using the new system–specifically master records and open transactions. That way, you can start using BC for critical processes while you complete the rest of the implementation.
That data includes:
Chart of Accounts
Vendor accounts & open receivables
Customers & open payables
The migration tool includes diagnostics run for verifying data before deploying to the new system. It also allows you to “uncheck” items you don’t want to migrate but it’s better for handling one-off records that slipped through the cracks. You’ll want to dig into each of these categories and clean up old or inaccurate data before you start the migration process. For example, you might delete raw materials you no longer use from your inventory records. You might also clean up customer records and make sure your General Ledger is set up correctly. For historical data (SOs, POs, bank transactions, etc.), you could connect your Dynamics GP system to a reporting tool using a connector, to bring insights into BC–though you’ll eventually want to migrate that data into the new system directly.
Replication is an intelligent cloud sync tool that allows you to sync master data from your on-prem solution to the new, cloud-based Business Central tenant. This process does enable you to store data from the on-prem platform in the cloud, but that data is read-only in BC. That means that while you can access GP insights from the new system, all data is entered via GP. You’ll need to manually replicate GP data or schedule syncs in advance to receive updated information–adding an extra step to the reporting process and potentially slow down your ability to take action on time-sensitive data points.
Ultimately, it’s best to look at replication as an interim solution as you work through the rest of the migration process.
RapidStart allows users to extract, import, and update historical data– think completed POs, SOs,bank records–from GP to D365. RapidStart also allows users to create journal entries in batches and configuration templates to speed up (and eventually automate) the implementation process. This tool allows you to load customer data, chart of accounts, journal entries, and companies–so you can get up and running quickly–and incorporate large data sets as you grow.
What Separates Successful GP Migrations from Those That Fail?
An Adaptable Internal Culture
Dynamics 365 is designed to help businesses quickly adapt business processes and tactics to reach key business objectives. You can add modules, ISV solutions, change up the metrics in your financial reports, automate back-office processes, etc–putting the rest of the system at risk. Adaptability is about being prepared to take advantage of new tools and technologies as things change. But it’s more about culture than technology, and you’ll need to put in the work of shifting your organization’s collective mindset to ensure your implementation leads to sustained, long-term gains.
It comes from a strong culture of data literacy, knowing how to operationalize data and move fast. It’s also about establishing strong governance policies and controls for keeping data organized, compliant, and easy to find.
Long-term, you’ll want to monitor system performance–is it continuing to deliver the desired outcome? Are there opportunities to improve? New capabilities you can use? Ultimately, you’ll need to get away from rigid solutions and processes to make the most out of this flexible new system.
Commitment from Leadership and Internal Experts
Top-down commitment, along with support throughout the organization is essential for staying aligned when multiple groups with competing goals are working together.
Ideally, clients also have a dedicated project manager or champion who can act as the main point of contact–essentially, leading and ‘quarterbacking’ efforts internally. This person should have a solid grasp of finance and operations–and understand how these areas impact the rest of the business.
Collaboration with Your Implementation Partner
Enlisting some help from an experienced implementation partner like our team here at Coast Technology Services goes a long way in making sure your D365 migration delivers the desired outcome, as efficiently as possible.
When you bring in outside experts to support these high-level projects, it’s important to understand what that entails. What that means is, your partner can’t do all of the work for you. Internally, you’ll want to:
Evaluate your strategy, goals, and business processes before reaching out to potential partners.
Get real clear on what you want out of this project.
Figure out what’s working–or not, using employee feedback as your guide.
You don’t have to have all of the answers, but you should be able to communicate your goals and what kinds of changes you’d like to see come from this implementation.
All apps, processes, and workflows must connect to a specific goal and support users in their work. The more details you can provide to your partner, the more likely they are to find solutions that address those goals.
Reach out to our experts to discuss your move from Dynamics GP to Dynamics 365 Business Central today.
As an experienced Microsoft Partner, our team here at Coast Technology Services has the knowledge and expertise to help your business plan and execute a smooth and effective ERP migration. We're here to help- so please feel free to contact us with any questions.