Legacy Software Review: Microsoft
AX, NAV, GP, SL … in and amongst the acronyms, there lies a fascinating story of how Microsoft sidestepped building its own ERP by acquiring existing software. Or so it thought.
Fast-forward to today, where Microsoft Dynamics 365 and Business Central have largely replaced Axapta, Navision, Great Plains, and Solomon. While Microsoft will continue to provide support for these legacy products, making the move to a modern cloud ERP is not a simple upgrade.
Current users of Microsoft legacy software products may be wondering what the next steps are in their ERP journey. Should they follow the migration path that Microsoft has established in order to maintain relationships with current customers, or should they venture out into the market and select a brand-new platform?
Let’s explore the benefits of upgrading to new products as well as the consequences that follow from discontinuing the use of Microsoft products. To begin, we will take a look at how it all started.
History of Microsoft Legacy Software
Despite international recognizability and use, Microsoft had humble beginnings in the ERP world. The company established its first ERP products through the acquisition of preexisting platforms rather than through the creation of their own.
At the dawn of their ERP journey, Microsoft purchased Great Plains, which had recently purchased Solomon. Shortly thereafter, their search went international and they discovered Navision, a company from Denmark, which had just acquired a Danish ERP provider called Axapta.
From there, Microsoft marketed the four products as Dynamics GP, Dynamics SL, Dynamics NAV, and Dynamics AX; however, these abbreviations proved to be confusing to customers. Microsoft also tried to market all four products as a single ERP called “Dynamics”, but some customers only wanted one of the offerings, so Microsoft moved to sell and support the four products separately.
When Microsoft decided to upgrade their ERP platform, they consolidated and rebranded: Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central is commonly used by smaller and midsized organizations, while Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations, otherwise known as Finance and Supply Chain, is for larger organizations.
Issues with Microsoft Legacy Software
Current users of Dynamics GP, Dynamics SL, Dynamics NAV, and Dynamics AX may experience some of the following pain points:
GP: Requires different instances and databases for multi-company use; pulling data from different instances is cumbersome.
NAV: Facing end-of-life and end-of-support, but is overall a good product for manufacturing companies, especially those with international business.
SL: Unsupported by many companies today, making it particularly challenging to customize — companies who once supported SL and other legacy applications have moved on to working with products such as NetSuite, Acumatica, and Sage.
AX: Many AX implementation partners have been acquired by large consulting firms who are urging them to get onto newer products that are relevant in today’s market. AX also requires a full-time IT consultant to provide necessary support.
Upgrading to Microsoft: The Benefits
If you are on a Microsoft legacy software product, you may feel like you need to look at a completely new platform in order to upgrade. While we always recommend staying up to date in your research of a new ERP, we do not want you to assume that going back to Microsoft will result in disaster.
Microsoft’s newer ERP products bear little resemblance to their predecessors. Even if you choose to stay loyal to the Microsoft platform, a solid ERP implementation can make Microsoft feel completely new.
BENEFITS OF STAYING WITH MICROSOFT INCLUDE:
Microsoft has created a simple migration path with incentives to upgrade to their products.
Microsoft software is flexible. It can be customized to fulfill the needs of different companies and industries.
Many companies build applications based on the Microsoft core products, allowing easy access to tools that are closely integrated and fully functional with Microsoft.
The software for Business Central and Finance & Operations was created in such a way that clients would be able to incorporate their own technology into the platform without impacting the core on an upgrade, allowing for customizations to stay intact.
Customizations can be done at a reduced cost due to familiarity of Microsoft in the marketplace.
Tips for Upgrading Successfully
Whichever application you choose, here are some ways you can make the transition as smooth as possible.
DON’T WAIT UNTIL IT’S TOO LATE
Depending on what legacy software your company is using, Microsoft has, in most cases, given current users a 10-year window for support. So, while you do have some time, you do not want transition at the last minute. Remember, ERP implementations are often measured in months and years, not days and weeks.
It is important to give yourself plenty of breathing room to do your due diligence in looking for a new application. The goal is to avoid an issue with sunsetted software, leaving your company with no support. Along with this, the more time you give yourself to research the market, the more negotiation power you will have when you find your next ERP.
FIND OUT YOUR REQUIREMENTS
As you begin the search for new products, you must first decide what your needs are. Look at any issues you face on your current software. What pain points would you like to resolve with a new application? What are you hoping to get out of the software? What does new software offer that would make its implementation beneficial to your company? Make a list of everything you want to correct, then compare it to the products available in the marketplace.
PICK YOUR PRODUCT CAREFULLY
After you find some products that you like, you can begin narrowing down your search. Do not be afraid to level-up — but also do not seek more than what will be used. It is not necessary to pay for extra features when they will not be utilized. It is better to find the right size product to pay for something that has more than what is needed.
Do not simply look at the Microsoft marketplace. Look around and remember that there may be many more products available today than there were when the legacy software was purchased.
FIND THE RIGHT IMPLEMENTATION PARTNER
Do thorough research when the time comes to select your implementation partner. Do not merely go with the first firm that you find. If you already have a trusted advisor in another area, perhaps an accounting firm that you have used for years, remember that while they may be great accountants, they likely do not have expertise when it comes to ERP products or implementation partners, so it is best to involve true ERP experts in the decision-making process.
REMEMBER NO IMPLEMENTATION IS EASY
All implementations will have their own set of challenges. No matter what Microsoft legacy software products you currently have, there is not an immediate need to panic about making an upgrade. Rest assured Microsoft is doing the right thing for their customers by offering a lengthy support system.
If you are ready to make the change, feel free to reach out to us for help. ERP Advisors Group has the experience it takes to assist you in all of your company’s ERP endeavors.