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Peter Joeckel, TurnOnDynamics

More Real Differences between Microsoft Dynamics NAV and AX

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    Recent blog posts regarding the “real” differences between Microsoft Dynamics NAV and AX have been popular submissions. The level of interest indicates that additional analysis may be beneficial.

    First, let’s set aside one of the biggest hindrances to receiving an unbiased analysis from your Microsoft partner: your Microsoft partner. Your partner’s comfort level with a product—based on issues like bench strength, industry knowledge, product expertise, and technical savvy—may cause them to champion a product that is right for them, but not necessarily the best solution for your business. 

    I’ve asked my colleague Thom Doss to help write this series because of his impressive background in business, technology, and ERP software. I’m sure Thom’s unbiased analysis will give you a lot to chew on regarding the dramatic differences between Microsoft Dynamics NAV and AX.

    Before we start this series, Thom would like everyone to know that he Loves NAV!  As a customer shopping for ERP software in early 2000, he found the combination of comprehensive business logic, ease of use, and extensibility of the product to be a perfect fit for the manufacturing company that he ran IT for.  But the IT landscape has changed since then, and the competition is a lot better than it was before.

    Given the recent direction and progress of both NAV and AX, it is getting increasingly difficult to find situations where “when all things are considered,” there isn’t a clear and obvious right choice in ERP software. The problem is that all things are rarely considered. That’s what we’ll be doing here over the next few weeks—widening the scope beyond the obvious and taking a hard look at the long-term cost of ownership of customizable (source-code) ERP.

    Customization Comes with a Price

    Before we get into the product comparisons, though, let’s take a look at issues facing customers who choose source code products for the ability to tailor the solution to their business,  companies who need to preserve the ‘secret sauce’ that has made them successful.  Many of these companies have been successful modifying ERP packages to support unique business requirements, but that success has come with a price. Here are just a few of the technical issues facing customers who need to modify their ERP:

    1. The extent of the customizations can complicate upgrades.
    2. ERP developer rates are typically higher than C# or VB programmers, and there are fewer of them. Programmers move around and companies want options when sourcing development.
    3. Agile development with many ERP packages can be difficult:
      1. The development environment in many packages does not seamlessly support industry best practices when it comes to development, maintenance, and documentation.
      2. The state of the art in software development has changed significantly in recent years. Tools that allow for sophisticated analysis and modeling before any coding are commonplace in .Net shops, but rare in ERP development.
      3. The lack of business modeling capability has led to a ‘code first’ mentality in many ERP developers.
      4. For multi-national organizations, the effort to support localized development can be significant.

    These aren’t just NAV or AX problems; they apply to any extensible ERP. While there are many businesses that will never completely avoid ‘modifying’ their ERP solution, modifying the source code to an ERP should always be seen as a last resort when you consider the TCO of a given ‘customization’.

    Because of issues like these, many companies are re-thinking the way they approach customizing ERP solutions:

    1. They need to customize in a way that allows them to upgrade more easily and more often to take full advantage of investments the publisher is making in the product.
    2. They need to leverage external tools that can extend the business logic and collaboration to people who may not have the ERP client, or may not have access to the client all of the time.
    3. They need actionable business intelligence that tells them what exceptions to focus on.
    4. Multi-national organizations with distributed development staffs need to be able to work effectively and efficiently between those groups.

    The industry is moving toward multiple options to solve business requirements.  Even though it is possible to solve most problems using procedural logic in an ERP, it is often not the best long-term solution. Lowering your TCO on a customizable ERP requires bringing the right tool to the table for different requirements. To do this, you need a product that gives you multiple options for extending both the functionality and reach of the application.

    Next week we will look at two horizontal technologies customers should consider critical when evaluating ERP software: workflow foundation and SQL Server Reporting Services.

    I am looking forward to a lively discussion.

    Peter Joeckel is the President and Founder of TurnOnDynamics a Microsoft Dynamics Partner servicing Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Arkansas (TOLA) manufacturing firms. TurnOnDynamics has extensive experience with Microsoft Dynamics GP, NAV and AX.

    TurnOnDynamics focuses on the strategic concerns of executives and owners with a unique Dynamic CFO Service.

    Thom Doss has a long and distinguished career in the ERP software field. He has worked in the partner (VAR) community, at Microsoft, and has been on the customer side of the fence. He is a certified developer on a number of platforms, including Dynamics NAV and Dynamics AX. He is also a MCSD, a MCDBA and works with clients and partners to leverage SharePoint and Dynamics CRM in the context of their ERP implementations.

    Thom is available on interesting projects that concern manufacturing, sophisticated but troubled Microsoft Dynamics NAV implementations, and Dynamics NAV to AX projects. He can be contacted directly by leaving a note here or on his LinkedIn page.

    by TurnOnDynamics

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