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Briware Solutions Inc.

One Year After Moving from Dynamics GP to Dynamics 365 – Where are We Now


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    It’s been a year since I wrote the post “My 30-day experiment: Can I Run My Small Business on Dynamics 365?”.

    My small business, Briware Solutions, has been using Microsoft Dynamics GP for the last 4 years or so. I wanted to know: would I be just as happy using Dynamics 365? So I started my experiment and began moving my business data from Dynamics GP to Dynamics 365.

    In the post I outlined my shift from Dynamics GP to Dynamics 365 Financials Business Edition, and much to my surprise it has been one of the most viewed posts I have ever written.

    At the end of the post I stated:

    “I've actually gotten to a point now where I've got three SAAS products basically running my business. Support and project management, and the financials in between. Everything is set up except payroll and payroll is next week's project.”

    So now it feels like time to give an update of where we stand.

    Additions to the Core System

    Since the initial change over to Dynamics 365 we have continued to make improvements. A few of the major ones are:

    Payroll

    While reviewing products available in App Source, I stumbled on “D365 Payroll” by Insight Works. Imagine my surprise when I found out it was a Canadian Payroll module! Like the other cloud apps I have worked with, it was quick and inexpensive to implement. I think I spent about a day and a half figuring it out and I've been running my payroll on it for five months now. My staff dig this change because they can now download their pay stubs directly from Dynamics 365.

    I’ve also created a SmartConnect process to reallocate the payroll against jobs. It goes through and pulls out all the income and all of the related burden for that pay period for each employee. Then it pulls the timesheet data from TeamWork and figures out what the hourly rate was for that pay period, then creates a Job General Journal for the cost to all of the jobs based on the hours worked. This is all automated (and it was really fun to build).

    Expense Management

    I picked up an expense management solution called ExpensePoint that is also cloud based. I haven’t quite perfected the integration to this yet, as I need to manually add the projects to the system so users can track their expenses against them. However, we do have an approval workflow, and the receipts are attached to it for me to look at. Users can actually photograph receipts while travelling, and store them to their “wallet” through the app. No more envelope full of receipts to dig through when you get home!

    CRM

    Right now we are in the process of implementing Dynamics 365 for Sales, including the Social Engagement module, as our CRM system. And we are planning to do the marketing module when it comes out in the spring. Implementing the sales tools has made me realize we need way more structure around our sales processes first, so it will be a phased approach. As I tell my clients, we need to “crawl, walk, then run”. Our focus for now is getting our data into the software so that we can better work with existing clients.

    Completely Cloud

    We have moved all of our core systems to the cloud at this point. Even things that were traditionally in house, like the shared password vault. We literally have no infrastructure at our office any more. We moved into a new office in April, and I was able to just put in an inexpensive firewall, that is really only protecting the machines that are inside, like the laptops. We don't have any Active Directory anymore. It is all Azure AD. I have to admit that there's a definite feeling of freedom in this.

    My Thoughts on User Adoption

    As I have built Briware Solutions over the past 5 years, my focus has always been on collaboration and transparency. With this initiative to move everything to the cloud, I believe that we now have the right tools and processes in place to achieve a really high level of transparency and “collaboration all the time”. Now, to complete the system, I need the people. And, to be blunt, some of my people are adapting to it better than others.

    On my staff we now basically have a “younger” contingent and an “older” contingent. (I am defining on attitude here as opposed to chronology – some of the “younger” aren’t exactly young any more.) The younger people on my team are super excited and embrace the new tools and processes whole heartedly.

    But I notice that some of my older people still struggle with the concepts.

    I'd say that 15-20 years ago the consulting world was a very different place. Consultants had code or reports that they had written and tools or templates that they had built and they kept everything on their hard drive (or removable zip drive). They carried these tools around with them, and reused them when they went on site. And if a consultant liked you enough as a coworker they might share some of these tools with you. But mostly things tended to be treated as personal property.

    Now here I am asking everyone to share everything all the time!

    Every once in a while I'll go looking for something on our SharePoint, and it isn't there though everyone knows it should be. So I'll go and ask whoever was responsible for building it where it is. And they will invariably drive me crazy by saying "Oh, I'll upload it now." Then I have to say, "Well, you were supposed to have started it on SharePoint, that's how we work."

    So they are embracing it most of the time, and they are moving towards it, but it is something that they still struggle with.

    My Thoughts on Customer Adoption

    When I got everything pulled together last year, one of the most exciting factors for me was the level of communication that we had achieved with our customers. There was now a portal where they could track support cases, and another where they could review projects, notes, and timesheets. We even expose the SharePoint folders to them for projects so that they have full access to the project artifacts.

    However, I didn’t exactly get the park statue of me that I had imagined when I rolled it out.  Not even a small parade.

    Again there seems to be a divide between older and younger within my customer base. Many of my customers love the access that they now have, and have embraced the tools wholeheartedly. I haven’t run the numbers, but I do feel like many of them have been able to reduce the billable time related to project management as a result.  That sounds like a great idea for a future post!

    Several others appreciate what the tools and processes are able to give them, but they do not log into them. They instead have more traditional meetings with us in which the projects and issues are reviewed.

    Unfortunately, one customer in particular had no interest in the portals and wanted all of the information printed on the physical invoice – which I have not been able to achieve within the current toolset. The fields simply don’t exist in the billing portion. I’m still looking for ways to improve the level of information on the printed invoice in the hopes of winning this customer back, but for now I have to consider them lost.

    Getting More Than They Are Giving Up

    From my own perspective as a business owner, I think people are slowly learning that they are getting way more than they are giving up.

    Employees don't have to wait for me to print their pay stub and put it on their desk. They don't have to ask me to share notes from a sales call or project meeting.  All of our notes are kept in OneNote on Sharepoint that everyone uses. Customers don't have to ask me or another project manager what they should be working on or how we are tracking against the project plan. That is all available in Teamwork. It is online, and they can look at it from anywhere, anytime.

    We are also in the process of building Power BI Dashboards for my team members online. Every consultant is responsible for a certain level of utilization. These dashboards will give them the ability to track how they are doing in a real time view.

    So they are getting a lot more than they're giving up. And they are learninng to embrace it.

    The Future of Microsoft Dynamics 365

    There has been a lot of questions recently around the future of the product. But the product is not dead - even if the brand might be. There have definitely been some confusing changes around branding and licensing. However, Microsoft is still doing regular releases and actively improving the product.  I am finding new features all the time.  (Sometimes in demos!)

    Whatever Microsoft decides to call it, Dynamics 365 Business Edition is still a viable product for a company that wants a simple rapid implementation of a product that is flexible, configurable, and scalable.  I’m still using it and I’m still selling it.

    One Year later

    I remain of the same mind I was a year ago, when I wrote the original post.

    I don't miss Dynamics GP. All of my business processes are covered at this point. There are things that I'm more used to with Dynamics GP, but I'm now getting used to them with Dynamics 365 as well.

    Of course, I still recommend Dynamics GP for many of my customers. But now I can go to a much smaller customer and say, "You know what? You're not complex enough for something like Dynamics GP yet." And in some cases they never will be. My company is a great example. Even if my business got to 20 people next week, our processes and our models are very simple. Dynamics 365 is the right fit for me.

    The ability to set up a robust web based architecture for your business systems, and very quickly go from zero to at least a high level crawl in only a few days is just an amazing scenario for startup companies. I still wish that this model of deployment would have existed when Briware Solutions was born. It would have saved me a ton of time setting up, monitoring, and supporting all of my infrastructure. As a business owner, this is one less hat I would have had to wear back then.

    Now I have these highly interactive web based systems that are giving my users and my customers way more information than they ever had access to before last year.

    All in all, I am excessively happy with my decision to move from Dynamics GP to Dynamics 365.

    And we will continue to improve.

    If you are evaluating a new accounting system, and want to talk about Dynamics GP vs Dynamics 365, contact us at 844-BRIWARE or [email protected].

    By Briware Solutions, www.briwaresolutions.com

    Follow me on Twitter: @Briware_Rod

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