Microsoft Dynamics vendors provide comparisons and opinions to professionals in the ERP/Accounting software selection process

 
 

Anya Ciecierski, CAL Business Solutions

Compare Microsoft Dynamics GP Business Essentials versus Advanced Management: When Is The Advanced Management Edition Worth the Higher Price?


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Microsoft offers two different editions of Dynamics GP (Great Plains) ERP software: Microsoft Dynamics GP Business Essentials and Microsoft Dynamics GP Advanced Management.

Business Essentials Edition (BE) is primarily for growing organizations that need core features for the lowest cost, with the flexibility to add on for future growth. Microsoft Dynamics GP Business Essentials Edition Software License Cost per concurrent user starts at $2,250.

Advanced Management Edition (AM) is for companies that need an extensive set of advanced functionality or a specific feature that is not included the Business Essentials Edition (and can’t be provided by an ISV module). Microsoft Dynamics GP Advanced Management Edition Software License Cost per concurrent user starts at $3,980.

At CAL Business Solutions, out of approximately 200 Microsoft Dynamics GP clients only 12% of them use the Advanced Management Edition.  Whenever possible, we try to help our clients save money on Microsoft Dynamics GP by buying the less expensive Business Essentials edition and then filling any gaps with ISV add on software modules.  However, there are legitimate reasons why buying the Advanced Management edition makes sense as well. For our clients, the most popular reasons for choosing the Advanced Management edition has been the need for advanced manufacturing, grant management, extended pricing, and HR self service. But these are not the only reasons.

Besides the obvious cost difference, how can you, as an ERP software buyer, know which edition you should buy? This article is intended to help you compare the two editions by describing the modules that are only available in the Advanced Management edition. If you need these features, and you can’t add the missing functionality with an ISV module, then you need to purchase Microsoft Dynamics GP Advanced Management edition.

The text in italics is the official description of the module. In some cases I added a quote from George Mackiewicz, the owner of CAL Business Solutions, to shed a little more light on the value of that feature. However, this is merely his personal opinion based on experience and is certainly open for comments.

Note: This is NOT a description of ALL the modules/functionality available with Microsoft Dynamics GP. It is a list of Microsoft Dynamics GP modules ONLY available with the purchase of the Advanced Management Edition:

FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT MODULES:

1. Cash Flow Management

Make timely, informed financial decisions with customizable information views and forecasting tools that enable you to control, predict, and monitor inflows and outflows.

“In my experience I have not found that this module is particularly important to any client we have worked with.  All it really does is look at what Payables and Receivables are due, based on the terms of each sale, and then tries to forecast what cash flow will be each month. So it’s almost a calendar approach:  if I sent out an invoice that is now due on the first of the month and at the same time I've got some payables that are due for that same period, it takes those, nets them out and, in effect, tries to say my cash balance as of the first of the month is going to be this amount, as of the second of the month it's going to be that amount.”

2. Collections Management

Minimize collections workload, improve your cash flow, and reduce bad debt expense with customizable information views and automated bad debt management tools.

“This is a feature that many larger companies need, especially if they have multiple people collecting money. Collections Management allows for the ability to have separate collection responsibilities with customizable information views. Again, it is usually only a requirement with larger organizations.” 

3. Customer/Vendor Consolidations

Quickly transfer information between Receivables Management and Payables Management to create a customer record that uses information already available in a vendor record, and vice versa.

4. Grant Management

Not-for-profit and public sector organizations can automate grant management processes to track funds more easily, demonstrate accountability, and help attract future funding.

“If you're in a non-profit, you need the ability to manage grants which are an important part of your working capital. Different grants have different accounting requirements and different guidelines for their use. AM can handle that complexity.”

5. Lockbox Processing

Automatically import and apply customer payment information from a lockbox transaction file provided by your bank. Lockbox Processing provides reliable receivables information, improved funds availability, increased productivity, and greater fraud protection.

“Lock box processing allows clients to use a remote bank as a clearing house for incoming cash.  Those incoming cash deposits are coded by the bank or an outside financial institution, and then a file is created. Lockbox processing then uses this file as its source to automatically match those payments to the outstanding receivables that would reside inside of Dynamics GP. The benefit of this module is to speed up that cash application process. If it was done in‑house it could require your team to handle the data entry whereas the clearing house has teams of people that would be able to process these payments much faster. ”

6. National Accounts

Streamline complex processes with the ability to create parent/child relationships between customer accounts and apply cash receipts across members of National Account.

“Managing nationwide accounts is a challenge for companies with a large customer base located in various areas.  National Accounts gives you to the ability to sell and service much larger entities, and because those entities are part of a national account you need a different method to manage their payments. The payments will probably be coming from the national level as opposed to the customer that you actually are servicing locally. AM can handle that challenge.”

7. Process Server

Improve system performance by offloading and distributing processor-intensive tasks to idle, under-utilized, or dedicated process servers and freeing up personal computer resources. Automate load balancing to efficiently utilize system resources.

“This functionality was more important in the past when  computers and resources were limited. It gave the ability to offload a large running process, such as an aged trial balance or a month-end close, to another PC.  That way your machine could be freed up to continue to work. But I do not see this as an issue anymore.” 

8. Refund Checks

Automatically generate receivables debit memos for customers with credit balances and print refund checks using Payables Management.

“This is another important module for businesses that need the capability of issuing refunds to customers. Refund Checks module completely automates the process of removing credit from receivables and sending a check from payables. Doing this manually is time consuming and labor intensive. AM does it automatically.”

9. Revenue Expense Deferrals

Simplify deferring revenues or distributing expenses with the ability to make entries for future periods within General Ledger, Receivables Management, Payables Management, Sales Order Processing, Purchase Order Processing, and Invoicing.

“If you sell a product or service that is paid for over a period of time, rather than all at once, it will affect your accounting procedures. With Revenue Expense Deferrals, you can recognize the full amount of the contract, but only calculate as received the portion that has actually been paid.”

BUSINESS INTELLIGENCE AND REPORTING MODULES:

 10. Key Performance Indicator

Define and deliver Web-based, personalized views of key performance indicators (KPIs) to individuals’ desktops so that they can monitor and make strategic decisions on business performance.

For organizations that use metrics and are used to using many dashboards, the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) available on the AM dashboards of Dynamics GP Version 2010 are built on the SRS (SQL Reporting Services) platform which means that you can drill into them and make changes. This makes them a lot more powerful than they were in earlier versions. Dashboards can be customized so that individuals have the KPIs that they require for making business decisions.”

11. Forecaster (NOTE: One named user included in AM edition, additional users can be purchased for an additional cost. Additional users sold separately.)

Meet business objectives and gain competitive advantage with budgeting and planning capabilities that allow you to plan more effectively and respond quickly to changing business needs.

“Forecaster is a budgeting tool but it will soon be replaced by Management Reporter.  It's the only budgeting tool available for Microsoft that works with a bottom up approach.  Rather than keying in a normal budget process which says I expect my expenses this month to be this much, Forecaster says, start with the people and the departments that they work in and what their annual salaries are and what their matching benefits are going to be. It builds up to a point that this particular resource in the company costs the company this many dollars.  Then it works through what we call allocation platforms or allocation formulas to then take those dollars and allocate them across the organization.”

SUPPLY CHAIN MANAGEMENT MODULES:

12. Distribution Suite (NOTE: This module is available for the AM edition for an additional cost)

  • Advanced Distribution: Maintain tight, efficient control over your distribution channels by harnessing sales fulfillment workflow, reducing data entry, and providing better access to information. Streamline your distribution cycle, giving you a high degree of control while ensuring speed and accuracy without extraordinary costs.
  • Advanced Picking: Keep pace with competitive markets and low margins. Advanced Picking capabilities provide you with the flexibility needed to reduce handling and increase accuracy for both single and multi-site warehouse operations.

 13. Available to Promise

Help ensure the right inventory is available at the right time to meet customer needs, make firm delivery promises, and boost profitability.

14. Extended Pricing (NOTE: This module is available for the AM edition for an additional cost)

Equip your sales team to improve customer satisfaction and beat the competition by creating flexible pricing options and rules for each customer.

 “If you are an advanced distribution company, you need Available to Promise and Extended Pricing in order to handle some of the complicated structures that you might have.  With our customers we have been able to duplicate much of the Available to Promise and Extended Pricing by using Dynamics GP Business Essentials with an ISV module called SalesPad. So we don’t feel this requirement is a reason to purchase AM. However, there is one additional feature you might need - the ability to do extended pricing based on cost plus model.  To get this functionality you must purchase an ISV module from Trinity. So in some cases you have to buy Advanced Management to get Extended Pricing and then go to Trinity and buy the extended costing or the cost piece of that in order to really meet this requirement.

Our company focuses on Dynamics GP for distribution companies. We have been able to help almost all of them to save money by buying the Business Essentials edition and supplementing any additional functionality with Salespad.”

15. PO Generator

Automate purchasing with order point or minimum/maximum settings that determine quantities needed based on the stock situation related to stock goals and generate a suggested purchase order

16. Returns management

Meet customer, vendor, and business requirements with automated returns processing, accurate crediting for sales invoices and returns management authorizations, and efficient transfer of returned items to the main warehouse.

“Before Microsoft introduced Business Ready Licensing this module was sold a la carte for $7,500 but now it is included in the AM Edition. It is a totally automated piece of code that allows you to literally micromanage the whole process of returning merchandise to a company.  It will automatically create a replacement product going out in the opposite direction. For example, something is being returned; it is confirmed that it has been returned.  Returns Management can actually create a sales order for the product that is replacing the one being returned. There is a large amount of overhead in terms of being able to set this up.  Again, we have been able to duplicate a lot of that very simply with Business Essentials with SalesPad using a simple workflow. Returns Management really is a workflow,  it creates a structured workflow for returning the product and in some cases tracking the incoming product plus the outgoing product that might be replacing a damaged piece of equipment. So we don’t feel requirement is a reason to purchase AM.”

MANUFACTURING MODULES:

 17. Manufacturing Suite (NOTE: This module is available for the AM edition for an additional cost)

  • Engineering Change Manager: Keep pace with accelerating markets. Engineering Change Management in Microsoft Dynamics GP provides manufacturers with easy ways to collect, organize, and review changes to orders before they’re authorized. Adjust processes and components to accommodate new technologies and customer changes while maintaining or improving efficiency and profitability.
  •  Sales Forecasting:Communication challenges are frequent when you bring together product groups that have different objectives and backgrounds, such as sales teams and manufacturing managers. Sales Forecasting in Microsoft Dynamics GP helps increase collaboration, bridging communication gaps and creating a powerful loop that promotes effective, efficient product delivery.
  • Quality Assurance:Seize the competitive advantage with tight control of the quality testing process, helping to ensure that products consistently meet or exceed demanding customer requirements. Support high retention levels by providing customers with detailed, current information on quality assurance testing for the products being manufactured for them.
  • Job Cost:Deliver a comprehensive view of production profitability by capturing all costs related to a job when they occur and consolidating them within a central location that’s easy to access and manage.
  • Sales Configuration:Efficiently incorporate information from various modules—including Inventory Control, Bill of Materials, Routings, and Sales Order Processing—and generate manufacturing orders for the configured items.  
  • Capacity Requirement Planning: Establish and measure overall work capacity, as well as compare established capacity—defined through work center calendars, employee, and machine efficiencies—with the amount of work you want done, defined through routing times, manufacturing order requirements, and other specifications.

18. Manufacturing Bill of Materials

Maximize production efficiency, support time-to-market goals, and cut inventory costs across the extended enterprise by tightly integrating different types of bills and customized definitions into manufacturing operations.

19. Manufacturing Order Processing

Efficiently track and manage the entire cycle of order processing, including detailed production costs, work orders, routings, outsourcing, and work center definitions.

20. Master Production Scheduling

Gather information from sales forecasts to form a single, comprehensive production schedule and automatically create manufacturing orders.

21. Materials Requirements Planning

Gain the deep visibility into material requirements that can translate into more effective resource planning — helping reduce stock outages, drive down inventory costs, and streamline the production process.

“When it comes to manufacturing obviously the reason to go to Advanced Management is the fact that you get the three core modules to manufacturing which are the Manufacturing Bill of Materials, Manufacturing Order Processing, and Master Production Scheduling.  Those three modules may be a real reason to choose the Advanced Management edition.  Although you can always look at alternatives which include Business Essentials with an ISV add on such as Horizons or Vicinity Manufacturing.”

PROJECT MANAGEMENT MODULES:

22. Project Accounting

Maintain tight control over project direction, execution, and budget; support resources effectively; and ensure accurate billing and accounting through tight integration with company financials.

23. Time and Expense

Capture, review, and approve project time and expense data on the Web, enabling prompt, accurate customer invoicing and efficient reimbursement for out-of-pocket employee expenses.

“Another reason for going with Advanced Management is the ability to use the project management, project accounting, and time and expense modules. Honestly, at CAL we are not a big fan of these modules within Dynamics GP.  If you are an organization dealing with government contracts you will likely not be satisfied with the project accounting module that's built into GP because it does not allow the sub ledgers to be in balance.  Government contracts usually require DCAA compatibility which is a government accounting methodology. In cases such as this, we primarily use Business Essentials with an ISV module called Olympic Project Cost which does have the DCAA certification as well as a number of other government certifications for project accounting and project costing.  This has been very successful for many of our clients such as ORLive, that uses a combination of Dynamics GP Business Essentials plus Olympic Project Cost. In my mind, the fact that project accounting gets very little attention from Microsoft from a development standpoint is because they have the Dynamics SL (Solomon) product which is a far more intricate project system. “

CUSTOMER RELATIONSHIP MANAGEMENT MODULES:

(Note: these modules should not be confused with the full Microsoft Dynamics CRM product that can be purchased separately but integrated to either edition of Microsoft Dynamics GP)

24. Depot Management (NOTE: This module is available for the AM edition for an additional cost)

Enter work orders; schedule and track activities within your internal repair facility; and track usage of parts and labor in the repair process.

25. Preventative Maintenance (NOTE: This module is available for the AM edition for an additional cost)

Save time and reduce manual tasks by automatically generating service calls for preventative maintenance work.

26. Service Call Management (NOTE: This module is available for the AM edition for an additional cost)

Efficiently enter customer service requests; dispatch technicians; manage parts, labor, and miscellaneous charges; and bill customers for time and material services.

27. Contract Administration

Improve service delivery, accuracy, and accountability with tools that simplify and streamline contract management, including setup and flexible maintenance for all contract items, documents, and requirements.

“Depot Maintenance, Preventive Maintenance, and Service Call Management  would be a reason to use Advanced Management. An alternative would be to use Business Essentials with ISV products from Wennsoft. Wennsoft has a more extensive version of these products in their service management series.”

HUMAN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT MODULES:

28. Benefit Self Service Suite (NOTE: This module is available for the AM edition for an additional cost)

Streamline the open enrollment process with automated transfer of information to Human Resources, which helps eliminate paper-based systems, reduce data re-entry, and free staff to focus on higher priorities, like strategic management.

“For larger organizations the HR Self Service Suite is a real benefit of AM.  It gives employees and team members the ability to do things like change the number of W2 exemptions, view paycheck stubs, things of that nature. It’s a very powerful module which offers a lot of HR capabilities.”

ONLINE SERVICES MODULES:

29. Commerce Services (NOTE: This module is available for the AM edition for an additional cost)

Build and publish new sales catalogs on demand and extend your sales reach across multiple online channels and communities.

NEXT STEPS

Still not sure which edition is right for you?  If you are trying to compare Microsoft Dynamics GP Business Essentials vs Advanced Management, and want an honest opinion on the best system to fit your needs and your budget, contact us at CAL Business Solutions. 

Inside Tip: If in doubt, buy the Business Essentials edition; you can easily move up to the Advanced Management version at any time. It is not a new installation of the software, it is just a matter of paying the difference in price and installing new registration keys.  This can be done at any time, with a full investment credit. It will be much easier to pay an additional fee than to try to get your money back from Microsoft.

If you want more money saving tips when buying accounting software (specifically Microsoft Dynamics GP) download our free white paper “30 Questions Every CFO Needs to Ask About the Cost of Accounting Software”.

Please keep in mind that we did our best to put together a complete list of modules only available with AM, however the Microsoft Dynamics ERP price list is somewhat complicated to understand, even for us. So if we missed something, please let us know. Also, if you have other ISV modules to recommend, to supplement Business Essentials functionality, please let us know that too.

Request a free automated Microsoft Dynamics GP Pricing Quick Quote (including Business Essentials license price, maintenance fees and estimated implementation costs).

Interested in learning more about the ISV Add On products mentioned in this article? Visit the CAL Marketplace - an online directory for recommended ISV products for Microsoft Dynamics GP.

By CAL Business Solutions, Connecticut and Massachusetts Microsoft Dynamics GP Partner

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