Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central vs. Dynamics GP

Is your business still running Microsoft Dynamics GP? And are you wondering how Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central (aka BC) is different, and what new capabilities and advantages it might have to offer?

If so, you’re not alone. Making the move is a big decision, and while lots of businesses have already made the transition from GP to Business Central (safely and successfully!), many others are still contemplating it.

Dynamics GP and Business Central have a lot in common, but some crucial differences, as well, which means there are some valuable payoffs for making the transition, despite potential short-term disruption.

So, let’s take a closer look at Dynamics GP and Business Central—how they compare, how they differ, and the reasons migrating can help you unlock new growth.

The Plain Facts: How Great Plains Became Microsoft Dynamics GP

Dynamics GP traces its origins to the Great Plains Software company, which was founded in Fargo, N.D., in 1983 and created products focused on small and mid-sized businesses. In February of 1983, it released what Wikipedia describes as “one of the first accounting packages in the U.S. that was designed and written to be multi-user and to run under Windows as 32-bit software.”

Recognizing a good thing, Microsoft acquired Great Plains Software in 2001, and Great Plains became Microsoft Dynamics GP. Dynamics GP continues to be a popular accounting and ERP software package, and although Microsoft continues to support it and will do so for the foreseeable future, GP is increasingly seen as legacy software for reasons we’ll explain in a moment.

The Arrival (and Rebirth) of Business Central

Business Central, which is part of Microsoft Dynamics 365, is a much more recent arrival on the scene. Although it traces its roots to software called Navision, from a Danish company that Microsoft acquired in 2002 (and turned it into Microsoft Dynamics NAV), the first release of Business Central in its current incarnation came in 2018.

And that leads us to one of the most important differentiating features between the two. Unlike GP, Business Central is fully native to the cloud, and capable of drawing on all the transformative power of AI, machine learning, and cloud-based analytics.

Like Dynamics GP, Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central was designed with the needs of small and medium-sized businesses in mind, but its capabilities are greater. It’s a cloud-based ERP solution that unifies your finance, sales, operations, supply chain, analytics, and more. Here are some of the goals it’s designed to help you accomplish:

  • Boost sales
  • Improve customer service
  • Unlock productivity
  • Uncover insights
  • Finish projects on time and under budget
  • Improve financial performance
  • Optimize supply chain management

Should You Migrate? Why Business Central Is Worth the Switch

Although there are a lot of reasons why businesses are still running Dynamics GP, the move to Business Central delivers dividends that are motivating organizations to follow an increasingly well-traveled path from GP to BC.

Here’s an overview of the advantages of Business Central.

√ Better ROI

Let’s put the bottom line at the top of this list. A Forrester Total Economic Impact study on Business Central found that businesses generated an ROI of 162% with Dynamics 365 Business Central over three years. They also experienced a payback timeframe of less than a year, and reduced their finance and operations hiring needs by 10%.

√ Fully cloud-based

BC is native to the cloud, and that gives it capabilities that GP can’t match. Although it’s possible for Microsoft Dynamics GP to be hosted in the cloud, the reality is that GP was designed to be an on-premise solution. That means it isn’t a “true cloud” ERP. A true cloud isn’t limited by the number of users or storage. It’s hosted in a shared environment and managed by a cloud services partner.

A hosted solution such as GP in the Microsoft Azure Cloud does hold some of the same benefits. But you miss out on even more benefits, including those listed below.

√ Better reporting and insights with centralized data

This includes out-of-the box dashboards. In addition to democratizing your data so that everyone in your organization is on the same page, you’ve got the best possible options for visualizing that data and using it to tell a story that everyone can understand.

√ Better security and compliance

You get easy-to-create audit trails as well as Microsoft’s top-notch security infrastructure.

√ Always up to date

BC is evergreen, with automatic and free updates pushed out twice a year, as well as minor updates made throughout the year. That takes the pain and angst out of the updating process and frees up attention for more important tasks.

√ Improved functionality with options for industry-specific features

This includes Microsoft’s Industry Cloud packages, as well as other solutions from partners like Sikich for industries such as associations, construction, engineer-to-order and more.

√ Integrated AI tools

Business intelligence and automation tools that put the best capabilities of AI and machine learning at your fingertips.

√ Seamless integration with key Microsoft tools

BC plays well with everything Microsoft, such as Office 365 and Power Platform (including Power BI), as well as numerous other Microsoft products and third-party solutions.

√ Cost savings

This is a biggie. If you’re moving from an on-premise setup to BC, you’ll not only eliminate the cost of onsite servers and other hardware, you’ll also need fewer highly skilled IT staff for maintenance. In a tight labor market, that can be a huge relief.

√ Better scalability

Business Central makes it easy to add features and tools based on your needs and changing business, so you can move more quickly when new business opportunities present themselves.

√ Keeping Up

As other businesses adopt Business Central, they’re using everything it has to offer to pull ahead. Can you afford to be left behind?

How do software updates for Business Central work?

Because this is one of the biggest advantages of BC, here’s a little more detail.

Regular software updates in BC are both automatic and free, keeping your system evergreen. There are two types of updates:

  • Minor: small but critical updates like bug fixes or tax updates.
  • Major: Twice a year, Microsoft issues major releases that feature not only any required fixes, but improved features and functionality. This adds a lot of value for your Business Central software.

You get the ability to schedule major updates for your organization in the Business Central Admin Center. (Minor updates take place within an Update Window. Because of their critical importance, they can’t be delayed.)

For best results, we recommend that you work with an expert partner like Sikich to help make sure that any major updates are compatible with third-party software solutions you’re using or customizations you may have made to BC. Sikich can also support testing before any updates are pushed live.

How Does Pricing for Business Central Work?

Business Central is based on a subscription model. So, when you purchase BC, you pay a monthly fee for each user. Pricing varies based on the access levels you provide for your team members, ranging from view-only access to essential business data all the way up to full access that includes financial management, sales and customer service functions, and extended functionality such as supply chain management.

What you’ll pay depends on the level of access you provide as well as the number of users. Find out more from Microsoft.

Licensing is done through Dynamics 365 partners like Sikich.

How Hard Is This Going to Be? Let Sikich Give You a HeadSTART

This is where we can really make a difference for you. Sikich can help take the pain out of the Dynamics GP to Business Central migration process through our understanding of your industry-specific needs as well as your current Dynamics GP environment.

Our HeadSTART industry solutions built on Business Central can put some wind in your sails, as well. These are preconfigured industry solutions based on established best practices. HeadSTART maximizes your Business Central investment, reduces project duration and cost, and lets you focus on operational excellence through enhanced visibility and insights, streamlined process flow, and enhanced decision support.

Want to learn more about how Sikich can help you optimize your systems and software? Reach out to us today.

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