Microsoft Partners take different approaches to advising their Dynamics GP customers

April 5 2019

As Microsoft focuses its digital transformation strategy for business applications around Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations and Dynamics 365 Business Central, customers are likely wondering about the fate of Microsoft Dynamics GP.

To be clear, GP has not gone away. The product has a new annual release planned and a roadmap that extends to 2020 and likely beyond. Still, discussions about moving from on-premises GP systems to something else, whether GP in a cloud environment or another SaaS ERP, show no sign of diminishing. So MSDW reached out to several Microsoft partners to find out how they're helping to guide their GP customers on whether to stay the course, listen to the Business Central marketing, or look at other cloud ERPs.

Different GP customer reactions

"What we're seeing with either the GP users or several GP partners that we're talking to is that there are really kind of two camps among users," says Michael Hollingsworth, founder and CEO of Centerprism.

Some GP users are thinking about moving to the cloud, either with Business Central or other cloud ERPs, such as NetSuite, he says. But many others like the application and don't want to transition to the cloud. They're worried about the costs associated with moving their data to the cloud, and about giving up control of their data.

"From a pure accounting perspective, people love Great Plains because it's a robust accounting system," says Andrew King, managing director, WebSan Solutions Inc. "But the problem is that you're getting pressure from Microsoft not to sell GP, [and] not to sell Dynamics NAV."

King admits his company isn't selling GP much anymore and says the Microsoft emphasis on Dynamics 365 is noticed by GP customers.

"This is the reality of my business. Am I concerned about my over 300 customers going somewhere else? Of course I am," King says. "And am I doing 'Business Central versus GP' type webinars to at least get them to entertain the other Microsoft solutions before they go look at NetSuite? Absolutely. But none of them are looking for another solution from GP just because they're nervous."

Microsoft downplays GP

Customers are feeling pressure because a number of partners have decided not to even support Dynamics GP, Hollingsworth says. Some have even told their GP customers they're no longer going to be in the market and therefore they need to find other partners.

"A lot of these GP users are feeling abandoned by their partners, so that's the challenge out there," Hollingsworth says.

And, he adds, partners aren't getting much support from Microsoft when it comes to GP.

"Microsoft has told partners that 'we're not selling GP,'" he says. "They'll still take orders for GP but they're not doing any marketing or anything. And they're encouraging partners [to sell Business Central]. It's just more margins, more money for partners to sell a product. And partners are going to make money just doing all the conversions."

WebSan's King says that his customers are concerned that Dynamics GP isn't going to be supported in the same way any longer. However, he believes it's unlikely that Microsoft will stop supporting GP, which many in the channel believe generates a $1 billion or more a year in maintenance revenue.

Offering alternatives

The reaction of traditional GP partners to Microsoft's decisions around the product vary widely. Some have decided to disengage with the product altogether, others are looking at other options like alternative ways to make GP more successful SaaS-like model or a path to other products.

Centerprism offers GP customers a "modern all-in-one, fully-integrated ERP overlay" for GP that adds features and a more modern user interface and that it claims will lower costs.

"So rather than have all these add-ons, which has been the traditional model for this GP Microsoft community, we have a solution that is full spectrum. It's much cheaper to support, and it's also a consistent user interface," Hollingsworth says.

George Mackiewicz, president, CAL Business Solutions Inc. says his company has been doing as much as it can to move as many of its GP customers to a cloud environment, through Microsoft partner Njevity's partner program and their Azure-based offering, Power GP.

"We call it 'bring your own license', so basically you lift up your GP license and you take it over to the NjevityToGo environment and you drop it down," he says. "You continue to pay your enhancement, but you don’t have the infrastructure issue anymore going forward. And you pay a certain amount per month for each named user. And it allows you to kind of keep the investment that you already have in the software, but just basically change the deployment."

After Microsoft first announced Dynamics 365, Mackiewicz says his company also decided it needed to add a real cloud solution to its offerings, but he wasn't sold on the early versions of what is now Business Central.

"We evaluated what 365 was at the time, the technology, which to some extent scared us a little because the vision is as old as GP is," he says. "It was just throwing a web front end over [Dynamics NAV] and marrying that with a portion of the CRM platform."

Consequently, CAL Business Solutions decided to add Acumatica, which it considered to be a true, born-in-the-cloud transactional ERP system. "It came out in 2010-2011, and it was written from scratch as a cloud product, as opposed to this hybrid where you’re using parts of old systems and parts of new technology on top of it," Mackiewicz says.

No consistent messaging

Mackiewicz says he doesn't have any consistent messaging for customers around Dynamics GP. How he advises his clients depends on what they're looking for.

"I think that's something that every partner has to deal with," he says. "I think each partner maybe handles that question differently. I know a lot of partners who have picked up products like NetSuite and Intacct and they'll just move their customers into those worlds."

King agrees with Centerprism's core message that customers need ways to make GP succeed in a more modern IT environment but he believes offering a new front end gets at the wrong emotional triggers as to why a customer is switching to another ERP.

"Putting a front end on top of something someone already owns doesn't get you around the fact that they have to make an investment in infrastructure, they have to do something with the environment," King says. "All those issues they're facing, you can solve through a hosting partner, i.e., us or some other means. You don't have to switch away from it."

Even though CAL Business Solutions has represented Acumatica for two years, it hasn't converted a single GP customer to the platform, Mackiewicz says.

"In fact, the only company we actually converted from GP to Acumatica was ourselves," he says. “We have been running GP internally for 21 years but we didn't think Microsoft was going to be creating that many new features for it. So we decided that if we were going to expect our clients to make the conversion, why wouldn't we experiment on ourselves to make sure it was a good experience."

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Photo by Fahrul Azmi on Unsplash

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About Linda Rosencrance

Linda Rosencrance is a freelance writer/editor in the Boston area. Rosencrance has over 25 years experience as an reporter/investigative reporter, writing for many newspapers in the metropolitan Boston area. Rosencrance has been writing about information technology for the past 16 years.

She has covered a variety of IT subjects, including Microsoft Dynamics, mobile security issues such as data loss prevention, network management, secure mobile app development, privacy, cloud computing, BI, big data, analytics, HR, CRM, ERP, and enterprise IT.

Rosencrance is the author of six true crime books for Kensington Publishing Corp.

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Comments

rdhansen's picture

Not trying to post a rude or biased response, but the decision to adopt Acumatica rather than Business Central is questionable and might be why CAL has not converted any customers to it. It's great that it was born in 2010 as a true cloud solution...but there's no substitute for over 20 years of experience building out the depth of features NAV/BC has. To say it's better to go with a cloud-from-the-outset solution just because of the platform...not the #1 criteria. The depth of functionality in BC...supplemented by the available apps...is massive. And it's not like it's been shoehorned to work in the cloud...it's been significantly restructured to make it optimal for that. Not the best path chosen by CAL...but the lack of customer conversions attests to that.


DonPugh's picture

A cloud based Great Plains can be easily done with Terminal server and SQL being hosted at a data center. A customer can do this them selves, or use a hosting company such as RoseASP. You get all the "cloud" advantages of backup, remote access, security etc, without the hassles of learning a new system. There is no retraining, because the windows and business process is exactly same. The virtual desktop can have not only the GP application but also Excel, Word, etc. Any old cheap machine can run Remote Desk Top to get there, even a Mac. It is more secure than an html/web based system, because all communications are via a VPN, and no data actually moves over the internet. The GP software base has been tested and debugged for many years, and is solid and full featured. Many clients have been using terminal server like this locally in their own data center for years. Moving to the cloud would not be a big deal.
I do not understand why this approach is not used and publicized more widely. Why are folks so enamored with the "Web based / HTML" feature, when they should be focused on solving business needs.
So if one wants a real cloud based GP, go to a hosted GP with terminal server.
Don Pugh
Consultant for GP for over 25 years.


dgretta's picture

Great response. I have the same experience myself with GP and I am glad you wrote it.


carol.livingston101@gmail.com's picture

GP Customers are the most loyal customers that Microsoft has as far as business applications. There is a roadmap from Microsoft for development enhancements with some modern features like Intelligent Edge and Power Platform. I think partners need to help customers understand that they can confidently extend and maximize their investment in GP, move GP to the Cloud and wait out the confusion from Microsoft's push to BC and other partners wanting to convert GP customers to something else. GP is the most flexible and stable package for SMB customers with best ISV's available for maximizing the investment in GP. GP Rocks!


bklenzman's picture

Microsoft has a long history of spending a lot of money on the next thing, pushing partners hard to adopt it, then dropping it. In recent memory just look at Windows Phone and Zune. Going back in time a bit more, we got a taste of this internally with a new accounting package from Microsoft called Office Accounting 2007. We started using it, and on an invitation from Microsoft, started developing Manufacturing functionality for the product. A short time later they "immediately" dropped all support for the product and our development investment was lost (and we had to change accounting software again). We've learned to take a deep breath and stay focused on developing new functionality for Dynamics GP, which has been a reliable mainstay for small to mid-sized manufacturers for decades.