With the success of Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central, are we witnessing the beginning of the end of Microsoft Dynamics GP? Is GP going away? The answer, of course, depends upon who you ask.
To get an idea of GP’s standing in today’s world, we first need to travel back in time. The history of Dynamics GP is a rich one, filled with competition and explosions of technological advancement.
We’ll start in 1999, with the advent of Y2K. The internet has just recently been introduced to the general public (just three years prior). This is pre-Wikipedia, pre-camera phone, and pre-touchscreens. The team here at Advanced Business Systems (which has been representing, implementing and supporting the same ERP product since 1999) has started selling a solution called Navision.
In the early days, I would tell prospective users that Navision would be “the last ERP product that [they] would ever need to buy.” It was flexible, cutting edge, powerful, and backed by a great, stable company.
During those years, the ERP playing field was crowded. There were plenty of competitors offering various solutions to enterprise resource planning. Since Navision was a Danish product that had only recently started being offered in the US, it suffered from a lack of name recognition. The thing was, it was such a good product that if a Navision partner made it to the demo stage of a pitch, the chances of winning the sale was high.
GP, NAV, and a Quick History of ERP Software Solutions
In the first three years of representing Navision, our biggest competition was a solution by the name of Great Plains. In 2000, Microsoft purchased this product (along with Solomon and Real-World). Two years later, in the (then) largest acquisition to-date, Microsoft purchased Navision and Axapta. Do you know what the biggest competition was for Navision after the Microsoft acquisition? You guessed it – still Great Plains.
Microsoft eventually relabeled their family of ERP and CRM products to the Dynamics moniker. They abbreviated the names to AX (Axapta), GP (Great Plains), NAV (Navision), and SL (Solomon).
AX was a tier-one solution that appealed to enterprise-sized companies.
SL had a following in the construction and projects industries, but seemed to lack traction outside of those sectors.
GP had a great presence in the US, but a smaller install base than NAV around the world.
Ultimately, most mid-sized companies found themselves choosing between GP and NAV. Even before Microsoft’s acquisition of Navision, GP and NAV competed heavily with one another, but the competition only grew with time. This competition occurred both from an ERP partner and customer perspective, as well as within the leadership and organization of Microsoft Business Systems.
In the early 2000s, there was talk about “Project Green,” whereby Microsoft would merge all of its ERP products into one code base. There were heated discussions on which code base would win out. However, as time passed, talk of Project Green eventually faded into the background.
The Rise of NAV (and Business Central)
The NAV channel saw major improvements to the ERP product from both an architectural and user interface standpoint. Our team started hearing from top NAV developers that the software was gaining favoritism within the management team at Microsoft Business Systems.
Fast forward to 2014. Microsoft announced that NAV would be the first product available to be hosted on Azure. Then later, Microsoft announced that NAV would be available in Office 365. The concept of cloud computing was catching on.
In the spring of 2016, select partners were approached to be part of the Early Adopter Partner Program for something called “Project Madeira.” Project Madeira was the code-name of the SaaS version of NAV. After its release in the fall of 2016, the name was again changed, this time to “Dynamics 365 for Financials.” Currently, it’s called Dynamics 365 Business Central.
It’s interesting that two of the earliest available apps for Business Central were published by Microsoft. One app was designed to migrate master information over from Solomon and the other enabled users to move master information from GP.
Microsoft’s Push for Dynamics 365 Business Central
At the yearly “Directions” NAV partner-only event in September of 2016, we learned that Microsoft had strongly suggested that Solomon Partners attend. As a result, many SL partners were present. Some GP partners were there, as well. At the Dynamics User Group conference that fall in Tampa, the promotion of Dynamics 365 was in full swing.
Microsoft’s vision emphasized the goal of moving forward with Dynamics 365. This included ERP and the traditional CRM products, in conjunction with Office 365. Microsoft presented the following slide to all attendees (including the end users of AX, GP, NAV, SL and CRM):
The point was clear. Attendees realized that Microsoft’s sights were set on Dynamics 365 --not GP, not SL-- moving forward. We had GP User Group (GPUG) attendees and GP partners stopping by our booth to discuss Dynamics 365 for Financials.
What wasn’t evident at the time is that in a few short years, NAV and the SaaS product (Dynamics 365 for Financials) would be virtually identical in code and would be available as SaaS or on-premise. This solution would also adopt a new name -- Business Central.
The next yearly NAV partner conference saw a massive influx of GP partner attendance. Driven by Microsoft’s invitation, GP providers sat in on discussions of cloud-based technology and the growing importance of digital transformation. The NAV conference explored Office 365, Dynamics 365 products (including Business Central and the newly revamped CRM solution, Sales), and artificial intelligence.
Microsoft offered discounted promotions for anyone that switched from GP, SL and NAV to Business Central. The push was designed to migrate companies to the cloud and to maximize the benefits offered in that realm (think Intelligent Cloud and Intelligent Edge).
Last year, we realized that prospects looking to purchase GP from Microsoft were instead being directed by the company to purchase Business Central.
In February of 2019, our team was invited to a red-carpet Microsoft event in Bellevue, Washington. One of the tracts was called “Enabling Dynamics GP Partners with Business Central.”
At this point, it’s interesting to also look at (and compare) the release notes for the most recent versions of GP and Business Central. This helps us understand where Microsoft is investing the bulk of their efforts. The latest release notes for GP and Business Central are linked here:
While these notes don’t exactly say “there were this many improvements to GP” and “this many to Business Central,” if you look at the sheer number and type of improvements, it paints a picture. Microsoft is making far-reaching and comprehensive improvements to the Business Central application, setting this product up for the long haul.
So, Is Microsoft Dynamics GP Going Away?
This timeline of Dynamics GP, NAV, and Business Central serves as an indicator for the future. We’ve been along for the journey, so we have a good idea of where we’re headed.
It’s doubtful that GP is going away, but it’s certainly not going anywhere, either. Dynamics GP will be supported and updated by Microsoft in the near future, but these improvements will simply act as a window dressing. New Microsoft ERP customers will be implementing Business Central.
It's doubtful that GP is going away, but it's certainly not going anywhere, either.
Existing GP customers, seeing all of the features available in Business Central SaaS, will want to capitalize on them to maintain competitive edge. You’ll see GP users making the switch to Business Central, and the installation base of GP will start to atrophy.
For GP customers that are not yet ready to plan a transition, Microsoft currently offers the option of adding the Intelligent Cloud for insight to your GP solution. Of course, to utilize this capability, you need to be using the GP 2018 version. If you have questions as to how you can transition from any version of GP to Business Central please give us a call at 512-829-4000. We're here to help.
Chris Carrigee, President