Dynamics 365 Questions & Answers, Part II

In April, I published a post answering some of the more common Dynamics 365 questions asked by SBS Group customers and other partners.  I have received over 30 responses to that post in as many days so I think it is safe to assume that this is a worthwhile topic.

In this post, I will focus on questions related to Microsoft’s announcement that Dynamics 365 for Operations will be available as an on-premise solution in the second half of 2017, most likely June.  Although I believe that the advantages of a cloud-only ERP deployment almost always outweigh any disadvantages, I recognize that for some companies this just isn’t the right option.

In keeping with the question/answer format, I’ll expand on this below.

What does an On-Premise deployment of Dynamics 365 for Operations mean?

On-Premise is typically defined as software that is installed and runs on computers that are physically on the premises (in the building) of the person or organization using the software, rather than at a remote facility such as a server farm or cloud. Because the software runs on computers locally, the related data does as well. In the last 10 or so years, I have heard the on-premise term used for any deployment that is fully managed by the person or organization using the software. This means that “on-premise” deployments could also be referring to installations in a company owned or rented data center.

When Dynamics 365 for Operations was released, it was basically the next step for AX7 which was designed exclusively for a cloud-only deployment.  In November 2016 and again in February 2017, Microsoft indicated that they would be releasing on-premise options as well. In fact, they are expected to offer two more options for deploying Dynamics 365 for Operations as follows:

Cloud and Edge (Hybrid)

In this deployment scenario, the business process and transactions will be allowed to run “at the edges” with data being stored locally (on-premise).  The edges, referred to as “My Workplaces” will be managed by the customer while the cloud components will be managed by Microsoft.  This helps the customer to scale and take advantage of cloud-related services while keeping components like master data management private.  In some instances, this will help with integration to applications that can’t or shouldn’t be managed in the cloud.

The central cloud node can provide a singular view of operations across multiple “My Workplace” instances and still leverage the cloud for better business intelligence.  Cortana Intelligence will most likely not be accessible to full potential in this model if at all, but other BI tools can still be leveraged.

Local Business Data (LBD)

An LBD, local business data, deployment allows a customer to run all business processes on-premise, to support local transactions and store business data without replicating to the public cloud (Azure).

Replication of business data into the cloud no longer occurs so while data and processes are more private, the customer will lose access to many of the bells and whistles that come with Dynamics 365.  Cortana Intelligence, PowerBI and Azure Machine Learning services are all included in the list of items missing from the action in an LBD deployment.

Ultimately, customers will be able to leverage a federation of My Workplace instances under a single My Workplace to take provide better visibility and intelligence throughout the company.

Should I Implement Dynamics 365 for Operations in the Cloud or On-Premise?

The answer … at least if going live today … is quite simple.  In the cloud.  Microsoft has not released an on-premise version of Dynamics 365 for Operations yet.  They have indicated their intention to do so in the latter half of 2017, but have not provided an exact date to the public.

When they do release an on-premise version, it will be up to you and your partner to weigh the options around each and determine which is the best fit for your environment.  We can speculate on this today, but some of the details are still private and will continue to evolve right up to the public release expected in June/July of 2017.

Is there a clear comparison of these options?

It is almost impossible to compare them at this time as they have not been formally released and new information is coming available regularly.  Detail shared along the way through formal posts and reseller meetings provide enough information to facilitate good conversation, but I would caution anyone not to wrap up their due diligence until after general release.  The table below has some help information that I’ve seen shared by others from various partner conferences hosted by Microsoft:

Table-D365-OnPremise

Why would a Dynamics 365 Customer Choose to Implement On-Premise?

When looking from the outside, it isn’t obvious why any company would choose to take on the responsibility of directly managing the hardware, connectivity, security and administration of their own ERP data center.  Most companies are thrilled with the idea of avoiding upfront costs for infrastructure and related IT support services, not to mention traditional license software costs.  Most companies find the security, speed, and dependability of modern cloud providers is nearly impossible to duplicate in an in-house environment. But, many do … so why?

  • Existing Data Center Investments:  Quite often, companies have already sunk considerable investments into their hardware, physical location and IT support personnel.  Walking away from that investment can be difficult to do emotionally and financially.  Many companies compare the costs of maintaining existing data centers, or even riding it out for a few years, to the cost of moving to the cloud and find it more cost-effective to continue in-house.  This is a decision that each company needs to make based on their unique situation.
  • Not Cost-Effective Due to Other On-Premise Requirements: I’ve spoken with customers that would prefer to move their ERP to the cloud, but feel that the ROI expectations can’t be met unless they are able to move a more significant portion of their applications to the cloud.  Just moving ERP doesn’t allow them to significantly trim support staff or reduce costs associated with their physical data center.  When they are able to move the lion’s share to the cloud, they plan to switch (and many do).
  • Regulatory Requirements:  Some companies prefer to keep data and processing local to avoid the possibility of not being compliant with regulatory requirements related to their business.  Whether looking at a SaaS application (like ERP in the cloud) or data storage, your company must be confident that their customer and other information is protected.  Your cloud provider should be compliant with your industry’s privacy and security compliance needs, like HIPPA and PCI.  There are standards for companies with financial data and government, government contractors and a variety of industries where data integrity is considered hyper-critical.
  • We’ve always done it this way: If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. Right?  One might argue that the very nature of technology is smart, measured change for cost and efficiency gains, but I often speak with clients that just can’t get comfortable with having applications and data move outside their walls.  Sometimes it isn’t as a result of due diligence, but more of a gut reaction.  Personally, I believe that the cloud offers far more value than on-premise deployments, but I would never pressure a company to operate in a way that they aren’t comfortable with.  Not everything is a math problem.
  • Heavy Customizations: Many SaaS ERP solutions do not provide an architecture that allows for heavy customizations.  In many cases, like with Microsoft Dynamics 365, a company can customize their solution and integrate other products with little issue.  However, if a customer has made substantial customizations over time, it may be that some of those customizations or integrations will not survive a move to the cloud.  We’ve become very adept at making this work for our customers, but in some cases, they opt to stick with their current solution until some of the more difficult customizations can be migrated to their satisfaction.

As more information comes to light regarding Dynamics 365 for Operations on-premise deployments, I’ll share it with you here.  We are excited to see Microsoft making this option available and helping our customers determine the best option for their business.

If you would like to discuss this in person, please feel free to reach out to me directly at rmorrison@sbsgroupusa.com.

register for webcast

Best regards,

Robbie Morrison
Chief Solution Strategist, SBS Group

About Robbie
Robbie Morrison has spent nearly 20 years helping customers build and deploy elegant technology and business solutions.  From start-ups to enterprise-class organizations worldwide, his knowledge of the Microsoft Dynamics ecosystem and products helps SBS Group customers maximize ROI on technology investments.  Robbie

Today, Robbie serves SBS Group customers in his role as Chief Solution Strategist where he provides thought leadership and manages the development of B2B solutions.  Robbie received his MBA from the University of Georgia, Terry College of Business.
https://www.linkedin.com/in/robbiemorrison

What is the Point of AXIO Core Financials with Dynamics 365 for Operations?

At first glance, it just doesn’t make sense that SBS Group (or anyone for that matter) would create a third-party solution to enhance financial management for one of the world’s most noted financial management solutions.  I’ve had several potential clients ask about this and my answer is always the same:  It is about helping our customers realize business value faster.

When a business invests in technology, they expect tangible results.  Whether they’re aspiring to enhance operational performance, improve the customer experience or capitalize on new opportunities, the goal is to provide genuine business value in the least amount of time.  The days of waiting for smart technologists to reverse engineer generalized solutions to the needs of individual companies over the course of months and years has been put to pasture by the advent of cloud computing.

We’ve implemented ERP solutions for thousands of companies and have learned a thing or two about the kind of configurations, enhancements and customizations that different types of buyers will need.  We put that knowledge to use with every engagement, and in the case of AXIO Core Financials, we start well in advance of the engagement.

After all, Microsoft did their part. They created Dynamics 365 for Operations which is arguably the most robust ERP platform on the market today.   It is an extremely flexible, scalable Cloud ERP platform that takes advantage of the entire Microsoft Office and server stack.  It is up to our team to bend, balance and bedazzle the solution so that it operates as if it were created exclusively for each customer…and to do it quickly and efficiently.

“Bedazzling Dynamics 365 for Operations” with AXIO Core Financials

So how exactly do you bedazzle financials?  Well, you begin by understanding who you’re bedazzling it for.  AXIO Core Financials is designed to help larger, enterprise-level organizations who require universal integration of finance across any number of countries, companies and other entities. We often work with professional services firms who have operations and projects around the world and distribution companies with complex ownership and revenue management structures.  Complex operations require special attention to the setup of even the most fundamental system components.  AXIO Core Financials includes:

  • Multi-company, multi-currency management.
  • Accounts Receivable
  • Accounts Payable
  • General Ledger
  • Fixed Assets
  • Procurement and Sourcing
  • Product, Inventory and Warehouse Management
  • Banking and Advanced Credit Management.
  • Regulatory support
  • Human Resource Management
  • Advanced commissions management.
  • Excel Budget Importing
  • Master Data Management Import Templates
  • Pre-Defined Business Process Flows w/ Swim-Lane Diagrams
  • On-Screen and In-App Task Guides
  • Content-Sensitive Help and Training Material

AXIO Core Financials enhances global scalability, compliance with GAAP, IFRS, Sarbanes-Oxley, and DCAA requirements and spans all the important back-office processes in your firm to give you unparalleled insight and control of all critical financial functions.

Sample Screen-Shot of Bank Management Workspace

AXIO Core Financials Bank Workspace with Dynamics 365 for Operations

Sample Screen-Shot of Credit and Collections Workspace

AXIO Core Financials Credit and Collection Workspace with Dynamics 365 for Operations

Faster Time to Value

By leveraging best practices and lessons learned over more than 30 years to create AXIO Core Financials, our team has been able to decrease the related Dynamics 365 for Operations implementation by an average 30-45%. And, our clients get a much-improved experience with fewer frustrations and confidence knowing that their solution has been vetted and approved by the Microsoft AppSource Team.

AXIO Core Financials on Microsoft AppSource

Learn more about AXIO Core Financials on our website or see it in Microsoft’s AppSource along with other SBS Group solutions like AXIO Professional Services for Project-Oriented firms.

Best regards,

Robbie Morrison
Chief Solution Strategist, SBS Group

About Robbie
Robbie Morrison has spent nearly 20 years helping customers build and deploy elegant technology and business solutions.  From start-ups to enterprise-class organizations worldwide, his knowledge of the Microsoft Dynamics ecosystem and products helps SBS Group customers maximize ROI on technology investments.  Robbie

Today, Robbie serves SBS Group customers in his role as Chief Solution Strategist where he provides thought leadership and manages the development of B2B solutions.  Robbie received his MBA from the University of Georgia, Terry College of Business.
https://www.linkedin.com/in/robbiemorrison

Podcast: Thoughts From the Field on Dynamics 365 for ProServ Firms in the Southeast with Suzanne Clarke (27 min)

If you’re interested in learning how a new technology like Dynamics 365 is impacting the market, there is no better route than speaking with people who work with it day in and day out.  To help our customers and partners in the professional services sector better understand the Dynamics 365 opportunity, we have interviewed a wide variety of professionals on the topic and created a series of 30-minute Dynamics 365 podcasts.

 

Today, we are proud to present our latest podcast in the series.  We interviewed Suzanne Clarke, a long-time ERP veteran and Enterprise Sales Executive for Microsoft in the Southeastern US.   Suzanne currently lives in Tampa, Florida and has helped customers to deploy ERP and CRM solutions for over 20 years.  Suzanne holds a BBA, Double Major in Accounting and Economics from James Madison University.

Picture of Suzanne Clarke

Suzanne Clarke, Microsoft

“My customers in the professional services sector invest heavily in finding and supporting the right people in their services organization.  They tell me that the today’s generation of people coming into their firms don’t just want technology, they expect it and rely on it to perform.  Dynamics 365 provides intelligent applications across CRM and ERP that work together seamlessly in the cloud and delivers real value to empower people throughout the organization. “

Topics Covered for Professional Services Firms

In this podcast, Suzanne spoke with about Dynamics 365 at length and helped to uncover how Dynamics 365 and AXIO Professional Services for Dynamics 365 for Operations, enable professional services firms to work more effectively.

  • Importance of advanced contracts management
  • Managing recurring revenue
  • Tracking projects and project accounting
  • How AppSource helps customers more easily extend their solution
  • Why cloud computing improves continuity, agility and disaster recovery
  • The importance of mobility and PowerApps for services firms
  • How improved interaction between Sales and Operations solutions are driving business value

 

Dynamics 365 and PowerApps

“I have a customer that works with a variety of contractors and needed to extend access to key information on a regular basis.  They leveraged PowerApps to create a custom mobile solution that provided the data their contractors needed along with a great user experience.  They did this in a matter of days, not months.

We thank Suzanne for her participation in this podcast series and her ongoing support of SBS Group, our customers and hundreds of businesses throughout the Southeast.  If you would like to get in touch with Suzanne directly, you can find her here on LinkedIn.

Best regards,

Robbie Morrison
VP Enterprise Solutions and Services, SBS Group

About Robbie
Robbie Morrison has spent nearly 20 years helping customers build and deploy elegant technology and business solutions.  From start-ups to enterprise-class organizations worldwide, his knowledge of the Microsoft Dynamics ecosystem helps SBS Group customers maximize benefits from the ERP investments.  Robbie

Today, Robbie serves SBS Group customers in his role as Vice President, Enterprise Group where he provides thought leadership and manages the enterprise delivery team.  Robbie received his MBA from the University of Georgia, Terry College of Business.
https://www.linkedin.com/in/robbiemorrison


Want to learn more about AXIO for Professional Services and Dynamics 365? Watch our latest webcast recording!

Listening In: Ted Kempf and Robbie Morrison discuss Dynamics 365 for Professional Services Firms (32min;12/2016)

It’s time to listen.

A quick google search will turn up websites, brochures, infographics and blogs galore on Dynamics 365.  There is certainly no shortage of digital content on Microsoft’s newest cloud solution for business, but nothing beats a conversation between serious professionals.  If you want to truly understand the value Dynamics 365 can bring to your firm, then listen in on this podcast with Ted Kempf (Director of Service Industries at Microsoft) and Robbie Morrison (VP Enterprise Solutions at SBS Group).

 

About the speakers:

Ted Kemp, Director Professional Services Industry Solutions for MicrosoftOur expert panel will include Ted Kempf, Director of Service Industries at Microsoft.  Prior to joining Microsoft, Ted held senior Industry leadership positions with Deltek, Oracle and Peoplesoft. He also spent 5 years as principal analyst for Gartner.

The panrobbie-morrison-sbs-group-dynamics-365el also includes Robbie Morrison, Vice president of Enterprise Solutions for SBS Group.  Robbie is a well-recognized leader in the Microsoft community, having both owned and held leadership positions with some of the most successful Dynamics consultancies in the US market.

How do I know if I’m in a Professional Services Firm?

The professional services sector is typically defined as firms that provide accounting, advertising and marketing, architectural, consulting, engineering, IT, legal, and scientific research services.  There are others, but the common denominator is projects and billable services.  Our company provides both projects and support services to companies interested in implementing Microsoft technology so we would be considered a professional services firm ourselves.  Check out a list of industries we service here.

Having a regular flow of projects and delivering them efficiently almost always makes or breaks a professional services firm of any size. Large firms struggle less with resource balancing and are often able to offer wider ranges of services to meet the needs of major clients. Smaller and mid-market firms typically compete by offering unique expertise or focusing in specific regions. The US industry is highly fragmented: the 50 largest firms account for less than 20% of revenue.

IT services generate about 20% of the total revenue in the professional services sector, followed by architectural and engineering services, legal services and consulting services that make up around 15% each.  Accounting services,  scientific research and specialized design account for another 25%.

Law firms, banking, insurance and a variety of other companies may provide services to businesses, but are less tethered to projects.  Special needs in these segments often require different technologies and process models.

Topics Covered in this Dynamics 365 Podcast:

In just 30 minutes, Robbie and Ted cover a wide range of topics as they explore the business value of Dynamics 365 for Operations when implemented with SBS AXIO for Professional Services. They discuss their own experiences with these solutions in 2016 and share customer stories that provide “in the trenches” perspective you just can’t get in a brochure.

  • How is Dynamics 365 for Operations performing in the Professional Services sector?
  • How are customers responding to PowerApps, Flow, PowerBI, Azure IoT and Cortana Intelligence?
  • What is the CDM (common data model) being discussed with regards to Dynamics 365?
  • How do these solutions help firms better manage contracts? Recurring revenue management? Subscription billing? Project Accounting?
  • How does it work for sales, service, project management, operations and marketing?
  • How quickly can a solution be implemented?
  • What is “AppSource” and how is that a benefit to customers?
  • Do these solutions offer advantages in mobility? Are they secure?
  • How is Dynamics 365 performing against competitors like NetSuite or SalesForce.com?
  • What advice can you offer to Professional Services companies reviewing new ERP, CRM or other productivity solutions?

ch-join-podcast-01

Click below to listen in on the Podcast with Ted and Robbie

 

More on Dynamics 365 for Professional Services firms?

This is the first of several posts that will be published in 2017 to help potential buyers understand the potential benefits of a Dynamics 365 solution.  We’ll bring you podcasts from Microsoft employees, partners and customers and you can listen in on those that are closest to home for you.

If you are part of the Microsoft ecosystem and would be interested in participating in our series, please reach out to Robbie Morrison directly or use the contact form on this site to contact our marketing team.

Review of new features for Project Management and Accounting in Dynamics 365 For Operations

Dynamics 365 For Operations is a cloud based SaaS service, which provides rich features and functionalities to manage simple to complex business processes across all major industry verticals, such as Manufacturing, Professional Services, Financial Services, Retail, Distribution and more. It provides very rich features and functionality for project management and accounting for the professional services industry. In today’s post, we will review some of the key new features and enhancements that were released for project management and accounting, in Dynamics 365 for Operations (Update 3 released on NOV 1st 2016).

Let us review and discuss these new features in the order of what I think their significance would be for customers.

Dedicated PowerBI Content Pack for Project Management and Accounting Reports and Dashboards:

The is the biggest enhancement /new feature under Project Management and accounting in Dynamics 365 For Operations. Customers will now get access to preconfigured PowerBI Content pack that comes out of the box and provides key project management and accounting related dashboards and KPIs that are readily available for consumption. This content pack offers the following dashboards and reports. (Note: You can get access to the .pbix PowerBI files via the shared asset library in Life Cycle Services)

Projects Overview Dashboard: Shows overview of projects by customers, budget performance and revenue and provides a bird’s eye overview of the projects so that you can promptly review projects that are either exceeding budget, underperforming in revenue to take actions.

proj-db

Project Cost and Revenue Details Dashboard: These 2 dashboards enables you to view the project cost and revenue trends easily by customer and various other classifications and also shows actual bs budget comparisons.

proj-cost

proj-rev

Earned Value Management: Earned value management(EVM) is one of the key project health and success measuring criteria for professional services firms. Traditionally, in the earlier version of Dynamics AX, there was no dashboards/KPIs available out of the box that shows EVM and associated KPIs such as Cost Performance Index(CPI) or Schedule Performance Index (SPI), even though you could develop or customize reports and dashboards for these. But in Dynamics 365 for Operations, the content pack provides these out of the box enabling organizations to measure EVM and associated KPIs easily for projects. A very welcome addition !! (In one of the upcoming posts, I will dive deep into EVM in D365 For Operations)

evm

Project Hours Details report: This dedicated dashboard page shows the hours/time details for projects and resources. This also allows you to measure resource utilizations in various perspectives.

proj-hours

Manage Estimated Costs, Revenues and Item requirements on WBS Task Details form of a project:

In the earlier releases of the New Dynamics AX (Update 2 and earlier) or even in AX 2012, you could always define the estimated costs and revenues for each task on the WBS for a project. In Dynamics 365 For Operations, you can add estimated costs and revenue lines for Hours, Expenses, Items and Fees on the WBS task under ‘Estimated Costs and Revenue Tab” as you were able to do in earlier versions, But additionally, you can also manage these on the “TASK Details” form. You can also add/setup “Item Requirements” on the WBS Task details form, so that when you save and publish the WBS, Project Item requirements will be automatically created. (It was also possible earlier, but you had to transfer the WBS Item estimates to Item requirements specifically). Small enhancement, but can be very useful!

wbs-details

Option to setup ledger accounts for intercompany cost and revenues based on lending and borrowing entities for projects:

The Intercompany timesheet and intercompany customer invoicing has been one of the very useful features of AX which enables organizations to deploy resources from multiple entities on the project of borrowing entity and automate the intercompany timesheets and invoicing and accounting. In earlier versions, you only setup one Ledger account for Intercompany Cost and One ledger account for intercompany Revenue postings, regardless of the resource borrowing and lending entities. Dynamics 365 For Operations now provides the option to setup multiple ledger accounts for intercompany cost and revenue posting based on the resource lending and borrowing entities respectively.

int-cost-account

int-rev-account

Enhancements to Project resource management:

There are some significant changes and enhancements to the project resource management feature in the Dynamics 365 For Operations release. I am listing some of those which I think are important, but will discuss them in greater detail in one of the future posts.

  • Organization’s Operations resources such as Machines, Tools, Facility etc. can now be added as project resource and can be scheduled on projects. Earlier, only workers (Employees and Contractors) could be designated as project resource.
  • New Resource request workflow enabling a resource allocation manager to control the resource requests from various projects. (It was there in the AX 7 release as Planned resource, but it has be revised up to some extent)
  • Resource role based pricing and cost price visibility based on date of Task and booking.

resource-request

resource-request1

Miscellaneous usability enhancements across various forms:

The following are some of the miscellaneous usability enhancements.

  • WBS Task ID and the Task Name are now visible on the Project Forecasts Transactions forms. This will certainly make it easier to see the forecasts (Labor, Expense, Items, Fee etc.) at each Task level with easy identification of the task, instead of just looking at the Activity ID.

taskidname

  • On the Resource management screens such as Resource Availability, Resource fulfillment, clearing record selections for each date range is now possible and it a whole lot earlier and neat! Certainly a very useful enhancement.

clearresselections

  • Multiple record selections on various forms to take actions is now possible. An example is the price setup form.

multiselect

  • The Project resource availability form’s business logic now considers Employee’s efficiency rate. Earlier the resource availability was based on Competencies and calendar availability, but Efficiency rate might be a good addition. I am not sure yet if I would use/need it that much, it certainly is a good add-on.

res-avail

  • When you select the Project Manager on a project, it is automatically added to the Project Team under the Project Team and Scheduling tab. Make Sense and makes like a little easier 🙂 !!

pm-team-member

  • Timesheet workflow status is Reset if the workflow and Document status are out of Sync. I believe this enhancement is related to cases when the “Approval status” of a timesheet changes, but the corresponding workflow status does not change sue to unexpected intermittent issues. If this happens, my guess is the workflow status will automatically reset to match with the timesheet document/approval status. I was not able to review and test this feature yet.
  • You can now select a funding source specifically on Fee journal lines. This will prove to be a very useful enhancement, especially in cases where there multiple funding parties responsible for a project contract and when booking Fees for the contract, you can select a specific funding source if you want to bill the partially fee to that funding source. (Note: This was indirectly possible in earlier releases where you could do a Project Free Text invoice and select a funding source on the line, which in turn will post a project Fee transaction.

proj-fee-fundsource

Hope this was helpful! Till next time..

Sandeep

Sandeep ChaudhurySandeep Chaudhury is a Dynamics AX enthusiast with over 10 years of experience in functional consulting, Solutions architecture and systems integration, with expertise in the areas of Professional services automation(Project Management and accounting), Financials Management, Services Management, Sales and Marketing, Human resource management, Travel and Expenses Management and Procurement & Sourcing modules of Microsoft dynamics AX ERP. He has experience working with the Dynamics 365, AX 7, AX 2012 R3, AX 2012 R2 and more.

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