Four Tech Trends That Help Businesses Thrive in the Digital World

Four Tech Trends That Help Businesses Thrive in the Digital World

Microsoft recently published a truly outstanding white paper titled Four Technology Trends Helping Businesses Thrive in a Digital World. We highly recommend it if you’re contemplating how IT can make an impact on your business success. The paper takes on topics like cloud computing, digital transformation, the Internet of Things (IoT) and mobility. Their goal is to add detail and practical insights to subjects that tend to be vague and overhyped. The context is the applicability of Dynamics 365 as a solution for digital transformation. Here’s a sneak peek:

Cloud computing: Much more than a buzzword

Cloud adoption is accelerating. As businesses put cloud technology to work in a vast variety of use cases, the concept becomes far more than a mere buzzword. Indeed, the cloud changes how and where people work. It enables new ways of doing business, or even completely new businesses. Cost reduction is still a high priority for cloud adoption, but other factors are driving adoption. The paper cites Gigaom Research, which reports, “71% of strategic buyers cite scalability, cost and business agility as the most important drivers for using cloud services.”

Digital transformation and the revolution in connectivity

Microsoft surveyed small and mid-sized business owners and employees with the goal of understanding their most challenging problems. Lost productivity emerged as a serious issue. People reported losing time working across multiple systems that are unable to “talk to each other.” The results of such disconnected systems included manual, duplicative processes and out-of-date reporting. Poor visibility into operations then translated into impaired decision making at the management level.

Digital transformation offers a way out of this trap. It’s a broad concept, but at its heart, digital transformation is about the current revolution in connectivity. Today, applications can easily and cheaply connect with one another using standards-based APIs—even spanning between multiple business entities. As the paper explains, companies that connect their systems, people, data and processes are able to anticipate operational challenges and act accordingly. They are able to gather data in real time and get deep insights into what going on in the business.

No mystery in the IoT. It’s reality

The IoT is one of those tech ideas that seemed futuristic when it first debuted. Today, it’s a reality. Using devices to collect and analyze operational and environmental data is now occurring on a regular basis. And, it’s not just for big corporations or government agencies. Even a smaller business has its “things” that generate data with which to track trends, identify patterns and perhaps even make predictions.

The challenge in IoT is threefold. First, there has to be a solution to manage the devices and related “edge” infrastructure. Then, there’s the data. IoT environments create a lot of data. It has to be stored and secured before it can be analyzed. The analytics is the third and arguably most important challenge to overcome on the way to IoT success.

Embracing mobility

Mobility is already so pervasive in business that it may not even occur to people that it’s a distinct technology area deserving of focus. It is. Your employees are increasingly mobile. You have to support them. Customers expect rich mobile connections with your brand. Your suppliers are using mobile apps. Having a mobile strategy is critical for success today.

These are the highlights of the paper. To read it in full, click here.

Improving Your Business with Dynamics 365 Business Central

Improving Your Business with Dynamics 365 Business Central

Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central is a multi-faceted, cloud-based business management suite. It offers features that can improve the way your business operates. These include advance financial management capabilities, supply chain management and project management as well as operational optimization tools.

Manage your financials better

Dynamics 365 financial management lets you make informed decisions by connecting data across sales, accounting, purchasing, inventory and customer interactions. This approach gives you an end-to-end view of your business. With Dynamics 365, you can streamline accounts receivables and payables. It provides automatic account reconciliations and quick accurate closing.

The financial management toolset’s reporting abilities let you improve the accuracy of your financial forecasts. You can refine forecasts by modeling and analyzing your business data across multiple dimensions. Then, customize reports using seamless Microsoft Excel integration and chart financial your business’s performance in real time with built-in Power BI dashboards.

Learn more about Financial Management in Business Central.

Securely automate your supply chain

Supply chain management benefits from automation. Dynamics 365 can be set up to offer recommendations on when to pay vendors. It can also guide you on when to use vendor discounts or avoid overdue penalties. Controls available in Dynamics 365 have the ability to prevent unnecessary or fraudulent purchases. This is achieved through approval workflows.

With Dynamics 365, you can take advantage of built-in intelligence to predict inventory replenishment requirements. The toolset gives you the ability to purchase only what you need by means of dynamically updated inventory levels. Thus, you can automatically calculate stock levels and maintain the right amount of inventory. Track lead times and reorder points, enabling you to reduce stock-outs and resulting lost sales.

Learn more about Supply Chain in Business Central.

Sell smarter and improve customer service

Dynamics 365 further improves your business by helping you sell smarter. You can prioritize sales leads based on their revenue potential. At the same time, track all customer interactions and let the toolset provide guidance on suggested cross-sell, upsell and renewal opportunities. Dynamics 365 also allows you to accelerate your quote-to-cash cycle. Outlook integration enables fast responses for sales inquiries as well as service requests.

Learn more about CRM in Business Central.

Keep projects on time and under budget

If you run a project-based business, Dynamics 365 has features for creating, managing and tracking projects with timesheets and advanced job costing and reporting capabilities. You can develop and control budgets in order to project profitability. The toolset lets you manage resource levels for each project and then track invoicing against projected costs.

Learn more about Project Management in Business Central.

Optimize your operations

Dynamics 365 helps you improve your business through optimized operations. This includes capabilities like managing forecasting-to-fulfillment by gaining a holistic view of inventory. The toolset gives you the ability to use sales forecasts and expected stock-outs to create production plans and purchase orders on an automated basis. In addition, you can use Dynamics 365 to run your warehouse efficiently, tracking every item transaction and movement. For manufacturers, Dynamics 365 calculates and optimizes manufacturing capacity and resources in order to meet customer demands through improved production schedules.

Learn more about Operations Management in Business Central

If we can help you determine how Dynamics can improve your business, let’s talk.

Additional Business Central Resources

Microsoft Dynamics Business Central Features

Dynamics 365 Business Central: Premium Vs. Essentials

Dynamics GP to Dynamics 365 Business Central

Dynamics GP to Dynamics 365 Business Central

Dynamics GP to Dynamics 365 Business Central

Microsoft continues to innovate and iterate with its popular Dynamics product line. This is good, though it can be a little confusing when it comes time to decide to stay with what you’ve got or move on to a new option. Today, our clients are asking if they should keep running Dynamics GP or migrate to Dynamics 365 Business Central. Both solutions are good, so the stay/go decision is not about better vs. worse. There are differences, though, so a company that uses Dynamics GP would be well served by looking at its needs and making a determination about moving to Dynamics 365.

Background

Microsoft launched Dynamics 365 in 2016, offering Dynamics functional on a cloud-based Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) basis. Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central in one of its sub-offerings, providing enterprise resource planning (ERP) functions for small-to-midsized businesses. At the same time, Microsoft continues to develop and support Microsoft Dynamics GP, which is designed for the same kind of customer.

Comparing Dynamics GP and Dynamics 365 Business Central

The two solution share a code base, so their functionality is very similar. Both offer extensive financial management features, including reporting, e-banking and budgeting. They also both support fixed asset management and general ledger account segmentation. Both have integration with Power BI, US and Canadian payroll capabilities, inventory tracking and multi-currency compatibility. They can each handle multiple entities.

Dynamics GP does have forecasting and inter-company transaction processing, which Dynamics 365 Business Central currently does not. In our experience, there are some nuanced differences between the way the two solutions handle reporting and integration with CRM. And, given that Dynamics 365 is newer, the solution offers fewer third-party add-ons right now. This will surely change over time.

Licensing and hosting are areas where the two also differ. Dynamics GP is available with perpetual licensing, where you own the license, and subscription licensing. You can host GP on-premises or in the cloud through a third-party Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) hosting provider. This latter option saves you from having to buy new hardware every three years or so.

Dynamics 365 Business Central is available as a complete SaaS. This way, your accounting and/or ERP is hosted on the Microsoft Azure cloud. You will have to pay for a monthly subscription plan to Azure on top of your Dynamics 365 license fees. There are several advantages to this approach, however. Microsoft takes care of updates and bug fixes for any applications you’re running on Business Central. You also get out of the responsibility for buying and running infrastructure.

How to Make the Decision

Based on our experience with companies that are reviewing their options with Dynamics, it seems that the costs of running the respective solutions are the most important factors in making the decision. There is no imminent end of life for Dynamics GP. The best choice may be to do nothing, for now.

If we can help you determine your best path forward with Dynamics, let’s talk.

Additional Dynamics 365 Business Central Resources

Dynamics 365 Business Central: Premium Vs. Essentials

Improving Field Service Operations with Dynamics 365 Business Central

Highly Anticipated Improvements Coming to Dynamics 365 Business Central

Improving Field Service Operations with Dynamics 365 Business Central

Improving Field Service Operations with Dynamics 365 Business Central

The complaint, “The repair man said he would be here between 2 and 4, and now it’s 6 and I’m still waiting…” is a staple of consumer exasperation. But what if the customer complaint was, “The service said they would send someone to fix our $500 million oil refinery and they still haven’t shown up…” it’s the same field service operations problem, but on a whole different scale. Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central offers solutions for field service issues at any scale.

Background

Microsoft launched Dynamics 365, in 2016 as a cloud-based Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) version of its respected Dynamics product line. In this suite, Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central offers a range of enterprise resource planning (ERP) functions. Business Central was originally known as Microsoft Dynamics NAV, Microsoft Dynamics GP and Microsoft Dynamics SL. 

The Dynamics 365 Business Central Service Management Module

The Service Management module within Business Central is designed to support repair shop and field service operations. It works within scenarios like complex customer service distribution systems as well as industrial service environments with bills of materials. The module also enables high-volume dispatching of service technicians and provides for spare parts management.

How to Improve Field Service with Dynamics 365 Business Central

Dynamics 365 Business Suite’s centralized administration hub for service management makes possible many improvements to field service. The central hub makes it possible for service managers to stay on top of the many different, simultaneous aspects of service delivery. These include:

  • Scheduling service calls and setting up service orders
  • Tracking repair parts and supplies
  • Assigning service personnel, and if necessary, allocating personnel based on skills and availability
  • Providing service estimates
  • Preparing service invoices
  • Standardizing coding of service work
  • Setting up contracts
  • Implementing a discount policy
  • Creating route maps

The centralized hub allows for managing these moving targets all at once. For instance, scheduling service calls may itself be challenging. However, when you have to factor in a back-ordered replacement part or an incomplete service contract into the process, there may be confusion and delays that negatively affect customer experience.

The suite lets service managers get out ahead of customer service issues, e.g. automatically sending out service reminders to customers in advance. This example reveals, however, that service management is not just about the toolset. The tool enables a policy, like service reminders, but the company has to devise the policy first. This is a business management challenge.

The best practice is to think through your customer’s priorities. Think about how they define a great customer experience and then work backward through the Service Management Module to realize that great experience. The platform’s data output can help in this regard. For example, you might run reports on service delays and discover that most of the were due to backordered spare parts. This knowledge enables you to plan ahead and stock parts that will be in demand—reducing disappointed customers in the process.

Are you interested in learning more about how Dynamics 365 Business Central can help you improve your field service? If so, let’s talk.

Additional Business Central Resources

Dynamics 365 Business Central: Premium Vs. Essentials

Highly Anticipated Improvements Coming to Dynamics 365 Business Central

Facts About Microsoft Dynamics Business Central

Dynamics 365 Business Central: Premium Vs. Essentials

Dynamics 365 Business Central: Premium Vs. Essentials

Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central is a cloud-based business management solution that’s designed to give you an “end-to-end” control of and visibility into your business. It comes in two versions: Premium and Essentials. This article compares the two options.

What is Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central?

Dynamics 365 Business Central is an easy-to-use, browser-based, all-in-one business management solution. It provides financial management functionality as well as a variety of business management features. These include compliance, supply chain management, security and sales-growth drivers like built-in buy recommendations for customers. Users can take advantage of management tools for budgets, manufacturing and warehouse operations.

What’s Inside the Essentials Version of Dynamics 365 Business Central

Dynamics 365 Business Central Essentials is the base offering, but it contains an impressive collection of features. Its financial management capabilities comprise basic general ledger, budgets, deferrals, basic fixed assets, bank reconciliation, bank account management, audit trails and multiple currency compatibility.

With Essentials, is it possible set up a company and start posting to the general ledger, setting up a chart of accounts, general journals, recurring journals and VAT facilities in the process. Budgets work inside the general ledger. You can keep track of fixed assets, with the ability to do depreciations, write-downs and so forth.

The Customer Resource Management (CRM) tools in Essentials let you keep an overview of your contacts, organize campaigns by customer segment and manage sales opportunities. You can integrate Essentials with Dynamics 365 for Sales, too. This enables you to create estimates, synchronize your sales order data, product available and so forth. You can manage sales orders along with purchase orders and receivables.

Inventory management includes multi-site capabilities. This way, it’s possible to manage inventory across plants, distribution centers, retail outlets and delivery vehicles. You can even manage inventory at the bin level in a basic warehousing function.

Human Resources (HR) features in Essentials span the tracking of employee information and the organizing of employee data by factors like experience, skills, training, union membership and so forth. Essentials provides expense and project management tools. You can set up and manage time sheets as well.

What’s Different about Dynamics 365 Business Central Premium Edition?

The Premium edition has everything in Essentials along with an assortment of more sophisticated features. Service Management is one area of difference, for example. With Premium, you can register services that take place after a sale, e.g. installing tires after selling them. Service price management is part of this feature set, as is the ability to record and keep track of all service items like contract specifications, component management warranty information and so on. Service contract management lets you keep track of service levels, parts and labor, response times, service histories and discount levels.

With Dynamics 365 Business Central Premium edition, you can also plan and track the execution of planned projects, e.g. assign employees to take care of orders and record details about work status. You can manage dispatching, too. Premium edition enables you to oversee service personnel and technician in the field.

Manufacturing functions are one of the main differentiators between Essentials and Premium. For example:

  • Create and manage production orders
  • Establish and manage multiple versions of a manufacturing bill of materials (BOM)
  • Conduct “agile manufacturing,” planning rush times, create exceptions to process, etc.
  • Set up demand-based material requirements while supporting master production scheduling
  • Forecast demand and plan production based on anticipated demand
  • Plan capacity and set up routings
  • Implementing capacity constraints

Integrated Business Group offers both the Essentials and Premium versions of Dynamics 365 Business Central. We can help you decide which edition is right for your business and, from there, provide the implementation services you need to get it running right. For more information on our Dynamics 365 Business Central services, visit https://www.integratedbusinessgroup.com/microsoft-dynamics-365-business-central/.

Additional Dynamics 365 Business Central Resources:

Highly Anticipated Improvements Coming to Dynamics 365 Business Central

ERP Modernization and Evergreen ERP

Facts About Microsoft Dynamics Business Central

Highly Anticipated Improvements Coming to Dynamics 365 Business Central

Highly Anticipated Improvements Coming to Dynamics 365 Business Central

Whether you are a current Dynamics 365 Business Central user or looking to see what’s new in the platform on your journey to familiar and functional small business ERP, we are excited to share with you some of the enhancements introduced in the April 2019 release of the application.

In our last blog on the topic, we discussed how Dynamics 365 is changing the way companies receive updates, resulting in something we call “evergreen ERP.” Rather than seemingly random updates and limited support schedules, Dynamics 365 remains new no matter how long you use it. As Microsoft has made changes to the update schedule, the company has officially moved to twice-yearly releases in April and September.

Twice-yearly releases allow for more well-planned and feature-rich improvements, with the April 2019 update bringing the following improvements:

Productivity Enhancements

Business User Improvements

Business users in need of productivity have received a wide range of improvements, ranging from application enhancements to easier search and navigation, more keyboard shortcuts, and more.

Application Enhancements

One of the biggest areas of improvement is to the application itself, including the following:

  • Longer Names and Descriptions: You can now enter up to 100 characters in all Descriptionand Name fields across Business Central.
  • Better Structure for Inventory Counting: The Physical Inventory Orderand Physical Inventory Recording pages increase productivity and address gaps in the existing functionality.
  • Add Multiple Items to a Sales or Purchase Document: You can now select multiple items at once from the items list to add to sales or purchase documents. On any sales or purchase document, choose the Select Itemsline action.
  • Sales Quote Validity Policy: You can now set date formula in the Quote Validity Calculationfield on the Sales & Receivables Setup page that will be used to calculate the Quote Valid Until Date field on sales quotes.
  • Skip Prompt to Create Item: When you enter an item that does not exist on a document line, you are prompted to either create a new item card or select an existing item. In some cases, such as when importing many new items, this prompt blocks the process. You now have the option to skip the prompt.
  • Copy Customer Dimensions to Jobs Created for Customer: When a job is created and a customer is assigned to the job, default dimension values from the customer are copied to the job.
  • Customer, Vendor, and Item Templates: You can now copy existing data templates when you create new ones.
  • Merge Duplicate Customers, Vendors, Contacts: When a duplicate customer, vendor, or contact record is created by mistake, you can now merge such duplicate records to a single record, given that you have the MERGE DUPLICATES permission set.
  • SWIFT Code Lookup: You can now keep a list of SWIFT codes for banks that you work with and use it on pages where you use bank accounts.
  • Ensure Approval Users are Set Up to Run Approval Workflows: A check is added to ensure that the user is set up on the Approval Userspage before they can initiate an approval workflow.
  • Schedule Background Jobs Using a Date Formula: You can now schedule background jobs or reports by defining a date formula, meaning a relative date, instead of defining a fixed day.
  • Set Default Ship to Address: Customers can have multiple addresses but they usually have a central warehouse that goods must be shipped to. You can now define a customer’s default ship-to address in the Ship-to Codefield on the customer card.
  • Change Descriptions on G/L Entries: If you entered the wrong description during posting or if you just need to change a description on an earlier G/L entry, you can now edit the Descriptionfield on the General Ledger Entries page to overwrite the original posting description.

There are a wide range of additional enhancements and features in the April 2019 update, all of which you can view here.

List Views

Developers have a new, simple and intuitive model to build custom list views in Visual Studio Code for the modern clients. Not only does it empower developers to create alternate views of a list with each their own custom column layout, but the new views also overcome most of the shortcomings with the earlier model.

Quick Entry

Accelerate repetitive entry of records with the powerful Quick Entry feature for the desktop browser and Windows desktop app. Quick Entry is a powerful and simple feature that provides an alternate path through editable fields on a page. It changes the behavior of the Enter key to be different from the Tab key, moving the focus to the next Quick Entry field across the page and skipping over non-essential fields.

Improved All-Product Navigation

Finding the features in the product easily is essential for all users. So is getting an overview of what’s in the product. For the April ’19 update, Microsoft is making it easier to find functionality by providing a full overview of features in the product based on the content of RoleCenters. This makes it much easier for our customers to navigate and find the right features in the product while also giving an overview of RoleCenters and their content. As a supplement to using the current RoleCenters navigation bar, the command bar, or Tell-Me searches, this new overview brings the actions or modules you need and use closer to you so that you can stay focused and productive.

Additional Improvements

  • Focus Mode
  • Notes and Links
  • New Keyboard Shortcuts
  • AutoSave Indicator
  • Personalization Enhancements

Administrator Improvements

In addition to the improvements for business users, administrators gained a few enhancements ranging from increased customization to lifecycle management improvements.

  • Business Central and D365 for Sales Integration Improvement: As an increasing number of Business Central users use Dynamics 365 for Sales, the Business Central integration with Dynamics 365 for Sales has to deliver reliable synchronization, improved sales order integration, and shared AI insights with Dynamics 365 for Sales. See more here.
  • Organizational Theme: Office 365 administrators can now change the default theme of the header by specifying a company logo and background color that match company brand.
  • Application Lifecycle Management Enhancements: A major improvement in the April 19 release, BC admins get a lot more flexibility, ability to preview and test, take advantage of extension management and more. See what’s new here.
  • Enhancements to the Intelligent Cloud: The Intelligent cloud offers across the board enhancements for a wide range of Dynamics applications. View these improvements here.

Self-Help and Support Features

Find the information you need faster and more easily with a range of self-help and support enhancements in Dynamics 365 Business Central.

  • Simplified Help and Support Experience: Users will now find links to self-help content and documentation, commonly requested troubleshooting information to self-diagnose or hand over to Support, seek advice from the community, or post new ideas. Administrators can configure a single support email address for the customer’s organization that allows any user to contact their IT administrator or supporting partner to receive support.
  • Page Inspection: Troubleshooting errors in business data or feature configuration often requires an additional level of insight beyond what is shown on the page. Power users and support staff can now inspect any page (or the page parts within a page), revealing the entire contents of the current record including fields that are not shown on the page.

See more about each of these features here.

Developer Features

In addition to the wide range of enhancements, developers have new features available to them.

  • Designer Enhancements: The Designer accompanies Visual Studio Code and is a convenient way for developers to test and rapidly adjust visual content on page objects. Developers have access to a range of tools including Designing Actions, Quick Entry, field importance, list views, and the navigation bar. See the entire list of improvements here.
  • Visual Studio Code and AL: The April ’19 release focuses on preparing to move the base application and country modifications from C/AL to AL, on optimizations for working with large projects (such as the base app on AL), as well as on additional productivity features addressing feedback from internal and external developers.
  • Standard Web API No Longer in Beta: The standard web API is moving out of beta. The API has been in beta while evolving based on feedback from the partner community. This release integrates final improvements and several new entities in the API as version 1.0.

Dynamics 365 Business Central Coming in April 2019

As mentioned above, Microsoft releases Business Central on a twice-yearly update schedule—April and October. These backward compatible updates ensure you are always on the latest version of the Dynamics 365 Business Central platform without breaking an integration or undoing a customization.

Dynamics 365 Business Central and IBG: Your Partners for Success

Do you need assistance from a partner that understands your business processes and can help you get Dynamics 365 to fit your business?  IBG provides professional services for Dynamics 365 that include:

  • Upgrades
  • Support
  • Training
  • Integrations & Workflows
  • Custom Development
  • Business Process Re-engineering

Learn more about Dynamics 365 Business Central and contact us for a free consultation.