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Michael Hartmann is CEO of QBS Group and a former Microsoft employee.  In a recent article, he writes about how he thinks ERP buyers will approach Dynamics 365 Business Central (the ERP system formerly known as “Dynamics NAV” or “Navision” for those keeping score), as well what it means to the market and to resellers (like us!).  We’ll share a few of his thoughts here today.

The news is really very good, Hartmann notes.  From a bumpy start in a dual-world of NAV software and the new sort-of NAV D/365 platform, Microsoft has now finally moved to a much clearer path “knowing that it is not just cloud enabled, it is actually developed from the ground up to be the SaaS platform for Dynamics in small and medium businesses. Microsoft will keep a dual strategy, allowing the partner and customer to choose respectively on-premise (Dynamics NAV 2018) or a cloud deployment.”

Hartmann points out that with the new Business Central product now fully available – all based on the original NAV code base – the question arises of how quickly it will be adopted by the marketplace.  He argues that some of the basic rules of the ERP market have not changed.

For one thing, despite the cloud positioning, most existing clients have modifications to their systems.  Migrating these capabilities, Hartmann says, will take time and investment by capable partners, in order to move these modifications into the new “extensions” model Microsoft is providing for modifications to its cloud product.  And, he notes: “customers want to work with an ERP solution that has industry capabilities and they need to mirror business processes that reflect the specifics of their industry.”

Finally, he comments on the path forward for resellers:

“Selling, configuring, deploying, and supporting an ERP platform requires specific skills. Partners will be held accountable if the ERP system does not produce the desired business impact and keep the operation up and running. It is not an easy “expand to ERP” move for an IT partner.

“As a result, generally speaking, only when the trusted partner of an ERP customer is ready to offer migration services will customers go to the new platform, such as Dynamics 365 Business Central.  And it is not the type of quick upgrade that many of us have seen in the past with Office or other productivity apps. Microsoft has considered this and is now investing heavily in a program called Ready-to-Go. This program allows [the reseller] to run through a set of milestones that will make sure [an]existing NAV solution can be successfully migrated and deployed on Dynamics 365 Business Central. Hitting these milestones requires training and work from multiple resources inside a partner organization.

The conclusion to be drawn is that the move from on-premise to cloud will be a journey – something we’ve expounded on many times in the past.  It’s an evolution, not an event.  The great news is that current NAV clients can be confident that their solutions are going to run – either on-premise or in the cloud, at their choosing – for a very long time to come.

And that is very comforting and reassuring to everyone – customers, users and resellers alike – indeed.

You can follow the full text of Hartmann’s article here.

 

 

 

 

As ERP implementers, we’ve seen many of them: the signs that an ERP project is in jeopardy.  Or in some cases, we get called in after it’s happened, and are asked to help set things right.  In that sense, we’re in the same business as the folks at Panorama Consulting, who recently released a brief outline highlighting some of those very warning signs.  Their list was complete and good enough that we thought we share excerpts of it in our post today.  Here then is their Top 10 Warning Signs list:

 

  1. Unrealistic implementation project timeline, budget, and resources. Unrealistic expectations lead to bad decisions.  A strong dose of reality goes a long way.  This one’s more common that you think – and no one thinks it’s going to happen to them.
  2. Lack of involvement from your executive team. Exec involvement needs to go beyond approving budgets and timelines, and must include being involved in key decisions all along the way.
  3. Unclear business processes and requirements. Take time to complete this step clearly, in writing, with full team cooperation before you begin your implementation process.  The Business Process Analysis is the critical first step toward project success.
  4. Not enough time spent on business process reengineering. If you don’t refine and redefine your business processes, you’re just “paving the cow paths” as they say.  Or automating already inefficient processes that “bake in” those inefficiencies for the long run.
  5. Your organizational change management strategy consists solely of end user training. User training is important, but it’s only one component of what you’ll need to overcome resistance to new ways and new systems.  Change-impact plans and constant communication are required.
  6. Too little or too much dependency on outside ERP consultants. Don’t underestimate your need for outside help, but don’t “outsource” your whole implementation either.  Remember, it’s your system, and you need to own it.  Find the balance that leverages outside help while allowing your team to take project ownership for the long haul.  It’s hard work.
  7. Ill-defined project governance and controls. Make sure you have clearly assigned approval processes in place for changes and change orders.  Scope changes, customization requests and unexpected challenges need to be met with an intelligent process that vets each change, if you want to keep your project within scope, budget and timeline.
  8. No business case or benefits realization plan. You can’t improve what you don’t measure, so be sure to have benchmarks, goals and KPIs (key performance indicators) defined and thought through before you begin to implement.  As Panorama says, your ERP investment should be “a tool to manage and optimize potential business benefits during and after implementation.”
  9. The project is managed like an IT project. The only truly successful projects, as benchmarked by several of the criteria above, are those that approach ERP as a strategic business effort.  While ERP involves technology, in the end, it’s about the business, and not the technology.
  10. You don’t have a contingency budget. Most projects don’t go exactly as planned, and you don’t want to “paint yourself into a corner,” as Panorama notes.  Plan, budget-wise, for the unexpected, so you can finish up your project satisfied that you completed your goals.  They recommend 15% to 20% of expected project cost as a contingency.  A word to the wise.

We agree with Panorama’s assessment as shared today, and encourage anyone to match up their own ERP project goals and parameters with those listed above.  Thinking about them will be some of the best time you’ll spend in your entire project.

 

If we needed further proof of just how far and fast the world of computing is changing, we note now the first ‘official’ recognition of the power of cloud computing in Microsoft’s recent business reorganization.  Microsoft is essentially “downgrading Windows,” in the words of Jay Greene in an article in the March 30th edition of The Wall Street Journal.  The firm has announced that Terry Myerson, who ran the Windows business, is leaving the company.  His division, the More Personal Computing division, which includes Windows, saw its revenues increase by 2% (to $12 billion+), while Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform grew at a whopping 41% clip.

For over 40 years, Microsoft and Windows have been nearly synonymous, notes Greene.  Now, Microsoft is reorganizing its business around its growing Azure cloud-computing operations and its Office productivity business.  It’s part of CEO Satya Nadella’s willingness to shift Microsoft’s focus away from its traditional roots (e.g., Windows) in the gradual migration from personal computing to smaller, more mobile devices and the web.

Microsoft has grown its Azure operation into the Number 2 cloud hosting operation in the world, behind only Amazon Web Services.  Meanwhile, its Office and Dynamics business software operations are growing rapidly and are already multi-billion dollar businesses.  (Disclaimer: PSSI is an authorized Microsoft Dynamics partner.)

The Journal reports as well that Microsoft is breaking Windows into “pieces.”  The platform technology upon which partners and ISVs build devices, apps and services will fall under the Azure business line, run by Scott Guthrie, in something called the Cloud + AI Platform, and will also include the Augmented Reality business that includes Microsoft’s Hololens device and the AI (Artificial Intelligence) business.  Another division, known as Experiences & Devices will include Microsoft’s effort to develop new feature for Windows, notes the Journal.

It’s worth noting that today some version of Windows runs on more than 1.5 billion devices worldwide, and it still accounts for 42% of Microsoft’s revenues.  That makes the recent decision all the more sweeping.  Not that long ago, Windows was at the heart of the Justice Dept.’s monopoly suit against Microsoft that sought to break up the company, and to which the company eventually signed a consent agreement.

Speaking of this newest development, Brad Silverburg, who ran the Windows division back it’s seminal Windows 95 heyday, noted of the change engineered by Mr. Nadella that “He recognizes the world for what it is, not what it used to be.”

 

Did you know that one of the largest “hack” attacks in internet history occurred in 2016 when signals generated by tens of thousands of baby monitors, webcams and like devices across America and Europe were hacked in a way that took down broad swaths of the web?

Yes, baby monitors.  These simple internet-hooked devices lack the security of your PC or phone and make them vulnerable to attack.  And there are no fewer than eight million of these devices in existence, according to editors at Bloomberg BusinessWeek.

A fellow named Louis Parks, who runs a small Connecticut company called SecureRF Corp., says he has the answer.  His firm sells software aimed at safeguarding the IoT (Internet of Things) – in a really efficient fashion.  So efficient in fact, that his software runs very clean on some pretty weak hardware.  It’s all in the math, he says, which “allows us to work with smaller numbers and simpler processes.”

Apparently, it’s a lot of math.  Most security relies on exchanges of public and private “keys,” those very large numbers that are used to generate shared secret codes that authenticate that you are who you say you are, and which encrypt modern-day communications.

It turns out that many smart devices (IoT things) are easy to hack because they “don’t have the battery life to handle powerful chips, and they struggle to use standard keys.”  Instead, they rely on passwords that don’t secure traffic between themselves and the internet.

SecureRF’s software manages with its sophisticated underlying math to require calculation of only 8-bit number to provide secure encryption, versus the 256 digits required with standard software.  The benefit, it says, is that its security software can then run 100 times faster – and on lower-power chips – than conventional software, all while using just half the memory.  The result is the ability to run securely on far less security-sophisticated devices.  Like baby monitors.

SecureRF has licensed its technology to others, like Intel and ARM.  They’re focused less on the chip itself, and more on the communication between chips.  They’ve quietly spent over ten years researching ways to defend various types of mobile communications and the devices that depend on them, including RFID and near-field communications.  They shifted their attention to IoT devices in recent years and are counting on the fee paid by chip makers – starting at just a few cents per chip.

That’s an added layer of “protection” for baby monitors for which their creators likely never envisioned the need.  And it’s all in the math.

Recently The Wall Street Journal ran an article we thought worth sharing about “what research tells us about effectively taming your inbox, when to use all caps, whether to use emoticons, how quickly to respond to message – and much more.”

(Well, we guess, that should cover it.)  Here’s what they found…

  • Replying to email promptly? Not always a good thing.  In companies whose cultures “emphasize speed of response, workers are more stressed, less productive, more reactive and less likely to think strategically.”
  • Handling email after hours? Also detrimental, the Journal report opines.  While some may feel more pressure to respond, those who do aren’t necessarily more efficient – they simply generate a higher volume of mail without actually getting more work done.
  • On the other hand… findings from a study of extroverts suggest that when they are working on routine tasks, “being interrupted by an email notification might be good for them – the social stimulation… may help avoid boredom and complete tasks more efficiently.”
  • When’s the best time to send an email? Studies show that when faced with a screen packed with information, people focus on what’s on top, so you want your email to correspond to when people are checking.  Based on a study of 16 billion emails, it was found that people “replied more quickly early in the week, and those replies were also longer. “ The same applied to time of day – between 8:00 AM and noon was best.  Apparently then, your best bet is to fire off your most important missives on a Monday morning.
  • What about email as a negotiation tool? Here, take advantage of email’s strengths, as most would agree that as a negotiating tool it pales in comparison to the face-to-face meeting, right?  Email’s strengths include ”the ability to rehearse what to say and convey a lot of information in a clear specific form that people can refer back to later on.”  As one researcher said, “if you understand how to use email effectively, it can be very helpful for your negotiations.”
  • SOME all caps is fine. It’s a long held tenet of email that using ALL CAPS is shouting!  But research says that’s not always right.  When used judiciously a word or two in caps can provide emphasis, communicate urgency or inject humor.  Just don’t do your whole email that way.
  • What about emoticons? Turns out, those little faces and pictures have been shown to help with comprehension, they shave a bit of negativity out of a message (or add a note of positivity), and are fine to use with people you know.  The caveat is to avoid using them in the wrong circumstances, such as in an introductory business email that sets the wrong first impression in a business context.  People may view you as ‘less competent’ and will thus be less likely to share information with you.
  • Take the time to view messages from the other person’s perspective. Research found that people are “consistently overconfident in their ability both to understand emotion in email and to convey it.”  Instead of skimming emails and firing off quick responses, they say you should take the extra time to view those exchanges from the other person’s perspective.

Good email communication, the Journal concludes, “is not about our intentions, but about the meaning that other people assign to what we write.”  In other words, the way people read your email might be different from how you thought you wrote it.  It happens… all the time.  They suggest asking yourself, “This is what I meant, but is this what the other person will get?”

 

In our prior post we announced the April 2nd release of the “new NAV” whose name has officially been changed by Microsoft to “Dynamics 365 Business Central.”  We noted then a lack of space in a single blog post to parse all the official announcement’s details, so we’ll cover those here in our concluding post wrap-up.

Current NAV users may be asking themselves: What about us?  Is our beloved NAV going away, only to be replaced by this new cloud-based incarnation?  Of that we can give a resounding ‘No.’  Recall those 160,000 companies out there using NAV, across 2,700,000 users, spread over 195 countries around the world.  Microsoft earns an awful lot (even by Microsoft standards!) of revenues from that installed base, and they’re not anxious to disrupt that.  Rather, by the D365 Business Central evolution, they are fully intent on building a very large base of next generation customers, but still built upon that core NAV code base in which countless millions have already been invested.

In fact, the new D365 BC has a lot to recommend it.  Following are some key highlights:

  • A cloud presence supported on Microsoft Azure, among the world’s leading global cloud platforms.
  • A deep focus on BI – business intelligence, analytics, big data… call it what you will, but the integration of Dynamics 365 with Office 365 and LinkedIn and the custom applications developed by third parties, ISVs and partners means there is an enormous world of data out there to be mined for business insights and improved decision making, in a way never before available. If there’s a big takeaway, we think it’s about this openness to big data.
  • When you realize that instances of D365 BC will also include Azure, Business Intelligence via Power BI, Power Apps, and Microsoft Flow it gives new meaning to the term “all-in-one business management solution.”
  • Starting in fall 2019, there will be no “NAV 2019.” Instead, you’ll have Dynamics 365 Business Central on-premise.  Just like clients up until now have always enjoyed it.  The new cloud implementations are simply an additional, new, future-facing option.
  • The product will be robust. With the entire existing NAV code base, users are offered Marketing, Sales, Service, Operations, Supply Chain, Warehouse Management, Discrete Manufacturing, Talent, and of course, Finance.  It’s full NAV objects and functionality with D365 branded vertical solutions and ISV cloud embed programs (like PrintVis, already a leading business management solution for the print industry).
  • Partners can still do individual client customizations, but we’ll do them via “extensions,” with an option for publishing those extensions in the app store.
  • The code will continue to evolve as Visual Studio, but with 44 business APIs available at the announcement, it leaves the product open to all manner of 3rd party apps and extensions in many other environments including C#, Python, Azure, Android Studio and many others.
  • Pricing will be three-tiered with choices including: Team Member (similar to the former “lite” user), Essentials (like the former “full” user), and Premium (includes Manufacturing & Service).

This new release of Dynamics 365 Business Central is destined to change the face of the ERP landscape and opens up the product and our customers to a whole new world of data insights, interoperability with other pieces and whole new worlds of functionality.  The release is just the first step in the long journey forward to ensure that, by any name, the Microsoft ERP product is destined to be here, in many forms, for a very long time.

We’ll continue to keep you apprised of future Dynamics 365 changes and announcements as always.  For now, welcome to the future!

 

Microsoft Dynamics NAV has long been one of the world’s most popular, most implemented, best-selling ERP software programs for managing the small to midsize business.  Today, over 160,000 companies, deploy NAV across 2,700,000 users in 195 countries!  So when the core product evolves, the ensuing buzz cuts a wide swath across the IT community.  These days, a product long code-named ‘Tenerife’ is doing just that, as the quickly evolving SaaS (Software as a Service) next generation product begins its long journey as the future of NAV.

And as of yesterday (April 2, 2018) NAV is now (drum roll please…) Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central.

To begin with, what we’re seeing here is the evolution of NAV from an on-premise based software solution that’s been around for decades, that then evolved into a cloud-deployable solution (hosted by anyone from your local reseller to global partners who specialized in hosting), into the latest rendition, in which the CBFKAN (code base formerly known as NAV) evolves onto a Microsoft SaaS platform that is sold on a subscription basis (by “named user”) to users within a company for one flat monthly per-user cost.  (There will actually be three levels of pricing, dependent on the ‘type’ of user you choose to purchase.)

To reiterate, D365 Business Central is the complete installation of NAV software, that is, it’s the same code base.  That means that the functionality and flexibility and extensibility for which NAV has been long known are still there and fully functional.  NAV is a special, unique product, so that code base integrity is important.  But while the product itself remains intact, the ‘branding’ (and hence, name) is changing.

With D365 BC, there are some new wrinkles.  For one, it puts the individual users – the ‘clients’ – in a web-only situation.  These clients run on tablets and phones or in your computer’s web browser but, notably lacking at least at this point, is a traditional Windows client.  For existing NAV users, that might be a deal-breaker right there.  For the newer user starting fresh, perhaps not so much.

The software license is now provided via the Cloud Solution Provider program, a newer Microsoft delivery program in which providers must be registered.  It renders users as ‘named’ users (one client instance by individual name, generally) paid for via a monthly subscription-based fee.  There are no ‘concurrent’ users in the D365 BC/CSP model, but there are also no upfront software costs or what today is known as annual maintenance.  It’s all bundled into the one monthly fee.

D365 Business Central takes advantage of an app store philosophy embraced years ago by Apple and later others, in which applications are purchased through an online store.  With D365/BC, these apps add or extend the functionality of the base NAV product, and fit neatly into preassigned code areas within NAV for ‘plug-in’ flexibility and ease of installation.  In NAV, these are known as ‘extensions.’  The aim, at least for Microsoft, is to build a large and robust community of extension developers and users, thus growing the overall base of Dynamics 365 users.

There’s more to the announcement than will fit in a single post, so we’ll finish this post in a second installment in our next post.  Stay tuned…

 

 

Th