This is our third post on Microsoft Dynamics ERP solutions. In the first we gave an overview of Dynamics, and its branding of four separate and unrelated business management solutions. In part two we looked at the first of these, Dynamics SL, the product formerly known as Solomon. Today, we’ll look at Dynamics GP, formerly Great Plains.
GP provides a range of business and accounting capabilities and it, like Solomon, has been around a long time (since 1981). It was the first of Microsoft’s ERP acquisitions in the early 2000 era, and at the time Great Plains was the best selling SMB accounting package in the U.S. It was headquartered in, of all places, Fargo, North Dakota (hence the product name), and run by a noted industry pioneer, Doug Burgum who worked for some time for Microsoft, post-acquisition, and helped develop their early ERP go-to-market strategy.
The GP product today looks somewhat similar to other Dynamics products. That’s probably because Microsoft at one time endorsed a “Project Green” strategy that pledged to merge all their disparate ERP products into a single, common code base. Project Green came and went quickly and quietly – you don’t hear about it any more, and it was after all one of those Microsoft Seven Year Plans (most people don’t last seven years at Microsoft, let alone ambitious projects like Green). At any rate, today you’ll see screen layout similarities across a host of Microsoft offerings – not just in ERP, but even extending into the Office products, with their ‘ribbon’ panels, tree structured menus, and so on.
Like other ERP offerings from Microsoft, GP comes in two basic flavors: “Business Essentials” (BE) and “Advanced Management” (AM). It features a full complement of financial and accounting functionality from cash flow management to bank reconciliation. It also includes a full suite of supply chain management modules (Bills of Material, Inventory Control, Purchasing, etc.).
GP also includes some limited manufacturing capabilities (it covers the basics, but in-depth functionality is often left to third party providers), as well as some (again, limited) project management capabilities.
It also has field service management capabilities (preventive maintenance, service call management, etc.) and a strong suite of Human Resources functionality including payroll for both U.S. and Canada.
It has limited customization capabilities, and provides licensing to users to perform their own Visual Basic (VBA) modifications, for a fee. And of course, it connects with Microsoft’s own CRM offering.
Whereas a product like SL is finely tuned for project management and construction activities, GP is a more generic solution, aimed at a one-size-fits-all mentality – which can be a strength or a weakness, depending on your needs and point of view.
Interestingly, pricing across the family of Dynamics ERP products appears to be the same, more or less, regardless of product selection. In general, a Business Essentials solution currently will run you an average of about two thousand dollars or so per user, and Advanced Management will cost about a thousand more. These are rough prices, and they vary by functionality, number of users, and the need for added functionality. But the point is, the software itself is modestly priced. The hard work lies in the implementation, training and deployment – topics for another time.
Next up – after a brief break for our Thanksgiving Holiday post this Thursday — we’ll take a quick look at Dynamics AX. Stay tuned…