ERP - comparing microsoft dynamics products

Choosing the Right Microsoft Dynamics Product – Part I

Dynamics AX is a more complex, more sophisticated, and more robust solution than Dynamics NAV or GP.

Those familiar with Microsoft products will be well aware of this statement. However, I have found many smaller companies who are not aware of the differences. In fact, I have had prospects which generate no more than $10M in revenue per year telling me they need 3 to 5 users of Dynamics AX.  Five users of AX: what this tells me is there is a lack of clarity and understanding surrounding the Dynamics products and which ones would be the best fit for an organization.

In an attempt to help you better comprehend the inherent differences between the three major Microsoft Dynamics solutions, I’ve written two blog posts to outline the distinctions between the three Dynamics products.

In this, part 1 of 2, I’d like to discuss the high level differences between the three products, with a focus on capabilities and functionality. In part two, we’ll focus on cost comparisons and timelines to implement, as well as other factors to consider when making an ERP decision. Let’s dive in.

Dynamics GP (Great Plains)

Although it wasn’t always the case, Dynamics GP is now largely considered your standard, native, business-in-a-box solution.  It is a product without many of the complex requirements you’d find in Dynamics AX or NAV, but still has its place in the market.

Dynamics GP’s strength lies in its HR and payroll modules and is a great fit for organizations in the lower end of the middle market that are leaving an entry level accounting system for more advanced capabilities.  So if you’re looking for something with native functionality, requires few customizations, and focuses on financials and basic project accounting, then Dynamics GP could be your answer.

If, on the other hand, you are a larger organization, it is likely you will require functionality and customizations that are beyond the limitations of Dynamics GP.  And that’s where Dynamics AX and NAV may be a better fit.

Dynamics NAV (Navision)

The new Dynamics NAV 2013 release has been enhanced with features that make the product much more scalable and capable of handling larger and larger user volume than ever before.  It used to be that Dynamics NAV would support around 250 concurrent users according to whitepapers released by Microsoft, but we now know this number has increased substantially.

One of our larger clients uses Dynamics NAV with over 500 concurrent users without any issues and I know other companies with even more users.  Dynamics NAV is more robust than ever before and has emerged as a very good platform capable of delivering solutions to companies in the mid-market, particularly with unique requirements.

Although the functionality out of the box leans more towards the manufacturing and distribution industries, Dynamics NAV is the most easily customizable Microsoft ERP solution which positions well for growing organizations in any industry.  In our own experiences at Rand Group, we’ve been able to build business logic into all areas of the Dynamics NAV system, including creating module specific IP and developing custom functionality around rentals for our upstream Oil and Gas clients. The customizability of Dynamics NAV is able to accommodate the changing business dynamics of the most complex organizations, regardless of industry.

Dynamics AX (Axapta)

Geared towards the upper mid-market and beyond, Dynamics AX is a robust out-of-the-box solution with features and functionality such as business intelligence, workflow and portal capabilities that are beyond what Dynamics GP or NAV can offer.  It is a very powerful platform that will take longer to implement than its Dynamics counterparts, but will provide control and strict process conformity across an organization.

Given its capability to scale to thousands of users (Microsoft has whitepapers supporting 7,500 concurrent users), Dynamics AX requires a longer time to implement and typically costs more than the other Microsoft ERP solutions (more on that in the next post). However, what we’ve witnessed firsthand at Rand Group is that Dynamics AX is still going to be less of an investment than a comparable SAP or Oracle deployment and your return on investment relative to these Tier 1 options is going to be significantly higher.

No matter what product you choose to support your organization, your decision should be based on the business requirements of your individual needs.  In the end, it’s understanding what your organization is trying to manage within the ERP system and then aligning with the native capabilities of each of these Dynamics products.

In the next post, we’ll look at the other factors to consider when making your ERP decision.


– Software Delivered as Promised. No Surprises.

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William Wu

Insight written by William Wu

Executive Vice President at Rand Group

William Wu has over 16 years’ experience consulting for and performing ERP software implementations in the energy, technology, telecommunications, and service industries. With a background in both accounting and business and extensive certifications in ERP systems, William possesses both the drive and skill to move a company from where it is, to where it needs to be.

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