December 9, 2014 Ken Jacobsen

Which Microsoft Dynamics ERP solution is right for my business?

Microsoft's newest iteration of Dynamics GP offers a variety of added benefits.

Microsoft Dynamics ERP solutions offers a variety of solution choices that match any business’s requirements.

With four ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) solutions offered by Microsoft under the Dynamics brand, how do you know which one is the best fit for your business? Unfortunately, this isn’t an easy question to answer.

First let me explain the Microsoft has divided their Dynamics ERP solutions into two broad categories with separate sales and marketing organizations. Microsoft Dynamics AX is targeted at what they call Enterprise and is for large, multi-national businesses, especially complex, multi-site manufacturing. Microsoft Dynamics GP, NAV, and SL are targeted at SMB (Small and Medium Business) in many industries. This doesn’t mean that GP/NAV/SL can’t effectively be used by large enterprises. In fact, GP has been described as having a more mature, full-featured financial offering than AX. At The TM Group, we have been focused on the SMB space for more than 30 years, and thus don’t support Microsoft Dynamics AX.

Why four Microsoft ERP Solutions?

Microsoft ended up with four solutions through acquisition of two businesses. In 2001, Microsoft entered the business solutions market through the acquisition of Great Plains for $1.1 billion. Great Plains had previously acquired Solomon in 2000. Today these solutions are marketed as Microsoft Dynamics GP and Microsoft Dynamics SL. In 2002 Navision was acquired by Microsoft for $1.4 billion. Navision had previously merged with Damgaard, who developed Axapta. Today these solutions are marketed as Microsoft Dynamics NAV and AX.

The Great Plains acquisition gave Microsoft excellent market position and a widely supported solution in North America, although it is sold worldwide. The Navision acquisition then gave Microsoft a stronger market position in Europe and Asia. It was also sold in North America, but did not have the same user adoption that Great Plains had in the Americas.

The four products offer similar functionality, but have strengths in certain industries. Having different birth countries, their product designs are also different. Microsoft Dynamics GP and SL are designed like most North American ERP solutions to be an out-of-the-box solution with many industry add-ons available to round out the solution for customers. Microsoft Dynamics NAV and AX are designed like SAP and other European based ERP solutions to be customized and tailored to a company’s specific requirements.

Being the world’s largest software company, Microsoft can support and develop four code bases. So how do you decide which solution, Microsoft Dynamics GP, Microsoft Dynamics NAV, or Microsoft Dynamics SL, is the best fit for your organization. Below is a little background on each solution, but we think you’re best having a partner like The TM Group, which represents all three Microsoft Dynamics ERP SMB solutions, help you figure out which one is the best fit.

Microsoft Dynamics GP (formerly Great Plains)

Microsoft Dynamics GP is predominantly used by North American and Australian organizations. It is a very “horizontal” product and fits in many industries. At The TM Group, we have implemented Dynamics GP since it was introduced in 1993 as well as its predecessor, Great Plains Accounting for DOS . We have experience with Microsoft Dynamics GP in many industries including, auto suppliers, distribution/manufacturing, education, entertainment/hospitality, family office management, financial services, grocery, healthcare, job cost, and not for profits. It is the perfect fit for organizations that need strong financial functionality and have one or multiple lines of business, like many family offices.

Accounting, distribution, human resources and payroll, manufacturing, grant management, project accounting, and contract/service management are all available with the standard Microsoft Dynamics GP solution. There are multiple add-ons called ISVs (Integrated Solution Vendors), that can be plugged in to provide specific functionality like Appolis’s warehouse management, Binary Stream’s Multi-Entity Management, Greenshades’ employee tax compliance and self-service, Horizon’s process manufacturing (GP’s manufacturing is APICS based and discrete), and WennSoft’s service management, rental, and job costing.

Microsoft Dynamics NAV (formerly Navision)

Microsoft Dynamics NAV is very strong in Europe and Asia, and in distribution and manufacturing companies. It is typically used by those mid-market companies needing a tailor able ERP solution. The Navision model has always been for partners and users to have access to the source code of the product so they could customize the solution to a company’s specific requirements. But what we like at The TM Group is that Microsoft Dynamics NAV has very strong distribution functionality right out of the box as well as job control, manufacturing, service management and some sales and marketing (CRM) functionality. Additional functionality is also available through a wide range of ISVs like Appolis warehouse management, Cost Control job costing and manufacturing add-ons, Elva DMS automotive dealership enhancements, and Serenic for payroll.

Microsoft Dynamics SL (formerly Solomon)

Microsoft Dynamics SL has really been targeted at the professional services industry by Microsoft, however, it also has a very strong financial, distribution, and payroll suites. We have the largest and most tenured, SL practice in Michigan. Accounting, distribution, payroll, manufacturing, projects, and service are all available with the standard Microsoft Dynamics SL solution. There are multiple ISV add-ons as well that can be plugged in to provide specific functionality like Sandler-Kahne Project Work Order, MaxQ eBanking modules and numerous others.

Power to Change

If you purchase one of the Dynamics products and your business changes and you decide one of the other ERP solutions is a better fit, Microsoft credits your original license investment against the purchase of any of the other Dynamics ERP products. This means you have the power to choose any of the Microsoft Dynamics solutions and switch if you need to at a later date. At The TM Group we’ve helped multiple companies switch their ERP solutions.