Sergey Nivens - stock.adobe.com
Microsoft entered the ERP business nearly 20 years ago when it acquired Great Plains Software and Navison A/S. That gave it a total of four different ERPs, several of which were in direct competition with one another.
Going forward, the company plans to focus on two key products: Dynamics 365 Business Central, for small and midsize businesses, and Dynamics 365 Finance & Supply Chain Management for larger enterprises.
Yet, the company still has tens of thousands of customers running those four original ERP systems, and its plans to support those products extend for at least another eight years.
Here's an overview of the Microsoft ERP portfolio.
Dynamics GP began its life as Great Plains. It serves a global audience, but its strongest adoption has been in North America, where it has been a leading ERP system for small to medium-sized enterprises since the mid-1990s. Dynamics GP is great for core financials and distribution, but it lacks any significant CRM functionality, and customization tends to be a challenge. It offers a browser-based client, but for full functionality it needs to be run as a traditional desktop application.
Dynamics SL started out as Solomon Software. This product has also been strongest in North America and it is very popular with companies that need strong project management capabilities. Dynamics SL has a smaller customer base than Dynamics GP. As an older product, SL also runs primarily as a desktop application, though some functions are available using a web browser.
Dynamics NAV was originally developed by Danish software company Navision and was a direct competitor to Great Plains and Solomon Software. NAV has reached a much broader global audience than Dynamics GP or SL, and it offers greater customization capabilities. Numerous industry-specific versions of NAV have been developed by independent Microsoft-approved software vendors.
Dynamics AX was originally called Axapta. It was also developed by Navision, but it is intended for larger companies with complex requirements. Dynamics AX has also been successful in reaching a broader global audience, and it competes to some extent with larger ERP systems like Oracle E-Business Suite and SAP S/4HANA.
Going forward Microsoft will focus on just two ERP products.
Dynamics 365 Business Central is an evolution of Dynamics NAV. Microsoft is making some major changes, however, including a strong move toward a cloud-based architecture. Business Central is aimed primarily at small and midsize businesses, and Microsoft will be encouraging customers of GP, SL and NAV to migrate to it.
Dynamics 365 for Finance & Supply Chain Management is the next generation of the AX product. As such, it's intended for larger companies with complex needs. Again, Microsoft is making some major changes, moving to a more cloud-friendly architecture and integrating it more tightly with Microsoft's Azure platform.
By focusing on these last two products, Microsoft has finally moved toward more cohesion in its ERP portfolio. Together with the Dynamics CRM line of products, the company has established a stronger go-forward plan for its business applications.
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