Your Guide to Upgrading from Dynamics GP To Dynamics 365 Business Central
As you get ready to plan your migration to Dynamics 365 Business Central from Dynamics GP, there are four key areas where activities need to occur. There is an evaluation of business processes, an examination of features and functionality within GP and Business Central, and an analysis of both master data and master records within the application.
Determining Business Drivers and Establishing Success Criteria
As you embark on the pre-migration planning, one of the most important steps you can take as a business is to determine the business drivers for the upgrade. Things like a lack of automation, the volume of paper-based processes, the impending cost of a new server, or future initiatives that aren’t supported by your current system are common business drivers.
It's equally important to look at what outcome you’d like at the end of the migration. Take time to establish what success looks like. For example, if one of your challenges is the overwhelming volume of paper-based activities, perhaps a success criterion would be paperless warehouse picking. Another example would be reducing the time it takes for you to close month-end or complete your reconciliation process.
Taking those business drivers and documenting what your business hopes to obtain as part of the project and then marrying those to success criteria measurable outputs that you hope as a result of the project can be a meaningful step in understanding why are we embarking on this journey and where do we hope to end up?
Assembling Your Project Team
Another step that is critically important is building your project team. When clients ask who should be on the team, my response is always “your best and brightest”. Think about those individuals in your organization that really understand what makes your organization tick. These are people who are intimately familiar with your business processes and often are your top performers, and frequently the team members that already volunteer for projects or special tasks.
The other people to consider are organization stakeholders. These are the team members whose lives will change as a result of the upgrade. In order to increase your user adoption and accelerate the acceptance level for the change, it’s important to incorporate those end users that will feel an impact after Dynamics 365 is live.
Assembling Pre-Existing Documentation
Lastly, you're going to assemble preexisting documentation. When I work with clients on this step, sometimes they feel the need to document as-is processes. I wouldn't recommend that. Instead, what I would say is to assemble what you already have documented. Likely you have tasks or processes that will change as you implement Dynamics 365 so if you don’t currently have documentation, you’ll create it throughout the upgrade process.
Evaluating Business Processes
During this stage, you’ll work with your partner to go through your current business processes and take stock of everything you currently have in place. I like to bucket those business processes into two groups:
- Business processes that exist because of how Dynamics GP works
- These are typically basic processes such as relying on vendors or ISV solutions for a simple task such as cutting a check. Many of these processes come standard out of the box with Business Central.
- Business processes unique to you
- There are likely some business processes that relate to your “secret sauce” - what makes you special as a business. Understanding those processes is critically important so those stay in place or are replicated as it makes sense within Business Central.
Having an understanding of which business processes are flexible and adaptable because they're standardized, versus which are part of your secret sauce can be a really important exercise.
The other thing to evaluate is unmet business needs. This evaluation can take a little more time, but in essence, you want to discover all of the areas where your business needs are not being met.
- Where are there missed opportunities?
- Are there areas that are manual that should be automated?
By determining the needs you’re unable to serve, markets you can’t capitalize on, challenges with employee ramp time, manual processes, etc you can start evaluating how Business Central can help you overcome those hurdles.
At the conclusion of that business process evaluation, there's a related step where you'll want to evaluate the functionality that you're leveraging in Dynamics GP today. This includes accounting for the modules within GP you’re currently using. It also includes looking at customizations or alterations that have been done to the system including custom reports and ISV solutions.
Create a list of all functionality you’re using today. Compare the functionality out-of-the-box with Business Central and your list. Once you’ve identified those items, go back to any remaining line items and rate the effort it would take to upgrade and if the functionality is even still necessary. We frequently find that there are customizations or ISV’s being used in long-standing Dynamics GP systems that are no longer used or necessary. Additionally, there may be new out of the box functionality with Business Central that would meet that same need or with a small process change.
This process will help you to understand what functionality you’re going to leverage in Business Central and where training will be needed.
Lastly, we want to keep an eye on those future business needs. What are the areas of your organization that you see growing or expanding? Whether it’s through organic growth, an acquisition, or a product line or service offering change, we want to think about what the future may hold and what functionality may be needed to reach organizational goals.
The next step is to analyze the data within your current Dynamics GP system. First, consider your data integrity. Look at your customers, vendors, items, and chart of accounts to gain a real understanding of your current state of data integrity. Frequently, we see that new information has been added and old information was never cleaned up or removed from the system. We also see Chart of Account changes that caused a ripple effect of outdated information across the system. It’s important to take a good look at this area and be realistic about the quality of data you have.
Another area I would challenge each business to think about is the importance of historical data. For some, this is just net change information at the highest level for financials. For others, this is detailed transaction-level information for historical sales orders or historical purchase orders. In either case, map out what historical data is important to you and why.
Is it important for reporting? Or is it important for future business transactions? Answering that question will help determine if that information needs to be migrated to Business Central.
Once you’ve decided which data to bring forward, plan time for data cleanup including deduplication, purging of information, archiving of old records, and data construction. Data construction involves adding dimensions or weights for the move to Business Central. Data construction efforts can take some time, so understanding what if any data cleanup exercises you feel are important to take on and then plan the time to execute those tasks.
Finally, you’ll want to determine the strategy for Master Data Management. This step involves identifying who can perform actions within the system and who owns the data processes. A few questions you can ask yourself include:
- Do you have governance around who can create a customer or vendor?
- Who owns the customer record?
- Who owns the item record?
There are varying degrees of data management that can be taken on by organizations and you should determine what level is right for you. You’re already taking the time to clean up your data and putting a Master Data Management strategy in place will help you to keep your data quality high in your new system.
That was a lot of planning work. And for any organization, that's something that Stoneridge off and partners with our clients on, because this is something that, that we do with many, many clients, and for an organization. This is likely something that you only do, once every 10 to 15 years. So it's important for us to partner and say, where can we help provide those best practices? Whether it's, you know, around that evaluation phase of business processes, that analysis phase.
The planning stage is a lot of work, but knowing that this is only done every 10 – 15 years, it’s important to take the time to gather all information and consider all scenarios to best set your business up for success.
Planning Your Path to Dynamics 365 Business Central
Now that you have all the prep work done, you can choose the best path for your organization to take to get to Business Central from Dynamics GP.
There are three different paths to Business Central.
Path One: Migration
The first path to Business Central is a direct migration. There is a Microsoft utility that was released a few versions back in Business Central that allows any client leveraging Dynamics GP 2015 or newer to copy tables directly from GP to Business Central. The mapping utility that will lift the configurations and the data from those tables to Business Central.
This is the most like a technical upgrade, and the system is doing the heavy lifting to move the data and the records, creating an initial environment for you.
If you choose this path, your partner will run the migration utilizing and then walk through the impact for your chart of accounts. For example, in Business Central, your segment will become a dimension and your Chart of Accounts will then otherwise exist as it is today in Dynamics GP. We would use that as a starting point to begin training with the finance team on navigations, functionality, and business processes in Business Central.
This option is the best fit for businesses that:
- have flexibility in their core business processes
- technical upgrade
- have ISV’s with cloud-ready extensions
- don’t have changes to core functionality
- no change to costing valuation method
If you have a large number of custom reports, you’ll need to decide how you’re going to manage those moving forward – whether that be through a third-party reporting tool, Power BI, or throughout the box reports available in Business Central.
This is the most straightforward path to Business Central, leveraging Microsoft migration tools, and replicating what is occurring in Dynamics GP today.
Path Two: Hybrid
The next path to Business Central is a hybrid model. This also leverages the Microsoft utility, but instead of using it for a one-time upgrade to lift data from GP to Business Central, it actually allows the systems to run in parallel. There's a dual-use license that Microsoft offers that allows you to run a production instance of Dynamics GP and a production instance of Business Central.
In this situation, we create sandbox and production environments in the cloud for Business Central and turn on the data replication to copy information from Dynamics GP to Business Central. Updates to data in both systems can be set to run on a scheduled cadence. Master data can then be modified in Business Central.
This is a great option if you have customer or vendor records you’d like to purge from the system, you have the option to do ‘only active’ or ‘all’.
You do get some of the historical data pulled over and you're able to leverage the sandbox environment for data cleansing, testing, business process mapping.
And, lastly, if you've got a specific set of data above and beyond normal unit testing, or user acceptance testing, where you want to measure side-by-side inputs and outputs for an extended period of time, due to a large volume of master data cleanup or significant business process changes this is an option to consider.
This option is the best fit for businesses that:
- need to modify master data
- technical upgrade +
- you have limited business process changes
- you need documentation for side-by-side inputs and outputs
The majority of businesses won’t select this path to Business Central, but it is an option.
Path Three: Fresh Start
The third option that's available is to start fresh. In some instances, when we work with clients and we evaluate their current installation of Dynamics GP and their business processes, we find that there's a gap between their current application and what their future goals are. It’s not uncommon for organizations that have been using Dynamics GP for 10 to 15 + years to discover that configurations are now outdated and no longer needed. Examples include:
- the Chart of Accounts is outdated and there are many manual processes required to complete final financial reports.
- you’re selling non-inventory items and you want to sell those as inventoried items out of multiple locations.
- if your processes are reactive so you’re processing transactions after they occur instead of processing information in a proactive manner or in real-time.
Whenever there is a gap between the system and the current state of business, we find the system did not keep up with the business and we recommend starting fresh. You can still leverage your investment in Dynamics GP for discounted Business Central licenses.
Once you have chosen this path, we’ll leverage a tool called Rapid Start, which is a standard part of Business Central that allows us to import data packages such as the Chart of Accounts, customer records, open AR, open AP, vendor records, open purchase orders, and so on. It is important that you went through the data clean-up effort prior to this stage, but once you have your information ready you’ll have a great degree of flexibility for any changes related to people, process, technology, re-alignment, etc.
This option also allows extensive business process changes, including implementing new modules during the project or adding or removing ISV solutions. We commonly see some smaller third-party or ISV solutions that choose not to go to the cloud, which means there isn’t an integration to Business Central. We’ll work with you to determine what the best solution is for replacing those solutions.
Another area of improvement that you can take advantage of in a fresh start is the opportunity for automation. This is available in all three different paths to Business Central and changes processes to let BC accomplish tasks automatically for you. For example, in BC the job queue can run automated posting routines or automated process routines on behalf of you or your end-users using rule-based logic. It's a great way to have processes kick-off and run at any time of the day or night.
This option is the best fit for businesses that:
- realign people, processes, and technology
- allows extensive business process changes
- replace/upgrade companion/ISV products
- greatest flexibility and opportunity for automation
Ultimately arriving at Business Central and going live after your upgrade is a large accomplishment for your business. This is the first step in your journey that unlocks access to new features, new functionality, and new modules that can help better your business. Additionally, you can focus on reaching your business goals without having to worry about any technical overhead with managing on-prem software and servers.
Reach out to the experts at Stoneridge Software to learn how we can support your Dynamics GP environment now and help you as you navigate your transition to Dynamics 365 Business Central.