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Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2015 Opens the Door to Shedding ERP Customizations to Support EDI

speaking op image for blogThe below article was originally published around the release of Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012, but the strategy outlined around 3rd-party solution integration still holds true as we anticipate the launch of Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2015. On the cusp of this release, it’s an ideal time to re-evaluate how and which 3rd-party solutions are integrated with the ERP. We caution any partner and client to look beyond the provider’s EDI solution capabilities and to take a deep dive into the provider’s approach to EDI integration, support and services. As we’ve seen with Microsoft Dynamics NAV EDI clients, such as Vital Diagnostics, an EDI integration approach that relies on an ISV product built outside of Microsoft Dynamics NAV is key to successfully transitioning business operations when moving to the latest ERP version.

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From the EDI for Dynamics Blog, February 2012:

With Microsoft’s theme of power, agility and simplicity around the release of AX 2012, doesn’t it make sense that Microsoft’s ISV partners follow suit in supporting upgrades to the upcoming GP ‘12’ and NAV ‘7’ releases as well? While these releases may offer new functionality and opportunities for user organizations, the need to meet EDI requirements will be nothing new, but how you meet them can be a new cost-saving opportunity for your business.

EDI has been around for some time, but it has grown dramatically in regards to its importance and breadth in business relationships. Today it is quite common for larger organizations to mandate EDI capability as a pre-requisite for new suppliers and business partner relationships. While a few years ago most companies traded only a few documents, such as purchase orders, invoices and ship notices, today there is a significant amount of documents that can drive labor efficiencies, ultimately leading to the more critical competitive advantage.

EDI enters the process a major player because these documents also require more flexible and comprehensive software applications. And with upgrades on the horizon for Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012, GP ‘12’ and NAV ‘7’, the need for more flexible and comprehensive software applications doesn’t mean that you have to expect complicated ERP customizations to support EDI. In fact, it’s the opposite – migration to the latest platform is the opportunity to shed unnecessary ERP customizations.

When considering an upgrade, it’s best practice to work with your VAR and ISVs to analyze all customizations and create a precise plan to manage your code and data upgrades. It’s a given that some customizations will still be required, but when it comes to accommodating EDI you can forget about customizations. These types of customizations are an unnecessary hassle and without them you can avoid EDI roadblocks that can potentially disrupt your business and delay your upgrade project.

While evaluating the code customizations currently required to accommodate EDI mandates, it’s important to understand the three most frequent approaches to integrating EDI with Microsoft Dynamics:

1. Customization – the client / partner has decided to develop a one-off, non-commercial solution using a tool such as BizTalk or Gentran with custom ERP code;
2. Commercial solution within Microsoft Dynamics – (i.e. built inside Dynamics by an Independent Software Vendor) –solution is built with full integration inside Microsoft Dynamics AX; and
3. ISV built outside Microsoft Dynamics – solution is built outside of Microsoft Dynamics but leverages the native functionality and integration framework of the Dynamics platform.

The first approach has its obvious challenges, especially since BizTalk will be essentially going away as we know it. The second option – using a commercial solution fully-built inside Microsoft Dynamics – can also run into challenges, such as how patches and version upgrades are managed and how does the solution coexist with other solutions/customizations that are necessary to the business?

Neither option follows Microsoft’s theme of “simplicity.” Only by using a well-architected solution that tightly integrates EDI without customization can you avoid the unpredictable costs in development and updating from one Microsoft Dynamics version to another.

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