From Glenn McPeak, EDI / ERP Expert:
Coming off of the Microsoft Dynamics GP 2013 sessions at Convergence, and anticipating the GP technical Airlift event in September, I’m with all the other professionals anxiously awaiting the expected product launch in December 2012.
One of Microsoft's key goals with this release is to position GP as a more competitive and flexible ERP solution for the SMB market. For these organizations, hopefully GP 2013 will transform their business practices by building a strong foundation that supports growth, increasing operational efficiencies and significantly lowering the burden on IT. But for organizations looking to implement GP 2013, it’s important to not only look at the new web client release and the other 150+ features, but also the other opportunities that come along with a new ERP platform implementation.
A critical step during any ERP implementation is to ask the question, “Do my ISV solutions align with Microsoft’s own strategy with the ERP?” I sometimes refer to it as the “like father, like son” approach. If the two solutions don’t align strategically, then I encourage you to take a look at other technology options, for both short and long-term success. When it comes to EDI for Dynamics GP specifically, it’s 100% possible to integrate a solution that aligns with Microsoft’s strategy – a “like father, like son” scenario that: 1) scales to support business expansion, 2) increases processes efficiencies and 3) eliminates unnecessary IT hassles.
To achieve this synergy between solutions, whether evaluating your current EDI technology or considering EDI integration at the time of ERP implementation, it’s critical to understand the most frequent approaches to EDI and their impact on your business:
1. Customization – the client/partner develops a one-off, non-commercial solution utilizing a set of tools & custom ERP code.
Result: Reliance on a tool set, not an all-in-one solution¸ which creates long-term compatibility and upgrade pitfalls, and challenges scalability to support business expansion.
2. Web-based application – accessible via Internet connectivity and typically requires a lower initial investment than other technology models.
Result: Often requires manual data entry using web-forms and/or websites to make EDI work end-to-end. Long term cost of ownership can be extreme when factoring in transaction fees, manual entry labor and errors resulting from the duplicate keying of information.
3. Commercial ISV solution built inside Dynamics – solution is built with full integration inside Microsoft Dynamics GP.
Result: GP platform integrity is jeopardized by database and code changes to accommodate each and every EDI request. Compliance mandates and new partner integration can force unplanned customization and/or GP version upgrades which can disrupt ERP activities, delay new business relationships and trigger potentially costly fines.
4. ISV solution leverages the native integration framework of the ERP platform while providing all of the EDI transaction functionality outside the application
Result: Eliminates unnecessary ERP customizations to enable EDI integration and compliance while simplifying daily use and ERP update/upgrade projects.
The first three approaches have their obvious challenges, especially the customization of Dynamics GP. Applying service packs and version upgrades will be a challenge plus, the addition of other necessary solutions can be compromised. Only the fourth option – an ISV solution built outside Microsoft Dynamics - aligns with Microsoft’s strategic focus in releasing GP 2013 as a more agile platform to drive real value into your business execution.
Some business challenges are truly opportunities to help improve your company’s competitiveness. Integrated EDI is a perfect example – taking something that could be a daunting question mark and turning it into a huge labor and cost saving win! By selecting a well-architected solution that tightly integrates your business relationship transactions without customization – you can be a big winner. The long-term relationship between your ERP and EDI solution will only thrive if you walk in your “father’s” shoes and embrace the strategic value proposition to which Microsoft has committed themselves with GP 2013.