Cloud ERP systems are revolutionizing the ways companies do business right in front of our eyes. One of the key players changing the business world is Microsoft with their Dynamics 365 software. According to Capterra’s research done in January 2019, Dynamics 365 cloud ERP systems are holding second place with 3.8 million users worldwide and cutting the distance to the first place at jet speed. Microsoft’s rebranding and upgrade of Dynamics Nav and AX in 2018 into Business Central and Finance and Operations, respectively, was so successful it has boosted their global deployment – with Business Central dominating in small and medium-size companies, and FinOp covering business processes in medium-size and large organizations.
Why are cloud ERP systems expanding at workplaces, and what else can companies do to have a more centralized and automated workflow?
In this article, we will discuss migration to cloud Dynamics 365 Business Central and Finance & Operations and analyze scenarios and ways of synchronizing and integrating these ERPs with nearly any third-party software. Read on!
Why use a cloud ERP system in the first place?
Cloud ERP systems are a revelation for small and medium-sized enterprises. If in the past, on-premises systems were affordable only to big companies because of the need of spending capital on hardware, nowadays every organization can use a powerful ERP system as they are based in the cloud.
Cloud ERP platforms are increasing in popularity because companies are interested in improving business performance (64%), positioning the company for growth (57%), or in reducing working capital (57%) and ERPs help them with it. In addition, start-ups and SMBs can now rely less on manpower to go about their day-to-day operations. All these benefits – while hardware and maintenance are on the vendor’s shoulders. Besides, organizations choose cloud ERPs due to their scalability: they can opt for the whole pack or only the specific modules they need, such as accounting, human resources, payroll, inventory management etc.
Migrating from on-prem NAV and AX to the cloud
Although on-prem NAV and AX are still up and running, with a new, upgraded cloud version of the ERP software available, many organizations are interested in migrating from Dynamics AX to Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations and from Dynamix NAV to Business Central. This makes sense. The cloud apps have much more functionality compared to the old versions. With the new version, companies can use the web-based log in, the new interface, the improved business intelligence and have more flexibility – with other new features and updates coming soon. Besides, the new versions integrate easier with other Microsoft cloud products.
Another serious reason for migrating AX to Finance & Operations and NAV to Business Central is that with the global trend of cloud-first and mobile-first, on-premise versions of Dynamics may become obsolete in a few years.
Connecting SaaS ERP with applications on-prem and in the cloud
Transition from the on-prem ERP to SaaS is the first obvious step for organizations focused on streamlining business processes. But, in fact, there are many more things happening around cloud FinOp and Business Central.
The next improvement is integrating them with other apps existing at the workplace. ERP software synchronization is critical to centralizing data and reducing inefficient workflows.
For example, taking data from the ERP and inserting it manually into another program takes a lot of time. Integrating it automatically speeds up the process and reduces human error. It also increases collaboration among employees and improves transparency.
Therefore, when implementing ERP systems, organizations look for ways to integrate them with their other existing software.
Below, we will analyze typical integration scenarios.
Typical cloud ERP integration use cases
Although scenarios for Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations or Business Central are numerous, most common ones can be grouped in the following categories:
Synchronizing Dynamics NAV with Dynamics 365 Business Central and Dynamics AX with Finance and Operations. Advanced integration platforms and dedicated connectors can integrate on-premises and cloud ERP systems for potential migration in the future.
Integrating a cloud ERP and production and machine data software. Both data from the machines and a manufacturing execution system (MES) contain a lot of information what and how is produced in the factory. Synchronizing it with enterprise resource planning will help to increase production efficiency and make the company more responsive to changing demand, avoid overproduction, and increase maintenance automation.
Dynamics 365 Business Central and Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations and project management software. Once integrated, the ERP system provides critical financial data and the project management tool reveals a full picture of progress and status.
ERP integration with storage / warehouse. A warehouse should not operate as a stand-alone entity and synchronizing its data with Dynamics 365 allow for that. All departments from manufacturing to customer services and purchasing can all quickly pull real-time data on the warehouse system and use it to make better decisions.
ERP Integration with Customer Relationship Management (CRM). Our clients often need to integrate the new Cloud ERP with their existing CRM systems like Salesforce, SugarCRM, Dynamics 365, Oracle, or Workbooks or better management and smoother customer onboarding.
Synchronization of a cloud ERP platform with Supplier Systems and Purchase Order systems (POs). Organizations send requests to suppliers whenever a purchase alert for a component or spare part is generated in an ERP system. Once a supplier’s quote arrives, it enters the system for further processing. By integrating your ERP with a POs, you get immediate access to receipts, logs and other relevant information, minimizing the time and hassle of manual data entry.
ERP and an inventory management system. This integration can increase your company’s productivity a lot, especially if you operate a large volume of purchases, and the orders need to move to the on-premises inventory system. It gets especially handy because expert users in the field can look up the spare parts/products availability from their personal devices in real time.
Cloud ERP and an on-prem product lifecycle management system (PLM). The PLM system sends the finished bill of materials (BOM) data to Dynamics FinOp / Business Central for approval. When the systems are integrated, the process is fast, automated and error-proof.
Dynamics 365 FinOp/Business Central and a data warehouse. This is one of the most typical use cases for the integration between the cloud ERP and an on-premises system. Check our step-by-step instructions for on-prem database integration to Dynamics 365 online. This example uses the AdventureWorks Database, a fictional multinational manufacturing company, and is explained by an IT expert with deep insight and wit. Highly recommended!
Integration of cloud ERP and sales orders. One of our major clients had this request: to integrate sales orders from an on-prem front-end system into Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations for processing and management. They were happy to see it could be done efficiently.
Dynamics 365 Business Central/ FinOp and Customer Portal and Customer Service. Typically, a customer portal and service are self-hosted, and the integration with the ERP system allows for a smooth exchange of critical business data.
All in all, the cases of ERP integration include on-prem, cloud and hybrid options and can expand to any legacy software, as well as old ERP systems on-prem that need to be synchronized with Dynamics 365 Business Central or Finance and Operations.
It also covers any case where live data needs to be retrieved from the ERP system to be consumed by third-party applications.
These are only some ideas that can increase your organization’s productivity but depending on the company’s specifics there can be many other integration possibilities that we can cover.
Why ERP integration is so complex
While there is a strong need for cloud ERP integration, this is a very challenging process. There are several reasons for this.
Firstly, the ERP platforms don’t have many pre-built integration options. They can only view data via Power BI, integrate with Office 365 and a few CRM apps.
And even though some cloud ERPs, like Dynamics 365 Finance & Operations and Dynamics 365 Business Central, have open APIs which facilitate the integration with other apps, unless you choose an out-of-the box connector, your developer needs to code the integration from scratch.
The programmer needs not only to learn and understand the ERP system and the other applications you want to integrate with, but also to study all their APIs’ documentation before writing the code. And this creates a potential money drain: first, with expensive developer’s time, and secondly, with the productivity loss of the team working in disparate systems. Besides, even when the code is finished, capital spending will continue because it is still up to the developer to maintain the integrated ERP platform and create new solutions when the system is updated.
Connectors for Dynamics 365 Finance & Operations and Dynamics 365 Business Central
Here at Connecting Software, we work a lot with connectors for business applications via our advanced Connect Bridge (CB) platform. So, after the connectors for Dynamics NAV and Dynamics AX, it is only logical that our team has created new connectors to keep up with the market demand.
Meet our Dynamics 365 Finance & Operations and Dynamics 365 Business Central connectors. With their help, you can connect any application to live data of the ERP system. They allow to operate the information like you would with a database: Read, write, and update all entities and records. Full functionality of the ERP is available for integration with other business applications hosted on-premises and in the cloud. The connector is built on the Open Data Protocol (OData), a new Microsoft standard.
Unlike with custom coding, an IT expert doesn’t need to invest a lot of time in studying the APIs of a multitude of software and writing complicated code.
The connector saves up to 90% of that time and allows even a novice developer to create an integration. This is because it translates all API calls into SQL queries – a universally known language among programmers young and old. Our team will take care of the connector for maintenance and in case of system updates so that it continues running seamlessly.
Once the ERP system is integrated with other software, many headaches will be avoided at once because it:
- eliminates manual data entry and releases time for more meaningful tasks;
- minimizes errors;
- increases the speed of data exchange;
- provides valuable insights into business processes – which can cut expenditures, show new opportunities etc.;
- improves customer experience and team cooperation.
On top of that, once the Connect Bridge platform is installed, you don’t need any other middleware anymore. With 100+ pre-built connectors, practically any integration is possible.
Integration platform for more tasks
Business process automation is so important for sustainable companies that they have doubled their spending on synchronization and integration solutions over the last 5 years.
With the Connect Bridge platform, you can create even more value on the top of the FinOp and Business Central connectors. Check other opportunities and use cases for Dynamics 365 Finance & Operations connector and Dynamics 365 Business Central connector.
How does all this work in practice? We would like to share with you the story of KTM, a leading manufacturer of motorcycles. For a couple of years, they had their Dynamics 365 running on-premises together with a huge data warehouse. Then, they decided to transfer both online. KTM applied the CB Linked Server integration which is closely connected with the concept of syncing a cloud ERP system with other software. KTM was quickly able to do the integration they needed, and the process has been running smoothly and reliably for more than five years.
Find out how easy it is to install and use the Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations or Dynamics 365 Business Central to solve most integration challenges for your business. Free trials are part of our offering!
And here are more stories on what Connect Bridge can do for business: