Dynamics GP: Stop asking for new features.
I would like to request that all Microsoft Dynamics GP resellers stop begging Microsoft for more and more features to be added to Dynamics GP. Please stop crying for a more detailed roadmap. GP does not need to be ‘made great again’. Let me explain why we need less begging and whining.
It is April 2017 and mid-market ERP is an exciting space to involved in. The Global economy is relatively strong and there are hundreds of thousands of middle-sized businesses that are seeking the best software to help them run their businesses efficiently. ‘The cloud’ has offered a completely new mode of delivering software to these companies, and the internet has dramatically changed the buying process for these companies. Businesses are selecting ‘best of breed’ solutions that are both very powerful and easy to use. The evolution of API’s is perhaps the most underrated change in the software market which opens the door for some serious system design creativity. There is no doubt, these are exciting times.
Defining the Mid-Market
Firstly, I want to be clear about the market and opportunity I am referring to by the term ‘mid-market’. Wikipedia describes the mid-market like this:
“The 200,000 plus US-based mid-market companies are essential to America’s economic success. They account for $10 trillion annually of the $30 trillion U.S. private sector gross receipts and 30 million jobs. If the U.S. middle market were a country, its GDP would rank it as the fourth-largest economy in the world. Each of these companies earns an annual revenue of between $100 million and $3 billion.”
Now by any definition that is a market worth pursuing! From an ERP software perspective I think the market is actually much larger and I include many companies that have less than $ 100 million in revenue. My Definition is more like:
“a mid-market company (at the small end) is those companies that have grown enough to hire a financial controller. These companies have established business processes. They are already successful and profitable organizations. They have a successful and proven sales model. They have likely a 3-4 man accounting and finance team that do more than book keeping.
My definition of a mid-market company at the high end is a company turning over hundreds of millions of dollars a year. They have 40-50 people that need to be in an ERP all the time. They may have another few hundred people that need information from their ERP. GP can scale and scale really well; I heard of the company that has 2000 GP users this week.”
Under this definition, I am confident that there could well be 1,000,000 companies occupying this space. This is not a market for QuickBooks, Xero or any other baby bookkeeping solutions. This is the serious mid-market that needs a serious ERP.
The Real Cloud
To me the ‘real cloud’ means that I can google up a very cool business productivity solutions for a specific need, and I can be trialing this software in a matter of minutes. If I still like the software after a few minutes I continue through the full 30- day trial. At the end of the trial I enter my credit card, we have new software and my business is more efficient. This kind of software is usually self-explanatory, very easy to get going and performs an important but relatively simple task. You are unlikely to need training, implementation and consulting support for this kind of cloud software solution. The great thing is that rolling out this software does not involve installations, server requirements, windows upgrades, patches, blah blah blah. Cloud-delivered software is really cool.
Of the huge number of mid-market companies, nearly all of them have an existing on premise software infrastructure in place. Cloud software does not immediately, and may never, completely replace on premise solutions. Cloud solutions are most often added to the existing software environment to enhance the existing business processes. There are many business-critical solutions that a business may want running locally on their own servers where they have total control. Some applications run better and faster locally than they do over a browser that connects to a cloud. Some companies are much more comfortable with their business data remaining local and not being stored on a cloud server. This has led to a huge number of mid-market businesses that have a hybrid model in place that includes a mixture of local on premise software together with the best of the cloud. This is not a bad thing, it is totally normal and natural approach.
ERP in the Cloud
What about ERP for the mid-market? Is this best when run in the cloud? ERP is complex and is central to everything a business does, so it is a very important piece of the software puzzle. Accounting, accuracy and compliance are very important to the mid-market. The other thing the mid-market wants is efficiency in all things and to eliminate as much ‘non-value add’ admin as possible. Something people forget is that the mid-market is a very successful space. These companies have existing processes that work and make them a profitable company. These companies should not and cannot squeeze themselves into ‘out of the box’ software. Implementing an ERP for a mid-market company requires design sessions, planning sessions. Configuration, sometimes customizations, training, walkthroughs, reports design etc. This is very different to the typical cloud solution discussed above, which is a true plug and play solution.
This does not mean that cloud ERP is bad, it just means that ERP is complex and requires professional help for installation, setup, configuration, and training. In the hundreds of businesses that I have worked with no two are the same, and no two want their systems to work exactly the same. Whether your ERP is delivered via the cloud or on premise the work required to ‘make it work for you’ is pretty much the same. You will often find that the ability to modify the solution to truly fit your needs is more limited in the cloud.
GP for the Mid-Market
So for Dynamics GP resellers, the tool you have now is as good as it gets. You have a super broad ERP solution for the mid-market that fits just about any organization well. GP fits non-profits, manufacturers, distributors, professional service and almost all other organizations. From an accounting and compliance perspective, you have the best solution. You also happen to have the industry standard in CRM at your fingertips with Microsoft Dynamics CRM.
The one thing we know is that there are some awesome cloud solutions in the market that do specific activities way better than anything that Microsoft can build. Let’s take an industry-specific solution like Jobadder.com. When it comes to a specific recruitment solution this is the top of the range software. Microsoft never will or can build something so perfect for this industry – to build these solution takes deep industry experience and a decade or more of trial, error, feedback, learning and rework to build the perfect solution. So do not ask or dream that Microsoft can build this.
Take something like Zendesk.com which is more generic but is the leader in help desk ticketing software. Microsoft cannot and likely will never match it. What about Bill.com? What about Timelyapp.com for world class timesheets? What about subscription billing solutions like Recurly.com or Braintree.com? Microsoft is not in the business of building these sorts of solutions. They are world class because they have a 50 million or more in venture capital to build just one thing. One cool solution. What about Expensify or Concur for expense tracking? When all you do is expense management you get really good at it!
The short answer is that there are hundreds of things that your ERP software should not try and do. It does not matter whether you are NetSuite, Intacct, GP, Sage or Dynamics 365 these cloud apps are way better than anything you can build. Full Stop. So to all those GP Partners that like to complain I am here to tell you to stop blaming Microsoft, and start taking ownership.
This leads me to discuss the advent of API’s. For the uninitiated, an API is simply a predefined way to communicate with a piece of software. The API allows you to perform an action within that software, which often times means passing data backwards and forwards between two applications. Just about all software now has an API and if your software does not have an API, it is not really software in 2017, it is a toy! I remember the time before API’s and I was working with a customer that was implementing Sales Logix and Dynamics GP with two separate vendors. I met the Sales Logix guys and they were planning to integrate the two solutions and thought it would be easy as pie! They asked me for some table names in GP and went away happy. Three weeks later they have developed a spaghetti mess of poop that created SOP invoices in GP that would crash GP. It was simply too hard to do this at the table level and that is why API’s exist – to allow developers to write code that will create valid transaction based on all the business rules, in the destination application.
There is one huge hole in regards to API’s. To use an API you need to be a developer. Now I cannot write code, which means an API is completely useless to me. Many mid-market companies do not employ developers which means API’s are a total croc to them. It is almost like software companies have built a really cool tool called an API that really only makes sense to other software companies? It is funny how software companies built a solution for the world, but it is only something other people that speak their own language can understand and leverage.
What are you to do?
If API’s are useless to the average Joe, cloud solutions are awesome and have API’s, and ERPs cannot develop better modules – what are you to do? You need to make those awesome cloud solutions a part of what you take to your customers alongside the ERP solution. You need to make those cloud solutions and your ERP interact seamlessly so that they are really just one solution. You can hire a developer to write custom code to make the solutions talk via APIs, but this approach leaves your client with a bunch of custom code – which is the very thing they were trying to avoid!
This is why eOne developed SmartConnect to be a tool that connects all these awesome Cloud Apps together with your ERP without writing code. SmartConnect allows you to leverage both the cloud app API together with the ERP API and connect the two solutions together – easy.
Now this is where the opportunity for ERP resellers gets exponential and makes 2017 a more awesome time than ever before to be in this industry. There are thousands of awesome business productivity solutions in the market, all of which have API’s and all of which can be connected to your ERP for a totally integrated solution. So you have a choice, you can sit back and complain about Microsoft, or you can pull your finger out and find the very best cloud apps and hook them into Dynamics GP.
Pick What Suits You
We all agree GP is the best mid-market accounting software in the market. So find your vertical cloud app that suits your market and your expertise and integrate it to GP on the back end. Differentiate yourself in the market by picking some awesome cloud apps to be part of your solution. Go horizontal with it. Go vertical. Get into recruitment with Job Adder or with Bullhorn.com. Target software companies with some very cool recurring billing solutions. Target online sellers by integrating Etsy or Ebay. You have the tools at your fingertips to an all you can eat buffet of awesome software solutions. Pick the ones that suit you and make them all work together perfectly. Bundle them all up with some service and take it to market. You have now differentiated yourself from every other solution in the market, you are unique.
I can hear some people still saying that GP is not a true cloud solution! You are right, but is still does the job as well as any other ERP solution, in fact, it does it better. Put GP on Azure. Host it with one of the great cloud hosting providers. There are lots of very viable options, so stop making excuses.
To summarize this message. GP is awesome. Cloud apps are awesome and almost unlimited. There are awesome tools that link them together (aka SmartConnect). You have an unbelievable opportunity to differentiate your business. So you can sit there and keep looking to big Daddy Microsoft to add features or you can take control of your business and build something amazing.