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Can you self-implement Business Central?

November 11, 2020Robb Delprado

I’ve worked in the Navision / NAV / Business Central world for more than twenty-one years. But recently I’ve seen a new and possibly concerning trend. I got to wondering why we’re seeing such an uptick with companies reaching out to New View Strategies because of struggles after implementing Business Central. So, I googled it. Microsoft’s description of Business Central leads the reader to believe one can buy a subscription, migrate existing business data from one’s legacy system, and voila! You are up and running.

 

Has ERP software ever been easy to implement?

I am an accountant with a CPA license, and before focusing on Navision/NAV/BC, I worked in variety of accounting and operational positions using a variety of green-screen programs that didn’t talk to any of the other green-screen programs within those companies. I had the opportunity to implement a few home-grown solutions which required the creation of documentation for the users. Sure, early financial systems were not that difficult to implement, but then they didn’t do all that much either.

From 1999 to 2008 I worked for two Navision/NAV partners. During my time on the partner side, I assisted or managed 50 plus implementation projects. Even then, Navision/NAV was a features-rich ERP System. I knew then it wasn’t a plug and play software, and this was reflected in the cost to implement the software. Looking back, the implementation costs for the earlier versions were typically 1.5X the cost of the software (and that was without custom development work). Competition eventually brought implementation costs down to around a 1:1 ratio, but there were complexities that users needed to understand to ensure they could efficiently and effectively utilize the tools. A breakdown of hours that went into those implementation costs might look like this: 30-40 hours for a gap-fit analysis, 10 hours for database installation and setup, 30-50 hours of training, and 20-40 hours for onsite go live support. Upgrades were naturally not as complex as the original implementation, but it was no weekend project either. In fact, it became normal for a company to skip 2-3 versions of NAV because of the cost. I even know a few companies still running NAV 5.0, first released in 2007. So for 2+ decades it was just a begrudgingly accepted fact that running NAV is going to be expensive to implement and maintain, period.

When I left the world of consulting for a position on the End User side, I was hoping to dig deeper into the features of each granule of the product. During this time, Microsoft kept pushing out new versions of NAV, and with each new version came more features. Then in 2018, Microsoft released the next generation of their mid-tiered ERP system, Business Central. From the start Microsoft envisioned a simplified, wizard-driven implementation, which would be streamlined for partners and be of particular interest to those customers upgrading from other packages, such as QuickBooks.

 

The software hasn’t gotten less sophisticated

But let’s be realistic: Business Central is not your father’s earlier mid-tier ERP solution (i.e., NAV, GP, SL). Microsoft has and continues to invest heavily in its development with new releases twice a year. Consider that BC now features Task Scheduler, integration to Microsoft Flow, Cortana Intelligence, Contact Synchronization with Office 365, integration with Outlook, Electronic Documents and Incoming Documents, Integration to run as an app in a SharePoint site, interoperability with Office 365 and Office 365 Applications, Power BI, and much more.

With the depth and breadth of BC’s predecessor product, it was almost impossible for an individual to know every feature in every granule of NAV. As BC provides even more functionality, its setups have not become simpler to configure, and with some of the new functionality the setups are even more complex. So why suggest that BC is a simple “upgrade” for a company that has outgrown QuickBooks?

It is not just “subscribe and go”

Microsoft has lowered the price point to acquire the software by offering a cloud-based solution. And they’ve made significant strides to simplify aspects of the software setup and maintenance. Based on what you read on Microsoft’s Business Central landing page, why would you spend any significant investment on implementation services, when Microsoft makes it sound so easy?

The reality is the software doesn’t configure itself, and BC partners know this. If you contact a reselling partner, they will add on implementation services to the software quote. Some partners have developed fixed fee implementations, and a few even offer an implementation in just a couple weeks, which was unthinkable just a few years ago. However, most businesses are complex, and BC is robust solution that requires a large number of choices to be made, thorough testing, and significant training to be successful.

The decisions made when implementing BC, or at least the ones needed to fully unpack its power, cannot be automated. Nor would most business want them to be. Smart setup requires professionals with deep experience in the options and use cases, and more significantly, how certain decisions drive different outcomes for a company and its operations. Humans are needed to merge the software’s capabilities with the business’ needs.

This experience is not cheap. Historically implementation partners would attend month-long boot camps. Now you need years of experience with the product at numerous companies to be effective. Years ago Navision had a quote, “If you think training is expensive, try ignorance”. It may seem like an arrogant statement, but experienced Navision/NAV/BC implementers can share stories about how much billable time was incurred when an uneducated user changed setups or utilized incorrect processes.

 

The moral of the story

If you’re just starting to consider Business Central or working with a partner to implement, recognize that there are no shortcuts. The more you ask of the system the more investment you’ll need. Whatever you do, do not shortcut training – I guarantee adequate training will pay for itself with happy and confident users. There are many how-to videos out there, but New View Strategies offers live training by Microsoft Certified Trainers that you can apply on Day 1. Our staff are all former Users who have been in your shoes, so we know how to best use BC to achieve the results you’re looking for. And we know it’s not simple.

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The experts at New View Strategies are experienced Dynamics NAV and Business Central trainers and business process consultants who have walked in your shoes as former Corporate Controllers, Directors of IT, and Solution Architects, and believe increased utilization of your business systems is critical to the continued success of your company.
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