27 March 2017

In July 2016, Microsoft brought its latest product offering to market – Microsoft Dynamics 365 – combining its then existing ERP, CRM and other software into one cloud-based platform of applications that work seamlessly together across sales, customer service, field service, project service automation and operations. The result was a more innovative, efficient and flexible solution for small to medium-sized businesses to manage their day to day operations which is accessible via web, Windows, iOS and Android.

As expected, thousands of companies bought into the idea and invested in the software; with many experiencing a positive impact on their business almost immediately. Arno Ham, Chief Product Officer at Sana Commerce, one of the first ISVs to adopt the software, gives us an insight into what it’s been like working with the platform for the first six months since launch.

Although it is felt that Dynamics 365 was a necessary step for Microsoft in order to survive in the market, it is believed that Dynamics 365 has provided businesses with a truly unique offering and thus radically changed the market.

Sana Commerce is a B2B e-commerce solution provider to small to medium-sized enterprises, whose customers need to leverage ERP data to improve Sales, so having the opportunity to jump on board as an early adopter was a really attractive prospect, says Arno. The company became one of the first third party solutions available on Appsource – unlocking a whole new channel to market.

For ISVs with platforms that rely on leveraging and using the data within core ERP or CRM systems, Dynamics 365 holds great potential, in that companies like Sana Commerce use the ERP’s data and logic directly, functioning and calculating customer orders inside Dynamics 365 so that there’s no duplication of data, process or logic. Working closely with Microsoft, we have been able to make sure that we achieve the same level of integration that we’d had with their NAV & AX products.

Key questions

What’s really exciting for customers and ISVs is the speed of access in this environment. Now that they’re in AppSource and the integrations have been established, all that’s for customers to do is install Sana; which takes seconds. “Furthermore, it has meant that we’re no longer dependent on implementation partners, making the adoption process much faster, which, especially for smaller businesses looking to grow and find a solution quickly, is ideal”, says Arno.

One of the key questions yet to be resolved is the upgrade path for Dynamics GP, Dynamics NAV and Dynamics AX; which could pose a challenge to Microsoft. “For us, the process is relatively seamless, in that we can simply change the connection to Dynamics 365 for Operations or switch customers over to our cloud platform and connect the shop to Dynamics 365 for financials, providing they already have a Sana installation2, he said. However, it still remains unclear as to how easily or otherwise it will be to switch from on-premise to cloud ERP.

For Sana Commerce, managing upgrades has, up until now, been a straightforward process. Microsoft regularly notifies them weeks in advance in the case of new versions being released, ensuring enough time to ensure their add-ons are compatible, meaning that they are always one step ahead of the game.

Visions for the future

In the future, it is expected that more customers will adopt ERPs such as Dynamics SaaS platform that can be enhanced easily through extensions in a variety of areas. Upgrades can therefore be guaranteed, ensuring that users are able to utilize new features much quicker. Furthermore, little technical knowledge is required in order to set up such environments.

For companies like Sana, whose own solution is hosted on Azure, as with Dynamics 365, the integration of both systems is seamless and without the complexities of trying to integrate across different clouds.

End users now have the ability to implement their software in conjunction with their own ERP system within a matter of minutes, resulting in overall increased efficiency and greater opportunities to explore the area of  online business in a less stressful way.

For Sana, joining the Dynamics 365 community has proven to be a brilliant decision so far, with only positive experiences to report. The biggest advantage for them has been the ability for business to get online far quicker and try out their solution before buying it, allowing them to understand exactly what it is they are investing in. It is a very simple and cost effective channel to market!