The Difference between Microsoft Dynamics AX, NAV, and GP

Figuring out Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software systems can be confusing, especially if you dive into the process without clear objectives. Add to it the fact that Microsoft offers three of the leading systems – and with similar names – and it all becomes even more puzzling. The question is: how do you choose the best software to fit your organization? One thing to keep in mind is that different companies use different systems to meet their unique needs. Which brings us back to the importance of having clear objectives and fully understanding the needs of your company.

Microsoft Dynamics ERP

Microsoft has chosen a common brand, Dynamics, for five very different products, four of which are ERP systems for mid-market and up organizations – Dynamics AX, Dynamics GP, Dynamics NAV, and Dynamics SL (previously called Axapta, Great Plains, Navision, and Solomon).

Over the years, Microsoft has invested over one billion dollars in research and development of these four ERP products, especially into Dynamics AX; their goal was to make the product more high end and competitive when compared to SAP and Oracle.
In general, these products have represented much that is good in the world of ERP systems. They are all great products, of similar interface, and benefit from Microsoft’s extreme commitment to research and development.

Let’s take a look at the history and current performances and specifics of Dynamics AX, Dynamics GP, and Dynamics NAV. The development toolkits in the three products are very different and this reflects in the product.

Dynamics GP

Dynamics GP was developed in the late 1980’s using a legacy toolkit that makes it difficult to migrate the product to a newer development platform. Today, Dynamics GP is a solid product with strong and extensive functionality. It is well suited to companies that have financial reporting and light distribution requirements. Its extensive family of third party add-on products brings significant amounts of specialized functionality and utility to the product. In recent years Dynamics GP has moved to a lower category compared to Dynamics NAV or Dynamics AX; this is mostly due to the flexibility of the Dynamics NAV and Dynamics AX toolkits and what the development partners and resellers have been able to do with those products. Dynamics GP is very suitable for smaller organizations or those with limited advanced functionality.

Dynamics NAV

Dynamics NAV was released in 1994 and was able to take advantage of the Visual C+ toolkit, which has been upgraded to the latest versions of Visual Studio with .net extensions. Also, Dynamics NAV was able to evolve into a 3-tier environment due to the efficient design of the toolkit, with a web services layer handling the communication between a variety of clients and the SQL Server database. Nowadays, Dynamics NAV plays exclusively in the mid-market and utilizes its three-tier design to scale up to potentially hundreds of concurrent users. The design allows for Windows, web browser, and SharePoint clients, while its flexibility and simplicity enables Dynamics NAV to be rapidly configured or customized to fit unique business requirements. Full access to the source code and development toolkit allows the development partners and resellers to rapidly develop industry-specific solutions. Standard Dynamics NAV offers advanced functionality for distribution, manufacturing, and service management.

Dynamics AX

Dynamics AX was released in 1997 and had an even more up-to-date and flexible toolkit than Dynamics NAV. Microsoft invested significantly into creating this toolkit to be flexible and capable enough to compete with SAP and Oracle. Also, Microsoft has had to rely on configuration and light customization options around the exterior of the product, because of the older design of Dynamics GP. Developers can customize and configure the products since all source codes for Dynamics NAV and Dynamics AX are available. Dynamics AX comes with the most flexible toolkit and advanced feature set of the three products. Microsoft has added several industry features into Dynamics AX for professional development, retail, and process manufacturing industries. For those who need advanced functionality – Dynamics AX is the answer. A challenge can be finding capable implementation partners with sufficient staff to carry out the project. The product is much more suited for advanced multi-location and multi-national requirements.

In Summary

In comparing the software, the conclusion reached is that, besides the functionality and ability to customize or configure the products, a major differentiator is the cost of the implementation itself. The cost of the three systems is actually rather comparable; however, there are wide discrepancies in the scale of implementation of services required. Dynamics GP and Dynamics NAV have very similar service level requirements with a services-to-software ratio of approximately one to one. Both could be more costly if the customer requires extensive configuration; still, Dynamics NAV can somewhat offset this additional expense through use of a templated process called RapidStart. Dynamics GP, if it matches your requirements, overall offers advanced functionality at a good price. Dynamics AX is similar to SAP and Oracle with services ratios often touching seven to one. Because of its competition, it is forced to play the game of advanced functionality and complexity. Dynamics NAV offers similar functionality at a much lower overall cost and allows the product to be quickly configured to meet the most relevant unique requirements.

Microsoft recently released the 2013 figures for the number of world-wide customers on their Dynamics products. Dynamics NAV is currently in the lead with 102,000 total customers (and over 2,000,000 users), Dynamics GP has 47,000, and Dynamics AX has 19,000.

By Malcolm Roach, CEO of Open Door Technology, Microsoft Dynamics NAV Partner in Calgary, Alberta and Western Canada

Open Door Technology Celebrates 22 Years

By Malcolm Roach, Open Door Technology, established April 1, 1992

Ten years in business is an accomplishment these days.  Over twenty years makes you grateful for an opportunity to do something you really enjoy for so long. Each new software customer is unique and I still find it fascinating after all these years.  The technology has certainly changed but the principles remain the same.  Customers want the best system they can get for their needs and need reliable partners to help them to implement the system and provide support.  The first time I saw Navision, or Microsoft Dynamics NAV as it is now called, I literally fell in love with it and could see so many different ways it could be useful for customers.  I haven’t been disappointed.  We are excited to be leaders in the mid-market space for Dynamics NAV and Dynamics CRM solutions and we owe much of that to these two exciting products from Microsoft and the support of our clients.

A brief timeline of Open Door Technology:

  • 1992: The business starts up as Rapport Microsystems and begins providing ERP software solutions to integrate people, processes, and technology.
  • 1997: The business is renamed Open Door Technology to reflect our desire to promote customer service.
  • 2000: Open Door Technology takes on an exciting ERP product called Navision from Denmark and signs up 15 new clients during the first year.
  • 2000-2001: Open Door Technology grows from 4 staff to 12 staff during the first year of providing Navision.
  • 2002: Navision purchased by Microsoft for 1.45 Billion.  Later renamed to Dynamics NAV.
  • 2014: Open Door Technology celebrates 22 years in business with one of the largest Dynamics NAV customer bases in North America and over 30 contractors and staff members.
  • 2014: Microsoft Dynamics NAV continues to be the most popular Dynamics product with over 100,000 customers world-wide and over 2,000,000 users.

How to get an investment group to buy your business

By Malcolm Roach, Open Door Technology

You may be at a stage in life where you are considering selling your business as an exit strategy from either the professional services business or a product development company.  Many of the businesses we see around us were founded by entrepreneurs and many have grown to a substantial size and valuation.  This creates a number of interesting dynamics when viewed in the context of the movement of the baby boom generation through the demographics in North America.  Not only are individuals hoping to sell businesses for significant returns, there are increasingly fewer entrepreneurs coming up through the ranks and especially ones with the resources to purchase a well-established business.  The same phenomenon is also found in the agriculture industry and the result is that many businesses and farms are being acquired by larger corporations and run by professional managers.  What is important to realize is that individuals need to prepare their businesses to meet an investment group’s expectations of a well-run investment, because that is how they will value your business.

The following are three items that are critical to attracting the maximum valuation for your firm if you are selling out to an investment group.

1. Excellent processes are an absolute must

Many businesses appear to be well run because of micro-management from one or two principals in the firm.  The investment group will wonder what will happen if this person or persons leaves.  The answer is to have well-honed processes that make the owners redundant and something that can be handed over easily to a manager.

2. Invest in your people

You often hear the expression that people are your best assets.  Well trained and happy people will be attractive to the new owners.  Staff who spend their time scrambling and are always behind will have difficulty fitting into a new culture.

3. Develop replicable IP

Investment groups are interested in intellectual property that can be easily scaled up to grow the business and increase profits, whether you are talking about a software product or a replicable service process.  It is this point that has the greatest potential to drive up valuations based on cash flow or gross revenue.  With IP comes the opportunity to value your company based on gross revenue and not just cash flow.

Obviously there may be entrepreneurs willing to buy out your business but with many of them having their eye on their own exit strategy, many potential investors are increasingly looking for bargains to compliment their existing business, not buy large, proven organizations that will take significant effort to integrate.  It would be wise to consider the three principles above as a starting point that will help you position your business or a business unit as an attractive option for an investment group.

Why Choose Microsoft Dynamics NAV for you ERP solution?

By Malcolm Roach, Open Door Technology

Microsoft Dynamics NAV offers a scalable and flexible design to meet the financial and operational requirements of an organization.

It has been nearly 25 years since I first got involved in mid-market ERP and accounting systems. The last fourteen years have been the most exciting and I can honestly say that it has been because of Microsoft Dynamics NAV. As many may know, the product was originally called Navision and was purchased in 2002 along with Axapta, now Dynamics AX, for $1.6 billion by Microsoft.

I first saw Navision in February 2000 in the lobby of a hotel and was totally blown away by the technology and design. My immediate reaction was to come back to the office and tell people that we were turning our business around 180 degrees and doing Navision. At that time they were promoting it as an accounting system written by engineers for accountants. That attention to design showed with unlimited drilldown capability, bullet proof rollback capabilities, blinding speed, and unmatched stability, all of which were very uncommon at the time. On top of that, for the right customers the system could be easily customized to add unique processes or functionality resulting in competitive advantages and operating efficiencies. The efficiency of the design resulted in a system with only 264,000 lines of application code in comparison with a major competitor who was advertising their 22,000,000 lines of codes as evidence of their extensive functionality.

The difference in design has become more evident over the years as Dynamics NAV, as Navision is now known, has easily evolved into a three tier system with excellent technological underpinnings. As Microsoft continues to invest in Dynamics NAV, it has become the most popular mid-market ERP system in the world with 102,000 customers, and continues to accelerate its innovation. While others may have closed the gap on some of the original advantages they just can’t keep up with the pace of innovation provided by Microsoft’s innovation. In many areas Dynamics NAV is the technology leader for all four of Microsoft’s ERP systems.

Dynamics NAV still offers many of its original advantages but has added a close integration to Microsoft Office 365, the Microsoft SQL Server database, SQL Server Reporting Services, user configurability promising a 30% shorter learning curve, a choice of clients including SharePoint, a scalable 3-tier environment with web services, a .Net toolkit, a rapid implementation toolkit, Microsoft Azure multi-tenant compatibility, and numerous functionality enhancements. Combine that with the Microsoft investment and the ability to still tune the software through configuration or customization for unique requirements and you get the world’s leading mid-market ERP system that you can never outgrow.

Open Door Technology, providing creative Microsoft Dynamics NAV solutions since 2000.

How many companies use Microsoft Dynamics NAV

By Malcolm Roach, Open Door Technology

The popularity of Microsoft Dynamics NAV increases as the number of world-wide customers rises.

As resellers of Microsoft Dynamics NAV we sometimes get asked how many companies use the software.  Just this week Microsoft released its latest customer counts for the Dynamics product line.  Microsoft Dynamics NAV continues to be the most popular Microsoft Dynamics product by a wide margin with twice as many new customers added during 2013 than the next highest system (GP).  In fact, Dynamics NAV added more new customers than Dynamics AX, Dynamics GP, Dynamics SL, and Dynamics CRM combined.

The following are the official 2013 numbers for the five Microsoft Dynamics products:

  • Total Microsoft Dynamics® AX companies in 2013 was 19,000, up from 18,000 in 2012 (1,000 new companies).
  • Total Microsoft Dynamics® GP companies in 2013 was 47,000, up from 43,000 in 2012 (4,000 new companies).
  • Total Microsoft Dynamics® NAV companies in 2013 was 102,000, up from 94,000 in 2012 (8,000 new companies).
  • Total Microsoft Dynamics® SL companies in 2013 was 13,5000 and remained consistent with the 13,5000 reported in 2012.
  • Total Microsoft Dynamics® CRM companies in 2013 was 40,000 in 2013, up from 39,000 in 2012 (1,000 new companies).

It’s clear that Microsoft Dynamics NAV continues to be the most popular Microsoft Dynamics product in the world.

By Malcolm Roach, Open Door Technology

Open Door Technology attending Microsoft Dynamics Convergence 2014

By Malcolm Roach, Open Door Technology

Convergence is the biggest, annual event for Microsoft Dynamics and kicks off March 4-7 in Atlanta, Georgia. The event hosts partners and Dynamics customers looking for the vast networking and educational opportunities.

Convergence will allow attendees to participate in a variety of events including inspiring keynote sessions, product demonstrations, hands-on labs, and informational sessions with industry experts.

At Convergence, Microsoft will be making an official announcement of the current worldwide customer count for all the Dynamics products. They will report that Microsoft Dynamics NAV has grown in popularity and remains their most popular ERP system in the world with 102,000 companies relying on Dynamics NAV for their business operations. The current count of 102,000 is an increase of 8.5% from 2013 when the amount was 94,000 companies.

Wilton Damas, president of Open Door Technology, will be representing the company at Convergence 2014.

Subscribe to Jet Reports Training Videos Online

By Malcolm Roach, Open Door Technology

Open Door Technology is now offering Jet Reports Essentials training online with a new, on-demand subscription based service. Students can purchase a monthly, one-user subscription and have unlimited access to video recordings to learn at their own pace and on their own schedule.

The training available online is conducted by Christian Roach, Account Manager of Open Door Technology. Christian has many years of experience in training new Jet users and creating complex reports for organizations. Open Door Technology is proud to say that Christian is the only consultant in Canada who is both a Jet Certified Professional and Jet Certified Trainer.

You can purchase a monthly subscription for $225 here.

Microsoft Dynamics NAV promotion will get you started on a new system for less

Microsoft is offering organizations the chance to get started on a five-user base Microsoft Dynamics system for 55% less from now until June 23, 2014.

A base Dynamics NAV system comes with three concurrent users and the Microsoft promotion includes two additional users, which are normally priced at $3,000 each. A second offer from Microsoft allows organizations to purchase the Extended Pack for an additional investment of $5,000 (normal cost of $10,000). The Extended Pack extends the functionality of the base Dynamics NAV system to include job cost, manufacturing, service management, NAV CRM, or warehouse management. Terms and conditions apply.*

Contact Open Door Technology to find out more about this promotion.

*Annual software enhancement is based on list price for all offers.

The Men of Movember at Open Door Technology

A group of men at Open Door Technology joined the Movember movement this year to help raise funds for various men’s health concerns. We are proud of our staff for growing the “mo” and raising awareness of this important cause. We are sure they had fun doing it as well!

New President of Open Door Technology Appointed

By Malcolm Roach, Open Door Technology

Open Door Technology Inc. is pleased to announce the appointment of Wilton Damas to the position of President of the company effective immediately.  Malcolm Roach, former president, will continue as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO).

Mr. Damas and Mr. Roach each continue to have significant responsibilities in the operation of the company and in its relationships with outside parties including Microsoft Corporation.  Under Mr. Damas’ leadership of the operations group, the firm has more than doubled in size in the last two years and is positioning itself for more growth in the future.

“I am privileged to have been part of the leadership team at Open Door Technology for the past several years,” Mr. Damas said. “In my new role as President, I am looking forward to many more years of working with our creative and knowledgeable team to provide the very best business management solutions based on Microsoft technology.”

Mr. Roach said, “Mr. Damas is an exceptional individual with a strong history of project work with major organizations such as Microsoft, Dell, Sony, Renault, and Telus.  He has brought that expertise to the operations group at Open Door and continues to implement a process of constant improvement.  We are very thrilled to have him working with us and look forward to exciting times as we grow and shape the company together.”

Mr. Damas was recently interviewed by Advantage magazine and he described his desire to continue to foster a company culture where people can have fun, but also have processes to support them. “We hire people who really love what they do, and we cultivate an environment to help employees collaborate creatively. I believe that is the key to success: listen to their ideas, make sure they are treated well, and get them to grow, express their creativity, and do their best.”

Wilton Damas, President of Open Door Technology