For those of us who work with D365 Business Central every day, it’s easy to take for granted the vast range of insights and hard work that go into developing an ERP of a global nature. Luckily for eOne, our Copenhagen office allows for proximity to Microsoft Denmark, the Business Central hub where the development, product teams, and decision-makers are based.

In the first installation of our new blog series: “Meet the Industry Experts,” eOne sat down with Soumya Dutta (Cloud Solutions Architect) and Peter Jakobsen (Partner Technology Strategist), two seasoned veterans in the Business Central Space. During the discussion, they touched on their experience with ERP systems, their roles in Microsoft, and why NAV, GP SL or AX customers and partners should move or upgrade from an on-premise ERP to a cloud ERP system.

Soumya Dutta, a Cloud Solutions Architect has been working with Microsoft Denmark since 2002 and has borne witness to the evolution of Microsoft’s ERP offerings including AX, NAV (up to their latest iterations), Finance & Operations, and Business Central.

Peter Jakobsen is a Partner Technology Strategist, with over 20 years of experience working with both NAV and Business Central. Peter has seen both sides of the picture, having worked with Dynamics implementation partners for a long period of time and has devoted the last 8 years of his career to Microsoft, being responsible for the product and customers engagement with the product.

Both Soumya and Peter have played a critical role in determining how D365 partners should develop strategies for engaging with their customers.

1) Why should GP/NAV/SL customers consider using an ERP in the cloud?

Peter: When we started working on BC, we wanted the customer to think “This is the last ERP we’re going to buy.” In the cloud, your ERP upgrades automatically, so you don’t need to undertake large upgrade projects and it will always be on the latest version. You would not have the IT debt that customers have with on-prem ERPs where you’re 2 or 3 versions behind.

A few years ago, people were concerned about whether their data would be safe if they moved. That mindset has changed. Today people want to move to cloud-based ERPs because of all the security measures we’ve packaged around D365 Business Central. One of the reasons people were concerned about moving to Business Central has, in fact, become a main driver for moving to the cloud today.

Soumya: When you look at Microsoft, the trend is to go to the cloud, so why should your ERP be any different? By buying a license on the cloud, you are leveraging the benefits any Azure user will have. Extra advantages of D365 Business Central include the fact that it’s hosted on a public cloud, we understand the threats and can make defences for the entire infrastructure, which is hard to achieve in a private data centre

2) What are some specific challenges for you and partners while moving over to the cloud?

Peter: The biggest challenge we face is migrating larger customers with lots of customisations who need their data to be moved to the new version, especially if they have a lot of old ISV solutions that aren’t supported online. End users put their old data in a temporary table somewhere but can’t use it in any processes.

Soumya: However, customers are also rethinking their customisations. You need not use all the customisations. You can rely on something you find in AppSource to do it for you. For the customer, it’s not as easy as migrating the data and the code, as a lot of the code will not even migrate.

You also need not be in the cloud to have a cloud-ready architecture. A problem partners faced was that their code is too intermingled with old processes, making it impossible to establish a network, tree structure and build connected structures using extensions. We’ve started the D365 Business Central Universal Code initiative to address the idea that “Even though you’re not moving online, ensure your code is cloud-ready so it’s easy to take that leap.”

3) What are some major game changers that have facilitated this mindset shift in partners going over to the cloud?

Peter: I think the fact that the major ISV solutions are cloud-ready, and they have been for some time is one of the big game changers. I’d say it was one of the big reasons for not going to the cloud, and it’s not there anymore, so now that big blocker isn’t there anymore. The momentum AppSource has and how ISVs have adopted the cloud version are some of the main factors that many customers are looking exclusively that way.

4) Can you shed some light on best practices to keep in mind?

Soumya: Performance is often a priority. As an on-prem customer, I could just add more CPUs/RAM to have it perform faster. You can’t do that in the cloud. We handle the infrastructure, so you don’t get access to the VMs or SQL Server yourself. It’s vital to conduct performance tests and find out what is slow. We have an approach where the infrastructure is scaled up/down depending on usage, so you would not notice it, but if you start using more resources, the VM scales up behind the scenes.

Storage is also important. It’s not an issue that is easily going away because the price of a gigabyte on cloud is way more expensive than on-prem, where you could just put in a hard disk and get a more space. You’d have to go lean and mean; keeping data that makes sense to keep. Don’t put 20 years of data on the same ERP server. There are many ways to do (manage) this. You have better data management from the admin centre on the cloud where you can see how much each of your environments is taking because all of it is accumulated.

A data lake could be a way because it works both on-prem and online. If you develop a system for data movement on-prem, you can just continue that online. Once you’ve moved your data to the cloud and you don’t need it here, you can delete it. Of course, you have to be careful not to move data that’s too recent, but it’s possible.

5) What specific challenges do you see some ISVs solving well?

Peter: We almost didn’t see anyone use Business Central without customisations when we moved up in the market. These ISV solutions, these partners that know the customers’ business, and industries, are absolutely paramount to Business Central’s success. Without this dedicated partner and ISV channel, I don’t think we would be here to be honest. When I talk to customers, it’s often the rich partner and ISV landscape they focus on, and which gives BC an edge.

Soumya: With increased development across Microsoft technologies, it was not possible to manage one development environment across Business Central and Power Platform. We’ve addressed this at our latest Business Central Launch event by introducing best practices for building Power Apps based solutions for Business Central (Accessible here).

People are concerned about being connected to the internet all the time. Power apps support offline modes, so you can move there for critical business operations. ISVs, instead of being pure AL/ BC oriented, should cover more solution areas. We would end up with a richer AppSource environment where multiple technologies, specialised for certain tasks, are used to solve problem(s) that were previously solved using AL. For example, some ISVs cover security areas of ERPs.

6) Do you have anything planned in terms of enticing partners and customers on the cloud journey, particularly for D365 Business Central?

Peter: We have migration programs where customers get discounts on licensing if they commit to moving to the cloud within three years. There’s also a concierge program for partners who can get help from architects in order to overcome some of the blockers they have. It’s been successful as now we’re seeing large NAV installations upgraded around the world.

Soumya: We also encourage everyone to post their ideas on Business Central Ideas because we do look at them. We may change and adopt things, depending on what makes the most sense. The more the votes, the more likely we are going to do something about it.

Peter: Close to 30% of the votes given on the BC ideas site is continuously reflected in some of the changes that we do. We’ve gone from being more top-down driven to being more community driven in determining how Business Central should develop.