Why you must accept that Great Plains is dying out

Why organisations using Microsoft Dynamics Great Plains (GP) must start to seriously consider transitioning to Dynamics Business Central (BC) – sooner rather than later.

What made Great Plains so great?

Dynamics Great Plains as we now know it was originally developed by an independent company called Great Plains and first released in 1993 as one of the first multi-user accountant packages in the US. By the time Microsoft purchased Great Plains Software in 2001, it had gained an excellent reputation amongst forward thinking businesses that embraced modern technology.

Organisations using GP loved the fact that it was a safe product that they could rely on with very little customisation needed. They especially liked the fact it was 32-bit, client-server, and ran on Windows and MS SQL. At the same time, partners liked the straightforward configuration, which did away with any complex and time-consuming pre-sales processes involving extensive coding and demoing. Put simply, it was very easy for companies to use and very easy for business partners to show their clients it worked properly.

Today, Great Plains has an extremely well-established customer base. Here at QBS, we have a client that has been using the software continually since 1996, more than twice the length of time you’d normally expect to use an ERP system for. This company is one of many GP advocates that are happy with the system because it simply does what it’s supposed to do – it works well, and users are very comfortable using it.

In our experience, company accountants don’t want to hear about all the infrastructure and technology aspects of their ERP software system. What they are concerned with is whether the software produces the right numbers and how easily they can access their all-important data. This is another key reason Great Plains is still so popular and why organisations are so reticent to change their ERP system, even if it is three decades old. After all, support costs are low, and companies have invested heavily in their GP systems over the years. Plus, it’s still ticking over, right?

The harsh reality: death by a thousand cuts

Here at QBS, we know Great Plains is dying out and this has serious repercussions for current users. According to Microsoft, it is still officially supported until 2028, which is too far ahead to cause any kind of concern for most GP users out there. But if your business uses GP, there are a series of underlying factors you really should know about that will adversely impact your business in the very near future:

Fewer updates

Microsoft have reduced GP updates to just two per year, which is a far cry from the frequency of updates that previously occurred, with hot fixes whenever there was a problem. This is largely because GP product managers and program managers within Microsoft have been dispatched to focus on the Business Central (BC) ERP system, or they’ve moved into the wider partner ecosystem. As a Great Plains user, it’s important that you’re aware of this stripping away of capability by Microsoft.

Fewer functionality features

Gone are the days when GP would have pages of features and major new module functionality features. These days, it’s primarily US and Canadian Payroll Tax updates along with minor ‘ease of use’ improvements.

Closing the support window

Even though Great Plains is still officially supported, Microsoft have announced that organisations will now need to patch their own on-premise products once a year to remain current. Previously, GP came with Microsoft support for five years, so this is an expensive switch because organisations will have to pay a considerable sum for a partner to come in and provide a Service Pack once a year. At this point you’d be right in thinking “Why should I pay for this additional support that my competitors using BC don’t have to pay?”

Limited Microsoft capabilities

By continuing to use Great Plains, which was originally developed in the nineties, instead of making the move to BC, organisations are already missing out on the capabilities that come with working seamlessly across a modern Office 365 environment.

Hiring new users

Great Plains is an old system in its twilight years and any organisations looking to recruit new young talent who can use GP in an accountancy or consultancy capacity is going to face major challenges. Great Plains accountants and consultants are an ever-decreasing group in the autumn years of their careers, making the likelihood of finding young talent with Business Central skills far higher.

Cloud cost savings

If your business uses GP on-premise, running digital processes such as ‘OCR within AP invoicing’ is a hugely complex and expensive undertaking (we’ll be covering this in further detail in a future blog). Whereas with BC, such processes are greatly simplified and comparatively inexpensive because you’re tapping into the power of the Azure Cloud. This means that by switching to BC, smaller companies gain the power to do things that were previously only affordable for the big players.

Partner Conferences cancelled

The annual Microsoft Dynamics GP Partner Conferences simply aren’t happening anymore. We see this as the beginning of the end for the general Great Plains support ecosystem within Microsoft.

Don’t leave it too late

We understand that GP is deeply entrenched within many organisations. They know and love the product, and they’ve used it for a very long time. But the longer they refuse to switch their ERP system to BC, the more expensive and challenging things are going to become.

Look out for our next blog

In the second blog in this series, we’ll reveal how much Great Plains is really costing your business.

Talk to an expert

To speak to an expert about moving from Great Plains to Business Central and the benefits for your organisation, call +44 (0) 1443 803 713 or send an email.

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