You may sometimes wonder about the real value in having a software partner to support the regular upgrades and support of the Microsoft Dynamics NAV or Dynamics 365 Business Central system you use to help run your business. This sentiment might come about after you have struggled with an upgrade project or when your partner takes three days to get back to you on a support issue. For some organizations, the strength of their internal IT staff might lead them to believe they don’t need any help.
These are all valid reasons for questioning the value in having a software partner, but there are many levels of partner relationships possible. Whether you need a hands-on partner who can provide support 24/7, or you simply need them for upgrades, partner relationships vary and should always be adding value to your organization. If you feel that your current partner is not providing the added knowledge and expertise required to get the most out of Business Central, you may just be out of sync with your partner in terms of the type of relationship you actually need. Or it’s possible you just haven’t found the right software partner yet.
Unless you are planning on sitting on your ERP system for 10 or 15 years and never making a change (which will inevitably result in problems), you will need a software partner at some point. Where Microsoft chooses to work exclusively through partners for its Business Central (previously Dynamics NAV) solution, they do not engage directly with customers. This means that unless you have the experienced IT and project management resources on staff, you will need to partner with a Value Added Reseller (VAR) for the planning, implementation, customization, training, and support of your Business Central system. Especially if you are still a Dynamics NAV customer that will eventually have to upgrade to Business Central in the cloud.
To understand the true value of a Business Central software partner, you need to decide what partner relationship type you need. Here are 5 types of partner relationships to consider before making the commitment:
Partner Relationship Type 1: “We just need a change to our license”
This means that at a minimum you need a certified Microsoft Dynamics partner (also referred to as a VAR, or value added reseller) to process license changes such as adding users and additional functionality, etc. You will always need some level of a partner relationship, or at the very least an assigned ‘partner of record,’ if you need any changes to your license.
In the older versions of Dynamics NAV, this could just mean additional functionality, whereas in later versions and in Business Central the only licenses available for on-premise databases are the Essentials or Premium license. The latter adds capability for manufacturing and service management. You may not need the additional capability but this restriction to license changes also applies to adding more users. If your business grows, you could find yourself limited with too few users.
For cloud licenses in Business Central, there are more ways for you to maintain basic changes to your own license but generally these are processed through a partner directly or through a customer eCommerce portal. As an example, Open Door provides our cloud customers with the ability to manage their own Office 365 or Dynamics 365 licenses. If you need to add a new accounting or Outlook user or even a new product, you can simply log into the system at any time and make your change. With access to a portal such as this and a cloud system that looks after upgrades, you can minimize your interactions with partners.
Partner Relationship Type 2: “We need an upgrade”
Most software upgrades require the added expertise of a software partner. Although Business Central is available in the cloud and therefore has automatic updates, it is still advised that you have a partner on standby for additional configuration and troubleshooting. Heavy customization may require some updates to meet new technical requirements from Microsoft, but in the long run the overall effort and cost will be substantially cheaper and less disruptive than the historical pattern of going through Dynamics NAV upgrades. Read this article to learn exactly how these upgrades work with your customizations.
If you plan on upgrading your Dynamics NAV system to Business Central, you will need to work with a software partner to trigger the license change and configure your system. Depending on how many versions behind you are, this could be a significant project. For example, if you are considering a move from Dynamics NAV on-premise to a cloud version of Business Central, be aware that the internal development language has changed from the proprietary C/side development toolkit to Visual Studio AL (Application Language). Visual Studio AL is similar to the .Net code your developers may have learned in the past but it is substantially slower to develop in than C/side. Keep this in mind for internal or external time and cost budgets. To move up to the latest version of Business Central, you will not be able to keep your existing modifications “as-is.” They will have to be re-done in the new toolkit. If this is the first time your developers have worked with Visual Studio AL, you could be looking at 5 to 10 times the time penalty versus your current C/side coding until your developers get up to speed. This is one reason to consider having your partner execute the upgrade effort as they should have some good experience by now.
Partner Relationship Type 3: “We need technical support on occasion”
Many organizations don’t have the level of experience or expertise necessary to handle larger issues that can arise post ERP implementation. This can include anything from functional to technical issues. Although Microsoft has extensive training and support resources available, every customer of Business Central requires a partner to assist with technical support. Software partners are responsible for administrating customers’ Business Central tenants and acting as their first line of support. In this type of relationship, you can send requests for support to your partner and they will triage, investigate, and either resolve or escalate to Microsoft.
The problem is, every partner is different and their knowledge of the software and support packages they offer may vary. Make sure you are comfortable with the level of your partner’s expertise with and commitment to Business Central before starting an upgrade or implementation project – otherwise it may come back to bite you, especially if there are complex customizations required. Watch out for partners who have no historical experience with Dynamics NAV and are now selling Business Central. This can be true for IT partners who can now sell Business Central off a Microsoft price list or are currently supporting other ERP products and are looking for an alternative.
Partner Relationship Type 4: “We often need support”
In this case, you most likely do not have a full stack IT department to help resolve the regular wear and tear of an ERP system. That means you will need to engage with a partner who is committed to your business and infrastructure for the long-term. They can handle the license changes, upgrades, and help you resolve any and all of your system issues. To find a partner qualified to support your Business Central system and its users, we recommend taking the time to vet and select the right partner for the job. There are some tips in the whitepaper below that will help you identify your partner relationship needs and set your system up for success.
Partner Relationship Type 5: “We believe in a true partnership relationship with our partner”
A true partnership relationship means both parties are committed to working together to get the maximum value out of the system. The partnership is based on mutual respect. The actual level of interaction will vary, depending on the customer’s internal support capability, but the two parties are working in tandem with proactive planning, regular contact, and strong technical capabilities. The customer will be assigned an account manager who understands the capabilities of both the core product and key add-on products that may bring further value to the customer.
What Business Central Software Partner Relationship Do You Need?
Typically partners who are involved in the original implementation project have the consultants and support techs with first-hand knowledge of your system and setup. Ideally, you want to choose the right partner from the beginning to avoid having to change support partners and get them up to speed. Here are some questions to ask when considering what your individual software partner relationship should look like:
- Do we ever plan on upgrading?
- Are we interested in moving to a cloud solution?
- Can we support ourselves technically?
- Is our partner capable or interested in supporting us?
- Do we view our partner relationship as being a true partnership?
Once you answer those questions, you will have a better understanding of what kind of Dynamics 365 Business Central partner you need. You’ll also know if your current partner is the right partner! In some cases, your original partner may have gone out of business or has lost their capability of supporting Dynamics NAV. Business Central is quite different technically, although your users will find the functionality nearly identical to Dynamics NAV.
Open Door Technology has been in the mid-market ERP space since 1992 and has dealt exclusively with Dynamics NAV and Dynamics 365 Business Central since 2000. We are both a services and ISV (Independent Software Vendor) development partner with average staff experience of over 10 years with the software platform. We have a reputation in the Microsoft channel as a reliable partner and our expertise speaks for itself. If you’re interested in learning more about how we operate as a partner and what Business Central support and services we offer, contact us today. We’re here to provide expert guidance, custom development, and system optimization whenever you need it.