Deciding between re-implementing or upgrading is not always a simple choice, but the cost may not be as high as you’d expect. The advent of SaaS (Software as a Service) cloud-based systems can also complicate your choice, as will your vendor’s cloud transition plans.
Evolution of mid-market ERP
Open Door Technology has been working in the mid-market ERP space for almost 30 years and exclusively with Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central (formerly Navision and then Dynamics NAV) for close to 20 years. Dealing with Navision and Dynamics NAV made this question of re-implementing vs. upgrading especially pertinent as customers were allowed to customize their core objects, i.e. tables, reports, posting code, etc. This was in contrast to many competitors who had to rely on third party add-ons or configuration tools to try to meet unique requirements
The upside was we could do almost anything with the software without blocking the upgrade path. The downside was the effort it could take to move extensive customizations forward. No longer could you simply punch in a CD or DVD and run an automatic upgrade.
Additionally, Microsoft has changed to business code in Dynamics 365 Business Central to Visual Studio AL from the legacy C/side toolkit found in Dynamics NAV. This step was largely necessary for the decision to lock out any changes by customers or partners to the core Business Central module, which allowed for automatic SaaS updates twice per year and simplified the upgrades of on-premise Business Central databases.
Separate code layers simplify the upgrade process
The separation of third party apps (or add-ons) and customizations into separate code layers greatly simplifies the upgrade process, in some cases, to zero effort or cost. How this process works is explained in depth in a previous blog here. For now, let’s assume future upgrades in a cloud-enabled product such as Business Central will be much easier, even if all customizations in the legacy Dynamics NAV product have to be re-written in Visual Studio AL.
Let’s go back to the original question: When should you choose to re-implement rather than upgrade?
You should consider re-implementing when:
- You are moving from a legacy system to a cloud-based system with a significantly different database structure or development environment, i.e. Dynamics NAV on-premise to Business Central SaaS
- Your database has significant customizations that would need to be re-written
- Many of the existing customizations are no longer required
- A decision has been made to move to SaaS to take advantage of the automatic upgrade capability (or some other reason)
- You care mostly about bringing over master records and opening balances and quantities
- Your new system will be several versions newer, which may require several upgrade steps and involve significant re-engineering of business processes and related customizations due to changes in the functionality set, i.e. re-write of job cost or inventory by the vendor
You should consider upgrading your existing system when:
- Your legacy data is important to your organization
- Data is more important than cost
- Time is not an issue as upgrading might take substantially longer
- You are going to convert all of your customizations
- There are few or minor customizations
Of course, there are often further points to consider, depending on your system setup, but these are a good start.
*Read our previous blog here for an interesting story about why you should always involve all key stakeholders in a new ERP system implementation project… Your organization and users will thank you.