Should you Customise D365 or Buy an Add In?

Microsoft is a mass market software vendor. Like Microsoft Office, its business applications are designed to handle standard business processes that apply to most businesses out of the box. This maximises the appeal of Microsoft’s business applications to as broad a market as possible,

In the same way that Microsoft Excel is a generic spreadsheet tool that can be used for a myriad of calculations, the Dynamics 365 Sales application is designed to be generic enough to manage the sales processes of most businesses. 

While Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations, Microsoft’s Tier 1 ERP application, has some vertical flavours for Retail, Public Service and Financial Services, the rest of the Dynamics 365 suite of Business Applications rely on Microsoft’s vast partner network (approximately 6,000 partners) to address the specific functionality of each vertical market.

This leads customers to a Build versus Buy question. Should you customise Microsoft Dynamics or buy a partner developed Add In?

This first blog in this series focusses on some Reasons to Buy:

Historically, modification takes place during the implementation process. The customer’s specific requirements are documented then developed as the application is implemented.

But Microsoft is encouraging its partners to move away from this Build approach and instead recommends customers to choose from the thousands of Add In apps featured on Appsource – https://appsource.microsoft.com/en-us/

Microsoft discourages the Build approach for good reasons:

1)     The smart way to deploy business applications is in the cloud.

It is smart because of the many benefits the cloud confers but it also best for the cloud vendor’s bottom line. Cloud applications are sticky and because of their annual recurring revenue are more expensive than buying on-premise software over time. That said, this is the new reality and it makes sense because:

 i)       The cloud removes the need to buy and to manage IT infrastructure. Applications that are hosted in the cloud are hosted in the software vendor’s data centres. In Microsoft’s case, these data centres lead the industry in terms of security and data protection and are superior to the rigour most companies can deliver internally.

 ii)      The cloud removes the need for the customer to upgrade software. This is because the software vendor upgrades the platform the customers’ business application runs on. These platform upgrades are generally scheduled for twice a year, allowing the cloud applications and therefore the cloud customers to benefit from the latest innovations and technologies regularly.  

 iii)    The cloud is device agnostic enabling a truly mobile experience that can be accessed on smart phones, on iPads and tablets and on PCs and workstations.

 2)     Technology is advancing so quickly, buying an Add In future proofs your technology

We’re in a golden age of software development (as Marc Andreessen puts it “Software eats the world”) with four major trends moving from curiosity to mainstream deployment:

i)       Artificial intelligence is automating many mundane tasks and can be used to analyse the data your business applications collect to forecast trends and suggest actionable insights.

ii)      Augmented or virtual reality wearables like the Hololens promise to move our interaction with software away from the keyboard into more real life scenarios. Voice commands and artificial assistants are becoming more mainstream.

iii)    The internet of things is connecting dumb devices and delivering more and more data that business applications can consume, understand and decide upon

iv)    Blockchain promises to do for transactions what the internet has done for data that is create a new transparent, auditable chain of transactions that all members of the blockchain can trust and validate.

Buying an Add In gives you confidence that your business application is future proof and ready to avail of these new technologies as they become available to the platform. Customising your code (i.e. building) risks falling behind and investing in a platform that is incompatible with new innovations.

3)     Core vertical requirements need vertical experts who live and breathe your business

Perhaps the strongest reason for buying an Add In is the fact that one of Microsoft’s 6,000 partners has decided to focus on your industry and become a real industry expert enabling you to benefit from their research and development. This industry R&D means the Add In is designed with your industry best practise.

Examples are the retail Add In – https://www.lsretail.com/ and the food and drink Add In we represent – https://www.foodware365.com/. LS Retail and Schouw, the partner who build the Foodware Add In, spend a lot of time focussed on the retail and food industries understanding the challenges that retailers and food and drink manufacturers and distributors face, not only today but in the longer term. They have therefore built industry leading Retail, Food Safety and Traceability features into their Retail and Foodware Add Ins which we believe are superior to the capability that Retail and Food and Drink customers can develop alone.

These are some of the reasons why we believe you should Buy an Add In.

As with all significant decisions, however, there is no right answer. There are instead compromises, pros and cons which must be weighed and debated. The next blog in this series (Build versus Buy) will discuss Reasons you should Build since the answer for you in the particular situation you find yourself in is not as clear cut as it may initially seem.

This is why we recommend all our customers choose to work with a trusted partner to guide you to make the right decisions.

For more information, see https://www.prostrategy.ie/microsoft-dynamics/foodware365/