Dynamics 365 Business Central or Acumatica: Which Is Better?
Decide between Dynamics 365 Business Central or Acumatica for Your Business
Previously on this blog, we compared Dynamics SL to Acumatica and stated, as one of your options, that you could choose to migrate to Dynamics 365 Business Central (as long as you waited for it to mature into a Dynamics SL competitor). Another option we offered was to choose migration to Acumatica Cloud ERP.
Considering the lack of cloud capability in Dynamics SL, you’ll want to start planning your decision now, which is why SWK Technologies is here to help with another in-depth comparison blog. This time we’ll be talking about whether to choose Dynamics 365 Business Central or Acumatica.
Let’s get to it.
What Is Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central?
Offering both cloud and on-premises deployments, the new Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central offers financial management capabilities along with project management and supply chain management tools, plus available options for manufacturing and service order management.
Sound like a familiar lineup? Maybe you heard of the product when it was formerly known as the “Business Edition” of the enterprise software Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations, or maybe you heard of it as Microsoft Dynamics NAV, or maybe even Navision. (It’s important to note, however, that Dynamics 365 Business Central doesn’t provide the full flexibility that NAV is known for, and therefore isn’t an acceptable NAV replacement at this time.)
We established that Dynamics 365 Business Central isn’t the “Business Edition” and it isn’t NAV anymore… but, shockingly, it also isn’t the product you see when you navigate to the Dynamics 365 page on Microsoft’s site! That product is known as Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations (formerly known as Dynamics AX), which is only for midsize to large enterprises.
Confused as to why we’re trying to define Dynamics 365 Business Central by clarifying what the product isn’t? Honestly, Microsoft themselves seem a bit confused about what Dynamics 365 Business Central is and should become.
In general, right now it’s safe to say that Dynamics 365 Business Central is aQuickBooks alternative for smaller SMBs with minor customization needs. It has some cloud functionality and integration from Microsoft’s “intelligent edge,” but the dust is still settling on what the product will be like when it matures.
What Is Acumatica Cloud ERP?
Offering a wide range of deployments, including cloud, private cloud, and on-premises options, Acumatica is the true cloud ERP – a modern ERP solution with a variety of vertical-specific editions. Acumatica editions include Manufacturing, Distribution, Construction, eCommerce, and more.
Acumatica provides a wealth of targeted add-ons that help companies tailor-fit ERP for each stage of their business evolution – and when it comes to Acumatica, “evolution” is the perfect term to use because the ERP developer reinvests a huge amount of their revenues back into R&D. They’re committed to bringing cutting-edge technologiesinto the midmarket ERP space. Some of the most recent additions to Acumatica include AI, machine learning, natural language processing, and blockchain, and more advances are coming very soon.
Dynamics 365 Business Central or Acumatica: 5 Key Differences to Consider
When comparing these cloud-based ERP technologies, it’s important to focus on the 5 critical differences that are most likely to impact your SMB. As you read about each of these points, take the time to carefully consider what each of these approaches will mean to your company this year, next year, and over the next 10 years.
- Your Data Will Be Handled Differently
Since data is the lifeblood of your company, make sure you know how each cloud provider handles your data.
- Dynamics 365 Business Central offers limited data exports and maintains full control of your backups. If you need to move your data from Business Central into your own analytics solution, be aware that no relational database exports are available. Also be aware that you cannot backup your data in Business Central yourself, nor can you restore it. For these actions you’ll currently need to request a backup or restore from Microsoft directly.
- Acumatica considers your data your own, allowing full relational database exports at any time, on-demand database snapshots, and an optional database backup solution. Acumatica makes it easy to control your backups and restore functions, and the full relational database exports mean that you can transfer your data wherever you choose, whenever you want. Note that database snapshots produce a full-size copy of your database and too many can become a resource hog. You may want to download your snapshots and store them outside of Acumatica, so you can keep your resource utilization costs low.
- You Need to Carefully Consider Customization
While it would be nice if any product met your needs perfectly “out of the box,” we just can’t make that claim. No company can. That’s why it’s crucial for you to assess your customization freedom before buying your next ERP.
- Dynamics 365 Business Central’s customization capabilities are clunky, and they have very few connected apps available at this time. Business Central’s development tool (AL) finallyincludes .NET interoperability now (.NET is an industry-standard development code), but most of the customizations that had worked on Dynamics NAV still won’t work on the new Business Central cloud platform. Not only that, but Business Central doesn’t allow you to directly access your system, your database, or the product’s source code. This means you’re pretty much stuck relying on the very few connected apps available for Business Central if you want additional functionality at this time.
- Acumatica offers full customization of your solution and the entire Acumatica platform, with the industry-standard .NET framework and a wide range of connected apps. Need an add-on solution to streamline your Acumatica system? You can either buy an Acumatica Certified App at convenient, low, off-the-shelf pricing; or you can hire any developer you trust to write you a 100% custom app. Since Acumatica is written in developer-friendly .NET and since the Acumatica Cloud xRP Platform allows you to customize literally everyaspect of your Acumatica solution, it’s no stretch to say that Acumatica can keep up with anything your SMB can imagine. (Read more about Cloud xRP Platform flexibility.)
- You’ll Have to Look Closely at Pricing
Comparing these 2 systems costs is a little like comparing apples and oranges, which makes things difficult because both solutions are very proud of their pricing setup. Just be sure to look beyond price when deciding between Dynamics 365 Business Central or Acumatica.
- Dynamics 365 Business Central features a very low entry cost, but since they charge per user and add-ons cost extra per user, those add-ons can add up fast. As you look into Business Central, remember that it’s important to balance price and functionality for a business technology product you plan to use for the next decade. Make sure all the capabilities you need are either built-in now, or that they’re part of Microsoft’s roadmap. Also, ask about CRM costs. Business Central comes with its own CRM (the NAV CRM), but the included CRM isn’tthe full-featured Microsoft CRM you may expect. That CRM costs an additional monthly fee and also contains a separate database that you’ll need to sync to your ERP.
- Acumatica offers a unique pricing setup for unlimited users and many of their editions include full-featured CRM. Pricing is an area in which Acumatica shines. Business customers love the true cloud ERP’s resource-based pricing that allows for unlimited users to securely access the system. Customers, partners, employees, suppliers, vendors – all interested parties can be issued a secure login and can self-serve information at any time. That cuts out a lot of administrative hassle for you. In addition, the carefully planned vertical editions of Acumatica provide impressive functionality and high value to industry clients.
- You’ll See Significant Differences in Training
The business world is constantly in flux, business technology is constantly in flux, and traditional business software training… is slow. There’s an argument to be made that training is the #1 key to true agility in today’s ever-evolving landscape.
- Dynamics 365 Business Central provides formal training and support solely through Cloud Solution Providers (CSPs), which function as resellers (VARs). All good CSPs will provide you with during- and post-implementation training that gets you up to speed on your new solution but, aside from community forums and a single online training module, there’s not much informal training available for Microsoft’s solution. However, Business Central has a great user interface (UI) and fits in well with the Microsoft look and feel you’ve been relying on for years, so you may not need too much training.
- Acumatica is easy to use, but so flexible and open that they understand the importance of in-depth, free, on-demand training for everyone. From free test drives of the solution, to the Open University that offers comprehensive training, to the regional support groups, to the truly incredible Help Portal, Acumatica provides everything you need for informal training. Of course, you’ll also get formal training from your implementation partner, both during- and post-implementation, but really, if you want to check out Acumatica right now, for free, you can. Why all the free training? Because openness and transparency are a key part of the Acumatica philosophy that every company should be free to run their business on their terms.
- You’ll Want to Pay Attention to Product Strategy
Buying a new ERP means buying into a long-term relationship with a reseller, a publisher (developer), and a product. You already know you need to work with a good implementation partner, and you understand the importance of choosing an ERP solution developed by a trusted brand, but you may not know that you can investigate the future plans for a product by reading up on its roadmap.
- Dynamics 365 Business Central’s roadmap only mentions small features that are scheduled for release later in 2019; they don’t seem to have any grand plans at all. Feel free to check out the Business Central roadmap to see the features they’ll be adding (we can’t help but feel let down by items on this list like “resize columns with fewer clicks”) and think carefully about the fact that Microsoft has renamed this product multiple times already, has a confusing marketing push for it, and has shown in the past that they won’t hesitate to quickly cancel small business accounting products.
- Acumatica announces their updated roadmap yearly at their annual conference; this year the big news was their machine learning advances and new AI capabilities. As stated earlier, Acumatica invests heavily in R&D with 75% of employees working in research and development. Simply put, their tech focus is on the future – and it shows. At the January 2019 Acumatica Summit, Acumatica employees demonstrated camera drone barcode scanning for warehouse inventory updates, as well as Acumatica Alexa for Business, which can understand and react accurately to complex natural language search queries. They also demonstrated Microsoft HoloLens integration that delivered hands-free functionality at a construction site, and (we liked this next one a lot) a machine learning tool that could make purchasing suggestions that were similar to an image snapped just then by a smartphone camera. Wow.
So, Which Is Better? Dynamics 365 Business Central or Acumatica?
Honestly, no outside consultant can tell you which solution is better for your needs. If you’re already running Dynamics NAV or Dynamics SL, Dynamics 365 Business Central’s cloud capabilities may hold a reasonable solution for you, although you’ll probably lose some functionality. Currently, Business Central doesn’t provide a simple migration from other Dynamics solutions because the cloud-based ERP is still lacking in the customization and functionality that these other Dynamics solutions provide. Since Business Central is still a developing product with limited vertical functionality at this time, you may want to consider other, proven cloud ERP solutions such as Acumatica.
As we mentioned at the beginning of this article, smaller businesses with minor customization needs and simple operations will probably like the low price point of Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central, especially if all they’re looking for is a QuickBooks alternative.
However, companies that have or expect to have complex operations and/ or customization requirements, or companies that want to take advantage of true cloud power instead of mere cloud simplicity and cost, are likely to be better served by Acumatica, the true cloud ERP.
Still have questions? Then take your time and learn more about cloud ERP, research ERP solutions, or evaluate the ERP systems you’re considering.
Heard enough? Contact the Cloud ERP experts at SWK Technologies to learn more, schedule a demo, or get a free quote.