Businessman Standing in Front of ERP System Concept

Microsoft ERP Solutions for Professional Services Firms

Dynamics 365 ERP can unify data, processes, and apps in one central hub to enable real-time insights needed to win in an ever-changing professional services market.

Businessman Standing in Front of ERP System Concept

Table of Content

    Microsoft offers two different versions of D365: Business Central (for SMBs) and Finance & Operations (for enterprise users). For the most part, both versions promise the same general benefits.

    Both are industry-agnostic, customizable, and designed to unify all data, processes, and apps in one central hub. And that unity part is crucial, as it enables access to the real-time insights firms need to win in a complex, ever-changing market. However, the F&O apps come with more advanced features and built-in intelligence out-of-the box.

    In these next few sections, we’ll look at both options and how they support professional services firms and where they might come up short.

    D365 Business Central

    D365 Business Central is an all-in-one SMB solution that covers everything from finance and sales to business intelligence, inventory, and project management. (You can download the full capabilities guide here)

    Inside you’ll find project management features like project costing and accounting, resource optimization, capacity planning, plus real-time insights into project performance. In-app reporting tools reveal real-time insights into resource utilization, project status, and profitability – allowing you to make smarter decisions based on the big-picture.

    What’s more, you can manage your core financials and sales processes in the same place as all project-specific activities.

    That said, the out-of-the-box features won’t help you lock down any real competitive edge on their own. For starters, you’ll want to enable the Power BI integration (it’s free with your D365 BC license) and add solutions like Power Apps and Power Automate to your plan. BC’s reporting and automation capabilities could stand to be more robust and it’s likely you’ll need to develop some custom solutions to ensure the platform delivers the exact outcomes you’re looking for.

    Beyond that, BC is bound to have some more glaring functionality gaps that Microsoft’s core offerings don’t address because they’re too niche. For example, the platform’s financial features don’t address the complex billing needs of project-based firms – as most SMBs have more straightforward financials. At the same time, the enterprise version may not make sense for a small professional services firm that only needs a handful of features.

    As such, you’ll want to explore ISV solutions specific to project-based work.

    For example, our Advanced Projects for D365 Business Central solution helps SMBs navigate the challenges of project-based work. You’ll find flexible forecasting tools that support more accurate estimation and forecasting. You can use Excel to perform resource and scenario-based budgeting. It also comes with Jira and Azure connectors that integrate billing and time-tracking with development activities – saving them time and reducing the number of errors caused by duplicate data entry.

    You’ll find hundreds of other solutions that cater to professional services firms in the AppSource Store that address other areas like IoT, networking, or regulatory compliance. Ultimately, you’ll need to evaluate Business Central’s capabilities against your existing solution and identify areas where gaps still exist. Only once you’ve defined your needs can you start looking for solutions.

    D365 Finance & Operations

    Unlike BC, F&O isn’t an all-in-one solution. Rather, it’s a series of modules that focus on different parts of the business – be it HR, Supply Chain Management, or Project Operations. The idea is, you can build your own ERP — starting with Dynamics 365 Finance as your base.

    D365 Finance covers all core financials including: general ledger, budgeting, financial reporting, cost accounting, AP & AR, fixed assets, and more. Firms can use D365’s AI-infused Finance Insights to monitor global financial performance, predict outcomes, and use real-time data to support critical decisions.

    D365 Finance, Project Operations, and Sales (which is one its Customer Engagement apps) are often grouped together as a “professional services stack” — bringing project management, resource management, sales, and finance together in a single app.

    Integrating project management and accounting with core financials enables teams to maximize profits from a few different angles. You can automate processes like collections, billing, etc. to save time, improve accuracy, and ensure you stay on top of things like sales follow-ups and collection strategies that can improve cash flow.

    Users gain control over project-based work with the platform’s built-in budgeting and forecasting tools which use AI-driven models to hold the projected transaction amounts.

    Still — that’s not the only nor even the best option for every firm. Both Project Ops and Sales boast an impressive lineup of features and built-in intelligence, but you might find that an ISV solution is better aligned with your business requirements.

    For example, we offer a packaged solution, AXIO, that extends D365 Finance’s out-of-the-box capabilities — adding features, automations, templates, and embedded best practices that specifically support project-based work.

    Final Thoughts

    Together, a unified data ecosystem and a robust, cloud ERP can transform your business in many important ways — but reaping the game-changing benefits of a true transformation takes time – and ideally, follows an Agile-like journey that never really ends.

    Here, you’re laying the groundwork for the more powerful transformations that help you establish a competitive edge — using solutions like Power Apps, Azure, Teams, etc. to build innovative solutions clients won’t find anywhere else.

    Velosio offers specialized support across the entire ERP lifecycle, from selection and implementation to optimizing system performance and processes long-term. We also offer professional services solutions, built on top of D365. Clients receive a custom solution out-of-the-box that covers all core ERP functions – along with built-in features and automations designed specifically for the challenges of project-based work and its many complexities. Contact us today for more details.

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