Last Thursday 19th of November, Microsoft gave at last more details about its new Microsoft Dynamics Ax and since them we can start giving more details about this new revolutionary ERP platform. Cloud based (but later alter mid 2016, also On-Premise), modern HTML5 interface based on Office 365 look and feel, Power BI, Real Time Analytics with On Memory Database Technology, Office 365 & CRM Integration, Machine Learning and much more.
This new version present a huge leap in technology but maintaining the proven functionality that have helped thousand of companies along the world to optimise their processes and continue operating in a more challenging and more interconnected economic world.
The objective of this post is to focus how Microsoft Dynamics compares to SAP. The other big player on the ERP market who is still dominant for implementations in big companies, specially in their homeland Germany where they have still about 50% market share and worldwide about 20%. That means a lot of new customers for Microsoft Dynamics when they get the opportunity to see that Microsoft Dynamics offers much more for their money.
Apart from other soft reports you would see out there, I can report from own experience. I work on the Microsoft Dynamics world since more than 8 years and I am actually based in Germany where I have contact with lots of companies that uses SAP but also I had an intensive experience with the new SAP version S/4 HANA with Fiori in the last 6 months. Even I was in the SAP central in Walldorf to take part in an official SAP HANA course 🙂
I want to focus my comparation on several points. On the Cloud, the development experience, the BI platform, the On Memory database, the functionality, the availability of professionals and formation possibilities and last the qualitity of the IT partners.
With the arrival of Satya Nadella, Microsoft took the courageous way of betting for the cloud, at that time Cloud was considered still a Hype and only companies like Salesforce and Amazon were at the forefront of innovation on the cloud. This all changed and since 2010 Microsoft is innovating on the Cloud building its Microsoft Azure with an extense geographical presence allowing customers to have their data near their operations. Even in countries like Germany it is provided a german only cloud with the colaboration of local partners like T-System.
Products like Office 365 and Microsoft Dynamics CRM are a huge success and the pace of innovation it is quite impresive but it doesnt mean that Microsoft presents a incoherent set of products because all of then are easily accesible from the main Microsoft Azure platform. Even casual developers can start playing developing web/mobile applications with technologies like Machine Learning and Big Data with only a single account and maybe not to expensive fees after the free account expires. This is specially important because you build a developer community that gives exponential innovation.
SAP cloud offer is based, mainly in the purchases of another companies like Ariba, Concur and Fieldglass. These are great products but it is absolutely not a homogeneous set of products giving confusion to the customer. SAP it is also building their datacenters and providing more an more their business solutions on the cloud which have damaged fees from products on premise but this year they are almost doubling the cloud business from the numbers of last year. As developer you can also start playing a little with HANA on the cloud developing web applications but it still languishes behing the developer community build by Microsoft.
The development experience with SAP from the point of view of someone that comes from a world of modern programming languages is a horror story. With the new Microsoft Dynamics Ax you will develop your business code with X++ and some task with C#. Everything from a unique development platform, Microsoft Visual Studio. Developing in Microsoft Visual Studio is just a pleasure because of the productivity of the tool, their options and the nice look and feel.
When you are a Microsoft Dynamics Ax developer you have inmediately access to all the info you need to be productive. All the database tables and business classes are pretty well documented. Just try to google CustTrans on Google and you will get access to the Microsoft Site on MSDN where the table is descripted. Just try to make the same with SAP, to find out, which table contains the customer transactions and maybe you will spend quite a lot of time just to try to find basic info.
Last about the development of user interfaces in the last version of Microsoft Dynamics you just have to know about one technology, HTML5. And everything could be made with only drag&drop and coding on the events and on the methods for the form object on Visual Studio. There is no need to be a WEB geek in order to develop business applications on the Cloud.
Meanwhile with SAP you still have to learn to develop with the old Dynpro, maybe Web Dynpro, maybe SAP PERSONAS, and last with FIORI. Setting FIORI to start working it is also not a work for novices and require a not so easy configuration. Last, developing for FIORI is it not the easy task that SAP tries to sell you. You will have to go much more on the HTML details but also build the interface with OData between the business code and the ABAP code. That in case the business code is in ABAP, because is the business code is in HANA nobody, even most of the SAP professionals, doesnt know still where the hell would be the business code.
Microsoft BI offert for Microsoft Dynamics implies the cool new Microsoft Power BI and the new services from SQL SERVER 2016. That´s it! Just take a look at the new Power BI and you would be impresed. On behind will be powered with an On Memory database that will deviler results in light speed.
On the other side with SAP you will find a myriad of products and offers that makes not easy to understand which one do you have to use. Some of then are more apropiate for the managers, anothers for your department leaders and finally others would be more appropiate for the shop-floor. So you will have to choose between SAP Lumira, SAP BW, SAP Crystal Reports, SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence, SAP BusinessObjects Explorer, SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards, ….
This is absolutely not easy but also not cheap!
On Memory database
In the field of On Memory database maybe SAP have the advantage with its HANA database. Now Microsoft with its SQL SERVER 2016 seems to be serious about On Memory and this is the main reason because Microsoft Dynamics Ax would be only available on Cloud until mid next year. Microsoft have to wait until the On Memory technology available on Azure it is available for On Premise systems. It that case I would recomend big companies with million of transactions per day to ask for a realistic perfomance test of both platforms in order to decide. If HANA copes better with such a huge amount of data it could still makes sense to spend so many money in a complicated platform like SAP. In another case, if you dont process millions of transactions per day you are trying to kill a flea with a sledgehammer.
The new Microsoft Dynamics Ax comes with not to many changes on the functionality, that it is important because the functionality that comes from Microsoft Dynamics Ax 2012 R3 it is already proved and not too many changes are needed. That it is a little like SAP that maintain its functionality given in modules like MM, SD, FI, CO, MCM and develop industry solutions based on that. Allmost all the functionality provided by SAP it is included in Microsoft Dynamics. I can also say that on german if that sounds more professional for you: Lieferbeleg erstellen, Materialen Kommissionieren, Warenausgang buchen, …. everything it is available in Microsoft Dynamics Ax to implement your processes in the most optimal way.
One curious thing about SAP implementations it is that your company it is supposed to work the way that SAP dictates in its implementations. Even on the analysis phases of a SAP project the users are simply presented some SAP powerpoints about the functionality and the users have to present their GAPs. That could be good in cases of companies that doesnt have clear how they have to work or optimize their processes but if you have a clear view of your company and you want to be ahead of the competition you will need much more. An example of that company is Inditex in Spain (Zara stores). They have build their own system using no standard software because they are a step ahead of the rest and adapting to processes thought by others would make then slower. But that is a radical option that no everybody can implement. Microsoft Dynamics Ax presents a flexible solution that you can adapt and that will grown with you. Obviously making changes to the system without understanding the standard functionality is also not a very good idea.
Availability of professionals and Formation possibilities
It is report that SAP consultants in Germany could make almost 100.000 € and developers even reach the 80.000 € mark. That it is only a hint of how expensive would be your SAP project if you choose SAP. To become a SAP professional almost the only way is to take part on the expensive courses at SAP due to that the system and it myriad of options it is quite innacesible for the casual guy. Even if you work on a End User it would be not very easy for you to learn to use the system without some SAP support. There is some initiatives from SAP like OPEN SAP but most of the courses doenst offer more than just marketing of new technologies.
To become a Microsoft Dynamics Ax Developer you doesnt need too much requirements. It is enought to be a .NET developer with some SQL Skills to make the ladder. Once you have the option to play with a system at an End User or at a Microsoft Partner you can learn quite fast if you have the right colleagues with you. Microsoft provides also on its Customer Source and Partner Source plenty of formation documents and if you wish you can also attend some of the official Microsoft Courses which will speed up your skills on the products.
So I dont see any scarce of Microsoft Dynamics professionals, even SAP consultants could become Microsoft Dynamics consultants quite easily and on the way providing great ideas to their colleagues. In Germany I experience a quite incompetent recruiting process, where companies have some positions open for months of even for years because they look for someone which Microsoft Dynamics experience but also with fluent german, when in most of the cases that it is absolutely not needed.
Microsoft Dynamics Ax is on the market since more than a decade and there is plenty of Microsoft Partners in which you can confide, some of then are specialized specific sectors like retail or industry. Companies like my actual company Alfapeople, MODUS Consult, COSMO Consult, Avanade, HSO, Impuls and SPH are good examples of them, and in Spain Prodware, AxAzure, Iniker IFR and Quonext are examples of high productive spanish Microsoft Partners. Worldwide I can mention companies like Sunrise Technologies, HSO and K3 but also the network of Alfapeople 🙂
SAP Partners there is also a lot out there specialy here in Germany, some of them lying on offices that look like palaces that shows how much money was won with SAP in the last decades. Now it is time for them to prove if they are worth their money and for all the current SAP users to take a look at Microsoft Dynamics Ax. They would be surprised to see how much money they can save and but most important how they will be able to become more agile reacting more quick to the needs of their customers in a more interconnected, cloud oriented world.
Pedro Rodriguez Parra
Dynamics Ax Developer at AlfaPeople GmbH