Having heard many good things about Microsoft Dynamics 365, I took the opportunity to poke around a little and see which features could benefit procurement and supply chain operations.
Dynamics 365 includes modules for sales, customer service, marketing, retail management, ecommerce, and others. Not focused solely on large enterprises, its Business Central ERP module is aimed at small and medium-sized businesses. And then there’s Dynamics 365 with embedded supply chain and procurement capabilities.
The current dominant players in procurement are Coupa and Ariba. Both end-to-end platforms are already used in many large enterprises. Coupa is particularly known for its spend analytics and automation capabilities, while SAP Ariba is known for its global network and compliance management features.
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Their capabilities and user experience have improved over the years based on user group feedback. Today, there are multiple generations of procurement professionals who have spent their careers using the systems and they take that know-how with them when they change positions or move to other firms. It’s almost a rite of passage for procurement professionals to work with either system.
Procurement and Supply Chain Benefits
But now there is Microsoft Dynamics 365. Here are a few reasons to evaluate this suite when you are making an investment in procurement or supply chain technology.
- Customization. As mentioned above, Dynamics 365 itself is not a dedicated procurement or supply chain application. It is, however, highly customizable. Organizations can choose and implement the specific components that best meet their needs, and it provides a unified data model and user experience across these components. It allows businesses to tailor the software to their unique business needs.
- Manufacturing/ Internet of Things (IoT). Specific modules tailored to the shop floor create the ability for a manufacturer to manage more components of the supply chain than other systems. For example, Dynamics 365 uses IoT to connect factory equipment to production resources. The technology can measure downtime, quality and delays, alerting managers to the impact that any disruption can have on supply plans.
- Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. Dynamics 365 employs AI to enhance results across the modules. For example, AI can be used to maximize asset productivity by reducing downtime and proactively identifying risk. The procure-to-pay function uses AI to predict when vendors will pay their invoices. So too, AI/ML support the fraud protection module, help identify automation opportunities, and enhance forecasts of all sorts.
- Integration. Within a Microsoft-centric environment, Dynamics 365 integrates with other Microsoft products like Office 365, SharePoint, and Power BI. This can be a significant advantage for organizations already heavily invested in the Microsoft ecosystem, as it promotes compatibility and data consistency. Ariba, with its robust supplier network, makes it easy to integrate with external partners. Coupa is easy to integrate with many third-party applications to create a more robust product. The sweet spot for Microsoft Dynamics 365 is integration with other Microsoft applications.
- User Interface. Users who are already use other Microsoft apps will find Dynamics 365’s user interface highly intuitive, potentially reducing the learning curve. So although a seasoned professional may have solid experience with Coupa or Ariba, Dynamics 365 should not be a challenge to learn and use.
- Industry-Specific Functionality. Microsoft offers industry-specific capabilities for the Dynamics 365 platform, including Dynamics 365 for retail, manufacturing, and healthcare industries. These applications can provide a more tailored experience for organizations in those sectors.
Ultimately, the best procurement or supply chain application for your organization will depend on your specific business needs and requirements. Until now, there have been two large players with robust Procurement Capabilities. Now, Microsoft Dynamics 365 offers a product that leverages digital technology not only in Procurement but also in Supply Chain as well. Where a company produces or assembles goods – or wants to leverage AI and Machine Leaning to optimize analytics and decision making – Dynamics 365 is a differentiator.