Is a web client a portal

No more Portal, use the web client

In response to Microsoft discontinuing support for the Dynamics GP Portal and more recently, the Dynamics AX Enterprise Portal, I have seen many questions posed on “so what is the replacement?”  It seems most times a blogger will respond with “a web client is now available so there is no need for a portal.”  While I find some peace in the simplicity and finality of that answer, I am afraid that I don’t 100% agree with it.

Can you imagine saying to a customer or a vendor, “Here is your login to Dynamics?”

While the addition of a web client in all of the Dynamics products has been a significant advancement, I don’t believe it precludes the need for a portal.  On the various portal projects we have worked on at DynamicPoint, I have never heard someone say, “Can you make it look just like this screen in Dynamics?”   Well actually, in all honesty I may have heard it once or twice but it was very infrequent and I can assure you this conversation was quickly shut down.  First, recreating a Dynamics transaction screen in another application (such as a web client) has always been against Microsoft licensing terms and is considered multiplexing.   Second, customers do not want the  complexity of a web enabled recreation of a Microsoft Dynamics transaction/screen published to their portal. They want to foster a simplified user experience for the customer/vendor in comparison to an internal employees interaction with the ERP..

What, you don’t know how to enter a sales order?

Why can’t it be as easy as publishing the web client to a customer’s extranet site?  Well if you think about it for a while, the answer is pretty simple.  Microsoft Dynamics is an ERP application that is designed around the needs of the internal organization, aka, the “users” of the application.  In a customer or vendor portal application the users are entirely different.  Can you imagine giving your customer access to your sale order entry screen and saying “have at it”?  Or better yet, granting your vendors permission to access the Purchase Order you created for them? The reason this makes no sense is that you want new functionality for them, something that is different from what is available for ERP users.

The practical alternative

To illustrate these differences let’s look at some examples.  A vendor logging into your PO transaction screen and having at it of course will never do.  But a vendor authenticating to a portal, viewing or printing a filtered list of Purchase Orders that are applicable to them, maybe updating an acknowledgement or expected ship date, does sound like a decent process.  On the customer side, the Sale Order screen is complicated enough that outside of your order fulfillment team it is a mess of information that sends eyes rolling back in heads.  But the idea of giving a customer a streamlined order request screen that is routed for review and upon approval creates a quote in Dynamics sounds a little more feasible.  Maybe combine these scenarios with some document sharing, reporting, self-service, etc. and you’ve got yourself a real SharePoint Customer Portal.

So please bloggers, don’t confuse the two.  Of course if you have any further questions about SharePoint Portals for Dynamics we are always happy to help clarify here at DynamicPoint.

By DynamicPoint | SharePoint InvoiceExpense Portal applications built exclusively for Dynamics ERP & CRM Solutions.