By now most of us have probably already heard the news, Microsoft will discontinue the support of Business Portal with the release Microsoft Dynamics GP 2015. The details can be found at the following link, but the gist is as follows:
Specifically, the following Business Portal modules will not be available in Microsoft Dynamics GP 2015 but will be available in the core code base:
- Business Portal
- Business Portal Employee Users
- Business Portal Customer Users
- Time and Expense for Business Portal
- Time and Attendance
- Employee Pay
- Employee Profile
- Skills and Training
- Requisition Management
- SOX Accelerator for Business Portal
Also, the following Business Portal functionalities will not be available in Microsoft Dynamics GP 2015 and are not planned for replacement:
- Order Management
So what does this mean for the future of SharePoint and why was this decision made? Let’s first look at the question of why Microsoft decided to go down this path. First of all, to say the Business Portal was ever a SharePoint application is a little stretch of the definition. It had its own database, workflow engine, deployment process, task list, reporting tools, and the list goes on. So although it required SharePoint to be deployed, by no means did it use the foundation and framework that SharePoint provides. Based on this architecture, lack of functionality and flexibility, as well as the product itself not being significantly improved upon for several releases, it created a less than desirable experience for the customers as well as the implementation partner. Circumstantially, these are all factors that led to the development of DynamicPoint SharePoint products for Microsoft Dynamics GP, in an effort to deliver an integrated SharePoint application experience that leveraged the framework and provided a more functional, flexible solution. So for most, the end of the Business Portal will be celebrated as opposed to mourned.
On to the next question, where does this leave the future of using Dynamics GP in conjunction with SharePoint and what are the alternatives available? Microsoft has indicated that they plan to replace the majority of Business Portal functionality with Apps or by making the functionality available in Dynamics GP and using the Web Client to expose this functionality to users who are not logging in directly to the application. While both of these are viable options, they have their own considerations that should be investigated. The app model requires the installation and configuration of the Dynamics GP Companion Application Service Configurator to allow integration with the business data. This is a fairly involved installation that requires either exposing this service publically or deploying it to an Azure Service Bus namespace. In the case of the Web Client, the functionality must first be available in Dynamics GP (as of Dynamics GP 2013 R2, the list consists of Purchase Order Approval, Purchase Requisition Approval, Payroll Timecard Approval and Project Timesheet Approval). Also, the user creating the record must be knowledgeable of the fields that are required for that transaction. For example, in the case of purchase requisitions this includes item records, vendors and account assignment to create the requisition. In other words, a user cannot submit a request and then have the details completed by another department, say purchasing.
The decision of whether these options are good ones for your company really comes down to the user’s experience. If your company is using or plans to use SharePoint as the company’s portal for viewing such things as Management Reporter and Dynamics GP reports, document storage and workflow / task management, then using SharePoint to include extensions of Dynamics GP functionality is a logical choice. For example, if I already use SharePoint to manage tasks and workflow assignments, share my work through document libraries and view business analytical data, then it also a logic choice to create an expense report, submit an invoice for approval or enter a purchase requisition.
So in summary, the introduction of these new applications are good ones for businesses as now they have more options for managing these business processes. For those that have chosen SharePoint as being the system of choice for sharing information and extending the reach of Dynamics, it continues to be possible through the use of DynamicPoint products. Please let us know if you are interested in learning more about Employee Expense, Purchase Requisition Management or Invoice Automation using SharePoint or would like to schedule a demonstration of these applications.
By Mike Marcin, DynamicPoint – SharePoint Solutions for Microsoft Dynamics® ERP