By now we have all heard the buzz over the power of using SharePoint in conjunction with Microsoft Dynamics GP. Microsoft is touting that SharePoint Server is the fastest growing product in the company’s history, which is pretty impressive given their past line up of successful applications. According to the Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM) one in two corporations are now using SharePoint Server and in 22% of the companies, every employee is using the application. Such giant Fortune 500 companies such as Procter and Gamble, Kroger, Dell, UPS, Kraft Foods and Chrysler have developed external facing websites on top of the SharePoint platform.
So what does this mean for us mid-market companies that have invested in Dynamics GP and are looking for how we can use the two together? The answer is not quite that simple and must be looked at in context of your organization’s individual requirements.
The Business Portal
The Dynamics GP Business Portal has been around since Dynamics GP 7 (technically Great Plains back then) and been the default answer of how to achieve integration with SharePoint and Dynamics GP. The Portal provides an array of out of the box functionality that allows organizations to extend the use of Dynamics GP to a greater percentage of the employee population. It also offers such functionality as timesheet entry and requisition creation in which you would not want a user in Dynamics GP, but ultimately upon approval you want it to automatically create a transaction in Dynamics GP.
The growing concern with the Business Portal is that it appears not to be receiving continued development investment from Microsoft. There are also rumors to be heard in the channel that at best it is in maintenance mode, at worst it is at some point not going to be supported. As of the latest release, Business Portal 6.0, the only new features are those that appear to be required more so than desired. Such things that are dire made the list, support of GP 2013, SharePoint 2010, and 64-bit operating systems. Such things that were not critical did not make the list, support of multi-tenant Dynamics GP environments, SharePoint 2013, and Windows Server 2012. This is not to mention there have been virtually no user functionality improvements, of which with any application, there is always a long list of desired enhancements.
SharePoint External Data Capabilities
On the SharePoint side of the fence, the ability to access external information within back-office applications continues to improve. With SharePoint 2010 the capability was changed from the Business Data Catalog to Business Connectivity Services. This biggest improvement was the ability to easily update data in the external system as opposed to just query. Of course this functionality applies to Dynamics GP as well. Within SharePoint you can create external lists that real time display information within Dynamics GP and provide users the ability to update if desired.
3rd Party Applications
Such organizations as DynamicPoint have sprung up to offer application functionality on the growing popularity of the SharePoint platform. SharePoint provides a robust framework for application development as well as product integration and features that lend itself as the preferred method for extending Dynamics GP functionality. Such things as security, workflow, Outlook integration, task management etc. are already provided as opposed to starting from scratch. It has allowed us to cost effectively bring Expense Management,Invoice Automation and Requisition Management to the Microsoft Dynamics ERP community at a fraction of the cost of competitive solutions.
From an external perspective it is hard to make sense out of why Microsoft has not continued to improve upon Business Portal functionality. With SharePoint’s immense growth in its popularity, improved ability to access information in external systems and expanding framework as a development platform, it seems like a perfect fit for extending the reach of your Dynamics GP investment. The good news is that companies like DynamicPoint continue to recognize this opportunity and deliver upon the promise. We anticipate this growth will continue as more and more organizations recognize the power of SharePoint and how it can be used in conjunction with Dynamics GP.
Mike Marcin, DynamicPoint – SharePoint Invoice Automation, Expense & Requisition Management applications built exclusively for the Microsoft Dynamics community.