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What is Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central?

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Business Central

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By Chris Young
blog header What is Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central

Using software to manage different aspects of your business, track data, and make informed decisions isn’t new, but business technology options have evolved over the years. Now, you don’t need a different piece of software to input and track data for every department or operational area and manually compile reports in Excel spreadsheets. Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software allows you to connect all areas of your business and team to work collaboratively and efficiently. Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central (Business Central) is one of the top cloud ERP solutions available among your ERP options.  

Designed to be simple and easy to use, Business Central is ideal for quick adoption across finance, executive, sales, and IT teams. Of course, approaching an ERP implementation or upgrade is still a very intricate process. While Business Central offers an incredibly intuitive interface, it’s still powerful enough to manage complex workflows and operational needs. After all, Business Central can connect your business from end to end and can be tailored to meet unique needs and requirements. That’s why you need to work with a software partner to implement and optimize Business Central to fit your business.  

Clients First specializes in several different ERP systems, so we know it can be confusing and time-consuming to figure out what each solution offers and which one to select for your business. This blog focuses on understanding the ins and outs of Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central.

A Brief History: Microsoft’s Road to Business Central

First, let’s take a quick step back to look at how Microsoft ultimately arrived at Business Central and where it originated. This is essential background to understand the foundational technology and how Microsoft created Business Central to fill the market gaps for robust ERP solutions accessible for growing small-to-midsized businesses. 

It started in 1987 when Danish entrepreneurs developed and released a simple accounting application that would become to be known as Navigator 1.00, a server-based accounting application that allowed access for multiple users. In 1995 a further refined version was released for windows as ‘Navision.’  

Microsoft acquired Navision in 2002 and included it in their Microsoft Business Solutions offerings lineup. In 2005, it was rebranded as Microsoft Dynamics NAV. In 2008 Microsoft started to shift the user interface of Dynamics NAV to match the rest of the Microsoft office products. NAV was renowned for its ability to be customizable, flexible, and adapt to bespoke business and industry needs. Also, it employed a unique feature called ‘dimensions,’ which delivered unparalleled and dynamic tracking capabilities across the business functions that mattered to each customer.  

So, what does Dynamics NAV have to do with Business Central? Among all the small-to-mid-market ERP solutions offered by Microsoft at the time, which also included Dynamics GP (formerly Great Plains) and Dynamics SL (formerly Solomon), they selected NAV as the base code and foundation for building what would be their flagship SMB cloud solution, now Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central.  

Over the years, Microsoft has refined and improved Business Central, developing it into the powerful, secure, and easy-to-use cloud platform it is today.

Business Central Overview

Business Central is now a top cloud-based ERP solution for growing businesses with one of the most rapidly increasing userbases worldwide. At its core, Business Central is a complete business management solution built in the cloud designed to centralize and streamline all your data, processes, and core functions. From finance and sales to inventory and purchasing, it brings your entire business into one platform for faster collaboration, process efficiency, and more intelligent data-based decision-making.

Business Central Suits Almost Any Industry

Because it is easily customizable and adaptable, through what is called ‘extensions,’ Business Central can be used for businesses in nearly any industry. Its flexibility allows partners to create a system tailored to the client’s industry and specific business needs. You’ll see Business Central used across a variety of industries, such as aviation, maintenance and repair, distribution, manufacturing, and print production. There are also common Business Central solutions for the transport, retail, and finance industries. The sky is really the limit; if you can imagine it, Business Central can manage it.

Business Central Fosters Collaboration

Many business owners find that one of the unexpected benefits of Business Central is how it brings people together. By drastically reducing the time spent on manual processes and duplicate data entry, Business Central gives employees more time to collaborate, provide excellent customer service, and work in their zone of genius. A central system, where you can see all parts of your operation together, also empowers employees to take full ownership of their part of the process to ensure success for all teams and the business.

Business Central Reduces Costly Technology & Delivers World-Class Security

Another underrated feature of Business Central is how it can drastically reduce costs and headaches associated with managing servers, IT equipment, backup systems, and computer maintenance. Because it is cloud-based, you don’t need an entire room dedicated to servers, plus all the people required to run and manage complex IT technologies. With 99% uptime, access anywhere, built-in backup redundancy, and world-class security, many of your IT worries and stresses will disappear. No more panicking about bad weather knocking out power to your servers, machines malfunctioning, or backups disappearing. Even if your power goes out, there’s still going to be power on at Microsoft’s various locations around the world, so your data is always safe.

The Business Central Breakdown: A Complete Guide to Licensing, Pricing, and Functionality

9 Most Commonly Asked Questions About Business Central

Whether you are just diving into your ERP journey or looking to upgrade, here are some frequently asked questions that will help get you up to speed in understanding how Business Central fits into the ERP market and your business:

1. How is Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central Different from Finance Software like QuickBooks?

The main difference between Business Central and QuickBooks is that Business Central connects all of the departments or groups in your business, from sales to marketing to production to finance and more. QuickBooks is a simple option for managing bookkeeping and accounting, but it does not provide adequate data tracking across all operational areas such as inventory, warehousing, sales, project management, etc. It’s also extremely limited in its reporting capabilities. An ERP like Business Central allows all your staff to work collaboratively across the system with one central source of accurate and up-to-date data.   

Download Guide: 6 Signs You’ve Outgrown QuickBooks

What Does Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central Do?

Business Central is a highly customizable system that can do almost any business process you need. The most common areas that Business Central can help with are:

  • Financial management 
  • Supply chain and inventory management
  • Sales and service management
  • Project management
  • Manufacturing
  • Operations management
  • Customer relationship management
  • HR management

Business Central covers all your financial management, from quoting and invoicing to cash flow forecasting and custom reporting options. It provides end-to-end visibility across your entire company so you can make data-backed decisions faster.  

Business Central also includes supply chain and inventory management with allowance for regulatory data, so you can ensure you meet the regulations for whatever industry and region you serve.  

There are robust project management tools in Business Central and manufacturing-specific modules, so you don’t have to get custom-developed programs for your production business.

Operations management modules in Business Central allow for big picture views with the opportunity to deep dive into details, so you can develop, implement, tweak, and monitor business-wide strategies and plans.  

With unparalleled access to business intelligence, you can work proactively in Business Central instead of guessing about the future based on old data. You can also manage HR within Business Central.  

Managing customer relationships is a critical part of any business. Business Central allows you to do that with your sales and order data, so you can identify the most viable and valuable solutions to offer your clients.

3. What Businesses and Industries Use Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central?

Despite having the word enterprise in the acronym, Business Central is an excellent option for small to medium-sized businesses looking to streamline, centralize, and grow. Residing in the cloud, it has flexible licensing modules and functionality that will scale with your business as you grow – or if you need to downsize.   

Because it is so customizable, Business Central is suitable for businesses in almost any industry. In one of our most recent Business Central implementations, we helped a wholesale distributor upgrade from QuickBooks in a record 5 weeks. You can read the full client story here.

4. How Does Business Central Integrate with Other Microsoft Solutions?

Business Central integrates easily with other Microsoft solutions, like Azure and Power BI, to aid efficiency and make life easier. The visual style is consistent with other Microsoft solutions, so it’s familiar and easy for Microsoft 365 users to adapt to and learn. It also features many optional integrations with Microsoft 365 apps like Word, Excel, Outlook, OneNote, and SharePoint. Your software partner can configure all the integrations or just the ones you need.  

You can easily export data to an Excel spreadsheet or Word document or send a report via Outlook email. From Outlook, you can send files and reports directly from Business Central without opening the app. You can also edit data in Excel and then republish the information into Business Central.

5. Are There Add-ons for Business Central?

There are plenty of add-ons (also known as extensions) for Business Central. Many are available for download on Microsoft’s AppSource, others are implemented directly by your Microsoft Partner or the ISV (independent software vendor) publisher. There are many industry-specific and productivity-enhancing extensions for Business Central, or you can have your Business Central ERP partner custom develop an extension that performs whatever unique capability you need. That’s why it’s crucial to choose a partner that understands your business and has the experience and resources on staff to help you tailor your Business Central system.

6. How is Business Central Deployed?

Business Central is a cloud-based SaaS subscription model. This allows for improved security, less downtime for updates, lower in-house IT costs, and 24/7 worldwide access for your users. As a SaaS solution, Business Central allows you to access the platform with a pay-as-you-go subscription, while Microsoft manages the servers, infrastructure, and software updates. As detailed in the previous section, you can expand functionality with thousands of extensions available in AppSource.    

Moving to the cloud is a significant transition, but it is the way of the future. Clients First has specific support and services for helping you make the transition to the cloud smooth and efficient.

7. How is Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central Licensed?

Business Central has two primary user licensing options: Business Central Essentials and Business Central Premium. Both licenses include:

  • Unlimited number of companies
  • Ability to add unlimited users at a per/user cost
  • Access to customization and extensions
  • Multiple environments
  • Finance management
  • Sales & marketing
  • Sales & delivery
  • Purchasing & payables
  • Inventory
  • Supply planning & availability
  • Project management
  • Warehouse management

Service management and manufacturing capabilities are only available with Business Central Premium. The two licensing options cannot be combined; however, you can start with Essentials and upgrade to Premium later if needed.  

Once you have chosen between Essentials and Premium for your core users who need access to most of the system, you may add individual Team Member or Device licenses. These licenses are designed for staff who do not need full access to all Business Central Functions. Device licenses are intended for devices with communal access, like a POS, shop floor, or warehouse device that multiple people use. Team member licenses allow users to access approvals and to view anything in Business Central, but with minimal write access.

Transitioning to Business Central will require working with a software partner to ensure your system is implemented in the best way for your company. Clients First offer packages that cover licensing, implementation, and training. If your needs don’t quite fit the existing packages, you can request a custom quote with your specific factors included.

8. How Much Does Business Central Cost?

Pricing for Business Central varies, but the short answer is that it can cost $70-100 per user per month for a Full User License and $8 per user per month for a limited Team Member.  

Business Central subscription pricing is based on user type. The following are the current subscription prices:

  • Business Central Essentials: $70 user/month
  • Business Central Premium: $100 user/month

Add-on license subscription prices are: 

  • Team Member License: $8 user/month
  • Device License: $40 user/month

You view detailed Business Central pricing here.  

Keep in mind that these are just the monthly SaaS subscription costs. Your software partner will also have fees for implementation and support. It’s best to request a custom quote to get a better idea of your total monthly costs.

9. Is Business Central Easy to Use? 

Because of the familiar Microsoft look and feel in Business Central, the user interface is exceptionally intuitive. Anyone who works within Microsoft systems, like Office 365, can efficiently function and work. Clients First also offer comprehensive training support for Business Central, so your team will be ready to get right to work in the new system once it goes live.  

Practicing, trying things out, and playing around is critical to the learning process to help people become comfortable and adapt to a new ecosystem. So, Clients First can provide a sandbox environment where your team can try things out and replicate actual processes with zero risk.

When to Choose Dynamics 365 Business Central

You, of course, have several ERP options available as a growing business that might be aiming to migrate to a more scalable and efficient business management system in the cloud. Navigating your options can get a bit daunting. That’s why Clients First doesn’t focus on only selling and supporting Business Central; we focus on finding the solutions you need and the software that best suits your business. Offering a variety of business applications means Clients First can properly match your business to a solution that fits your budget and delivers precisely what you need. Clients First promises to always to be transparent; we’ll never oversell or overpromise.  

Business Central is a top choice for its customizability, flexibility, regulatory compliance management, extensions, and how well it integrates with the entire Microsoft stack. If you’d like to see how Business Central can help you streamline your business, or if a different solution might work for you, you can always contact us or book a free demo.

Chris Young

Chris Young

Partner, Clients First Business Solutions New Jersey

Chris Young is your go-to resource for all things Dynamics NAV and Dynamics 365 Business Central at Clients First. Highly skilled in ERP solution architecture and financial planning, Chris has spent the last 30 years helping clients select and implement the right financial, manufacturing, and distribution software for their needs. When he’s not presenting to captivated crowds or sharing his knowledge through product demos, you can find Chris in the garage working on a car or fixing something around the house.