A plethora of software platforms and applications has proved a boon to users. However, with many now seeking integration of platforms and a single version of the truth across the organisation, cracks are showing.
Delegates to a Wellington conference focused on Microsoft’s Dynamics offering, hosted by Intergen recently, saw a particular need for applications to govern workflow across the whole organisation.
Separate products in the Dynamics suite have their own self-contained workflow engine, but it is difficult for a user of more than one to integrate them for a picture of overall workflow, Intergen and Microsoft speakers acknowledged.
It is hard to give products, even those of the Dynamics suite, such an overarching commonality, acknowledged Sandie Overtveld, director of Asia Pacific Dynamics ERP Partners for Microsoft. This is because of their history and different user communities accustomed to the way they work. Microsoft has acquired the packages now bundled under the Dynamics repertoire from a number of sources and some overlaps and conflicts persist.
Overtveld specifically discounted the prospect of a single Microsoft ERP offering emerging in the foreseeable future.
It is often comparatively easy to amend or add to the code supplied as part of a platform to accommodate it more closely to an organisation’s business needs, participants said in a panel session that rounded up the conference. But a careful distinction should be made between “code that customises and code that extends”, Overtveld said. Even if a developer can write the right code, they should consider “whether you’re extending [the platform] in the way it is supposed to go or re-engineering it”.
And, of course, they should check carefully with an expert whether what they need is already provided somewhere in the out-of-the-box offering before venturing into major extensions.
The choice is often between satisfying business requirements completely, in a way that may be disrupted with the next platform upgrade, and making some accommodation in requirements in order to save upgrade trouble later, said Intergen architect Andrew Tokeley.
The conference was an occasion to discuss and examine the latest versions of the Dynamics suite, particularly the “role tailored” orientation of Dynamics Nav 2009, the small-business ERP product. This allows someone in a particular role to see only tasks relevant to them, rather than being confused with a multitude of available tasks.