Helping people with disabilities live life to the fullest has been the mission of Hammer Residences for nearly 100 years.
The Minnesota-based organization provides homes for 270 adults with developmental disabilities and offers additional services to nearly 1,500 people every month. A recent merger with nearby Northeast Residence adds another 24 homes to the growing organization.
Moving from Dynamics SL to cloud ERP
At their Wayzata headquarters, Hammer Residences’ accounting team had been using Microsoft Dynamics SL since 2000. Unlike most new implementations where significant issues prompt a move to a new system, Hammer still liked their on-premise ERP system.
“SL worked great for us. We knew it like the back of our hands. There was nothing wrong with SL,” said CFO Kristin Pyka.
In fact, they were the only remaining SL client that still used Boyer & Associates’ custom billing tool for the ERP solution. Whenever they ran into issues, they knew they could rely on Boyer’s experienced SL team.
“I’ve always had great things to say about Boyer. The support is always fabulous,” Pyka said.
The only drawback to Dynamics SL was the on-premise servers. A forward-moving organization with a small IT staff, Hammer Residences had already moved the rest of its existing software systems to the cloud. The only system left on a server was SL.
“We knew eventually we wanted to move to the cloud,” Pyka said. When discussions began for an upgrade from Dynamics SL 2015, she sensed that the writing was on the wall.
“We’d be able to upgrade one more time and then we’d eventually be pushed to Business Central anyway,” she figured. Rather than pay twice, the organization decided to pull the trigger on moving their final on-premise system to the cloud.
Adjusting to a new language in cloud ERP
The entire ERP migration to the cloud with Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central took about six months. Hammer Residences was live on their new system by the beginning of 2021.
“It went very well. We had very good support. … (Boyer) went above and beyond,” Pyka said.
The transition did take longer than she expected, in part due to a miscommunication on exactly how the new system needed to work. Pyka suggested that companies interested in moving to Dynamics 365 Business Central do their research on what is a cloud ERP migration and what is available in Business Central so they have a better idea of what their new system could look like.
She also suggested recording trainings for reference, especially for accounting tasks that are done once a month or less frequently. She said the Boyer team did a great job of documenting along the way of Hammer’s migration process and recording meetings to assist with future training. Pyka also did a lot of Googling to help answer specific how-to questions on Business Central.
“Sometimes I think in BC we try to make things more complicated than they are because in SL they were,” Pyka said. “BC is much more user friendly.”
Pyka said her only complaint about the new system is having to learn a new language. Whereas Dynamics SL’s naming conventions made sense to her accounting team, she said Business Central uses terms that are more intuitive to IT teams. For example, what SL refers to as “reports” become “analysis views” in Dynamics 365 Business Central.
“That would be my one response to Microsoft. You have to use a whole new vocabulary to use this system in a meaningful way,” Pyka said. “Once you get over that little hurdle, it’s super easy to analyze and pull up different reports.”
In general, Pyka said the ease of use in Dynamics 365 Business Central overshadows the initial learning curve.
Benefits of Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central
“A lot of pieces of it are quite a bit easier,” Pyka said of their new cloud ERP system.
She said that overall Dynamics 365 Business Central is much more intuitive and user friendly than Dynamics SL was. Navigation, drill-downs and other common activities follow a consistent pattern and work the way you’d expect a Microsoft solution to work. Related modules, such as Sales and Purchasing, closely mirror each other, minimizing the amount of cross-training needed.
One clear benefit is that the cloud ERP software is designed to work seamlessly with the entire Microsoft stack of technology. Pyka said this is especially evident when it comes to Excel. Whereas Dynamics SL technically has the ability to export to Excel, the on-premise system frequently exports hidden rows that then need to be cleaned up in Excel.
“(BC) works seamlessly with Excel, which is really helpful – and it works both ways,” Pyka said. “We put in our 2022 budget on a spreadsheet, and we can just upload it.”
Pyka said reports within Business Central’s built-in Power BI tool are much easier to create and modify than in Management Reporter for Dynamics SL. She appreciates the ability to analyze data quickly in a variety of ways. She can easily pull up data specific to only one of the organization’s homes, a certain subset based on filters or all of them.
Upgrades are a lot easier in the cloud ERP as well. Hammer’s customizations within Dynamics SL sometimes created issues when upgrading to a new version. With Dynamics 365 Business Central, Pyka simply gets an email notifying her of an upcoming update that is applied automatically during off hours.
As part of their merger with Northeast Residence, Pyka said they already have plans to move that new team off Microsoft Dynamics GP and onto Microsoft’s cloud-based ERP as well.