How to Evaluate Cloud Procurement Solutions for Dynamics GP

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During this first quarter of 2016, one thing has become abundantly clear: you’ve outgrown Dynamics GP when it comes to managing your procurement and requisition process. Sure, a few years ago, when your employee family was less than fifty and your company only had one location, Dynamics GP provided helpful insight into your financials. However, now that your company size has tripled and has opened a new location in another city, you’re wisely considering evaluating Cloud procurement solutions to provide a cost-controlling front-end to your Dynamics GP.

Kickstart your evaluation process by asking solution providers the following top ten questions.

1) How does the Cloud procurement provider ensure the security of and recovery of your data?

First of all, you’ll want to know whether your procurement solution uses a reliable Cloud platform, such as Microsoft Azure. Azure provides protections for data transmitted through the Cloud from Microsoft’s data centers to employee devices; these protections include data encryption and regular penetration testing to determine whether there are any vulnerabilities. With a network of more than 100 data centers located around the world, Microsoft Azure offers geo-redundancy, which means that if servers fail in one region, you can still access the data from another region (

2) How does the provider ensure secure user log-in from any device?

Cloud procurement solutions on the Microsoft Azure platform can deliver the additional option of using Azure Active Directory (AAD). Similar to Microsoft’s on-premises Windows Server Active Directory, AAD ensures that employee users are securely logging in to the application. The advantage of your employees using AAD is that they can log in on any laptop, phone or tablet device to access many Cloud applications. For your applications manager, AAD works great because he or she only needs to set up and manage usernames and passwords from one portal.

3) How can employee users quickly purchase from preferred suppliers with minimal training?

This is the year that you’ll adopt a modern procurement application that includes the industry standard cXML punch-out, which allows users to connect to a supplier’s website to select items with contract pricing for their requisition. Still, that’s just a starting point; make sure that potential vendors walk you through the end-user experience: how intuitive is the process? How many clicks does it take for a user to create a new requisition, punch out to a supplier’s site and submit the requisition for approval?

4) What are the integration points of the Cloud procurement solution with your Dynamics GP?

Most likely, you already have a number of systems in place for payroll, HR, accounting, etc., which is precisely why you want a requisition and purchase order management solution that works seamlessly with your Dynamics GP – at no additional charge. Search for providers that offer Web services that set secure read and write access to specific tables in your database; this integration allows the procurement application to easily pull in general ledger accounts and vendor information and to post AP invoice transactions to Dynamics GP.

5) Does the solution allow employees to create or approve requisitions on any device?

In a given day, employees use multiple devices – phone, laptop and tablet, which is why it is crucial to select a requisition solution that works across devices. For instance, let’s say your organization focuses on IT consulting and a consultant at a work-site needs to order parts for a hardware installation; think about how much easier it would be for the consultant to complete a requisition right from his or her phone. Procurement solutions that are built with responsive design technology will adapt to the screen-size of any device as employees move from one device to the next.

6) Does the solution come as an integrated purchase-to-pay solution?

Ideally, the provider that you select will offer an integrated spend management platform that employees can access securely from any device or browser to submit or approve expense reports, travel requests, requisitions, contracts and invoices. Some software providers also give employees and vendors the option to email in invoices that the application then uses to generate an AP transaction that is matched to the purchase order and receiving transaction. Then, the invoice can be routed for approval or posted directly to your Dynamics GP system.

7) Does the solution provide integrated contract management?

If your procurement team has negotiated a top notch contract with a vendor, such as OfficeMax or Dell, then they will want a way to track that contract. Some software providers offer an integrated solution in which contract management and procurement go hand in hand. The benefit is that contract stakeholders can view requisitions and invoices tracked against a contract and the initial contract budget. If there’s an upcoming expiration date for a warranty or contract end date, the procurement team can receive a reminder notification in time to review and renegotiate the contract.

8) Does the solution make it easy to access information on any device?

With employees constantly on the go, a solution that allows them to access information on their phone and tablet – not just on their desktop – is a must-have. From the search screens, you and your AP team should be able to easily sort invoices and requisitions by amount or vendor and to review the current approver. In addition, mid-enterprise solutions offer different types and levels of visibility for users, such as visibility based on the group that a user is a part of. Having the ability to view budget availability and original documents from a solution’s search screens will help managers to make informed decisions when giving approvals.

9) Does the provider offer reporting and data analytics to analyze vendor spending?

To have the necessary data in order to predict cash flow, remove processing bottlenecks, manage budget and identify the best vendors, it is essential to have robust reporting tools that come out of the box. Certain key reports can also help your AP team to have a speedy, more accurate month-end closing. For instance, reports on invoice and expense accruals, invoices requiring approval and open credit card transactions can all assist your team for month-end.

10) Does the provider include unlimited support and a dedicated account manager in your SaaS subscription?

So far, we’ve talked about security and features, but the people you work with will count just as much towards having a successful implementation. Since a Cloud solution pushes out the management of the application from your IT team to the software provider, you’ll want to be certain that you’re provider will be there for your team whenever any errors occur. This is why it’s important to ask vendors whether they offer unlimited application support. In addition, you’ll want to work with an account manager who intimately knows your business and is an advocate for helping you achieve your business process goals.

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