Sana never questioned whether or not Dynamics 365 was relevant to our business. We hopped on board as an early adopter, being part of the TAP program for the then Project Madeira, and became one of the first ISVs available for Microsoft’s latest cloud-based ERP system on AppSource.
Arno Ham, CPO at Sana Commerce, took the time to explain Sana’s vision for our e-commerce platform, how it could work in an extension-based model and what that brings to the market.
Q: What do you think about Microsoft’s new strategy with Dynamics 365 and the AppSource marketplace?
A: This is a strategy that Microsoft had to take. If you look at the market, other competitors are offering cloud ERP, hosting services, CRM and other software as a total business solution. So if Microsoft wants to survive and grow their number of users, especially for smaller businesses, Dynamics 365 was a logical choice in my opinion.
And the good thing with Microsoft is they already have such a strong hosting platform with Azure, and they have a very strong Office product. When you take the combination of all these things and package it as a SaaS solution, together with AppSource, it’s awesome. They’ve had all these ingredients for years, but now it seems that everything is coming together nicely, it all fits together.
And for Sana, it opens up a new demographic we weren’t able to serve yet.
Q: Why did Sana choose to build an app for Dynamics 365 and what’s unique about it?
A: We want to grow our customer base, of course, and are always looking for opportunities to do this. And if that is now in this Dynamics channel that we have already been in for 10 years, it’s even more beneficial.
We strongly believe that this is the future. We expect mostly that smaller businesses will be on there, but for us, it’s great to service this new group of customers. It’s why we invested right away and were the first e-commerce platform available on AppSource.
As for what’s unique? The approach we’ve taken to integrate. The Sana platform uses the data and logic directly in this cloud ERP; our solution functions and calculates orders inside Dynamics 365.
That was quite challenging, but we worked together with Microsoft to make sure that we could move everything that we had before on NAV and in AX into this extension-based model. There were a lot of technical challenges to overcome – how to securely expose web services and using data in the cloud – but with the help of Microsoft and a lot of effort from both sides, we made it happen.
Q: What are you most excited about with this new product release, Sana for Dynamics 365?
A: The most exciting thing is installation: if you want to install Sana, you can start today and it is done within a couple seconds. We have removed dependencies on the partner or our implementation team making this process so much faster for our customers. Getting online in such a short period of time is what I’m most excited about.
Q: Is there an upgrade path for Dynamics GP, Dynamics NAV and Dynamics AX users wanting to move to Dynamics 365? And how will Sana work with existing clients to make this transition smooth?
This is actually the number one question people are asking Microsoft, and they are busy with this as far as we know. They are working on an option to move from an on-premises ERP to the cloud.
For us, ERP version doesn’t really matter; we just change the connection. And if a customer already has a Sana installation, we can just change the connection to Dynamics 365. As long as the data is copied from their on-premises ERP to the cloud, then everything will work.
Q: Currently you support Dynamics 365 for Operations and Dynamics 365 for Financials. What about the other products and services, do you want to integrate with them as well?
A: My quick answer would be yes, but of course it will take time. Based on customer demand, or demand from the market, we will add support for the other services as well. Dynamics 365 for Sales, for example, which is an obvious fit, could make sense.
Q: Will you also use Cortana intelligence in the future?
A: Microsoft has shown that you can use machine learning to predict what a customer is going to buy next. And they are investing a lot in these kind of technologies. This would be one of the major features we could use in Sana as well. Right now, we are developing this all ourselves, but it makes sense to use these services if they are already supplied by Microsoft on the Azure platform.
Q: How do you deal with upgrades as Microsoft releases new versions of Dynamics 365?
A: With Dynamics 365 for Operations, we are notified by Microsoft eight weeks in advance of new versions, and that’s plenty of time for us to make sure our add-on is compatible. Once released, the latest version of the Sana platform is put on AppSource and customers can upgrade at their convenience.
With Dynamics 365 for Financials, the pace is a little bit faster, but more or less the same. As soon as Microsoft plans the release of a new version, we are notified. And again, we make sure that the Sana platform will be compatible. With this ERP, there is also a management portal for partners used to manage customer installations. So the partner can move their customers to the latest version when they are ready for it.
We are always a couple of steps ahead of new releases. And from a technical perspective, upgrades are fully automated.
Q: Where is Sana for Dynamics 365 hosted and how is the connection between Dynamics 365 and Sana established?
A: It’s hosted on Azure, like Dynamics 365 itself. We check the location of where the ERP is hosted geographically – whether it’s in North America, Europe, or Asia, or any Azure data center – and make sure it’s in the same data center or as close as possible.
The connection between Sana and Dynamics 365 is with real-time web services, and the whole process – exposing web services, security, authentication – it’s all automated.
Q: How does the Sana app for Dynamics 365 benefit your customers?
A: We envision them on a SaaS platform that can be enhanced through extensions, in certain areas. And with that, upgrades are guaranteed, so they will always be able to use the latest version. New features will be available to them much faster. And another great thing is that it is much easier to set up; no technical knowledge is required.
Q: With the release of Dynamics 365, end users now have the ability to implement a Sana web store in conjunction with their ERP in a matter of minutes. What type of impact do you think that will have on businesses?
A: For now, the biggest impact will be that businesses can get online much faster and they can try our solution beforehand. This also makes the investment smaller, the time to get there shorter and opens up the opportunity to explore the area of online business in a less stressful way.
Q: Sana will offer a trial on AppSource. Can you tell me more about this and the idea behind why you’ve chosen to make this available to end users?
A: I think it’s nicer to allow our clients to first try something before buying it. Everybody wants to try first before buying. I think that’s logical, and now in the world of software it is becoming more simple than ever. And with the cloud, it’s easier for us to do.