A History of Microsoft Dynamics Product Names – A Guide for New Marketers
Updated: May 12, 2022
Every time Microsoft changes a product name, you can hear a marketer cry.
At one point, Microsoft changed the name of one of the Dynamics products three times in just a few years. Marketers had to completely redo websites, SEO strategies, tradeshow booths, and business cards each time. It led to a standing joke, “We sell Dynamics 365 or whatever Microsoft calls it these days”.
A brilliant marketer, that I now know is Ryan Harris, gave away these "or whatever its name is now" mugs at a trade show to poke fun at the confusion within the community.
Right now, Microsoft Dynamics includes:
Microsoft Dynamics 365 (actually a suite of multiple products)
Microsoft Dynamics GP
Microsoft Dynamics SL
But these product name changes have a long history with Microsoft. So let me try to explain the Microsoft Dynamics products, then and now, in simple terms that every new marketer to our channel can understand.
What is Microsoft Dynamics GP – Great Plains?
Back in 2001, Microsoft purchased an accounting software company based out of Fargo, North Dakota called “Great Plains Software.” Great Plains had two editions called Dynamics and eEnterprise. Microsoft thought that Dynamics name was pretty catchy.
Microsoft later rebranded Great Plains as Microsoft Dynamics GP. The GP stands for Great Plains.
Microsoft Dynamics GP has a huge user base of loyal customers and Partners. It also has a large community of third-party/add-on or ISV (Integrated Software Vendor) products that work with the product.
In the Microsoft Dynamics GP Roadmap, Microsoft has publicly committed to supporting the product through 2028 and beyond, including new releases. However, I think everyone would acknowledge that the product no longer receives the R&D love it once enjoyed. Microsoft very clearly sends the message that it would like Microsoft Dynamics GP customers to please move to Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central.
This has led to heated debates within the community about “GP is Dead” versus “GP is Here to Stay.” All that being said, you can still buy Microsoft Dynamics GP.
What is Microsoft Dynamics SL - Solomon?
Great Plains and Solomon Software used to be rivals. First Great Plains acquired Solomon, then Microsoft bought them both. So Solomon became Microsoft Dynamics SL.
Microsoft Dynamics SL is very strong in the professional services industry for project accounting. There are still thousands of users and a strong user group, but sadly, Dynamics SL gets even less love from Microsoft these days than Microsoft Dynamics GP. It is not even mentioned in their marketing materials, although you can find mention of it on the Microsoft Dynamics website if you really do some digging.
Technically you can still buy Microsoft Dynamics SL 2018, but mainstream support from Microsoft ends in 2023, so I don’t really know why anyone new would buy it now.
What is Microsoft Dynamics NAV - Navision?
Back in the Great Plains and Solomon days, Navision Financials (at one point called Navision Attain) was another big competitor. However, it was always the “European product” as it originated in Denmark, and the majority of users were in Europe. Then in 2002, shortly after the other acquisitions, Microsoft bought Navision.
You guessed it; it was rebranded as Microsoft Dynamics NAV. Some people say the letters N-A-V and others say “NAV” (rhymes with have).
Microsoft Dynamics NAV is no longer being sold because it is now Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central. (We will get to that soon.)
What is Microsoft Dynamics AX - Axapta?
You will start to sense a pattern here. Navision had already acquired another competitor called Axapta (originally published by Damgaard). So when Microsoft acquired Navision, they got Axapta too. Axapta became Microsoft Dynamics AX. This product has always been targeted at larger enterprises and was strong in multi-national, multi-currency, and multi-lingual deals.
You always say the letters A-X and never AX (like axe), then you would just sound silly.
Note: in the past, ALL of the products above had a version number with each new release, like Microsoft Dynamics GP 8.0. Then it changed to a date, like Microsoft Dynamics AX 2019. Then Microsoft stopped using the year too. This makes it a bit harder to know if a company is on the latest version, so they have to go look for the version number in the “about” screen in their application.
Microsoft Dynamics AX is no longer being sold because it is now Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Finance. (I promise it will make more sense soon).
What is Microsoft Business Solutions?
To add one extra level, I’ll mention the Business Solutions era. In the early 2000s, when Microsoft finished its ERP software acquisition shopping spree, it introduced the “Microsoft Business Solutions” brand. The products were called Microsoft Business Solutions Great Plains, Microsoft Business Solutions Solomon, Microsoft Business Solutions Navision, and Microsoft Business Solutions Axapta. Everyone predicted that Microsoft would scrap all of these and develop one super-duper ERP system with a new name. (This was called Project Green). That didn’t happen, and instead, everything was rebranded as “Microsoft Dynamics.” So we can just forget about Microsoft Business Solutions now. (Although at tradeshows, I still see the logo on some old company polo shirts).