Best of 2017: Microsoft Dynamics NAV experts keep an eye on the future of the product and channel

By:  Dann Anthony Maurno

Between Dynamics NAV 2018 and Dynamics 365 “Tenerife”, NAV partners step from 2017 into 2018 with a solid foundation for their business plans. Programming advances like Extensions 2.0 will ease development, while advanced integrations with Office 365, Power BI and LinkedIn (to name just a few improvements) extend NAV utility.

Although some partners still express doubts, Dynamics NAV and its successor solution now seem to have Microsoft’s full attention. Following are some key observations by Dynamics NAV experts writing on MSDW in 2017.

Opinion: With Microsoft Dynamics 365 SMB plans firmed, NAV & CRM partners can plan for a bright future

Technology Management Managing Director James Crowter was far more enthused after Directions EMEA 2017 than he was a few weeks earlier, when conditions led him to express doubts about Microsoft’s commitment to the SME market. (See the piece below, Does Microsoft really care about the SME business market?)

Crowter was satisfied at the October 4-6 event in Madrid that Dynamics NAV “has a confirmed future in the Dynamics 365 family. It has the support of all the Microsoft management and investment in the product will continue at their current insane levels.”

Given the updated roadmap with NAV 2018, NAV 2018 R2, and Dynamics 365 Tenerife, Crowter urged patience in the Dynamics NAV channel:

Yes, I’d like it tomorrow but then I don’t want it before its fully finished and updates like the new customisation options, Extensions V2, and, most of all, the ability to deploy individual tenant customisations are going to give us close, if not full, parity between the SaaS and the on-premises product. And then it will be game on.

Crowter appreciated Marko Perisic’s straightforward appearance; but lamented the absence of Alysa Taylor, James Phillips, Satya Nadella or Scott Guthrie. He invited them to Directions EMEA 2018 in The Hague for “the same inspiring experience that over 2,100 of their partners have had this week”:

It’s not really my place, but…we’d love to show you what we do and just what an incredible asset you have in your SMB biz apps partner channel.

In fact, come over for the entire week and we’ll introduce you to some of the SMB businesses that Dynamics NAV and CRM have already transformed in conjunction with Office 365 & Azure. You’ll be left wondering how your enterprise products and accounts can catch up.

DynamicsFocus, LLC is the leading source of experienced Microsoft Dynamics NAV professionals in North America, learn why here

What Microsoft Dynamics SMB partners can expect from Directions 2017 events

In September, Guus Krabbenborg of QBS Group and Partner Master Class compared being a Dynamics SMB partner to “dancing on a volcano.” But that was cause for action, not fear. With Directions NA and EMEA 2017 moving away from NAV-only to encompass the Microsoft stack, SMB partners could join the events to get a better understanding of the Microsoft channel’s opportunities and risks.

Among those Krabbenborg outlined:

  • The position of Dynamics NAV is under pressure.Competitors had successfully sowed confusion in the market about NAV’s future. Partners must expect to hear how Microsoft would recover positioning of Dynamics NAV as its flagship ERP for SMBs.
  • Microsoft would maintain the same code base between D365FOB and Dynamics NAV, which should put NAV partners at ease, “since it means that any investment made in D365 Finance and Operations, Business Edition is a 100 percent investment in NAV, and vice-versa.”
  • All Dynamics NAV partners need to transform their businesses to stay relevant in a cloud-first world. As of 2016, Microsoft estimated that just 20 percent of the NAV partner community would make that leap.
  • The prospects for business success with “stand-alone” Dynamics NAV and/or CRM are expected to decrease over time. “[All] partners should prepare to expand their current portfolio with solutions like Office 365, Power BI, Flow, Cortana Intelligence, and Azure. Most partners will probably not be able to take all at once [so] what workloads are most important for your target marke

How far away is the Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Financials train?

Going back to January 2017, Technology Management’s James Crowter, explored an important question at the time: would the Dynamics 365 for Financials market segment grow alongside the traditional NAV market; or, would “the subscription loco…run us down much quicker and, by the end of 2017, be the dominant force in our market”?

Based on customers’ perspectives, Crowther wrote:

I think that Dynamics 365 for Financials (D365F) is starting to transform into a proposition that’s going to take a very significant share of their money, instead of Dynamics NAV, very soon.

An interesting snapshot in time; it would be two months later at the inaugural Directions Asia event that Microsoft announced D365F would get the full NAV treatment. Jump ahead several months to Directions NA and EMEA, and both Dynamics NAV 2018 and Tenerife were roadmapped side-by-side. The trains would run on parallel tracks, and a skilled partner could jump from one boxcar to the other.

Successful SMB ERP partners will embrace market shift to cloud apps like Dynamics 365, says Microsoft GM Paul White

Microsoft is committed to supporting your Dynamics NAV instance; it is also committed to moving you to Dynamics 365. In an interview with Paul White, who was at the time (now departed) Microsoft general manager of product marketing of Dynamics CRM, NAV, GP, SL and Dynamics 365, White said of NAV, GP and SL:

All products go forward. Our commitment to cloud and Dynamics 365 changes nothing about our commitment to Dynamics NAV, GP and SL. We respect the investment that customers and partners have made in these products. We are committed to helping them make the most of their investment.

At the same time, Microsoft announced an offering to migrate existing NAV, GP and SL customers to Dynamics 365. The majority of existing Dynamics customers chose to buy perpetual licenses, but when they are ready to move to the cloud, says White, Microsoft wants to help them “trade in”:

This “trade in” takes the form of a 40 percent discount on the first 3 years of their subscription to the Business Edition Plan. We want Dynamics 365 to be the most compelling option for any existing NAV, GP and SL customer. Some part of that story is about the product/service we offer. Some part is about the range of additional solutions that our Partners make available in AppSource. Some part of that story is commercial.

This interview was conducted by Guus Krabbenborg at Directions EMEA 2016, and was originally published as part of the Directions EMEA 2016 Business Report, a publication of Partner Master Class and QBS Group.

Microsoft Dynamics NAV: Upgrade or reimplement?

Acora’s Duncan Kerr observes about a 50/50 split between Dynamics NAV upgrades and re-implementations. If a customer is only one or two versions behind, an upgrade can be more effective, especially since NAV 2013 came out and the upgrades are that much quicker. But what of the customer running NAV 2009, with elegant customizations and databases to which they feel “married?”

Divorce that old data, advises Kerr:

From an information management point-of-view, you can use reporting tools such as Jet Reports to get from old data to new data, and after a couple of years that data is going to be largely irrelevant anyway.

And those customizations? True, it is very difficult to “unpick” code, but:

That customization has likely become a feature, or can be done in different ways. For example, item attributes was once a bespoke functionality, and is standard in NAV 2017, and there are better ways to link dimensions for analysis purposes by using standard functionality.

[People] assume their requirements are unique and forge ahead with customizations which in hindsight they need never have done – not once they discover the full capabilities of NAV.

The evolution of a Microsoft Dynamics ISV

To hear Microsoft talk about IP opportunities, it is easy for implementation partners to “spin up” a custom methodology into a product, or to monetize some vertical customization.

Guess again, wrote Michael Anderson, founder of Dynamics NAV Addons, which has developed NAV add-on solutions for a decade. He recalls of his journey that, as a reseller in 2005 (he founded the firm Radiant Technologies), he had technical people on staff and products already written, in the form of programming performed for clients. Still, when it came to productizing that programming:

It was anything but quick and easy. By having the developers from Radiant Technologies work on the products in their “spare time,” nothing ever got completed, and we ended up with a bunch of half-done solutions.

As an ISV, efforts to win the trust of VARs took two years, and a quarter-million-dollar investment on Anderson’s part. Among other challenges, ISVs must be prepared to adapt as Microsoft evolves its ISV program, Anderson says:

This year it costs many more thousands of dollars than in previous years in order for us to stay certified. Also, Microsoft’s strategy of releasing monthly updates is challenging to all of the ISVs, as well as the partners.

Those are challenges, but part-and-parcel of being an ISV, described Anderson. The opportunity lies in that “there will always be a few holes to fill. And we’ll be there to fill them.”

AI, Apps, and Office 365: Why NAVUG Summit boosted Microsoft Dynamics NAV optimism

“Three highlights emerged from last week’s NAVUG Summit Nashville event – the huge turnout, the technology roadmap for the upcoming releases of NAV, and the push for users to start adopting Power BI,” wrote Western Computer’s Dynamics NAV Program Manager Maher Malki.

Among the new capabilities that excited Malki is the introduction of Extensions 2.0, which represents a new way of developing for NAV.

The Extensions model moves all the custom code outside of the core NAV implementation, making code modifications easier and simplifying the future upgrade path. Extensions 2.0 is just part of Microsoft’s commitment to rebuilding the developer tools for NAV and we think that these improvements will have a big impact in driving higher efficiency for NAV developers, users, and enterprises.

And adjacent cloud offerings are going to be key to the future of any NAV solution, Malki believes. Those include AppSource, Office 365, and Power BI.

Excel and Spreadsheet Design Tips for Better Reporting with Microsoft Dynamics

Sure, most of us have used Microsoft Excel since college; but have we learned anything new about spreadsheet design since then?

We should, described Matt Felzke of Solver, Inc., and a very practical 10-point how-to about designing Excel-powered financial reporting processes.

Most are aimed at sheer clarity, while other hints are aimed at superior analytics, for example, the data validation function.

[This] helps to minimize any errors from data entry and simplifies reviewing and reporting on the data. Data validations enables you as the workbook designer to pinpoint what is input into selected cells with dropdown lists, as well as error and/or informational messages. Data validation can also help identify future errors by employing the invalid data circle option. This can be configured from the Data tab in the Data Tools group.

What Dynamics partners can expect from Microsoft Inspire 2017

With Microsoft Inspire 2017, the company offered a fresh take on its Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) of many years. What it delivered was “shock and awe,” with a sales-org shakeup at Microsoft coming just days before, and some clear messaging that Microsoft’s vision favors innovators over the “general purpose” partners.

Guus Krabbenborg of both QBS Group and Partner Master Class gave MSDynamicsWorld readers an overview of trending topics and guidance as where partners should focus at Inspire 2017. Among the key areas:

  • Product strategy and branding: The twelve months prior left partners asking, “Is Microsoft’s mantra Cloud First or Cloud Only?” and “Exactly what will be available, when, and where?”
  • Cloud opportunities: With the internal reorganization to “One Microsoft” came the “One Commercial Partner” model – Krabbenborg advised partners to demand a better understanding of how they would be managed moving forward, and Microsoft delivered that.
  • Vision for the future: Traditional ERP partners must brace themselves for Microsoft’s enormous growth plans in the CRM domain for FY18. So partners can expect recruitment of thousands of new CRM partners worldwide, who today are working with Dynamics ERP, Office 365, and/or competing CRM solutions. So advises Krabbenborg, “Especially for the existing Dynamics ERP partners, it’s wise to watch for readiness programs that provide support and assistance.”

Why Do I Need Virtual Desktop Integration (VDI)?

In theory, a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) and Remote Desktop Services (RDS) are two means to the same end. And RDS may seem the “lower-hanging fruit” of the two, but cautions Concerto Cloud Services Solution Consultant Rob Curls, it’s not a great desktop replacement strategy because it doesn’t provide a good user experience. What happens on the RDS server can impact all users, meaning that one user’s memory-intensive session can grind the office to a halt.

But with VDI:

Resources that are associated with a virtual machine are dedicated specifically to a user. So you don’t have the same ‘noisy neighbor’ challenge or that issue where a user may run amok with the processor.

And, VDI offers greater protection against malware:

VDI brings individual users’ machines and consolidates them in the data center. So if you have a dispersed workforce that is working with sensitive information that would typically be on a local work station out in the field, all of that data is now secure.

About Dann Anthony Maurno

Dann Anthony Maurno is a seasoned business journalist who began his career as International Marketing Manager with Lilly Software, then moved on as a freelancer to write for such prestigious clients as CFO Magazine; Compliance Week;Manufacturing Business Technology; Decision Resources, Inc.; The Economist Intelligence Unit; and corporate clients such as Iron Mountain, Microsoft and SAP. He is the co-author of Thin Air: How Wireless Technology Supports Lean Initiatives(CRC/Productivity Press, 2010).

Dann can be reached at [email protected].