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Archive for the ‘Dynamics NAV’ Category

8 years ago we first published a series of posts entitled “Software That Matters.”  It was an ERP implementer’s point of view, culled from long experience, on why and how to purchase a business management software system.  Later, we turned Software That Matters into a popular white paper that has since been viewed hundreds of times.  

Now eight years later, we thought it was time for an update, to reflect lessons learned since then.  (We also did a 2015 update three years ago.)  Much of what we wrote then remains every bit as true today.  But we decided again to carefully retrace our steps, re-edit our paper, add some comments and present it as a series of blog posts that will carry us through November, 2018.  We think that’s timely, as many companies at this time of year tend to reconsider the software they use to run their business — and how they might do better.

In our series we will again try to convey what’s important, what to measure, how to buy, what works, what it costs… and the many other business considerations required of this strategic investment, in what is probably the most important (and expensive) software a company will ever buy.  In other words, the Software That Matters.

 

What about the cloud?

The cloud, which simply refers to software served up via the internet, is clearly the future of computing.  But what about today?  Like any technology provider today, we have our own opinions.  You should read others’ too and form your own conclusions.  And as famously noted long ago, “Follow the money.”

Realistically, the internet (i.e., cloud) will be to this century what the electric ‘grid’ was to the last: ubiquitous, always on, ever-ready.  (Except, of course, when it’s not.)  It’s still early days in the journey to always-on applications, but if you look closely, you see it already – in your phone and tablet apps, perhaps in your email or your picture sharing sites, in the voice over internet protocol for telephony or Skyping.  Apps served via cloud will continue to grow and improve over time.  Count on it.  And make no mistake, cloud in the ERP space is growing rapidly, even though on-premise solutions still make up the largest share of sales, for now.

But let’s start with the money.  For a few decades, companies that provided business software could reliably count on adding numerous new users annually.  Selling software to new users was, in itself, intrinsically profitable.  And for a while, there was always a new customer to be found around the corner.  Predictably over time the share of new customers (i.e., first-time buyers) dwindled.  In the accounting software arena, which is at the core of today’s ERP systems, growing software companies could see a point of diminishing returns in which revenues would necessarily shrink as the number of new “customer adds” slowed down.

Eventually, to stem the loss, publishers came up with software maintenance programs – added revenue they could extract on an annual basis in return for keeping customers current on their software.  This annual revenue stream helped pay the salaries of their software developers while motivating publishers to continue to build new, improved releases.  The annual revenue thus earned helped offset some of the loss of dwindling “new” sale revenues.

More recently, as technology followed Moore’s Law in terms of dramatically increasing scale and capabilities, hardware prices declined and vast server farms and data centers began to proliferate.  Advances in both hardware and software began to make it possible to serve up applications to many clients on a massive scale.  Today, virtually any type of software you can think of is available in a browser-based, web-friendly manner.

But does that mean it’s right for you… or that you’re ready for cloud?  Much has been written about the pros and cons of cloud.  Here’s what we think you need to know.

  • The cloud is already great for a number of applications including email (a lot easier than running your own Exchange Servers), files sharing and storage/archiving, sales automation and even light duty accounting systems – especially when you’re fine with an out-of-the-box solution.
  • Cloud will save you money on hardware, at least in upfront costs. With cloud, you’re paying someone else an amortized cost essentially to rent their hardware.  In the long run it adds up, but if you’re faced with immediate server and workstation investments, you can eliminate much of that initial cost by going with a cloud solution.
  • The world is moving towards a cloud-based “rental” model – slowly. Again, follow the money: cloud purveyors have two goals: your monthly revenue stream, and locking you in for the long haul. The more you begin to depend on them, the more you will depend on them.
  • Remember, with cloud, you pay every month: for the hardware, the applications, the business software, the middleware layers, the services, the operating system, and on and on. You pay by the user, by the month, for the services proffered.  And you’re never ‘done.’  Do your homework, and your own math.
  • Also a plus with cloud: updates are frequent, built-in, and often automatic.  If you’re running a vanilla version of the publisher’s software, upgrading becomes a fairly easy, and regular, matter.
  • By contrast, if you buy the hardware and software upfront, you pay once (or over a period of time if you lease) – but at some point (just like a car), it’s actually yours. If you’re the type who buys a car and pays a few years on the note and then keeps driving long after it’s paid off, then you appreciate this kind of thinking.  You know it saves you money, and gives you ownership, in the long run.
  • The promise of cost-savings in the cloud architecture (besides the hardware savings of renting someone else’s) lies in the concept of multi-tenancy wherein one software application serves many customers (tenants) or companies; and multi-threading, in which a single processor can push out multiple threads of instructions, potentially leading to faster overall program execution at lower cost. It’s a single instance of software licensing running multiple customers, all managed from a single location.  This is ideal in a situation where you – and all the other companies on that system – run mostly identically, with no need for unique customizations for example.
  • On the downside, when the internet is down at your location – for any reason – then you’re down.  You can back up power with a generator, but there are no internet generators. If your shop floor production is depending on it, this could be a problem.  A very costly problem.  If internet reliability is a problem at your location, this needs to be considered.
  • Customizing your software and its internal processes to match the unique requirements of your business tends to run against the multi-tenancy grain of the cloud. If your software requirements are different from those of the other tenants, then you likely require a separate instance of the software.  This is especially true in customized environments like manufacturing and distribution, to name just two.  And that creates issues (read: costs or capability) in the cloud.  Those customizations are very often one of the keys to what makes your company unique, your service better, or your margins better.  Without them, you’re not entirely you.

So as you do your due diligence, be sure to take a hard look at the numerous pros and cons of the cloud.  Ask questions and seek a variety of viewpoints.  Work with your providers and consultants to determine the deployment method that works best for you, both now and in the long run.  You only want to make this decision once.

We’ll wrap up our entire series on Software That Matters with some “key conclusions” in our final post, next.  Stay tuned, one more time…

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A good post by a west coast NAV blogger provides steps for integrating your Dynamics NAV (in this case, 2018, though it should work basically the same for other versions) with Microsoft’s Excel spreadsheet.  The end result is a new, separate “Dynamics NAV” tab in the ribbon of your Excel application that links directly to NAV.

[Disclaimer: While some users may be able to handle this one on their own, feel free to contact us or your authorized NAV partner to installation assistance if it will make you feel safer.  Also note that this is specifically for NAV (in particular, though not exclusively, the 2018 version), and presumably not for the new Business Central.]

Step 1: Locate your installation file (that’s your NAV ‘setup’ file). The file location may vary depending on how and where your NAV is installed (you might be able to get help from your IT folks, or call us).

Step2:  Double-click the file name (setup.exe) and when asked “Do you want to allow this app to make changes to your device?” click the “Yes” box.

Step 3: From the Maintenance setup wizard, click “Add or remove components” which will open a box listing a lot of application parts under the heading “Customize the Installation.”

Step 4: From the listing, click the down arrow in the little box associated with “Microsoft Excel Add-In.”

Step 5: When the little down-arrow box opens, click “Run from my computer” and then click “Next.”

Step 6: You will see a screen of specified parameters and, assuming these are correct, click “Apply.”

Step 7: NAV will then run the function to enable the add-in and you should see a Microsoft Dynamics NAV information screen that says: “The modification of Microsoft Dynamics NAV has completed successfully.”

 

Again, while it’s pretty simple, we always suggest you have a knowledgeable NAV/tech support person available to you whenever making changes to your system.  Assuming all goes well, you’ll end up with a Dynamics NAV tab in the ribbon of your Excel for fast NAV access!

Our thanks to Encore Business blogger Eunice Gan who posted this tip/article, with screen shots here, originally.

 

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In a recent report compilation the editors at Panorama Consulting Solutions listed what they considered to be four of the top manufacturing software solutions, as well as their prescription for the “ideal” manufacturing software system, from among the now over 200 solutions from which companies today have to choose.  Those top four included SAP, Oracle, Infor and Microsoft Dynamics.

Of the Dynamics 365 solution, Panorama writes…

Microsoft Dynamics solutions have a familiar user interface and suit organizations of all sizes. Microsoft Dynamics D365 Enterprise enables data and resource integration across various departments and locations. The solution has been redeveloped as a pure SaaS model, but also can be deployed on-premise or hosted in the cloud. In terms of field service functionality, Microsoft Dynamics employs IoT technology to improve response times and operational efficiency.

This October, Dynamics 365 for Sales will be enabled with artificial intelligence, which will give manufacturers better visibility into their supply chain. Dynamics D365 continues its reliance on a partner ecosystem to develop niche functionality. Partners are currently in the process of understanding niche IP development for the new version of Microsoft Dynamics.

As to that “ideal” manufacturing system?  Here’s some sage advice:

The ideal manufacturing solution should address the entire supply chain, from product inception to customer delivery. It should have functionality to track suppliers, materials, production costs, maintenance and customer relationships. Ultimately, it should increase operational efficiency and provide full visibility into manufacturing processes and business data. Transforming your manufacturing organization requires technology that drives efficiency and enables full supply chain visibility.

While it’s helpful to compare the strengths of various ERP systems, the best solution for your business depends on your unique needs and situation.

To their advice we would add:

Discuss your needs with a software reselling partner or consultant who knows the territory, one who specializes in the manufacturing sector, and is aware of the many nuances of production, scheduling, bills of material and the unique inventory requirements that attend to them.  Find a good consultant, determine whether you’re comfortable with their people and if they have a methodology for getting you to where you want to go.  Then, when you think you’re ready, talk to a couple of their references, make sure you are on the same page with respect to your unique project roadmap, and be willing to provide the full range of resources and staff commitment required to get the job done.

After all, you only want to do this once.

(You can find access to the full report beginning here.)

 

 

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In a recent article on MSDynamicsWorld entitled “What free access to the Dynamics Learning Portal means for Microsoft customers and partners,” we’ve learned of a significant change regarding the availability of the Dynamics Learning Portal: it’s now free!  That’s big news for NAV users (the fine print: yes, you must have a current support contract for your Dynamics product).

Formerly priced at $1,000 per year and available to resellers, it was still a most valuable and worthwhile resource for the money.  As Microsoft Dynamics NAV blogger and “MVP” Gus Gonzalez describes in a recent post:

A few years ago, Microsoft launched the Dynamics Learning Portal. The portal was an answer to all the requests from Microsoft Dynamics partners out there pleading for better training content and a better platform to consume that content. Up until then, partners were consuming content via PartnerSource, but the content was difficult to find and required organizations to give regular consultants access to lots of unrelated (and sometimes sensitive) information. So most partners were asking for a solution that would focus mainly on the readiness and training side of things.

The Partner Readiness team at Microsoft made a few decisions with the creation of the Dynamics Learning Portal. …the portal will focus on readiness, which means not just providing on-demand courses, but serving as central resource for accessing in-person training and other readiness related events.

Much of the content you’ll find at the Dynamics NAV portal was created by people outside of Microsoft, many of them members of the reseller and user communities, so much of it is focused on real-world application of the broad expanse of NAV functionality.

While the portal was never created as a money-maker, its value was significant, as is the fact that Microsoft is now making available for free.  The only catch is that users must be in good standing with a premier support contract.  (It’s also free for Microsoft certified partners.)

If you’re interested in more information (because, yes, there’s a little paperwork involved)… we ask that you contact your reseller directly.  We at PSSI will be happy to help.  Best bet is to email: Larry@pssiusa.com.  We’ll take it from there.

 

 

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Our friends at PrintVis posted a quick overview a few weeks back covering some of the new changes inherent in the latest (2018) version of Microsoft Dynamics NAV, which we thought our users would appreciate – especially those thinking about upgrading.

While the list if far from complete, it does provide a few highlights of some changes introduced just in the last year.  (Users more outdated than that will enjoy a much longer list of added enhancements, as they have just been multiplying over the versions and years.)

In their own PrintVis product (a print and label industry-specific solution built on top of NAV), they note that in PrintVis 2018 it is now possible to change or update the cost for an Item in the Calculation Details (Cost Price Field) or on the Purchase Guide (Direct Cost PrintVis Field) – and this cost will be automatically transferred to the “PV Unit Cost (LCY)” on the purchase line.

This keeps your pricing accurate all the way from quote to invoice – and saves you from redundant manual data entry.

They also note the following features new to 2018 that regular users will probably appreciate:

  • Payroll import from QuickBooks
  • Print descriptions from related posted document lines using show details in the Print G/L Register report
  • New standard reports, including received – not invoiced purchase orders and shipped – not invoiced sales orders.
  • Check printing improved to 3 checks per page
  • Distribute Item Charges based on volume and weight
  • Direct Transfer orders – no requirement for in-transit location
  • Use EU VAT numbers to update contact name
  • Master data from customers and vendors can now be updated from sales and purchase documents
  • When searching, help results will show alongside in-product results
  • New automation of Intercompany inbox and outbox
  • Bulk Invoicing improvements
  • Suggestion of accounts for posting groups

Again, it’s very partial listing – but then it’s a very comprehensive piece of software.

 

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Today we’re sharing a few behind-the-scenes details about the latest incarnation of Microsoft Dynamics NAV as it continues its evolution into the cloud-first product now called Dynamics 365 Business Central.

Our comments come from various NAV blogs, with a special tip of the hat to long-time Italian NAV developer Roberto Stefanetti.

To begin with, as a cloud-first product, expect to see even more frequent updates to Business Central than we saw under NAV, which used to be updated about every 18 months, and then more recently, annually.  There is becoming a lot more documentation available to resellers including courses and videos, with more expected.  A BC-dedicated forum has recently come online.

Because the BC product is cloud-first by design, Microsoft will always be updating that product first, with upgrades to server-based (or in-house based) systems afterwards.  Using a cloud version of an ERP product means in effect that you are always up to date.

The new development environment, “born first to Business Central” states Stefanetti, allows us to create ‘extensions’ which can then be ‘certified’ (or not), which allows for customization of the core product in what some call a “less invasive” fashion (i.e., less labor-intensive for upgrades later) than in the past.

Business Central will now be able to offer native (i.e., cloud-integrated) services for Outlook, Office 365, Microsoft CRM, Power BI and Flow, to name a few.  Users will now be able to grow into a ‘virtual desk’ in the cloud – and with your ERP system now there, you’ll never have to leave the cloud.

For its ‘public’ cloud of course Microsoft will feature Azure, which has now become the second most popular public cloud platform in the world (behind Amazon Web Services).  Azure offers a public cloud hosted experience that features a multi-tenant database (many customers running off the same database), an architecture based on events, extensions for customization development, and an App store as a source for distributing apps to others.

From a cost standpoint, you’ll be paying by the user/month, so you’re only paying for the ‘amount’ of software you truly need, and there will be several types of users, at different price points.  Think of it very much like a car lease – you pay a fixed rate every month based on user counts and types, and your system is always kept up to date.  One price, generally speaking, can be made to cover the application, all hosting for users, maintenance/upgrades, and probably even additional services (like Office, etc.).  That’s a conversation you have with your Business Central business partner (i.e., reseller).  It’s a strong move into today’s new billing model: subscription pricing, and we’re seeing it everywhere, not just in software.

Given the benefits noted above, and since we haven’t had a chance to test all the limitations in the new model, we’ll quote verbatim what consultant Stefanetti has to say on the subject.  It’s important to note that his comments on limitations are specific to the Microsoft Azure public-cloud hosting option.  Partners (like us) are able to offer OTHER non-Azure options that avoid some of the stated limitations.  Nonetheless, of the Azure/public approach, Stefanetti notes as follows:

The system is closed (but secure). You can’t access SQL Server and databases. Only the environment-specific tenant that you have purchased exists. You can’t create development environments, only sandboxes in the same tenant for the purpose of testing the data. Therefore, the modality of the approach is very different from the on-premises world.

It is not possible to back up the database because we do not access SQL Server. The system does not go down but it is possible to restore data if necessary. The backup is managed by Microsoft, with no way to schedule an auto-backup. Therefore, a backup cannot be launched by the end user, but if necessary, it is possible to open an issue to Microsoft and they can provide a restore.

You can use RapidStart Services Packages to export data, but that isn’t a real backup system (you can’t restore your database after a crash failure) like an on-premises system. Rather, this tool allows you can export for example the “setup data” for master tables, and secondary tables (a copy of setup).

Sorry, that’s all the space (and then some) we have today, but we’ll continue to cover more Business Central update details in the future, just as we’ve been doing.  Stay tuned.

 

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Our headline is a tad misleading because, while the specifics concern Microsoft Dynamics NAV, one of the world’s leading ERP and business management software systems, the principles of the article could be applied to virtually any software system implementation.  This one just happened to be NAV, because that’s what the consultant, a London-based freelancer by the name of Hannes Holst, implemented when he wrote the article.  (it’s our firm’s specialty as well, by way of full disclosure.)

In that project, Holst was tasked with replacing an existing ERP system with Dynamics NAV, and the plan was to do it on time and on budget – or under.  And they succeeded.  The three critical factors, in Holst’s retrospective were…

  1. Know what the business wants. In our own process at our firm, we label this the business process analysis, but call it what you will, you have to scope the requirements.  It’s the roadmap for all that follows.  It’s a serious (and yes, billable) engagement requiring both parties’ key staff to engage deeply in thinking about the client’s company, processes and goals.  Then, a roadmap is constructed that involves what, where, when, how and who, and guides the entire project team so they understand the goals, benchmarks and processes of that implementation

 

  1. Utilize the Dynamics NAV standard. NAV has been developed continuously for well over twenty years now, and covers all the functionality most any business could need today.  Standardized functionality has been applied all up and down the accounting workflow in NAV, and it works across many industries.  (While we specialize here in manufacturing and distribution, it’s equally adept at retail, service and many others.)  So wherever possible, Holst advises, align the business processes with the software.  This makes projects simpler, quicker and more agile.  Users can start working in some areas very quickly, as other pieces get added later.  (There are some caveats in this regard, but the advice is generally true.)  Finally, assess customizations in terms of impact to the company, which includes an overarching need, the budget, the need to continually maintain those modifications into the future, and the value of their overall ROI.  And when you do customize, wait a while, and then prioritize those “mods” from high to low when you determine which are truly needed.

 

  1. Hire an internal NAV expert. You can’t always do this of course, but you can have your most knowledgeable expert on the company’s inner-workings coordinating the project on the client side with the project leader from the consultant’s side.  A lot of issues can be resolved quickly when you have process- and software-knowledgeable participants on both sides of that support call.  That internal resource at the client side has a lot to do with landing your project on-time and/or on-budget.  They can recognize problems early on, unsnag project logjams, warn of impending potential pitfalls, and keep client-side implementers on-task and moving forward.  Your whole implementation benefits from the insights an internal expert can bring to bear, and having voices on both sides of the project management spectrum helps ensure that projects are kept honest, flowing, cooperative and, ultimately, successful.

 

Holst’s full, brief article can be found here (you have to join the forum, but it’s free):

 

 

 

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