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Archive for the ‘Dynamics NAV’ Category

NAV LOGO 2016Users of Microsoft Dynamics NAV software know what we learned ourselves about 15 years ago: that they’re fortunate to own about the best all-around ERP software on the planet.  As resellers, we have choices about what to sell (we offer two today, as we long have, NAV being one of them).  And after extensive research some time ago we eliminated a wide range of options to settle on NAV – before, incidentally, it was even owned by Microsoft.

Fifteen years later, our opinion has not changed much – though NAV itself has.  It’s grown and matured and opened even further into realms of deeper functionality and interoperability with lots of other software and add-ins, like most software today.  But it’s retained its extensive flexibility, modifiability, customizability and extensibility – now across multiple platforms – and allowed deeper analysis in the hands of those who know to handle it, than probably anything out there today.  It does this in large measure because at its core it was developed, years ago (in Denmark) as a world-class platform by some world-class programmers, who in hindsight were ahead of their time.

Because it’s been around a while, folks running older versions of NAV occasionally need to consider the question of upgrading what they have, which means stepping through the various subsequent versions if they have not stayed up to date… or taking another look at their business through the lens of NAV today, with all its new features, capabilities and cross-functionality with add-in products, and deciding whether they should consider re-implementing with the new version.  This could mean moving away from old modifications because the new software may now innately support the desired functionality, or simply because the old workflows can be replaced by NAV’s new and improved workflow capabilities.

For example, if you’re on NAV 2009 (or prior), your business is probably different from back then.  As NAV blogger Duncan Kerr asks of that situation in a recent post at MSDynamicsWorld.com, “If we were doing this now, how could we make it even better? Are those old databases and modifications worth hanging on to?”

Often, old customizations become new “features” of newer NAV versions.  For example, he notes, item attributes that were previously a customization are now standard, and there are better ways to link dimensions today through standard functionality.

Then too, we’ve seen folks with modifications that in hindsight they may not have needed once they discover the full capabilities of NAV.  Kerr points out the power of “workflows” in the latest NAV 2017:

“The redesign of the Dynamics NAV workflow engine means you can very quickly and easily introduce a workflow that allows you to control your business, and solve business problems. There is now an internal NAV workflow engine – but also the wider Microsoft Flow within Office365. In the past you would find yourself saying “The costs on that item were wrong, now my inventory’s wrong,” or “The customer wasn’t credit checked and we just found out he’s a bad risk.” Now you have out-of-the-box workflows to review those things before they’re used.”

Kerr summarizes his thoughts about upgrades and re-implementations by noting that “The point of an upgrade or reimplementation isn’t simply about functionality; it’s also about moving to a platform that allows using a wider range of technology, like Office 365 and Power BI. The technology feels fresher and more modern, and you’ve got staff coming in who expect to see the latest and greatest.”

NAV users who remain current on maintenance have the good fortune of knowing that those benefits are within their grasp, and often worth pursuing.  They already own their software, so it’s really just a matter of the time-costs required to do the upgrade, and not starting over – as so many older ‘legacy’ ERP and accounting system users are finding themselves doing today.  In other words, upgrading, even re-implementing, become another way to extend your business software ROI.

 

 

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nav-user-picA common request from Dynamics NAV users is to set up new users (provided of course you own a sufficient number of user licenses), so today we’re sharing a post originally published for general consumption on the Microsoft Developers Network describing how to do just that.  (We’re giving you a slightly abridged version today, edited for space.  You can find the original full post here.)  We thought it might be handy for our NAV clients (with thanks and credit to MSDN).  These instructions are for NAV 2016 but work pretty much the same for 2015.

Before a user can access Microsoft Dynamics NAV, you must have created them as users in Microsoft Dynamics NAV. To create and modify users, you can use the Microsoft Dynamics NAV Windows client, NAV Web client, or NAV Windows PowerShell cmdlets.  Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2016 supports the following credential authorization mechanisms for Microsoft Dynamics NAV users:

  • Windows
  • UserName
  • NavUserPassword
  • AccessControlService
  • Office 365 Authentication

This topic contains separate procedures for creating users for each credential authentication mechanism. For information about how to configure RoleTailored clients and the Microsoft Dynamics NAV Server instance for a specific authentication scheme, see Users and Credential Types.

The following procedures describe how to configure users in the Microsoft Dynamics NAV Windows client. Similar steps apply for creating users in the Web client. A Microsoft Dynamics NAV Server instance can either support users with Windows authentication or users with other credentials.

To create a new user

  1. In theSearch box, enter Users, and then choose the related link.
  2. In theUsers window, on the Home tab, choose New.
  3. In theUser Card window, on the General FastTab, fill in the fields as described below:
  • User Name: Specify a unique, short name to identify the user.
  • Full Name: Specify the user’s full name.
  • License Type: Choose one of the available license types.
  • State: Specify if the user’s access is enabled or disabled.
  • Expiry Date: Optionally, to set a time limit on the user’s access, choose a date.
  1. To set up a user for Windows authentication, follow this step:
    • On theWindows Authentication FastTab, in the Windows User Name field, type the name of a valid Active Directory user, using the format domain\username. Or, choose the AssistEdit button, select Allow for the Session, and then, in the Active Directory Select User or Group dialog box, identify a Windows user.
  2. To set up a user for NavUserPassword authentication, follow these steps:
    1. On theNAV Password Authentication FastTab, choose the Password field to specify a password for the user.
    2. If you want to require the user to change the password after they log in for the first time, selectUser must change password at next login.  The first time that the user logs on, a prompt will appear prompting the user to change the password.
  3. Open theUser Permission Sets FastTab to define permission sets for the user. Choose the first row under Permission Sets and then select a permission set. Choose additional permission sets as needed. For more information, see How to: Define Permissions for Users.
  4. Add any Notes or Links for the user in the respective FactBoxes.
  5. Choose theOK button to close the window.

And of course, should you need assistance, we’re there for you.  877-273-2444.

 

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metrics_mfgIn our prior post we talked about the metrics often applied in manufacturing to determine whether a company is best-in-class, or merely adequate, that companies use to identify and then improve their strategic performance.  We noted how manufacturing education associations like APICS and MESA have created metrics guidelines to help companies analyze their own strengths and weaknesses.  And then, because after all we’re all about ERP, we noted the difficulty in making the leap from identifying key metrics to actually implementing improved operations, controls and workflows through ERP.

Today then, a quick look at a couple examples drawn from the experiences of manufacturers, as identified by some consultants at a firm called Edgewater.

One company was a biotech firm headquartered in Kentucky with branches worldwide.  Possessed of an entrepreneurial spirit, the CEO was known as a “go, go, go” style of leader.  Their greatest challenge was to use technology in ways others had not.  They needed to bring global acquisitions into the family in quick and agile fashion.  They were a big user, as are many others, of Microsoft technology, from “the stack” through ERP (Dynamics).  They chose to employ a global infrastructure (via Azure) to minimize the investment within a specific country – where they’re opening several outlets per month – and crank up hundreds of servers quickly to speed the process.  Here, the platform goes hand in hand with ERP to ramp up quickly and cost-effectively on a common platform.

Another company was an Arkansas based poultry processor (of five millions chickens a week!) with challenges very specific to their business processes.  As their I.T. director notes: “In each of our independent processing locations we consider how they perform, accounts payable or accounts receivable, and ask each one: Is this a market differentiator for us? Is it something that sets us apart? Specific business process owners must justify keeping a process at an individual location; if they cannot, we eliminate those processes and standardize them across the organization.”

Here, it’s all about those ‘best-in-class’ competitive differentiators that a SCOR metric (noted in our prior post) helped them to identify and address.

But above all in these and other cases, it’s always about the results.  To do that, the CEOs had to be sold on the idea that a lot was going to be asked of their team.  As one I.T. director pointed out succinctly in speaking of his firm’s ERP project:

“In order to be successful, we had to make some assumptions about the level of effort required from non-IT people. Fortunately, our CEO bought into that completely and committed those resources, making it really clear to all the VPs that whatever we needed to do to make it successful was what we were going to do. I didn’t have to spend a single minute trying to convince anyone about what was required of them or what we needed from them. Having that full buy-in from senior leadership down made a huge difference.”

It’s a lesson well-learned and hard-won – one even we as implementers today must remind ourselves of from time to time.  ERP is hard.  As providers, our job is just as stated above: to convey to our clients how committed their team needs to be to owing the process.  It’s a lesson we never can learn well enough.

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dyn365As we move into the year’s final month, many business minds turn to thoughts of replacing old or aging financial / ERP systems.  (What, you thought their minds turned to sugar plum fairies just ‘cause it’s December?)

We’ve long espoused the strengths of the Dynamics NAV product, since even before Microsoft acquired the company around 2004.  (Disclosure: PSSI has been a Dynamics NAV reseller since 2002.)  Feedback industry gurus and editors after the recent annual NAV “Directions” Conference we attended in Phoenix earlier this year indicates where the market is heading these days.  Today, we’ll share a few of those thoughts with our readers…

Microsoft talks often about its cloud initiatives, especially Azure.  With the recent announcement of Dynamics 365, Microsoft’s cloud ERP offering, the seeds of confusion were sown.  As it stands, the simple take is this: the Microsoft ERP roadmap shows two versions of D365 will be offered.

The first is an extension of the product released in summer code-named Madeira – that’s basically a lower-end, financials-only NAV cloud offering with subscription pricing.  This product is called the Business Edition.  It appears positioned, with a very low entry price point, at folks coming off a product like QuickBooks who have grown to require a higher level of functionality.  It seems also targeted at NetSuite, but at a much lower price point.

The other flavor of D365 will be a mashup of Microsoft CRM and the current Dynamics AX product.  That will be called the Enterprise Edition.

But Microsoft also has tacitly recognized that not all customers want cloud.  In fact, according to Ray Wang, a partner at Constellation Research, “more than half of customers prefer the on-prem” solution.

Our own observations among SMB clients (in the $10M to $100M revenue range) is that the overwhelming choice preference is for the on-premise variety, since they’re mostly involved in manufacturing and distribution, where cloud solutions are simply too risky for their day to day shop floor operations to rely upon.

Nonetheless, Wang and others predict Microsoft will continue a heavy push to move clients to cloud solutions.  The answer to the obvious question of “Why?” is simple enough: it’s a lot more profitable to Microsoft.  Customers who lock into cloud solutions are not likely to ask for their data back (wherever it might be) very often, and the monthly recurring revenues are locked in long term.  It’s a sweet deal for the provider.  But as Wang also notes, after about 5 years of subscription pricing, a customer ends up paying more for cloud than they would for on-prem, where the software is largely a one-time payout.

Says Constellation Research’s Wang: “If you own on-premises software, and you are diligent at updating the software for regulatory, tax, and other legal requirements, there’s no real good reason to move to the cloud and pay more over 5 years.  However, if you need the constant innovation in the product, then the cloud may make more sense.”

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new-navWe noted in our prior post that Dynamics NAV 2017 debuted some new Outlook integration features with its new release of Oct. 24, 2016.  We noted some of MSDynamicsWorld.com’s editor Jason Gumpert’s comments on those features, and today we’ll reprise his comments on the new NAV features that integrate with Excel and Office 365.

The new NAV add-in for Excel utilizes NAV 2017’s new support for something called OData Version 4 in its web services framework, Gumpert notes.

“NAV data can be imported to Excel for smarter, more granular, bi-directional work. In short, that means NAV data can be imported into Excel, edited while maintaining the integrity of non-editable fields (for example, a journal entry balance cannot be updated), and pushed back to NAV with rules intact.”

Development of NAV these days occurs largely in rapid-fire, typically two-week sprints, along the lines of the “agile” methodology in software development.  In other words, frequent and quick new releases of updated features, as in contrast to the old once-a-year paradigms of the past.  In fact, some of these new capabilities previewed at the NAV Directions conference in October in Phoenix were only days old.  Even so, as Gumpert points out, some of the capabilities exhibited included:

  • Understanding pre-set values like enforcing the selection of true or false for a field
  • Improved interaction with the user due to its ability to pull all details of a field or table from NAV because it understands a data type
  • Error handling when trying to publish data back to NAV. If something goes wrong, the issues are highlighted in the rows in Excel, such as an unacceptable field value.

One final new twist: NAV has a new tie-in with one of the newest Office 365 toolbox apps called Bookings.  The app was developed outside of NAV, but it allows a business running NAV to identify services, work schedules and employees, and then allows customers of that business to book appointments for those services and workers. NAV then can synchronize those contacts with ones in NAV CRM and the services with those managed in NAV.

Future version are said to include the ability to then directly invoice those services from NAV based on the work performed.

Clearly, NAV continues to evolve, to the benefits of all its customers base of what is now an amazing 130,000 companies worldwide.  If you are known by the company you keep, then NAV users can indeed consider themselves in good company, with a continually evolving product.

 

 

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nav2017-quote-outlookMicrosoft’s latest release of Dynamics NAV, released October 24th features a number of new productivity enhancements in the ways NAV interacts with Outlook and Excel.  MSDynamicsWorld.com’s editor Jason Gumpert recently reviewed a few (note: free subscription required) and we’ll share today what he had to say about them.

For starters, he notes:

NAV’s integration, via an Outlook add-in, adds an extra pane alongside regular email content that will render the relevant NAV page interfaces (based on the NAV web client) in context. So a user can view data related to a contact, order, quote, or vendor in the context of an email from one of those parties and to take the next relevant action with bi-directional accuracy.

The second key interface mechanism is the “Document link” link or mechanism that shows up in Outlook on both emails and meeting invitations when the NAV add-in for Outlook detects the mention of a NAV document in a communication. Clicking on that “Document link” action just above an email brings the NAV content into full view, and the user can work on it (i.e., update the details of a quote) from within Outlook.

When an email from a vendor is received in Outlook, NAV tries to identify any invoice that has been received and store that as an incoming document that can then be processed by the default OCR service (an add-in from Lexmark) and submitted to NAV as an invoice.

Now also, if you utilize NAV’s CRM functionality, emails from your sales contacts can be recognized by Outlook as existing contacts, or added to an account if they are not otherwise recognized.  There are some limits here (for example, it doesn’t track and store email interaction with the contact for others in your organization to see historically), but it’s a nice addition nonetheless.

The new Outlook add-in for NAV has a feature where it will look for patterns of data, for example words like “sales order” followed by a number that follows a sequence in NAV.  If the add-in thinks it may have a match in NAV, it will show that “document link” in Outlook.

There are workflow enhancements as well.  Email notifications in NAV now tie in with document links.  An invoice approval process can now be kicked off with a button-click.  The approver can then send the full invoice and simply approve it from within Outlook.

NAV’s jobs functionality now integrates with the Outlook calendar.  Here’s how Gumpert describes it:

Job planning lines can be managed in Outlook as meeting requests to track the job details like location and assignment, but also the allotted time. The worker assigned that job can then follow up with the actual time spent and submit that back from the meeting request so that NAV can finalize the job’s planning line and use it to create an invoice. The add-in also provides duplicate checking and sends a notification to warn a user creating an invoice against a job if another invoice for that customer is already in work.

The new Outlook integration works with both the desktop and the web client.  While not there yet, the NAV mobile app will likely soon begin supporting such add-ins as well.

Our post on just the Outlook integration took so long here, we’ll have to devote a second post to the new Excel and Office 365 integration points… so stay tuned, and we’ll go there in our next post.

 

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nav17Yesterday, Microsoft was slated to release the newest version of its flagship Dynamics NAV ERP suite.  Several of us just returned from the annual “Directions” partner/reseller conference in Phoenix, so we thought we’d share a few of the things we learned there about the latest in NAV.

  • On-Premise vs. Cloud: In a keynote address, Microsoft GM Paul White acknowledged that a lot of clients still want their ERP systems (i.e., NAV) to be “on-prem.” No surprise there, as we find the vast majority of our clients feeling that way as well.  The new cloud NAV version seems to be getting positioned as a lower cost, lower function alternative, aimed at folks coming off a low-end system like, say, QuickBooks, and looking for what is predominantly a ‘financial’ solution.
  • And to that point, expect to hear a lot more about Dynamics 365 (formerly codenamed Madeira). Debuting in November, the “Business Edition” of the new cloud product will be a low priced offering with NAV roots that provides financials and, in later editions, sales and marketing capabilities as well.  It promises to be well integrated with Office 365.  The “Enterprise” edition will be a mash-up of Microsoft CRM and Dynamics AX.
  • Microsoft aims, especially for cloud installations, to move developers away from pure code modifications into the world of “extensions,” whereby code objects are largely rendered outside of core NAV, lending themselves to easier upgrades and better interoperability with 3rd party applications. It’s a “goal” for now, and very much a work in progress.
  • Those extensions will then be available as “apps” in the new APPSOURCE store. So, expect in time to see lots of add-on extensions courtesy of NAV developers.  Microsoft will allegedly not “endorse” any of these; rather, they will vet them for inclusion by ensuring certain standards are upheld, and then let the marketplace decide (5 stars, anyone?) what are the best apps.
  • Also in the development arena, it will now be “Visual Studio Code,” utilizing NAV’s current CA/L language running V.S. code. There will be on the-the-fly screen and form modifications via the Visual Designer, and they’ll be available for PCs, tablets and phones as they are published to the app store.
  • The Power BI (business intelligence) tool will be embedded in NAV 2017, giving more advanced users a powerful tool for advanced data analysis and deeper insights into your business details.
  • Also coming is the first integration of Microsoft’s Cortana intelligent assistant, an early foray into the realm of artificial intelligence, a hot topic for tech firms today from Amazon and Google to Apple and Microsoft. Expect to see a long evolution of AI development in the versions and years to come.

One thing’s for certain: when it comes to business, technology and ERP – things never stand still for very long.

 

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