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Posts Tagged ‘Dynamics 365 Business Central’

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 friends at our partner PrintVis, specialists in print & label industry-specific solutions recently posted a timely article on some of the new features to be found in Microsoft’s leading ERP solution, Dynamics NAV 2018 (later this year to be rebranded as “Dynamics 365 Business Central”).  The D365/BC product is basically NAV in new packaging, note the folks at PrintVis.  At it’s core, it’s NAV, in the cloud, hosted directly by Microsoft.  (Note: there will also be an on-premise (i.e., locally hosted at your server) version available.

Dynamics NAV now boasts over two million users (at over 130,000 companies) worldwide, and has established itself “as the choice for midsize organizations looking for a complete enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution that is fast to implement, easy to configure, and simple to use,” as PrintVis’ Michael  Bradley notes.  And he should know, since PrintVis’ industry-specific solution now has over 350 companies running its application, which is deeply and richly embedded with the core NAV.

Customers who upgrade now can work with their reseller-partners to create a more seamless upgrade path to D365 now, and for future releases.  As PrintVis noted in their article:

“If your partner invests a bit more time in the upgrade today, they can move any/all of your code customizations to “events” and “extensions.”  This will dramatically reduce the amount of effort required for later upgrades – and this is the clear direction Microsoft has been heading for some years now. We have arrived at this pivotal time in the evolution of ERP.”

New features included in the latest 2018 release will extend the functionality of NAV, including…

  • Greater Integration with Business Applications
  • Improved Customization using Extensions
  • Automation and AI
  • Interaction with Microsoft Flow
  • Improved Workspace Personalization
  • Data Sharing with CRM systems
  • Pre-configured Excel Reports
  • REST API extended
  • Report Preview
  • Improved Check Printing
  • Pre-configured Excel Reports
  • Larger EC Sales Lists reports

The ERP world is experiencing a time of disruption and like any paradigm shift, change needs a while to be appreciated and absorbed – but it’s inevitable.  At least with today’s NAV, you’ll be ready for what is perhaps the largest paradigm shift ever in the business software marketplace by positioning yourself today with a product that’s already ready for the cloud tomorrow.

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There is understandable confusion in the marketplace today, whether among resellers or users of the product known as Microsoft Dynamics NAV (and formerly, so long ago… Navision).  Let’s see if we can clear things up just a bit.

For starters, the NAV to BC transition is one more of form than function, which is to say, the product features and robust capabilities that have long made NAV one of the world’s best-selling accounting and ERP software systems, are largely the same in Business Central.  What’s changing, at the forced behest of Microsoft, and quite rapidly at that, is the delivery system.  NAV is largely moving from what’s commonly known as an “on-premise” solution to one served up “in the cloud,” which is to say, over the Internet, using a web browser.  (Though current on-prem users will continue to be able upgrade those on-prem versions into the foreseeable future, we’ve been told.)

This is nothing more than the ongoing evolution of the product, and its underpinnings have been in the works for years.  But Microsoft’s all-in approach to the World Wide Web means that it’s intent on moving virtually everything to the cloud.  That’s why you see their recent de-emphasizing of Windows… the recent migration of the Office products (Word, Excel, etc.) into the O365 web-based products… and the more recent decision to make NAV its foundational product in the cloud, via the new moniker of Dynamics 365 Business Central.

Business Central has two specific modules — Essentials and Premium – that include all NAV’s ERP features:

  • Financial Management
  • Project Management
  • Sales and Service
  • Reporting and Analytics
  • Supply Chain Management

It’s then sold essentially in three price configurations:

For $8 per user per month you get the Team Member version, which includes Employee Self-Serve, the ability to run (but not create) all reports, and the ability to read and approve information.  As you can imagine from the price, it’s a very low functionality piece, but it’s ideal for serving the needs of folks like shop floor workers and very occasional “viewer” type users.

The next level up is the Essentials version.  This runs $70 per user per month, and includes a range of functionality including invoicing, purchasing, opportunity management, budgets, finance, fixed assets, P.O. management, resource management, workflow, contract management, simple inventory, advanced sales, advanced inventory and distribution.  That’s a very complete offering, ideal for many companies other than manufacturers or companies with extensive service management requirements.

Finally, there’s the Premium version which incorporates all the functionality noted above plus service management and manufacturing.  The Premium level pricing is still only $100 per user per month.

It’s all part of the inevitable crush to the crowd, and what Microsoft is really doing here is providing its users – both current and future – with a clear path to getting there that will satisfy the demands of even the most sophisticated business now, and for many years to come.

Or, as Martha Stewart used to say… “It’s a good thing.”

 

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Michael Hartmann is CEO of QBS Group and a former Microsoft employee.  In a recent article, he writes about how he thinks ERP buyers will approach Dynamics 365 Business Central (the ERP system formerly known as “Dynamics NAV” or “Navision” for those keeping score), as well what it means to the market and to resellers (like us!).  We’ll share a few of his thoughts here today.

The news is really very good, Hartmann notes.  From a bumpy start in a dual-world of NAV software and the new sort-of NAV D/365 platform, Microsoft has now finally moved to a much clearer path “knowing that it is not just cloud enabled, it is actually developed from the ground up to be the SaaS platform for Dynamics in small and medium businesses. Microsoft will keep a dual strategy, allowing the partner and customer to choose respectively on-premise (Dynamics NAV 2018) or a cloud deployment.”

Hartmann points out that with the new Business Central product now fully available – all based on the original NAV code base – the question arises of how quickly it will be adopted by the marketplace.  He argues that some of the basic rules of the ERP market have not changed.

For one thing, despite the cloud positioning, most existing clients have modifications to their systems.  Migrating these capabilities, Hartmann says, will take time and investment by capable partners, in order to move these modifications into the new “extensions” model Microsoft is providing for modifications to its cloud product.  And, he notes: “customers want to work with an ERP solution that has industry capabilities and they need to mirror business processes that reflect the specifics of their industry.”

Finally, he comments on the path forward for resellers:

“Selling, configuring, deploying, and supporting an ERP platform requires specific skills. Partners will be held accountable if the ERP system does not produce the desired business impact and keep the operation up and running. It is not an easy “expand to ERP” move for an IT partner.

“As a result, generally speaking, only when the trusted partner of an ERP customer is ready to offer migration services will customers go to the new platform, such as Dynamics 365 Business Central.  And it is not the type of quick upgrade that many of us have seen in the past with Office or other productivity apps. Microsoft has considered this and is now investing heavily in a program called Ready-to-Go. This program allows [the reseller] to run through a set of milestones that will make sure [an]existing NAV solution can be successfully migrated and deployed on Dynamics 365 Business Central. Hitting these milestones requires training and work from multiple resources inside a partner organization.

The conclusion to be drawn is that the move from on-premise to cloud will be a journey – something we’ve expounded on many times in the past.  It’s an evolution, not an event.  The great news is that current NAV clients can be confident that their solutions are going to run – either on-premise or in the cloud, at their choosing – for a very long time to come.

And that is very comforting and reassuring to everyone – customers, users and resellers alike – indeed.

You can follow the full text of Hartmann’s article here.

 

 

 

 

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In our prior post we announced the April 2nd release of the “new NAV” whose name has officially been changed by Microsoft to “Dynamics 365 Business Central.”  We noted then a lack of space in a single blog post to parse all the official announcement’s details, so we’ll cover those here in our concluding post wrap-up.

Current NAV users may be asking themselves: What about us?  Is our beloved NAV going away, only to be replaced by this new cloud-based incarnation?  Of that we can give a resounding ‘No.’  Recall those 160,000 companies out there using NAV, across 2,700,000 users, spread over 195 countries around the world.  Microsoft earns an awful lot (even by Microsoft standards!) of revenues from that installed base, and they’re not anxious to disrupt that.  Rather, by the D365 Business Central evolution, they are fully intent on building a very large base of next generation customers, but still built upon that core NAV code base in which countless millions have already been invested.

In fact, the new D365 BC has a lot to recommend it.  Following are some key highlights:

  • A cloud presence supported on Microsoft Azure, among the world’s leading global cloud platforms.
  • A deep focus on BI – business intelligence, analytics, big data… call it what you will, but the integration of Dynamics 365 with Office 365 and LinkedIn and the custom applications developed by third parties, ISVs and partners means there is an enormous world of data out there to be mined for business insights and improved decision making, in a way never before available. If there’s a big takeaway, we think it’s about this openness to big data.
  • When you realize that instances of D365 BC will also include Azure, Business Intelligence via Power BI, Power Apps, and Microsoft Flow it gives new meaning to the term “all-in-one business management solution.”
  • Starting in fall 2019, there will be no “NAV 2019.” Instead, you’ll have Dynamics 365 Business Central on-premise.  Just like clients up until now have always enjoyed it.  The new cloud implementations are simply an additional, new, future-facing option.
  • The product will be robust. With the entire existing NAV code base, users are offered Marketing, Sales, Service, Operations, Supply Chain, Warehouse Management, Discrete Manufacturing, Talent, and of course, Finance.  It’s full NAV objects and functionality with D365 branded vertical solutions and ISV cloud embed programs (like PrintVis, already a leading business management solution for the print industry).
  • Partners can still do individual client customizations, but we’ll do them via “extensions,” with an option for publishing those extensions in the app store.
  • The code will continue to evolve as Visual Studio, but with 44 business APIs available at the announcement, it leaves the product open to all manner of 3rd party apps and extensions in many other environments including C#, Python, Azure, Android Studio and many others.
  • Pricing will be three-tiered with choices including: Team Member (similar to the former “lite” user), Essentials (like the former “full” user), and Premium (includes Manufacturing & Service).

This new release of Dynamics 365 Business Central is destined to change the face of the ERP landscape and opens up the product and our customers to a whole new world of data insights, interoperability with other pieces and whole new worlds of functionality.  The release is just the first step in the long journey forward to ensure that, by any name, the Microsoft ERP product is destined to be here, in many forms, for a very long time.

We’ll continue to keep you apprised of future Dynamics 365 changes and announcements as always.  For now, welcome to the future!

 

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Microsoft Dynamics NAV has long been one of the world’s most popular, most implemented, best-selling ERP software programs for managing the small to midsize business.  Today, over 160,000 companies, deploy NAV across 2,700,000 users in 195 countries!  So when the core product evolves, the ensuing buzz cuts a wide swath across the IT community.  These days, a product long code-named ‘Tenerife’ is doing just that, as the quickly evolving SaaS (Software as a Service) next generation product begins its long journey as the future of NAV.

And as of yesterday (April 2, 2018) NAV is now (drum roll please…) Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central.

To begin with, what we’re seeing here is the evolution of NAV from an on-premise based software solution that’s been around for decades, that then evolved into a cloud-deployable solution (hosted by anyone from your local reseller to global partners who specialized in hosting), into the latest rendition, in which the CBFKAN (code base formerly known as NAV) evolves onto a Microsoft SaaS platform that is sold on a subscription basis (by “named user”) to users within a company for one flat monthly per-user cost.  (There will actually be three levels of pricing, dependent on the ‘type’ of user you choose to purchase.)

To reiterate, D365 Business Central is the complete installation of NAV software, that is, it’s the same code base.  That means that the functionality and flexibility and extensibility for which NAV has been long known are still there and fully functional.  NAV is a special, unique product, so that code base integrity is important.  But while the product itself remains intact, the ‘branding’ (and hence, name) is changing.

With D365 BC, there are some new wrinkles.  For one, it puts the individual users – the ‘clients’ – in a web-only situation.  These clients run on tablets and phones or in your computer’s web browser but, notably lacking at least at this point, is a traditional Windows client.  For existing NAV users, that might be a deal-breaker right there.  For the newer user starting fresh, perhaps not so much.

The software license is now provided via the Cloud Solution Provider program, a newer Microsoft delivery program in which providers must be registered.  It renders users as ‘named’ users (one client instance by individual name, generally) paid for via a monthly subscription-based fee.  There are no ‘concurrent’ users in the D365 BC/CSP model, but there are also no upfront software costs or what today is known as annual maintenance.  It’s all bundled into the one monthly fee.

D365 Business Central takes advantage of an app store philosophy embraced years ago by Apple and later others, in which applications are purchased through an online store.  With D365/BC, these apps add or extend the functionality of the base NAV product, and fit neatly into preassigned code areas within NAV for ‘plug-in’ flexibility and ease of installation.  In NAV, these are known as ‘extensions.’  The aim, at least for Microsoft, is to build a large and robust community of extension developers and users, thus growing the overall base of Dynamics 365 users.

There’s more to the announcement than will fit in a single post, so we’ll finish this post in a second installment in our next post.  Stay tuned…

 

 

Th

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