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Posts Tagged ‘Microsoft Dynamics NAV’

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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nav_2017Several of our crew will be attending the annual “Directions” conference for NAV resellers in Phoenix this week.  Upon our return we’ll have lots more to say about “what’s new” in NAV 2017.  But until then, here’s a sneak peek at some of the areas Microsoft has committed to addressing in NAV 2017.

In keeping with their deepening commitment to the twin pillars of Mobile and Cloud always and everywhere, expect to see much deeper integration of the Office 365 experience within NAV, implying tighter interaction with Office and Outlook.

An embedded Power BI (Business Intelligence) tool for improved data analysis and reporting.  We’ll share more after Directions.

Application “improvements” in key areas including:

  • Jobs
  • CRM
  • Finance
  • Items

“Platform improvements,” implying both behind the scenes and front of the screens changes and enhancements to NAV’s look & feel.  This usually translates into an improved user experience with expanded ease of use and functionality.

“E-everything” – We’ll see what that means…

Embedding Microsoft’s new Cortana Intelligent Assistant into NAV.

PowerApps for NAV with Microsoft Flow, for bringing workflows and other automation capabilities to PowerApps.  Flow is a new Microsoft SaaS offering that helps users better manage the all those streams of messages and notifications that most offices must contend with.

And of course, Extensions.  Microsoft is gradually converting to a new model for NAV modifications that’s being met with mixed reviews, but seems to have a certain inevitability built into it.  With extensions, software upgrades will become more structured and, presumably, faster and less expensive to migrate to new versions by permitting add-in code and modifications without modifying the original core objects.   It’s a bit of a paradigm shift for long-time coders, but it should make upgrades and cloud shifts easier on everyone – in the long run.

When we return from Directions, we’ll try to provide more details and updates.

 

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NAV LOGO 2016Today, for the benefit of our Microsoft Dynamics NAV clients, we share the thoughts of Jeff Landeen, a NAV consultant based out of Toronto, Canada, who shared the benefits of his implementation expertise in a brief recent article at MSDynamicsWorld.com found here.

Landeen notes that he frequently has the opportunity to clean up “problem inventories” for his clients, thus helping them tune their NAV for better performance.  Given that our own firm often finds itself in a similar position with clients, we’re happy to share a few of his tips today…

  1. Adjust cost. This function is critical to getting your inventory correct in your G/L.  It calculates costs based on manufacturing, purchasing, and other inputs and pushes them through the system, notes Landeen.  Adjust Cost ensures that “when you post a sales invoice, a sales shipment, or a purchase receipt it can automatically flow through.”  While it can be set up to automatically flow to the G/L with every transaction, companies sometimes turn it off to improve overall system performance.  The problem is, sometimes they forget to turn it back on!  As Landeen notes, “The risk with turning it off for performance reasons is that people usually forget to turn it back on.”  If you forget, your period-end may take hours later when you turn it back on.  A word to the wise.
  2. Mixed period postings. When different parts of a transaction post in different periods (like shipments or receipts posted in a different period from their invoices or purchase invoice), you may need to do an accrual, or post to another account, he notes.
  3. Manual entries and entry errors. Landeen suggests disabling direct posting.  He notes that it is often a source of invalid values in inventory accounts.  There is no reason to manually post to an inventory control account and it should be turned off from the start, he adds.
  4. Unfinished production orders. Manufacturers… remember: you have to close out your unfinished production orders.
  5. Poorly designed customizations. NAV is noted for the great flexibility that is offered by its inherent customizability.  You can model your business on it quite nicely, and use those modifications to ensure accurate workflows and competitive advantage.  Just be very cautious when doing so in any areas that may touch upon cost.  He and we would both remind users: test, then test some more.

There is probably no more robust ERP solution than NAV.  As resellers of the product now for 15 years, we’ve seen how it helps companies streamline operations and improve reporting – all big ROI boosters.  Employing Mr. Landeen‘s tips above might help to ensure it’s done a little more painlessly.

 

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NAVblog_UniversalAppAt the risk of being self-serving, our post today highlights a perfect example of why it may be time to upgrade your ERP system.

Tablets.  Phones.  Taking the office wherever you go.

Late last year Microsoft announced the availability of the phone and tablet clients for their Microsoft Dynamics NAV ERP system.  We currently offer it via the latest 2016 release of NAV to clients who are current on their maintenance.

Think about it…

You can access your ERP system – and key information about your clients – while you’re on the road, across the country or around the world.  On your phone.

You can save a lot of IT equipment costs by implementing tablet technology directly on the shop floor.

Field service technicians can get access to the data they need on the device they prefer.

Warehouse workers can use lightweight, inexpensive tablet functionality to pick, pack and ship orders.

These are devices that are designed for touch.  They utilize the newest and fastest interface technologies.  They are “fast and fluid” in Microsoft’s words, with design concepts used in Windows and Office 365.  You can email quotes and invoices, and even shoot photos of and attach them.

Because their interface design is similar to that of the standard NAV client, they can be customized for almost any desired function, for any user, anywhere.  They can take advantage of Dynamics NAV’s revolutionary “role tailored client” and be configured instantly for one of over 20 customized “roles” for small business.

And since it’s an “app,” you can easily download it from the Windows Store, App Store or Google Play.  You sign in using your usual credentials and the app connects to your Dynamics NAV 2016 server, on premise or in the cloud.

It’s all based on Web client technology, so you get to reuse any investment in objects, business logic and modern client add-ins.

It’s a perfect example of using modern technology to improve the overall ERP experience, making it more available, in more places, at lower cost than ever before.  Your people get to use the same tools they use in their everyday lives, a tool they’re familiar with, now available to boost the productivity of your organization and better utilize your ERP investment.

And it’s all available today.  All you have to do is ask us.

 

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