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Posts Tagged ‘Microsoft Dynamics NAV’

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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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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We’re glad you asked!  And with the help of our friends at Insight Works, a leading provider of 3rd party and added-functionality software solutions for Microsoft Dynamics (NAV), we’ll share a few ideas with you today… just to get the folks who aren’t so automated out there on the shop floor… thinking!

 

Following are a few activities you might not think of initially when you think about production, but each of these represents a streamlining of your production flow, speedier order output, and all the corresponding effects upon efficiency, throughput and the bottom line.

Production Order Assignment – Enable users to assign production orders to Shop Floor employees. Dispatch lists can then be filtered in a number of different ways to show specific production orders, like assigned or unassigned.

Shift Scheduling – Gives users the ability to schedule recurring shift patterns. Recurring patterns are quickly and easily configured with the shift schedule configuration list and can be applied to groups of employees and individual employees.  Applying a schedule will commit the pattern to ‘Alternate Shifts,’ allowing easy overrides and manual configuration of exceptions.  You can even view a visual shift calendar to make things simpler.

Production Dispatch Lists – Used as a primary means of clocking into production orders or viewing outstanding work. When there are hundreds of rows displayed it can be difficult to identify specific items, so Shop Floor Insight streamlines processes by only displaying the list of production orders that are relevant.  Effective dispatch means scannability (a small, focused list), focused on the task at hand (by restricting which work centers are shown), and process-focused (i.e., utilizing global filters so that only orders ready to be released are released, and only finished when actually finished).

Cleaning up barcodes – Barcode entries are used to hold mapping for people, production orders, jobs, and more. Over time these entries can grow in volume, especially on installs that have a very high throughput of barcodes, and generally need cleanup to keep scanning speed fast.  Cleaning barcodes provides options to decide how to clean, whether you’d like to just remove finished production orders, or people that have been removed from the system.

Color code your visual cues – Color-coded visual cues are a great way to help identify which time card lines are open (not yet clocked out), as well as whether the setup time or runtime has been clocked-in – all of which help to make time card management easier.

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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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Our firm provides specialty software for the printing industry from a company called PrintVis.  Their print-industry specific solution consists of a wide range of added functionality that is baked into Microsoft  Dynamics NAV (as they say, “You can buy NAV without PrintVis, but you can’t buy PrintVis without NAV”).  That functionality has enabled them to automate close to 400 printing operations from the largest to the smallest, in dozens of countries around the world.  So we thought we’d take advantage of their expertise by sharing their recent post (#134 in a series…) on the NAV Change Log, courtesy of a consultant by the name of Doug Wiley, who wrote the post for them.  Excerpts follow…

In essence, the Change Log is exactly what it sounds like: a log of changes that are made in your database. Essentially, there are two types of “audit trails” in PrintVis: those that track transactional data (like inventory movements or changes to the G/L) and those that track changes to things like master records.

The first type is always on, and can’t be shut off. The second type is the Change Log, and that needs to be configured and turned on manually.

Turning it on is easy. You just search for “Change Log Setup” and open the window. There is a single check box which turns on the Change Log (in red).  The more complex setup is in the background, which can be reached by clicking “Tables” in the ribbon in the window above (in green). Here you will determine which tables, and which fields within those tables, you would like to track. You have the option to track “Insertion” (adding a record), “Modification” and “Deletion” by table.

Also notice for that each of these you have the option to turn it off “blank” (even if the change log itself is turned on), track all fields, track some fields, or to select the fields you’d like to track.

The interface to this functionality is relatively simple, but the way in which it’s configured is where the nuance and decision-making come in.  In the past, it was always recommended that the Change Log be used sparingly, to prevent the size of the database increasing too much when people altered records. Now that disk space has gotten more abundant, and cheaper, you can err more on the side of using it, but there is still a good reason to plan well: If you want to find who made a change, to what, and when, you will still need to sort through all of the changes that have been logged.

Fortunately, NAV has excellent filtering and sorting tools which will get you what you want – but still there’s no need to capture a bunch of changes which don’t really matter that much from an operational standpoint.  Picking which fields in which tables you’d like to track is step one of this process. For example, you probably want to know if a customer’s payment terms change, but not so much if their main contact phone number or email address does. You may want to track if someone changes your posting group setup (which drives all your accounting and financial reporting), but not if someone changes the name of a journal batch. Your consultant will help walk you through this process and give examples of best practices.

The next step is choosing when you want to track these changes. Obviously turning this on when setting up a new database would be madness, since every change made by every new record imported would generate an unnecessary entry. Generally, it’s recommended to only turn it on once final setups and master data have been approved and put into the database.

The third and final step is maintaining which changes are tracked. For example, if for some reason there needs to be a mass update to your cost centers, you probably want to turn this off while that happens to avoid generating a bunch of data (and remember to turn it back on!).

Our thanks to Doug Wiley for pointing out these Change Log tips, which we will hope will help our NAV users get even more out of this most powerful and robust ERP system.

 

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