Posts Tagged ‘Microsoft Dynamics’

We noted last week Microsoft’s recent announcement at the annual “Directions” Conference in Orlando that Dynamics NAV would be available as a complete ERP platform both on-premise and the cloud in its forthcoming 2018 release.  Today, we thought we’d highlight a few other capabilities of NAV courtesy of its many ISVs.  These independent software vendors create added functionality for a base ERP product so that users can experience true ‘best-of-breed’ functionality with their software.

While some vendors try to be a one size fits all application, the world has evolved.  Today we know that the best applications are those that use proven base-ERP (accounting, production, etc.) technology from leading publishers, and then allow ISV providers to enhance the product in specific ways that make it a more precise fit for a wide variety of user types with specialized needs.  Manufacturing perhaps best defines the benefits of this approach.

Insight Works (formerly Dynamics Manufacturing Solutions) publishes a number of modules that integrate tightly and directly with Dynamics NAV to enhance the user experience.  Here are a few we like in particular that will benefit a lot of those users engaged in manufacturing or distribution.

  • Mobile Warehouse Data Collection – Locations and items can be tracked via mobile devices with real-time access to NAV warehouse, inventory and production data on the shop floor. You can scan directly to sales and production tickets for immediate picking, capture lot and serial numbers, use License Plating to streamline warehouse operations, and even customize views and menus on your handheld mobile units.
  • Shop Floor Data Collection – Use barcodes to capture time, field service and employee time management, thus eliminating a tedious manual input chore. You can capture shop floor data including consumption, output, scrap and quality, as well as record non-productive and rework time for reporting.  Time & attendance based on employee shifts with multi-level time card approval from the shop floor or from NAV are available.  Access your information via a web browser or enable data entry from devices in the field or on the shop floor.
  • Advanced Inventory Counting – Simplify inventory and cycle counting with comprehensive data entry, reconciliation, posting and analysis tools. You can easily perform manual or barcoded inventory counts and cycle counts, and automatically post lot or serial number discrepancies.  Use predefined count sheets to complete on the spot inventory counts and track historical statistics.  Supports all location types, and allows multi-user manual entry for non-barcoded counts to add to count sheets on the fly.
  • NAV Sale Configurator – Improve your ability to accurately and quickly quote products that have multiple possible options and configurations. You can create assemble-to-order configurations directly from your sales quotes and orders, or create production BOMs for more complex requirements.

These are just a few of the many added capabilities companies can take advantage of when they work with a flexible, customizable and extensible solution like Dynamics NAV.  That’s just one of the many reasons why over 120,000 companies in over 70 countries rely on NAV to run their business.

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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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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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cultural shiftIn our prior post we noted how a panel of noted manufacturing and technology experts convened by the editors of Industry Week see the winds of change blowing in a manufacturing sector that all too often is unprepared for or resistant to the cultural change necessary to understand just how fundamentally manufacturing itself is changing.

We noted the recent explosion in the importance of data… of robotics and the Internet of Things… and how operational excellence in the coming years will shift to a greater focus on data, collecting it voraciously in order to better connect with customers and suppliers, to predict and reduce the occurrence of plant floor errors and to improve overall innovation.

So what is the cultural shift required, and how will companies manage it?  (For brevity’s sake, see our prior post for a list of esteemed panelists at the Industry Week confab held earlier this month.)

As we noted at the start of our prior post, most companies simply don’t have the “tech culture to stitch it all together.”  The shift is substantial.  Today we often see that consumer technology is “digitally delightful” in the words of the Manufacturing Institute’s Jerry Jasinowski whereas the shop floor operator’s experience or that of the operations manager in a B2B environment is often notably lagging.

Quoting directly now from MSDynamicsWorld’s article on the conference (by editor Dann Maurno):

“It comes down to management commitment,” says Knoben. He views the typical control charts at manufacturing plants as marketing tools, used more to show a customer “we’re cool” versus drive operational excellence.  But with the transformation and automation of data, “It has to change from a marketing tool to an embedded strategy of how to live life, and that requires management commitment over the years.”

Said Pisano, “A leader has to have a feel and appreciation for technology.” Leadership at a manufacturer that is behind in technology must adopt a whole new skill set and mentality.” That leadership will be critical because of the long-term commitment to a new strategy and path. “But the job of leadership is to push against inertial forces”: to experiment with digitalized technology without being completely risk averse (and there will be failures.) “It’s critical in terms of culture as well as strategy.”

Panelists noted that companies more tied to consumers seem to be making the shift, to a much larger extent than manufacturers, which just “haven’t made that shift yet.”

Pierfrancisco Manenti, VP of Research at SCM World points out that more technology can boost productivity.  He goes on to point out: “You have to manage people still. You can’t go a day without reading how ‘devil robotics’ will rob our jobs; I don’t believe the hype.” In fact, he cites statistics that 24% of people believe automation is an opportunity to bring back manufacturing jobs; but they won’t be the same jobs, and they will require a different type of skill set.”

Finally, Microsoft’s Knoben points to China’s doubling of its labor growth and concludes: “We see clearly as this change happens, we are reevaluating automation in much different ways. We’re starting to automate more basic processes that operators could do in the past. Where the tradeoffs and benefits are, are not just in labor but in automation,” he said. Automation can be applied to every point in the value chain, from the vendors’ vendor to the customer’s customers (consider electronic billing and payments and vendor performance analytics).

In the end, one must conclude, it will require that cultural shift in mind-set we opened our discussion with, to ensure that the changes are pushed through from the top down in a world that is fast becoming interconnected, and a manufacturing sector that must – and if history is any guide, will – adapt to it.


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crystal ballWe came across an interesting commentary in an article written by the owner of a European Microsoft Dynamics reselling firm that covers Western Europe.  His name is Guus Krabbenborg, and he makes the point at MSDynamicsWorld, a partner forum, that while companies often analyze the many and varied costs and benefits of an ERP (or CRM) system selection, one often overlooked is the cost of the system itself.

Here’s his take: “From a bookkeeping standpoint, the investment’s term of depreciation is 5 years. But ideally we want to work with the new solution for 10 years or more”.

But then he asks the $64,000 question: If a system should last ten years or more, what will the world – and more to the point, the technological landscape – look like in 2026?  What devices will we be working with then?  How far will technology have come?

Think of it this way: Look backwards.  Back in 2006, no one had even heard of tablets.  The term ‘swiping’ didn’t exist in the tech sense.  Google was a relatively unknown company.  The cloud was in its infancy, and the word itself (in the popular context) had not yet been uttered.

So if we’ve come that far in just the past ten years, imagine the next ten!  And with the pace of technological progress actually increasing these days – it’s tough even to hazard a guess.

So it’s not at all a stretch to say that when looking at an ERP system, you might actually be selecting more of an ERP concept today than a solution.  ERP solutions are developing at what Krabbenborg deems “a furious pace.”  Vendors that fall behind in this fast paced market are quickly lost in the market.  And of course, that means their clients are too.

He concludes with some cautionary advice when you’re looking at the publisher of your next ERP system, which we’ll quote here:

“Companies that are considering new ERP or CRM solutions would do well to test their vendors’ degree of future-proofing rigorously. Do the vendors on your shortlist have any chance at all of surviving this rat race until 2026? Are they (sufficiently) profitable these days, for example? Do they have sufficient international scale? What is the size of their R&D budget? How innovative are they? And is a formal product roadmap available for the solution on offer?”

Words well worth considering, we think.

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NAV 2016 LOGOThere are a number of solid reasons why clients should, and do, upgrade their ERP software on a regular basis – some obvious, some less so.  Today we’ll look at a few of those for the benefit of those users on the fence.

One key reason of course is simply keeping up with surrounding technology.  Put another way, the longer a company forestalls its upgrade, not only is it more costly when it does, but without such upgrades, companies run the risk of missing out on important new features with real ROI.

Then there’s the risk of being on an unsupported version (usually described as more than two versions old).  On top of this, over time, as background technologies like operating systems, productivity tools (like Microsoft Office), hardware, or the web undergo changes, it’s less likely that your software will interact optimally (or at all) with them.

In the end, there must be a business driver to upgrade.  Whether that amounts to avoiding the pitfalls noted above, or taking advantage of the newer features of the upgrade, a company must think through the pros and cons of staying put or moving forward.

A Lithuanian company that specializes in Dynamics NAV upgrades was recently profiled by MSDynamicsWorld.com, and noted for example that Dynamics NAV 2016 was “a huge release with a large number of improvements to the platform and on the application side… the new Workflow functionality on the application-side, and the eventing functionality that powers it, are the biggest improvements. They change the strategy of both NAV user behavior and future development direction.”

Editor Dann Maurano also notes in a recent article at MSDynamicsWorld.com that “Since Microsoft is releasing more tools to automate and make the upgrade process easier, the price of upgrading is getting lower over time.”

Simplanova notes some of the costs of running an unsupported (i.e., more than two versions back) version of Dynamics:

“Customers who are running an unsupported version would eventually start experiencing problems with integration with newer systems, so your work will get less efficient each year inevitably. Unsupported versions are harder to maintain due to inability to use new platform advancements such as automated testing and .NET interoperability. Users are not able to benefit from productivity improvements in Microsoft Office, Office 365, Microsoft CRM integration, and NAV clients for multiple platforms.”

Finally, the article touches on the importance of a little ‘booster shot’ of training after an upgrade, noting that end users typically require about a day or so to get used to the new versions, and “about two days of on-site assistance.  Training on using new features of Dynamics NAV would need additional time. Each major release adds new important features, thus annual training is important to get the most of a new version of Dynamics NAV.”

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