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Posts Tagged ‘Microsoft Dynamics’

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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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…

 

 

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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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