Dynamics NAV Extensions – A Potential Weapon of Mass Destruction

Overview
With the release of Dynamics NAV 2017 and Dynamics 365 for Financials (which is technically NAV2017), the buzz word in the Dynamics NAV development community is the development function called Extensions.

What are Extensions?
Extensions is a way for NAV Developers to put modifications in your live environment without modifying your core NAV system.

How Does it Work?
The extension basically implements the code on the Service Tier instead of the NAV development environment. The clients connects to NAV using the service tier, this is how you see your NAV in whatever state it’s in.

Implementing the code directly in the service tier means that you won’t see any of the modifications if you go into the NAV development environment. You can only see the new tables created and table field changes if you look into the SQL tables directly.

Why is the Development Community Buzzing About This?
I honestly don’t know. I think the hype of Microsoft releasing something new have people gagaing and swept up into the hype.

I remember when Microsoft first announced the idea of multi-tenant for NAV services. Even though people didn’t fully understand it and it didn’t apply to 99% of the NAV population, the community still tauted like it was something that was the second coming. But… That’s hype and marketing for you.

At its current state, the NAV Extension will benefit partners and ISV in that they can quickly take their code and implement it on customer sites. In addition, it gives partners, ISVs, and independent NAV developers to protect their code from everyone else that does not have the “source code”.

For customers, the benefit is that the partners won’t charge too much for putting modifications that they’ve developed for other customers. They will now have a wide range of solutions that are developed in extensions they can essentially “bolt on”.

Lastly, it’s the only way to get your IP (intellectual property) on the Microsoft AppSource.

Why it’s a Weapon of Mass Destruction for a Company?

Notice the statement I made above:

It gives partners, ISVs, and independent NAV developers to protect their code from everyone else that does not have the “source code”

By implementing the code on directly on the service tier, nobody in the world will be able to modify what the original developer has done. The code that your partner/ISV/internal developer has put in is effectively sealed off from the rest of the world.

This means that if you are, for whatever reason, unhappy with your partner/ISV/internal developer, you better make sure, as a company, you have the original source code on which they built their extensions on.

Playing the devil’s advocate and assuming the worst scenarios with extensions

If you have a NAV or ISV partner that delivered their modifications to you as extensions and they provide terrible service and lacks basic knowledge of the product. If you want to ask another NAV partner or a freelancer to come in and help you, you will need the blessing of your previous NAV partner and pray that they are cooperative in provide the source codes.

If you purchased an ISV for your business, however, there are still some missing features on the ISV that you need your partner to add. Your partner will be unable to help you. You will need to reply in the ISV to re-release the extension for you.

If you have your own internal NAV developer on staff. If you need to terminate his employment for whatever reason, it’s very possible he/she can take the source code with them and leave you high and dry. No partner can come to your aide and you essentially have to live with what you have.

Conclusion
Even now, if you purchase an add-on in the 30 million object ranges, you’re effectively held prisoner by your ISV or the partner. There are special ways to “hack” the 30 million object ranges within SQL, but it’s usually messy and will incur a lot of additional expense on your part.

However, with Extensions at it’s current form, it will be impossible for any NAV developer to come help you if you do not have the original source code for the extensions.

Dynamics NAV (Navision) has always been an open source software. Implementing a structure where you effectively seal off the code is troubling.

It seems like before you do any kind of Extensions development with your partner or customer, you will need to lawyer up first. And as we all know, once you get lawyers into the mix, it just goes downhill from there.
  1. “If you want to ask another NAV partner or a freelancer to come in and help you, you will need the blessing of your previous NAV partner and pray that they are cooperative in provide the source codes.” Best part of this post 😀

  2. Spot on. This is the real world colliding with business models. It will kill the product.

  3. Doesn’t it look like Microsoft long term strategy is to ditch out traditional VARs and replace them with direct sales?

    What is the business model here? To me it looks like this: Microsoft sells thousands of cloud-based micro-installations with ‘thin’ addons, through partners whose only (or major) work will be to provide 1st line support answering simple question from frustrated users not having (not being able to afford to have) a ‘super user’ on site.

    Who is going to win?

    1. Microsoft.
    2. Partners having cheapest and largest call centers.

  4. Either that or go vertical where your industry knowledge is so deep that Microsoft would not spend the time and resource into that industry. This is what Microsoft has been telling partners since a few years ago.

    Days of consultants knowing Dynamics NAV inside out with knowledge of manufacturing, warehousing, field service, jobs, etc are not going to be needed in the future.

  5. Not sure about that, but maybe. I would expect that people (those who spend the money) learn that this D365 thing doesn’t live up to expectations. Paying money for getting things not done sounds a bit non-business like, doesn’t it? The good part about it is that you pay monthly (or so), so you can stop to pay pretty fast when you see that it doesn’t work and use an alternative approach. My concern is that this experience will kill the Dynamics brand, so it is on the blacklist when the next ERP decision is in order.

  6. I’m afraid Alex that VARS with deep industry knowledge is not an option in the future. This is because Microsoft pushes Extensions and Extensions are seriously limited – apart from being un-modifiable by other than author they can only add to existing code but cannot change existing code. Using Extensions you cannot build a solution which replaces bits of existing code – can you? It does not promote any serious modifications – that’s why I’ve used adjective ‘thin add-ons’.

    This, plus features like configurable Item Attributes (you don’t even have to make an add-on to store user specific data), plus things like Workflows which – despite seeming to be very flexible – they are quite rigid and seems aimed at small installations where configuration ‘per user’ work nicely, all this makes me think that the days of guys with deep knowledge being able to make serious modification are counted.

  7. D365 is a separate product. It’s an alternative to QuickBooks. I don’t think people using QuickBooks expect the rich functionality of an actual ERP system. Consumers will buy D365 and stick with it because it’s cheap, plus Microsoft will always make improvements on D365 based on market feedback. If MSFT keeps adding new features to D365 in addition, making it so easy to use and setup, where does a high level consultant that knows a lot about NAV come into play? Maybe 1-2 hours of quick phone support and that’d be it…

  8. With a deep industry knowledge, the idea is that you create your own IP and create your IP as an extension. Microsoft seems to promote developers to keep a hold of customer’s hostage to you and your company. This means that if you create an extension for an industry and sell it to a few customers, you now have those customers for live, whether you deliver good service or not.

    And forget about helping other customers that received poor service from their NAV providers. They are stuck. Hence, in my article that you have to “lawyer up” before a consumer purchases NAV.

  9. Mohamed-Inel Ouddai

    Good morning,

    I do not think extensions are the right way to make mofications to native nav code.

    Example, a customer wants to change the posting of a sales order.

    This can not be done with extensions.

    Regards,

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