Monthly Archives: April 2018

User Base of Dynamics 365 Business Central (formerly Dynamics NAV)

Just saw a slide from Marko regarding the state of Dynamics 365 Business Central aka Dynamics NAV and thought I’d like to share.

This is just for Dynamics NAV, not including any other Dynamics 365 products.

Quite amazing numbers…

Game Changing Concept for Cloud ERP with Dynamics 365 Business Central

Overview

One of my personal complaints about any cloud based ERP software the inability to make customizations that your business needs to maintain a competitive edge.

The assumption of a cloud ERP software is that every business should be able to fully utilize the software as the software developers intended. But as we all know in the real world, this is NEVER the case.

The Cloud ERP Problem

As much as software developers tries to develop functions that covers all basis for the users of their software, there will be nuance for each individual businesses and how they operate. This is exponentiated by the fact that their customers will throw out weird curveballs that the user will have to comply, no matter what.

What do you do in these instances? You have make changes to the system or keep track of the changes manually.

In this day and age where products are expected to be ordered in the morning and shipped in the afternoon, there’s no way in hell you can expect the user to keep track of data manually. Worst, the company may have to buy or develop a whole different software just to supplement what the original ERP can’t handle.

Either way, it’s a recipe for disaster.

So now you have a problem, you have a software that is not robust enough to meet your customer’s demands without major workarounds and you have data and processes you have to comply with.

Yeah… It’s not a very good situation…

What Makes Dynamics 365 Business Central Different

One of the main selling points for the old Dynamics NAV (aka Navision) was the ability the user can customize anything they want. Because of this, some very beautiful industry specific and horizontal solutions have been developed without additional integration software. Why? Because it’s built INTO the software.

The ability to modify anything you want is both good and bad and is subject to debate, but at least it’s available should you need it.

When Microsoft announced they’re moving Dynamics NAV to the full cloud and renaming it to Dynamics 365 Business Central, a lot of people kind of assumed we’d be taking away the core essences of what makes NAV great, it’s flexibility.

Then when the product launched, I see this little surprise in the Extension Management screen. The Extension Management screen basically allows you to add/remove any features you want that’s available:

What?! I almost wet my pants when I saw this!

This allows you and/or your NAV partner to make custom extension modifications to your specific Dynamics 365 Business Central deployment!

Not only can you enjoy the great infrastructure of Microsoft cloud, but you’re also able to make customizations to your specific needs?! Microsoft, specifically the Dynamics NAV product team, really hit this thing out of the park.

Still Work to Do

Being able to upload extensions to modify your deployment still has it’s limits.

You will only be able to “extend” on the base application, but you will not be able to actually modify the base code. For example, you will not be able to change how Reservation system works in base NAV, you can only modify around it.

But still, it’s a GREAT first step!

Conclusion

Welp… I’m excited. Cautious, but excited.  Naaa.. I’m just excited…

The Curious Case of Dynamics Business Central Users

Overview

Microsoft has officially launched the Dynamics 365 Business Central. This is basically the next version of Dynamics NAV but can be deployed on as a subscription as part of your Office/Dynamics 365 portal.

Microsoft has tentatively stated that the on-premise will be released the summer of 2018. When that rolls around, you’ll have multiple options on where to deploy your solution. On this subject on deployment, it will be in another blog article.

I personally believe the implementation of the Dynamics 365 Business Central infrastructure is pure genius from Microsoft.

The infrastructure, on it’s own, is perfect. You can access your ERP data from anywhere in the world without having to worry about hardware and security setup. You don’t have to setup Azure and it’s practically plug-and-play. Furthermore, you get free upgrades and cumulative updates applied as they’re released by the Microsoft product team.

You basically require zero IT infrastructure spending to run your business.

What set this infrastructure apart is the ability for developers to create customizations that can be implemented through extensions. The extensions are like of like widgets or little apps that you can install for your instance of Dynamics 365. It’s like having an Apple phone with apps that you can download from the app store to enhance your experience with the phone.

The ease of deployment and the free updates from their subscription, in addition for you to download and install extensions from the Appsource store is the next best thing since sliced bread in the ERP world.

The Paradox of the Users for Dynamics 365 Business Central

While the infrastructure is perfect, there are some questions on who Microsoft believes are the profiles of the users that will be using the product.

Is Dynamics 365 Business Central catered towards micro-businesses (1-5 user companies) or is it catered more for small-mid sized companies (10-500+ users) as it traditionally is?

I’ve wondered about this since they introduced the concept to what was known as Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations Business Edition (RIP). There are some features that makes no sense for micro companies and there are some features that absolutely wrecks havoc on small-mid sized companies.

The Questionable

One of the promise from Microsoft is that they will make the software extremely easy to use. To some extent, they’ve really done quite a bit on the user interface. They’ve added very nice charts and statistics, in addition, the screens are extremely beautiful.

But let’s make a distinction on ease of use and dumbing down the software. Let’s take a look at the Item Card as an example to see what I’m talking about.

Note that this is only available if you set the User Experience on the Company Information to Basic or Essential.

If you look at the inventory item card, you’ll notice an icon next to the quantity on hand field.

If you click on it, a screen will pop up to allow users to just change any quantity for each location.

This means that anyone with access to the items can change the quantity without proper procedures and counts. Imagine running a mid-sized companies and allowing your users to be able to edit inventory quantities to any amount they wish.

I think this feature is probably more suited for the suited for mom and pop shop. Where you can just look at your shelf and adjust quantity on the fly.

However, on the same item card, you’ll notice something on the ribbons that’s promoted (meaning a large icon).

It’s the approvals/workflow management icons.

Now I run a small consulting shop. We have less than 10 employees. Here’s a typical approval/workflow request scenario between me and my wife boss:

Me: “Hey honey, can I xxxxxxx?”
Boss: “No.”

And that’s my approval/workflow request.

Do I really need to automate or systemize this? It’s a colossal waste of time to even opening an e-mail about it. I think bugging her with an e-mail will annoy my boss more and maybe that’s the point? But I digress.

The point is that in this one simple screen, you seem to have 2 features that cater to a very different clientele that will balk at each other. I think in this case, you really can’t please either sides.

Conclusion

Given the choice, I’d rather Microsoft focus the application to small-mid companies, like what the marketing message states. We’ve implemented micro-businesses using the old Dynamics NAV product with great success. I don’t see why it has to be different with Dynamics 365 Business Central.

To be fair to Microsoft, the product team has been pretty efficient on addressing issues within the application. I’m just not sure exactly if these “features” are counted as issues and what the logic behind implementing these in the base application is…