Author Archives: Alex Chow

Relax… Microsoft is not killing Dynamics NAV

Overview

So this morning, I get an e-mail with the following:

On initial look, the e-mail is implying Microsoft has decided to kill Dynamics NAV (which was rebranded into Dynamics 365 Finance and Operation, Business Edition).

Look how it’s worded specifically about “Microsoft decision to kill Dynamics 365 Business Edition model”. Which implies Microsoft is killing NAV altogether. Then there’s a link that follows to a site where you need to register for a webinar for a company selling their cloud service.

The Misinformation

Having a sudden heart attack, I immediately reached out to Marko Perisic to confirm the rumors. This was a direct opposite for what Microsoft, as a whole, is telling and spending hundreds of millions on. Seems really weird that they would just turn 180 degrees on their investment without any cataclysmic reasons to do so.

Needless to say, the statement from the marketing (and borderline phishing) e-mail is a flat out lie and is aimed to misdirect consumers. Unfortunately, fear is one of the marketing techniques companies use to sell you their products…

I later found out this is a play on what James Phillips (the new head of Microsoft Dynamics) mentioned about killing off the NAME business/enterprise to make it more streamlined. Goes to show you what every little things said by these people gets misinterpreted. It’s no wonder why these people in power are always so vague…

The Truth

The truth of the matter is, Microsoft wants to simplify their NAMING of the products. They’re getting rid of the “Business” and “Enterprise” terminology in favor of something more… catchy. Or at least easier to read.

Let’s face it, Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations, Business Edition or Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations, Enterprise Edition doesn’t really catch anyone’s attention, rather, it confuses people more. What exactly is Business or Enterprise? What’s the difference? You can see how it adds complexity to a consumer’s decision making.

So I fully understand why Microsoft would want to rebrand or rename their products. But this is strictly a marketing thing, it doesn’t affect the products at all.

Disappointment

Alas… This is my gripe about the “dark side” of our industry. People will say anything, including instill false fear and publishing near-fake information as facts. All this just to make their sales quota…

Conclusion

Don’t worry, your Dynamcis NAV investment is safe. From our conversations, it looks like Dynamics AX and Dynamics NAV, interms of ERP, will be around for a long, long time.

Recap of Directions 2017 – To Be Determined

Overview

This year, the Dynamics NAV Directions conference is held in a nice resort in Orlando. I always feel guilty about attending these conference nice resort hotel without my kids…

Overall the conference was a bit confusing for me as Microsoft had decided on the last minute to delay the release of the new version of Dynamics NAV “Tenerife”. This created a lot of confusion amongst partners and the people giving sessions on exactly what they’re trying to present.

The general sense of the sessions I’ve attended is that everything is still to be determined. Which made it a really frustrating event in that whatever I learn today, may be wrong tomorrow.

What’s New

The breakout sessions didn’t help to clear things up, but here’s what we know:

  • Dynamics NAV will be renamed to Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations, Business Edition. Yes, it rolls right off the tongue.
  • This release will be the full cloud platform that will include every functionality in the standard Dynamics NAV.
  • For any modifications that you need, “Tenerife” will allow you to make custom changes to extensions for your customer into their extensions
  • The next release will be deployable on both on premise and full cloud.
  • Future developments for Extensions will be in VS code
  • To take full advantage of the features of Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations, Business Edition, you will need Office 365 – Business Premium Edition

Closing

The highlight of this conference was the closing session given by Marko Perisic. It was a heartfelt and unscripted speech regarding the future of NAV, the reseller/ISV channel, and the blood, sweat, tears, and joys of Microsoft employees that worked on the Tenerife project.

Marko firmly believes the future is bright for the Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations, Business Edition. He is extremely proud of the product and what it can do for the customers.

From what they’ve showcased so far, although a ton of work still needs to be done, I’m extremely excited for this release as well. In addition to pricing competitiveness, it will be hard to see why customers would want to purchase NetSuite or Acumatica when Microsoft releases “Tenerife”.

Advice You Need to Heed

If you haven’t already, get used to developing your custom code and addons for the Microsoft AppSource. There will be challenges on how you approach developing extensions and the pitfalls you will run into.

You will not be able to remove code from the core product and you will not be able to dictate the order in which your extension and other extensions should run. Those are all under the To Be Determined.

Going Live with Dynamics NAV (Dynamics 365) is the Easy Part

Overview

After doing ERP implementations with Dynamics NAV (aka Dynamics 365) for almost 2 decades (18 years to be exact…), you kind of know how to get things done.

Usually, when you prepare for a go-live during a software conversion, there are certain tasks and steps that absolutely have to be accomplished in a certain manner. There are certain things that you will also postpone until after you go live with the new system. Balancing what are absolulte musts and what can wait are what every legitimate project manager should do.

Another pitfall is spending countless hours talking about the exceptions and the wrong business process that ensues. Again, a legitimate NAV project leader should not take you down that path. From my experience one of the guarantee failures of taking a customer live is trying to “do too much”. Focusing on things that does not really matter to the business. As a legitimate Dynamics NAV (Dynamics 365) project manager, you should be well aware of what to be done and what shouldn’t be done when going live. On this subject, this is probably a separate article.

The Go-Live

A week prior to, you begin to feel the nervousness about switching to a new system. Despite my assurance on how everything will be fine because we followed the plan, they will still feel very anxious. The anxiety in the air is so thick you can scoop it with a spoon.

When the live date approaches, we do our thing to do the final cut over to their legacy system to Dynamics NAV. Run through our check-list and have the customers go through their check-list.

The next day when people come in for work, you can tell they were ready. They were ready for this because that’s what they’ve prepared for.

About a few days after the customer is live with the new system, the most frequent response I get is:

“That’s it?”

The Real Challenge

“Yes, that’s it. You’re live with Dynamics NAV.” That’s the response I typically give in response with a smile. As I mentioned, going live with Dynamics NAV is the easy part.

This is the point where my anxiety begins to increase, little by little.

Why?

If the customer just transacts with their normal business process and their customers and vendors behaves the same way, then everything would be okay. But it never happens that way.

There are always new problems and challenges as time progresses. Businesses do not stand still.

A couple of of these issues after go live that will begin to raises my blood pressure are, but not limited to the following:

– Exception problems or problems that are just weird and unusual
– Things that were allowed from their old system that are no longer allowed in the new system (i.e. just deleting a posted transaction)
– People circumventing the agreed upon process
– Wanting to turn on new features
– The “I didn’t mention because it’s not that important” processes. Well… It’s important now.

The toughest portion for the end user is after they go live for about 2-3 weeks. This is when all of the weird processes and exceptions start occurring and they have to deal with problems using the new environment and new thinking. Problems where they could just change a few numbers or transactions in the old system quickly, but they can’t do that anymore.

This is the part where the problems gets interest, and quite frankly, more fun. This is also the part where most solution center do not focus on because it’s not as lucrative.

Good Business Practice is a Lifestyle

What you resolved with your NAV partner during a new implementation is what you’re currently doing and where you want to go. These are known problems that has been brought up and addressed during the design of the software.

What challenges you going to face in the future are what we haven’t spoken about. It’s tough to plan and have a solution for something that you don’t even know about.

Dynamics NAV is a very good system. It’s also a very strict system. When you have an accurate system, sometimes problems come up where it was not apparent before or been swept under the rug. The reason is because it’s not important enough to deal with on a daily basis. i.e. inventory inaccuracies on the bins or returns processing.

With an accurate system, all of these normal process that no one wants to deal with will become apparent and will require a correct process and procedure for. Sometimes, when addressing these annoyance, owners will be surprised that they need additional resources to manage those processes.

Most of the time, when left unaddressed, those problem will blow up like a huge volcano. Implementing Dynamics NAV prevents these volcano type problems because it needs to be tracked.

Conclusion

Compound to real problems arising after 2-3 weeks is that implementation consultants will have already left by then, patting themselves on the back on a job well done.

As much as I advise on budgeting enough time and money for post implementation support, they always go unheard. Most of the quote that they receive for new software implementation are only enough to take them live, not to address these more interesting problems after they’re live.

Going live with Dynamics NAV (aka Dynamics 365) is the easy part. What comes after will be the core of the challenge during the implementation lifecycle.

Types of Training in Dynamics NAV

Overview

Often, we get calls from companies that asks us to help with their Dynamics NAV implementation. The conversation would usually start off about a little history of their implementation, the problems they’re running into, and what they’re looking to resolve.

Inevitably, the request will lead to training the users on how to better use Dynamics NAV.

This is a tough question to respond to.

With every release of Dynamics NAV, the software has become more intuitive and easy to use. In addition, Microsoft has released the full manual on their MSDN site. In addition, there are great step by step examples on how to process, for example, a sales order. So whenever I hear this request, my sense immediately goes into overdrive.

Of course, the customer will want an estimate on how long that will take.

Tough Question

What makes the subject of training a tough question is that the training, in itself, is not what the customer is looking for. What the customer is really looking for is, by the end of our task (whatever that may be), their users will have thorough understanding of their job responsibilities within the company and how Dynamics NAV can better their ability within their job roles.

They’re looking for their users to have an A-ha basically saying “Wow! I fully understand my job and can do my job 300% faster now!”.

The Response

Being a terrible salesperson, instead of giving them some numbers and try to close the deal, will naturally ask a ton of questions on their request. I will even question their question because I just find this request (although challenging) very fascinating.

Most of the time, the people that are reaching out are not the managers or the people that are responsible for the task. They’re just “forced” into it by their boss or owners. Instead of a number so they can create a list to find the cheapest one, they get more questions.

On a side note, the calls we get where the person has to hang up and ask their boss or other people for more information ususally never calls us back. Subsequent follow up calls are ususally unreturned as well.

Not All Training Are the Same

There are many aspects when we talk about training. To keep things simple, we’ll just talk about 2 types of training. One is just learning how to use Dynamics NAV, the other is learning how to use Dynamics NAV in conjunction with your job roles within your organization.

In my opinion, training just how to use NAV is not worth to company to spend their money on. The reason is, as mentioned above, there are plenty of resources (such as MSDN site mentioned above) that are free for the user to learn how to navigate around Dynamics NAV.

The training that I would always recommend is the implementation type of training is where the training covers the details of their job on how Dynamics NAV can help them do their specific job. The training would be how to better do their job with Dynamics NAV, instead of just using NAV.

The Challenge

The challenge is how to explain this to the customer who is tasked by their supervisor to “get more training”.

They would need to understanding their internal business process for each department and how NAV will fit into each part of the business process. They will need to fill the consultants in on how things work for the consultants to devise a training plan.

If the customer does not do , they will need to spend the money to have someone else to do so. Very much like an implementation.

Conclusion

Of course if the users do not have time to learn the product or they prefer to learn in a classroom environment, consultants like us would step in and help out. Even then, the training shouldn’t be just how to use NAV. Rather, it should incorporate what their job functions are within NAV.

Sometimes the training should just consist of a big Q&A session where the users can bring up what they’re doing and how to better utilize their job function in the system.

Understanding what type of training you require will save you a ton of time and unnecessary costs from consultants like ourselves. It does require some work on the end user to determine what kind of training is needed.

Better to put the work up front than having to pay, a lot, later.

Dynamics 365 for Financials will include Full Functionality of Dynamics NAV

Announcement

Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Financials will offer the full functionality of the regular Dynamics NAV by the end of the year!

Dynamics365 for Financials will now cover all functionalities in Dynamics NAV

Overview

Until the functionality update take effect, if you signed up for Dynamics 365 for Financials you will only receive limited functionalities for within the Dynamics NAV product. The area available are mainly in the finance and order fulfillment areas.

After the update, which is promised to be by the end of the year, you will receive the full functionality as if you purchased Dynamics NAV. This includes manufacturing and WMS functionalities.

What Will be the Difference?

This is the first question that everyone will ask. Why does my company want to purchase a full Dynamics NAV license instead of just signing up for Dynamics 365 for Financials?

The answer is Customization.

For Dynamics 365, the way to “customize” what’s available out of the box is to implement extensions available from the Microsoft Appsource. This means that if you need a one-off change because you provide a differentiating service than your competitors, you will need a work around.

Whereas if you purchased Dynamics NAV product, you will be able to make these types of changes.

The Future

Extensions for Dynamics NAV (and Dynamics 365 for Financials) is ever changing. With each release, Microsoft introduces new features and expanding on the previous release. So it’s tough to say whether the paths for Dynamics 365 for Financials and Dynamics NAV will truly converge.

I’m just glad the customers do not have to sign up for the complex Azure infrastructure if they want their solution to be truly on the cloud.

When your Dynamics NAV Database is Too Big

Overview

Everyone once in a while, we will get a support call from a customer about archiving their historical data.

Dynamics NAV (formerly Navision) has been in the US since 1996 and for customers that were first to adopt Dynamics NAV, they have kept those data with them through the years.

Some will argue that with the cost of storage in decline, why is it necessary to archive old data. While I tend to agree with that statement, but trying to manage a 700 GB database backup, if nothing else, very time consuming.

There are a couple of ways to “shrink” the size of your database by eliminating the data within Dynamics NAV.

Data Compression

Date Compression Dynamics NAV

The date compression processes will consolidate multiple entries in the table in question into one entry.

The problem with date compression process is that it takes a loooong time to run. It takes so long to run that we usually just stop the process. The design of the Date Compression process seem to want companies to run it periodically when they start using NAV instead of running it when you’re database is 700GB. This is never the case.

Most Dynamics NAV consultants out there will never recommend their clients to use Date Compression (me included). One of the main reasons is because in the prior versions of Navision caused data problems when you did date compression when you try to upgrade.

Removing Data That Adds No Value

There are data in the database that one can consider as low priority value. You’re keeping the historical data, but the historical data is more “nice to have” instead of regulatory compliance or critical to running the business. These tables include, but are not limited to:

  • Change Log
  • Sales Document Archive
  • Purchase Document Archive
  • E.D.I. Receive Documents
  • E.D.I. Send Document
  • Posted Sales/Purchase Documents
  • Posted Warehouse Documents
  • Warehouse Registered Documents
  • Any posted documents

This is not to say you should delete all of the data, but you can certainly delete those data not required by the tax or audit authorities.

Re-implementation

This is the nuclear option. Basically, start fresh in a new Dynamics NAV database with only your setup data, master data, and opening balances. This option is popular with companies that have been using Dynamics NAV for a long time. It gives an opportunity to eliminate a lot of bad data, in addition, to modifications that are no longer needed.

The historical information is basically kept at the old database environment. If an old data is needed, the user basically goes to the old NAV database to retrieve the information.

But re-implementation is really overkill to specifically address the database size issue.

Conclusion

With the performance and capacity of storage ever increasing and the cost of storage ever declining, these types of question does not come up as often. I suspect as time progresses, these questions will come up once in a very long while.

I typically would recommend companies remove the data that adds little or no value first before attempting to do anything drastic. Usually holding those data takes a ton of storage in the Dynamics NAV database.

There was a company I visited that had 10 GB worth of Change Log entries. Worst is that the customer didn’t even know what the change log is…

The Story of Our Dynamics NAV Implementation in Taiwan

This is a story of our Dynamics NAV implementation in Taiwan.

One of the things that I’m most proud of is the people that choose to work with me and the company that we built.

I am proud that everyone shares the same vision on what software implementations should be. That we care about doing the right things, even if it hurts our own bottom line.

That pride is none more so apparent than our team in Taiwan. A little background, our Taiwan branch began operation in 2014. In the relative short amount of time, they developed the Chinese Language Pack for Dynamics NAV. During this time, they’re also involved in a tough implementation in Taiwan for a licensed toy distributor.

Fast-forward today, the customer in Taiwan is so happy with how their Dynamics NAV implementation went, they agreed to speak on behalf of us with Microsoft on one of the most popular IT magazines in Taiwan.

In case you can read Chinese, here’s the link:
http://www.ithome.com.tw/pr/111319

Also in PDF version:

Dynamics NAV_麗嬰國際

Here are the highlights of the article:

– Origially had a 5 year plan to move out of the HEAVILY customized UNIX based system. We only utilized 1.5 years to implement Dynamics NAV. (According to the article, 6 months for analysis and 9 months for implementation)
– Reduce their inventory return amount up to tens of millions in local currency.
– Redesign the inventory put and pick process and increased the accuracy by at least 100%.
– Implement wireless handheld device and doubled the warehouse shipping efficiency
– Improve order process efficiency. Now it only takes one fifth of the time to proces an order (500% increase).

The Challenge

This implementation in Taiwan was indeed one of the most complicated that I’ve been involved in. Not only has their UNIX system insanely customized, but there were virtually no documentation on the operation.

Because of the type of business they’re in, they add between 10,000 to 20,000 items every month. That’s right! over 10k new items every month. You can see why order entry and communicating those new items with their large distribution network is a nightmare. In addition, think about how the warehouse will go about fulfilling these orders.

When we did our first analysis, I was personally shocked at how they were able to manage such a large volume of business with their current setup. Basically, our job was to go from no documented business process to having Dynamics NAV fully functional. The fact that our team did it in 1.5 years is nothing short of amazing.

There were countless fierce meetings and conversation both internally and with the client to better their existing business process. Even though these discussion were fierce, the client really appreciated that we did not just go with the status quo and replicate their existing business process.

Conclusion

Having the right people in the right place really makes all the difference in the world. This project wouldn’t be a success without their involvement. The people that works with me, quite honestly, can work anywhere else and any company; but they choose to work with me. That really gets me in the feels…

Performance Problem in VM Environment for NAV 2016 and Beyond

Overview

This is a story of upgrading one of our clients from Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2013 to Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2016 (we recommended going to NAV 2017, but they didn’t want to be guinea pigs).

The upgrade itself was done on the customer’s live server, which was a brand new powerful server on VM (virtual) environment. During the upgrade, our developers complained that the performance on the live server was extremely slow. Initially, we thought it may have been the large amount of data (100 GB) that are being upgrade so we brushed it off.

When we went live, that’s when the performance on NAV got worst.

The Problem

Researching on Google and the Dynamics NAV forums on performance issues with Dynamics NAV 2016 came up with nothing. Of all the researches, NAV 2016 should perform a lot faster, not slower.

We’ve tried reindexing, changing the settings on the Dynamics NAV service tier, changing the CPU cores, SQL tuning. Nothing worked.

The problem in the end was how the VM hosts were setup. It matters which host SQL Server and Dynamics NAV server were setup. The following VM configuration was how the server was setup:

virtualenvironmentdynamicsnav

The Solution

The internal IT director put the Dynamics NAV server and the SQL Server on the same host on the VM and *poof*… All the performance problems went away. NAV was back running in blazing speed.

What was strange was that for NAV 2013, the SQL Server and the Dynamics NAV Server was running on different host and there were no performance issues.

Conclusion

When you’re in an VM environment, put the SQL Server and the Dynamics NAV server on the same host machine.

Upgrading to Dynamics NAV 2016 is nothing new for us. We’ve done quite a bit of the upgrades for companies but this issue baffled me a bit. The same structure used on NAV2013 did not work well on NAV2016.

Hopefully, if you read this, it will save you from some headaches that I’ve gone through.

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.

What Your Microsoft Dynamics Product Will Be Called in the Future

Straight from the official announcement from the NAVUG Summit at Tampa yesterday.

Rebranding of Dynamics Product Line
So there won’t be Dynamics CRM or AX anymore in the future. It’ll be called Dynamics 365 for <insert business function>

The only Dynamics products that will retain it’s name are the NAV, GP, and SL lines.

Dynamics 365 names in the future

Dynamics 365 names in the future

So basically, you will be able to buy individual business functions with Dynamics 365. The best part about all this is that all the products has a Common Data Model. This means that all of the business functions you buy from Dynamics 365 will automatically be synced together. This is too cool.

Release Date Announced!
The official release date announced for Dynamics 365 is on November 1st, 2016.