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Ways You Are Sabotaging Your ERP Implementation. Part 1

Setting Unrealistic Live Dates

Overview

Typically in an implementation, there will be a lot of moving parts. A lot of things has to go right for a successful implementation. If any of the key tasks don’t go right, no matter how small the task is, will cause havoc or delays for a company trying to go live.

I can assure you that every Dynamics 365 Business Central (aka Dynamics NAV) consultant/company will tell you that they’re an expert at Dynamics 365 Business Central / Dynamics NAV. Whether that’s true or not and how to detect if they’re full of hot air is probably a subject for another article.

Even if you have the most qualified and reliable NAV partner, projects may still go wrong because of the decisions made by the company that’s implementing the software.

I Want It Now

It’s unfortunate (or fortunate) that we live in a society where instant gratification is the norm. You want something? Order it on Amazon in the morning and get it delivered in the afternoon. These type of service puts a lot of burden on the supplier on making sure everything goes right.

When the owners of a company is often under pressure to make the necessary changes so they can meet the demands (realistic or not) of their customers, they often want to see the same turnaround time (realistic or not) from the projects they initiate.

Setting Unrealistic Live Dates

For some managers, the idea seem to be to set a high expectation for the project. Even if the project doesn’t get to the expectation, at least we’ll be better than the original expectations should be.

One of these types of decision is deciding on a live date. In an effort to make people place a sense of urgency on the implementation, management will set an unrealistic (or optimistic) go live date. The employees or consultants will often be too polite, shy, scared, etc to call out this decision.

As I mentioned earlier on this article, going live requires a lot of precise tasks to be completed, we can hurry those tasks or skip them. But shortcuts will often come back and haunt you. This is especially true in an ERP software implementation.

What always ends up happening is one of the following:

  1. The company goes live without being ready
  2. The live date gets postponed

Of the 2 scenarios that can happen, if #1 happens, the implementation will always lead to failure. From my personal experience, rescuing customers that went live before they’re ready never really recovers. We end up having to re-implement them to get the company back on track.

Hopefully, the management has the courage to decide on option #2 and call a stop and re-evaluate.

In either of those 2 cases, the damage would’ve already been done.

Culture of Expecting Failure

Usually, when a company misses their first go live date, they will miss their subsequent go-live dates as well.

Why? Because the people are already used to failure. Their consultants or the management has promised them that they’re going to go-live, you can almost hear the employees say “Yeah… Right…”.

When I walk into companies that has missed their go-live date a couple of time, it’s almost like walking into a vacuum of demotivation. When you even talk about going live again, you’re just met with an overload of cynicism and doubt.

Prevention

Set realistic live dates and stick to it. It’s your responsibility to call out BS if someone tries to talk crazy about a live date.

How we typically plan out a customer go-live is to pick a date the customer would like to go live, then work backwards to see if that’s feasible; considering holidays, vacations, buffer time, etc. If it’s not feasible, we tell them right away, even if we get scolded at.

Of you’re in charge of the implementation, be ready to say no to unrealistic requests to go live or hitting certain milestones; even in front of a team of management. Yes, they will question your expertise, your resources, your abilities, even your character.

Just remember hurting one person’s feeling is better than having the whole company suffer.

From 5 Months to 5 Minutes

Overview

Even though we’re at the age of the internet, a lot of companies still print hard copy catalogs.

If you work in any one of these organizations, you’ll know when it’s catalog season, it’s becomes a very stressful period in that the company has to put together all of their item attributes, pricing, description, pictures, etc in one “packet”.

This packet (along with your website) is your first impression to customers and prospects that may want to do business with you. Sometimes, your first impression is your only impression so companies will get it “right”.

Not only do you have to organize everything together, the information needs to be put together and shipped off for printing. The time constraints is furthered because a lot of US companies ship their catalog overseas so you will need to compile everything togehter even earlier.

The Problem

Here’s sample list of tasks for people creating catalogs:

  • Consolidating the item data
  • Figure out pricing
  • Consolidate the images
  • Make sure the right description is there
  • Figure out the Specifications
  • Get the right pagination
  • Categorize the items

Of course, this is only a partial list. To all you folks responsible for creating catalogs, I feel you bro.

To add on to the problem, in most cases, the description, spec, images, etc are never in a central location for the marketing/art department. Making the job more difficult.

Not only that, people have to deal with disjointed data. The catalog data is often not tied to the ERP/order entry system. So whoever is looking at the ERP/Order Entry system often will need their catalog next to them to flip through the actual page on what the customer is talking about.

So wouldn’t having all of the data in one central place be wonderful? Yes. Yes it would be.

Fed Up

So one of our clients, fed up with the amount of work they have to put into creating catalogs every year, decided to make a change. Of course we were tasked with finding or creating the right solution for them.

In addition, they have to create “mini catalogs” every month and every quarter.

The Challenge

As we looked for an add-on, but was most were too expensive and not scalable or customizable. They are not too thrilled on having to rely on a proprietary software. In addition, they needed to pay an annual enhancement for a product that didn’t do everything they wanted.

So having add-on or a separate piece of software for catalog was out of the question.

Putting everything in a central place like Business Central (Dynamics NAV) makes a lot of sense. However, even if you have all of the data in Business Central (NAV) there’s another problem. RDLC.

Let’s face it, RDLC is a disaster. Despite multiple complaints from partners and multiple releases, RDLC is still absolute trash. You will still run into memory issues, it’s still slow as hell, it’s still tough to make changes.

To print >5,000 page catalog with images and data from all over the place in one go? Har Har…

So having add-on or a separate piece of software for catalog was out of the question. Putting everything in a central place like Business Central (AKA Dynamics NAV) is good, but RDLC is trash. What to do?

Figure It Out

First we needed to create an infrasture to house their item categories and the text descriptions of the catalog. That part of it was straightforward since we know Business Central (Dynamics NAV).

The next challenge was to actually print the thing out. RDLC simply didn’t work. Period.

It couldn’t handle the number of records that we’re going to pass to it, and it couldn’t handle the images we’re going to send to it.

Any developer that has worked with RDLC will tell you that trying to make a RDLC look good on a form type report will require a sacrifice of your first born on a specific day to the software Gods. Not to mention the margins and the page breaks…

The Solution

Our prayers seems to be answered with a simple tool from a company in Europe. ForNAV.

Note that I’m not getting paid to promote their product, infact, I’m paying them to use their product…

Not only was it easy to create the catalog, it could handle everything we threw at it.

Here’s the result printing from with in NAV:

The customer was extactic! This effectively cut their time to put together the catalog from 5 months to 5 minutes!

This is what they created for their catalog using NAV:

Not just printing catalog, this allows the customer to utilize the same report to print their weekly and monthly promotional catalogs at a fraction of the time.

Conclusion

The whole concept of ERP is to save you time and make processes more efficient.

Somehow, in the pursuit of integrating different silos of software togther, large software companies are losing sight of one simple goal why people use software in the first place; to make our lives easier.

I do miss those days where we can have one software with one interface where we can do what we needed to do and go home… But the industry and the customers wants to go where they want to go.

By the way, I’m still waiting for MSFT to trash RDLC.

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…

Roadmap for Dynamics 365 Business Central (Formerly Dynamics NAV)

Here’s the screenshot released by Marko during Directions Asia

regarding the future of Dynamics 365 Business Central (formerly Dynamics NAV)

It looks like the name Dynamics NAV 2018 will be the last release where the product is called Dynamics NAV…

For what it’s worth, I still prefer the name Navision.

Job Queue Being Deleted in Dynamics NAV 2017

Overview

As more of our clients are going live with NAV2017, we’re finding some inconsistencies on the features that were working as we thought it should, verses the way it’s working now.

One of such feature is the Job Queue function. Note that this only applies to NAV 2017, they’ve since rewrote how this process works in NAV 2018.

The purpose of a job queue is to run processes automatically at a preset time. For the process to run continuously, you would need to set the job to run as Recurring.

If you do not set the job queue entry as recurring, it would delete the Job Queue Entry because the process is only a one time deal. This feature was added because the users are now allowed to schedule their reports using job queue. Some reports/processes only needed to be ran once for the user.

The Problem

After the clients went live, we started noticing the jobs that were set to recurring was being deleted as well. This confused the hell out of us because there were nothing on MSDN that talks about Job Queue Entries that are deleted when it’s set to Recurring.

Digging into this, the problem is on Codeunit 453 – Job Queue – Enqueue. More specifically, a function called RemoveFailedJobs.

Looking at this, the system will remove any Job Queue Entry records that it runs into an error. So this means that at any given point if your mission critical job fails, it’ll simply remove it from running ever again…

Yes, I could’ve setup notifications to warn you if something failed… I didn’t need to do this extra step before..

This is a steep contrast to how Dynamics NAV Job Queue ran before. In addition, this is not how NAV 2018 behaves now.

Conclusion

You can comment out the code completely or just add the following code:

JobQueueEntry2.SETRANGE(“Recurring Job”,FALSE);

Doing this, the process will leave the jobs that are set to Recurring alone.

I’m not sure if Microsoft has address this in the later CU releases for Dynamics NAV 2017, but if not, I would highly recommend you modify the code so your mission critical processes does not simply disappear!

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.

Recap of Directions 2016 – Figuring It Out

Overview
This is a recap of my experience at Directions US 2016.

NAV Directions is an event hosted by NAV partners for NAV partners. In reality, it’s just a large Microsoft infomercial for partners. Microsoft has giving us what’s to come and the directions (pun?) they’re taking with the future of business software.

Welcome to Directions 2016: Figuring Sh*t Out
The NAV Directions committee should’ve created an appropriate name for this year’s event. The conference featured a lot of cool stuff, but also a lot of questions surrounding its details.

The event highlighted what Microsoft is currently doing as well as where they’re going with the product and the product ecosystem. However, a lot of what they’ve released to do seemed half-baked and left all of us wondering not only when Microsoft will be figuring their stuff out, but how will partners try to figure out what Microsoft is still trying to figure out so they can figure out what to do.

Important Takeaways
AppSource
In case you have not heard of it by now, Appsource is the way of the future that allows all developers to publish their mods for sale on Appsource. This is a welcomed news for independent developers as they can now sell their mods for the general public. It’s good for customers as well; Microsoft has indicated that they will “let the market decide” the pricing and the apps that are popular. Hopefully, we will see an end to outrageously expensive add-ons that are on the NAV channel.

Pros:
– Anyone and their moms and publish apps on the Appsource
– way to quickly get your mod out into the world without doing too much marketing.

Cons:
– You can have people that have no business doing NAV publishing crap on Appsource.
– No monetization?! It’s not a market if you can’t sell anything. Microsoft is still trying to figure this one out.

Extensions
It’s the way of the future. Microsoft has open encouraged all partners to develop their mods on Extensions. I will make a quick video on how to create an extension in a future blog post.

Pros:
– You can deploy it on multiple sites easily quickly
– Deploy it on Appsource for sale to customers that you would never otherwise talk to
Cons:
– Debugging, no one can see the source code. You can easily see the problem here in that users can be held hostage by the app developer for their financial data (this is not Angry Birds we’re talking about here).
– Still a ton of questions on flexibility of extensions. Microsoft and partners are still trying to figure this one out

Dynamics 365
The initial release will be called Dynamics 365 for Financials. It’s built on a Dynamics NAV 2017 platform. It will be part of the Office 365 offering at around $40 – $50 per user per month. The target for this product, as it stands, will be to replace Quickbooks Pro users. Later on, they will release (or unlock) more functionalities.

Pros:
– Appsource. You will get a wide varieties of add-ons that you can quickly buy and deploy.
– It’s cheap and packs the power of Dynamics NAV.
Cons:
– Frankly, I don’t even know who my clients buy their Office 365 from. How will NAV partners compete in this space? How will the NAV pros help in this sector? Perhaps the product will be so easy to use that you will not need a professional to help you. Still trying to figure out how to incorporate this as a VAR.

Conclusion
After leaving this event, I left with more questions and uncertainty than I came in with. It’ll be interesting on how it will all shake out.

Why am I doing Dynamics NAV

Overview
Recently, one of my employees challenged me about what my goal is for the company. I was taken a back because I never thought about this. I knew why I was working in this industry but I never thought it was relevant to tell anyone.

What started as a short e-mail paragraph turned into a… Well… an essay. My original intention was just to circulate within the company, but I haven’t made an actual confession on this blog in a while.

My Background
The times I’ve spent with my family are my most valuable moments. Why? Because when I was growing up, I didn’t have these moments.

My father owned a business and made a lot of money. My mom was a pretty good mom when she was present. Looking at it from the surface, everything was nice. But we had a lot of problem as a family. To this day, I never understood why my dad thought money and status was so valuable or why my mom thought gambling was more important than her kids.

I don’t blame them for what happened because it’s not their fault. They had to do what they did in order to survive.  Just like what my brother and sister had to do in order for us to survive. We’ve all made decisions that we’ve regretted looking back; however, at that particular moment in time (and that particular environment) it was the best possible decision we can make.

When I was probably 13 or 14, and I don’t remember what exactly happened, I cried in bed and made myself promise that one day I will start a family of my own and I will be a good husband and a good father.

I will not let my kids to have the same kind of childhood I had. I will always be available when they need me and I will be their father. I will love and cherish my wife with all my heart and never let her feel lonely.

The Miracle
I don’t know why. Maybe God took pity on me. I was able to achieve what I wanted. I met my wife and she gave me exactly what I was missing in my life. A stable family.

Although striving to become a good husband and a good father is still an ongoing process, there’s not a moment where I don’t feel blessed and feel that I’m incredibly lucky.

The Improvement
Because of my past, I frequently think about how we can finish our work in a more efficient and accurate manner. So we can quickly go home to our loved ones.

Every time I see people work until late at night, I always think about that person(s) waiting for them at home. But they couldn’t go home; they had to finish their work.

I want them to use that time at work, and instead use that to spend time with their kids and loved ones. Because time, once it’s gone. It’s gone.

Why ERP?
So why do I want to get into the ERP software industry?

My answer is that it was not my intention. You remembered when I said that I was lucky earlier? I think I really am.

When I was a student, I only had a student visa. After I graduated, I needed a company that was willing to sponsor for my permanent stay in the US. My grades weren’t that great and my social skills were lacking, but I made sure my determination and persistence was there. After countless interviews and networking/recruiting events, no companies hired me.

My lucky break came when one of my friends gave my resume to a company that sold Navision (my friend worked in a company that bought NAV). This company was very special, it was their strategy to hire a tone and fire quickly you did not work out within a few months.  During my 2.5 year at the company, I must’ve seen 30-40 people come and go, and we were only a 10 people company.

At the time when I got started, we had the Y2K problem. Within a month, there were on average of 3-4 implementations going on. It was trial by fire. Tiring, but fun.

The Revelation
I remembered my first year in this company. When I go to client sites to implement NAV, I couldn’t believe why people needed to work such long hours. What were they working on? Why does it take such a long time?

I always thought, if they can finish their work could they go home earlier?

This gave me the insight into how I can use software to help other people. I wanted to learn more about ERP (in particular Dynamics NAV) so I can help others.

This will become my tool to help others to have the opportunity to give what I’ve always wanted when I was growing up. A happy family.

Processing and Fixing Vendor 1099 Codes in Dynamics NAV

It’s that time of the year again. Time to send out those 1099 to your vendors in Dynamics NAV.

Here’s a quick video of how to process 1099s in Dynamcis NAV and how to process vendor 1099 invoices and and print out 1099 forms in Dynamics NAV (In 2 minutes or less no doubt).

If you forgot to put in the 1099 at the time of setup (which you should’ve done when you made your vendor sign that W-9 form), it will not be defaulted when you enter the purchase invoice. But don’t worry, here’s an object that will fix all of the historical transactions for the vendors with a valid 1099 code specified on the Vendor Card.

Note that this function will not address the situation where some invoices for the vendor are 1099 liable and some invoices that are not 1099 liable. This program will go through and modify all of the historical transactions assuming the 1099 code for all historical invoices are what’s setup on the Vendor Payment tab.

I would highly suggest that you get with your Dynamics NAV partner to do this with you.

Here’s the object. The object is Report 50095 – Fill in 1099. I’ve included the .fob and the .txt file:
FillIn1099

 

Hardware Requirements for Dynamics NAV 2013 “NAV 7”

Overview
Looking through the hardware requirements for Dynamics NAV 2013, it looks like there are a couple of things the end user will need. More noteable, it looks like now the computer has to be running at least Windows 7 in order to use the NAV 2013 Windows client.

There are mixed feelings about this, while I do understand that Windows XP is no longer supported at Microsoft, I’d safe at least half of our customers that are using NAV are still using Windows XP. So if an upgrade is considered by the end user, they will have to budget for the OS as well.

Not to mention the new customers that are considering Dynamics NAV as their ERP of choice over the competitors. If XP is running okay, why am I going to spend another chunk of money on each computer?

Options Available
Fortunately, the era of desktop computing is dying. We actually have quite a few customers replacing the desktop computers with Thin Client boxes for each non-executive people in the office. What people basically do is RDP into a powerful server to do all of their data entry, report processing, e-mails, etc.

Let me say that these thin clients has dramatically lowered the IT cost of maintenance for each user in the company, not to mention virus infections, going to sites they’re not suppose to, etc. So the next time you’re planning to do a mass upgrade for all of the computers in your office, thin clients may be the better option. This is especially true in this case where the new ERP requires new technology.

Conclusion
Depending on how hard the community pushes back, maybe they’ll add XP compatibility probably as a service pack or something. I personally do not believe this is necessary, but I’m just one man.

Here’s a complete list of the requirements if you’re upgrading to Dynamics NAV 2013 or Navision 7.0.