The Microsoft Cloud

When I hear people talk about ‘the cloud’, I sometimes wonder if they really know what they’re talking about. For sure when I hear the sales pitch of “NAV in the cloud”, the hairs at the back of my neck stand up, because I know a bunch of different ways that you could interpret that. Are you implementing NAV in a virtual machine that is hosted online? Are you providing a managed service? Soon it might mean a Dynamics 365 implementation. Not to mention how many companies almost seem to gleefully try to confuse you even further when they talk about the cloud.

A few years back I was attending a Microsoft presentation, and they were showing us their plans to build some brand new data centers all over the globe. As they were talking about those data centers, it dawned on me…. The cloud is nothing more than buying processing power from some provider or other. Microsoft has their Azure platform, Google and Amazon have theirs, but all that “the cloud” means is that those providers charge you for the computing power to provide those services.

I was reminded of that presentation when I saw this video in my Twitter feed. Have a look and see if you find it as fascinating as I do.

The Skinny on Extensions

Earlier this month I wanted to write about what’s new in NAV 2017, and my fellow MVP and good friend Eric ‘Waldo’ Wauters beat me to it. So, my next plan was to write something comprehensive about extensions. I am signed up for a deep dive workshop next month, and I want to be well prepared. Again, as I am collecting information, this guy publishes a large post about extensions, and judging from the title it looks like it was the first of three posts. So…. instead of doing the work myself, I waited for him to post number three, and give you the links in here: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

I could try and say something intelligent about these posts, but I’d make myself look foolish. After the workshop I’ll have plenty to share anyway. Enjoy ūüôā

What’s New – NAV 2017

Directions EMEA was this past week, and I was not there, which makes me sad. I wish I were there, not in the least because it was in Prague, and I’ve never been to Prague, and I REALLY want to visit Prague…

Anyway, ever since Directions US in Chandler, AZ, I was planning to write about what’s new in NAV 2017. Then, right before the weekend that I was going to work on that, my fellow MVP and good friend Eric ‘Waldo’ Wauters beat me to it. So, please go to his website and read this post.

Most important:

  • Office 365 integration
  • Flow and Power Apps integration
  • Power BI right on the Role Center
  • Some extensions out of the box (PayPal, Ceridian, Quickbooks Migration). By the way, there are mane more capabilities with Extensions, HUGE improvement over NAV 2016
  • Cortana Intelligence

Dynamics 365 Primer

Real quick one today, basically a repost of a CustomerSource post today.

The new Dynamics 365 offerings are a bit…. shall we say…. confusing? Ambiguous? The Dynamics 365 page itself seems to have a large number of products on it, they call it all sorts of names, there seem to be a couple of different editions, for different markets. This post is a good attempt at creating some clarity around Dynamics 365.

In a nutshell:

  • Microsoft wants to re-invent business processes. Personally I think that’s BS because the processes themselves won’t really change, it’s just that those processes will be executed by a set of online integrated products. Don’t get me wrong, the technology is moving at lightning speed, and the capabilities are mind-blowing. Microsoft calls it ‘digital transformation’. Now it is REALLY awesome to be able to have a conversation with a prospect, create a quote/order right from your email, have everything posted immediately in your financial system, and see sales figures in a dashboard in real time. The technology to make that happen is now becoming a reality, but the business process itself is really not that different.
  • Clarity about the Dynamics Portfolio. Really important to understand the various products and how they connect and relate. Dynamics 365 Business/Enterprise are based on NAV/AX respectively, GP/SL will technically not have a cloud offering. The consequences for SL/GP partners is that they will have to learn NAV/AX to go into the cloud.
  • Other Microsoft technologies, such as the common data model, PowerBI, Power Apps, Flow, Azure… These will all be offered in a way that allows you to integrate them in a seamless way. You can extract data for your PowerBI dashboard from any other Dynamics offering, and present the relationships in one look. You can use Flow and Power Apps to build your custom workflow, and¬†use data from multiple systems in real time. VERY powerful stuff.

Have a read in this article, there are a ton of links in there for you to follow down the rabbit hole.

Lift and Shift – Directions US 2016 Recap

Directions US 2016, which was held at the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort in Chandler, AZ, was another very successful event in my opinion.¬†Beside the fact that the resort¬†is just a couple of hours down the mountain from my hometown of Flagstaff (so that is an awesome drive with the top down), this year’s program provided a wealth of great content.

Since Microsoft restructured their event rotation, it’s become more difficult for partners to get good content. Envision (which was supposed to be the replacement for Convergence) did not provide any Dynamics-specific content at all (read my thoughts on that here), and the Directions committee has done a fantastic job to step up their game this year. Whether you were looking for marketing content, project management, functionality, or deep technical information, there was an extremely rich variety of sessions to choose from.

The most important message this year was Dynamics NAV 2017 AND Dynamics 365 (notice the emphasis on the word “and”). Ever since Microsoft started their ‘Cloud first, Mobile first’ campaign, there has been a fear that this would come at a cost to the on premise business, which is the bread and butter of the majority of the NAV channel. Paul White came on stage and¬†announced their commitment to the “AND strategy”. Yes, Dynamics 365 is the next big thing. Yes, on prem is still essential to Microsoft’s NAV strategy. If you follow my Twitter feed from the one above here, you’ll see pictures that I took from the keynote. It was good to get Microsoft’s commitment to making sure that cloud and on prem will BOTH be served.

What was very interesting to me was the presentation on how they look at taking NAV functionality into the cloud, in what was called “Lift and Shift”. The “Lift” part was the move into cloud infrastructure, where you can deploy virtual servers in the cloud, and essentially deploy the system in the same way you’ve always done with physical servers. The “Shift” part was where these pieces will be deployed in the cloud directly. Think about the managed services, where you don’t have to worry about any infrastructure. You select the pieces that you want, and it gets deployed directly in the cloud.

About Dynamics NAV versus Dynamics 365 – they make it sound like these are two completely different systems, but you have to remember that Dynamics 365 Business Edition is based on NAV. Although they have not ruled out a divergence of the codebase, when you run Dynamics 365 Business, you are literally running actual NAV code. The technology allows for only certain parts of the functionality to be visible in Dynamics 365.

This year I did two sessions:

  • Basic Development Best Practices – with Dynamics 365 Business being based on NAV, there will be a significant influx of new NAV partners that will develop their IP, and my session was intended to show them around the available tools. You can¬†get the slides here, although I spent most of the session showing them around the tools. It was nice to have some experienced NAV people in the room who were nice enough to share their expertise
  • Partner Technical Panel – this session was a round table type discussion, where we talked about current developments in NAV technology. It was a lively discussion between pretty geeky people

I think this year’s Directions was one of the best I have attended. The organization was terrific, great content, and it was well attended.¬†Next year’s event will be in Orlando at the Grande Lakes JW Marriot, September 17-20, 2017. Hopefully I’ll be there again, and I’ll see you there.

Scaling Up – Book Review

If your management is overwhelmed by all the ‘stuff’ that needs to be taken care of, and you want to focus on a few select things that matter most, this book can help you figure out what to focus on first, and how to prioritize the organizing principles in your organization. It takes a LOT of energy and an executive team that is 100% committed to implement though, so make sure that this is the right fit for your organization.

The author, Verne Harnish, runs a consulting company called Gazelles. This company focuses on ‘executive education’, and offers consulting services for growing companies. The book ‘Scaling Up‘ is the¬†companion to Gazelle’s flagship corporate program, which helps owners and CEO’s navigate the growth of their businesses. A¬†Gazelles coach will come in and guide the company to properly organize the pieces, using¬†the book and some other tools, to get that job done. You could certainly just read the book and draw inspiration from it, but the real value comes from the advise you get from the coach.

Scaling Up distills a successful business into four major decision areas: People, Strategy, Execution, and Cash. For each of these decision areas, the book describes what they mean, why they are important, and what you can do to optimize each area. The theory is that if you get all four of these areas right, then success will be yours.

The book hits all the major self-evident aspects of modern business (the right people in the right place, everyone is accountable, focus on your niche, don’t get distracted, implement measurable KPI’s, etcetera). What I like about it is that it is structured well; it is very easy to follow but there is a lot of depth in each element of the program.

You can tell that the book is written with extensive experience behind it, but you do need the experience and knowledge of a coach to really understand what is behind the book. As a standalone book you might get a lot of inspiration for structuring your organization, but I don’t think it goes deep enough to really have a lot of value.

I also wanted to mention that Gazelles also¬†organizes a number of events where a bunch of speakers, who all write books in the corporate world, come out and try to capture your imagination, buy their book and hopefully hire them to come help you implement what they write about. I’ve attended the ‘Growth Summit’ once, and I was impressed with the line-up of the speakers, and I was thoroughly inspired to take real action. For all you CEO’s out there – if you could use some inspiration, or if you want to do some real bonding with your executive team, I can definitely recommend attending one of the Gazelles events.

 

Presenting at Directions US 2016

Just today I got word that I will be presenting at Directions US in Phoenix. Neither session has an official name yet but with this information you should be able to find them on the schedule once dates and times are finalized.

First, I’ll present a session about basic best practices for development in Dynamics NAV. Dynamics 365 comes in two flavors. The first is Enterprise Edition, which is based on Dynamics AX. The other flavor is the Business Edition,which is based on Dynamics NAV. Because there are the only two flavors, there is going to be a big influx of Microsoft partners that will need to do development in Dynamics NAV.

Eventually, the goal is to educate partners in how to set up their development practice, and the first step is to learn about some best practices of how to do the actual development itself. This is where my session comes in. Not very exciting stuff for seasoned NAV pros, but if you are a Microsoft partner that wants an introduction into NAV development, this is for you.

The other session will be a panel discussion about the current and future state of the technology for Dynamics NAV. Me and some other MVP’s will be happy to answer any questions you may have, and hopefully have a lively discussion. In my experience, there will be plenty of people in the audience who will have a lot of add to the discussion. These types of sessions are always fun to attend.

This is the view from my office in Flagstaff, AZ. I can’t wait to drive down the mountain in September and meet you at Directions in Phoenix.

Extensions! Extensions! Extensions!

Just a quick post today about something that is probably the most important thing to learn as a NAV developer, which is Extensions.

I remember going to an event where Steve Ballmer did the keynote. It was a technical conference, and he started his talk by almost screaming “DEVELOPERS! DEVELOPERS! DEVELOPERS!”. It was meant to make the people in the audience, who were almost all developers, like the most important people on the face of the earth. He kept hammering on the point that developers were THE MOST IMPORTANT to Microsoft, and showed us all kinds of evidence that this was the case.

This past year or so has seen a big push toward this new thing in NAV development called ‘Extensions’. Rather than modifying the base code of the product, which is what most of the NAV partner channel is doing for their customers, extensions allows you to create custom functionality without actually touching the base code itself. Coming back from Directions this year, it has become clear that Microsoft is ALL IN on moving NAV development toward extensions.¬†My fellow MVP and good friend Eric ‘Waldo’ Wauters wrote about extensions as well this week, so I won’t bother repeating that part.

What I want you to know about extensions is that as a technical NAV professional it is essential for you to learn about extensions. Your ability to keep your relevance in this industry will depend on whether you are able to effectively use extensions to develop a custom solution for NAV. Apps for Dynamics 365 are only possible with extensions, but it might even become necessary to use extensions for on prem implementations.

I’m signed up for a full day pre-conference workshop¬†at¬†NAV Techdays¬†this year, which will hopefully give me the necessary skills to get that started for me. What are you planning?

Dynamics 365 and AppSource

I read this blog today, and I tweeted about it too. What struck me about the article is how it talks about how Microsoft wants to help you focus on your business while providing a connected set of systems that seamlessly work together for you.

You might have read about ‘Project Madeira’, for instance on Waldo’s blog, or Erik Hougaard’s blog, or many more just like it. Even Marko Perisic, the General Manager for Dynamics SMB¬†wrote about it. Today’s announcement is about where Madeira leads, and it’s called “Dynamics 365”¬†and the new “Microsoft AppSource”.

The landing page for Dynamics 365¬†is still very confusing to me.¬†There seem to be a lot of products underneath it all, like ‘For Sales’ or ‘For Operations’ and more like that. Then on the pricing page there is another subdivision into ¬†an “Enterprise Edition” and a “Business Edition” where you can play around with some configurations. Now some of those are based on NAV and some of those are based on AX. What always annoys me is that it is not clear at all to figure out what is what. If the Business Edition is based on NAV, how come I can only see a small subset of the functionality?

The part that does seem to be clear is that there will be a store of some sort where you can purchase, and they have called this store “AppSource”, check out this link. They even created a video with one of those supremely irritating cute little Ukulele ditties.

The article goes into some marketing fluff like “Helping customers transform with a new approach to business process” and “technology is transforming our lives”, but overall it does a pretty good job I think to talk about how business processes interact and how you need different systems to execute those processes. There are a lot of moving parts, like PowerBI, Cortana, Office 365, common data model, work flow, and a bunch of other ones. The purpose of the article seems to be that Microsoft is working on putting together a set of cloud solution that can help you put it all together.

Two new names to keep track of: Dynamics 365 and Microsoft AppSource. I’m sure in the months to come there will be a lot of new information about these. If you are a NAV partner, I would certainly consider going to Directions this year, and as an end user I’d look at the NAVUG events.

MVP Award Number 12

Ever since I received my first MVP award back in 2005, July 1st is a day where the first thing I do is check my email. This year I actually did not expect to get the award again, because I have not spent as much time in the community as I would like to this past year.

Wouldn’t you know, there was an email from Microsoft, congratulating me on receiving the 2016 Microsoft MVP Award. This is one of those things that gives me this very strange disproportionate level of pride. There are not many people who receive this award, even though there are many people who spend large amounts of time in the community. Still, to be singled out for this feels strange. A full dozen is pretty good.

I feel very fortunate to be part of this community, it is always a pleasure to meet people in person and talk about we help each other and how we can do better yet.