Uplifting Service – Book Review

In this book, Ron Kaufman lays out the steps you can take to build a sustainable culture that delivers outstanding service every day. He offers the tools and practices that have been proven effective in businesses, governments, communities, and homes. Through perspective-changing insights and case studies, you will learn how the world’s best performing companies have changed the game through service – and how you too can follow this proven path to an uplifting transformation. (from the book jacket back flap)

I saw the author at a business event called “Growth Summit“, where he was one of the main speakers. His session took all morning, so he was able to really drill down into his views on service culture. He spoke at length about the challenges of building a service culture at the Singapore airport, and how a proper service culture runs through the entire organization, not just the customer service department. Normally I don’t really enjoy ‘high-energy’ speakers that run around the stage and try to engage the audience, but this guy really spoke to me for some reason. It made total sense to me that a service oriented attitude will elevate the entire organization. It’s been a while since the event and since I’ve read the book, but I thought it could be helpful if you are thinking about improving your service culture.

The book takes you step by step through the process that Mr. Kaufman has designed. It starts by a bit of soul searching WHY you want to change the culture, and how to take the LEAD from all levels of the organization. It describes how to do a proper inventory of your business processes to BUILD a proper service language and vision for the company. Finally it describes to have a predictably high service level it takes effort to LEARN what makes your organization work and to DRIVE a continuous search for ever increasing service level.

The part that I always remember is what he calls the 6 levels of service. The video that I linked above is the first in a series, and he talks about the 6 levels of service in part 3, and it continues in part 4. Pay close attention to how service levels go down when you don’t work at keeping them up; what is unbelievable service today will be basic in the near future, as he explains in part 5.

Uplifting Service is another one of those books that can really inspire you to take action, but to really make an impact, you really need to bring in a consultant to help you through the process. I made a similar comment on my review of Scaling Up. Maybe there’s a pattern with these books that I’ve picked up at the Growth Summit :).

Service is a mindset, and it is a two way street. You give good service, you get good customers. Reading this book has helped me recognize organizations that do or don’t have it. Building a service culture takes a lot of effort, especially at a larger scale. This book may not have given me all the tools that I need, but it definitely helped me understand what it takes.

Early Christmas Present – NAV Developer Tools Preview

At Directions in the US this year, Microsoft announced that they would release a preview of the new development tools for Dynamics NAV. Today, they have delivered on that promise, and you can try them out in your Azure subscription. Head on over to the Development Tools Preview for Dynamics NAV to read all about it. You will find instructions on how to get started there. Go to the New NAV Development Environment on MSDN to read more about the details.

If you decide to take the tools for a test run, and you find any issues with them, you can report on those issues in the AL Github issue tracker. Go to The Microsoft/AL Github page, click on the ‘Issues’ tab and create a new issue there. Microsoft is monitoring the issues there.

The important part to keep in mind about this preview is that it gives us a preview of how development for extensions is evolving. The goal is to simplify the process to where all we need to do is write the code and hit a build button, and all internals are taken care of by the environment.

Remember, this is just a preview of the tools. It is not supposed to be flawless. Microsoft is also working on many other tools to complement VSCode and provide a development experience that will meet the NAV developer’s needs.

NAV in VSCode – Hello World

Today marks something quite unique, at least for the NAV world. Microsoft is actually giving us a preview of a preview product that they have announced for Christmas.

During this year’s conference season, Microsoft has shown their vision of the future development tools for Dynamics NAV. We’ve seen various demonstrations of how we will be doing development for NAV in Visual Studio Code, a lightweight development tool. Today they have put some sample files on GitHub (Check it out here) for all of us to look at and to critique.

Visual Studio Code (VSCode for short) is available on Windows, but also on MacOS. Since my main computer is a MacBook, I wanted to see if it really does work. To be modifying NAV objects within VSCode on a MacBook is an almost surreal experience, but here’s proof:


The sample is a simple “Hello World” application, with a couple of codeunits and a so-called ‘page extension’ object. Part of the vision for future development is to make building extensions easier. Without going into any detail of why that is important, this will make extension and app development a LOT easier to do.

Some of my thoughts:

  • Microsoft is finally taking NAV development into a professional development tool. Hopefully this will inspire (or at least not deter) a new generation of NAV developers
  • json files for configuration and for the app signature will make automating deployment much easier
  • No more control ID’s, which means those will no longer cause upgrade headaches
  • I would like to also get rid of object ID’s, which they have said that they are looking into. Current licensing is based on object ID’s though, so I’m not holding my breath
  • It will be interesting to see if there is any automatic sorting by control type. For instance will you be able to mix fields and functions in a table object, or will the compiler automatically sort this for you. There’s potential to really mess up the object’s readability
  • This is Visual Studio Code, not Visual Studio. It is still to be seen whether C/AL will be a fully functioning .NET language, and it is still unknown whether we’ll have access to other .NET goodies from this editor
  • Lastly – we are getting just a preview of the tool. Nothing was said with certainty about when this is ready for prime time. What is REALLY cool though is that Microsoft is inviting everyone to participate in the process

Go check out the files for yourself, and if you’d like you can even contribute to the GitHub project. For me, this is a very exciting prospect, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

NAV Techdays 2016 Recap

This past week was the NAV Techdays event in Antwerpen. If you don’t know what this is, head out to their website and read the ‘About’ section. This year’s edition was I think the 7th time, and it was the first time that there were more than 1,000 attendees! In my opinion, this event is BY FAR the best technical event for NAV, head and shoulders above any other event, not in the least because there are two days of pre-conference workshops.

Last year was the first time I had gone to NAV Techdays, and after the truly exhausting three days, I was utterly satisfied and I promised myself that I would do everything in my power to come back every year going forward.

My highlights:

  • Pre-conference workshops. I had signed up for Black Belt Powershell by Eric ‘Waldo’ Wauters, and for Deep Dive into Events/Extensions by Arend-Jan Kauffmann. Both days were very intense, there was a TON of new information for me, and I was utterly done at the end of both days. The knowledge that I have gotten out of these two workshops will help me stay relevant as a technical person in the NAV world. These two workshops alone were worth traveling to Europe for.
  • Extensions related sessions – I made it a point to attend as many sessions about extensions as possible, since I believe it is the most important technological development in our industry this year. Especially Gunnar’s session about migrating to Events and Waldo’s session about Extensions Best Practices were eye openers
  • PowerBI and NAV by Steven Renders was absolutely INCREDIBLE. The sheer amount of information that this guy put into his session was just unbelievable. I bet he could fill two days of proper training about all the things that he showed us. Well done Steven!

I would have liked to see the sessions about Office 365 and the design patterns session, but I can’t be in two places at the same time. Lucky for me (and everyone else) Luc records all of the sessions and puts them on YouTube. He even puts the videos in individual playlists per year, for instance you can see all videos for 2016 here.

NAV Techdays is my favorite event. The sessions, the pre-conference workshops, the super-comfortable venue, the amenities, the production, the expo area, meeting my kind of peeps in person. It feels like this is “my” event, and I hope to be able to go each and every year from here on out.

Update 11/20/2016: Slide decks available here

Update 11/23/2016: Added links to YouTube videos

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 🙂

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.