Registered for NAV Techdays 2017

It’s that time of the year. The official announcement came in on Twitter that registration is open for NAV Techdays 2017, which is again held in Antwerp of course. The official two day conference is 16 and 17 November, but I consider the pre-conference workshops to be part of the event, so a full 4 days of deep technical knowledge sharing.

The session schedule has not been published, but we do know the pre-conference content, go take a look at the Sessions page to check out what is available to you. The familiar sessions will cover PowerShell by Waldo, JavaScript by Vjeko, automated testing by Luc van Vugt, SQL Server performance by Jörg, and of course the 2 day design patterns class by Mark. The new topics include how to SaaSify your software architecture, how to use Visual Studio Code (it is very important to learn about this one) and how to develop extensions with it by Arend-Jan. Another exciting one is the SCM workshop by Sören, he will show you how to make it work directly in VSCode.

Only a few regular sessions have been announced (some fantastic content by our friends at Microsoft), but I have a feeling that we will see a super deep dive into all things related to Dynamics 365. I cannot wait to go to Antwerp, and I hope to see you there.

NAV codebase for Dynamics 365

Something that was kind of a big deal happened this week. During the keynote at Directions ASIA in Bangkok, Marko Perisic (General Manager, Microsoft Dynamics SMB) announced that Dynamics 365 for Financials and Dynamics NAV will operate on the same codebase.

There are two reasons why this is a big deal. First it falls right in line with Microsoft’s “AND strategy” when it comes to cloud ERP and on premise ERP. BOTH are essential to Microsoft, and BOTH will have a place in their product line. Second, and this is where NAV is kind of unique, it will allow Dynamics 365 for Financials to be “Full NAV” in the cloud. Let that sink in: Microsoft is committing to having full Dynamics NAV functionality in Dynamics 365. Whether you implement in the cloud or on premise, your ERP will operate on the same codebase. As far as I can tell, there are not many ERP products that provide this. I have a feeling that it is a trend that many will follow though.

The Dynamics 365 codebase has always been the same as NAV, but only parts of its functionality was exposed. The assumption was that the Dynamics 365 codebase could potentially diverge from the on prem version of the product, although how that would happen was not always very clear. Now that there is a firm commitment to keeping a single codebase, the next step is that Dynamics 365 will at some point provide “Full NAV” capabilities, which was in fact also part of the same keynote.

The nuts and bolts are still in progress. Dynamics 365 is updated constantly and NAV only gets monthly cumulative updates and annual version updates. There is also a lot of movement in how add-ons and customizations will be implemented, although the magic word there is “Extensions”.

For Microsoft to come out and announce the equal codebase though….. that is a Very Big Deal.

Get Started with Dynamics 365 Apps

Dynamics 365 for Financials has been out for a while, and by now you have probably learned about how the functionality can be extended rather than modified. Instead of modifying the application objects directly, development is done using “extensions”, which are published as an “App” in AppSource.

What is unclear to a lot of partners is how this works exactly. What do you need to know? What do you need to do? Where do you get the help that you need? Microsoft has put together a few resources to get you started and to get you the help that you need.

You may need a partner source login and/or an Azure account to be able to access these pages. These links won’t answer all your questions, but you should find enough information to get started. Good luck!

Webinar – Dynamics NAV Dev Tools Preview

This morning I was part of a panel to host a webinar to show the development tools preview. It was my pleasure to provide the demo part and show the attendees a taste of what is to come in the new development tools for Dynamics NAV. The demo part was just about 25 minutes, and then we opened up the floor for questions. We had some good questions, and it was a lot of fun to be able to share that with everyone.

The webinar was recorded and uploaded to YouTube, and you can watch it here. Oh, my name is not Erik Ernst, not sure how that happened 🙂

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:

screen-shot-2016-11-29-at-4-22-41-pm

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 🙂

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.