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.

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.