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.

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 ūüôā

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 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.

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.