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.

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.

Registered for Directions US and NAV Techdays 2016

After careful deliberations and weighing of all options, we decided that I will attend two more events this year: Directions US and NAV Techdays. Lucky for me, they are two of my favorite events.

Directions US is organized by and for the partner channel. Partners go here to work on their knowledge, to learn about the latest development in our industry, to see what new products are available, and not in the least to network with our peers in the partner channel. Personally I like this event because there is a minimum of marketing fluff that is directed at the end user, and people are hungry for knowledge.

There were some other people that wanted to go to Directions as well. Because it will be held in Phoenix this year, which is just a 2 hour drive for me, it didn’t take long to pick me to go to this one. It is looking like I might even be able to present a session or two.

 

NAV Techdays is THE premier technical event for NAV professionals. This will only be my second time at this event (why I never went before that is still a mystery to me) but I could not look at a year as a successful one without going to Antwerpen in Belgium.

The content at NAV Techdays is second to none: two days of 90 minute sessions, all deep dives into the most geeky technical topics that you can think of. It would be an absolute honor to present at this event, but I’d have to brush up on my skills a LOT before I’d feel comfortable standing up in front of that crowd.

Before the event itself there are two days of workshops. These workshops are not included in the event price, but they are all well worth the cost of admission. I will be attending “PowerShell – Black Belt” by Eric ‘Waldo’ Wauters and “Deep Dive Eventing & Extensions” by Arend-Jan Kauffmann. I cannot wait to get those started.

See you in Phoenix and Antwerpen!!

NAS on the Service Tier

If you have made heavy investments in automated solutions that run in NAS you can breathe easy, because chances are that it still works in NAV 2013!!

When Microsoft first came out with the news that the Classic Client was history, and that a number of object types were going to be discontinued, there was a LOT of speculation in the NAV world. Most of this speculation was based on unverified rumors, baseless “common sense” applied to unverified assumptions. One of these assumptions was “the Classic Client will be gone, so therefore NAS will be gone too”. Technically, these people were right of course. With a few minor restrictions (no forms, no dataports, no user input, no dialog boxes), NAS was nothing but a Classic Client without a user interface that runs as a Windows Service. Because the Classic Client no longer exists, NAS as we knew it is indeed gone.

What many of these people don’t realize is that the NAV team actually cares a great deal about making the life of the NAV partner channel easier. Everyone that knows about NAS knows how many products are built around it, even standard NAV functionality is implemented through the use of NAS (Job Queue, ADCS, to name a couple). It was in everyone’s interest to have a good alternative for NAS, and I believe the result is a very solid way to provide the ability to automate just about any user task in NAV. Coupled with the ability to create NAV sessions programatically, I believe that there are even more possibilities.

One aspect of your existing NAS implementation may cause some difficulties, and that is the fact that COM is no longer supported in NAV 2013. For instance, the “CP Timer” no longer works, the “Bus Adapters” no longer exist, and many other automation components will no longer work. For every use of COM you will need to find an alternative, whether this is .NET interoperability or whether you will need to find an alternative component. If you have existing NAS solutions, and you are thinking about upgrading to NAV 2013, please get in touch with your partner and start investigating what needs to happen (if anything) to keep your NAS solution running.

For a long time I’ve known about NAS on the Service Tier, and I’ve been looking forward to the time that I would finally be able to share this information. So sit back and relax, grab a cup of coffee and start the video. I’ll explain how to set up an instance of the Service Tier for NAS Services, and I’ll show you a number of ways that you can implement NAS on the Service Tier.

First published August 8, 2012

SQL Setup Essentials for NAV

The way that SQL Server is set up can greatly affect the performance of your NAV database. People often ask me about how to properly set up SQL Server for NAV databases, and it is a common topic in the online forums. I’ve posted a clip on YouTube in which I cover the essential elements of how to properly set up SQL Server for NAV.

First published April 18, 2012

Import Flat Files with XMLPorts

After reading this blog and watching this YouTube video, you should have enough information to start figuring out how to use XMLPorts to import flat text files, even when this file contains data for multiple tables.

When I first got started as a NAV developer, I was assigned a senior whose job it was to educate me about what it takes to be an effective NAV developer. Whenever I had a question he would always challenge me to figure it out myself, while maybe giving me a tiny little push in the right direction. At first I thought that was very annoying, but it forced me to develop what is probably the most important skill as a developer: the skill of “figuring out how stuff works”. Once he was satisfied that I had spent an adequate amount of time and brainpower to a problem, he would take the time to give me a lesson. Sometimes he would make these lessons up on the spot, because he had to figure it out himself. Those lessons are my favorite memories of my time learning how to be a NAV developer, and oddly enough most of them weren’t even about syntax or objects, but about “how to figure stuff out”.

Every day, I make my rounds through the online communities, in search of questions to answer. Sometimes, I find a question that makes me wonder myself how something works. When this happens, I take a standard NAV database, and spend some time in the evening hours to figure it out. The past few days there’s been a question about how to import data for multiple tables into the RTC from a flat file, using an XMLPort. Now, at my work, all the developers attend a weekly conference call. On these weekly calls one of us presents a technology, or some tips on how to do certain things. We had recently held one about XMLPorts for the RTC, so I felt confident that this one would not be too big of a problem for me.

While my wife took my daughter to dance class, I worked on a couple of XMLPorts for the RTC, to import Purchase Invoice information into NAV. The YouTube clip below describes the results of those efforts. Hopefully this will help you understand how this works.

First published April 24, 2012

NAV2013 Beta – OData Introduction

With NAV 2013, Microsoft has added the capability to expose data from your NAV system as OData Web Services. Where that differs from regular Web Services (which in the NAV Server management snap-in is now identified as ‘SOAP Services’), is that OData only exposes data feeds, and within the context of Dynamics NAV is read-only. Click here to read all about OData, and here for an overview of OData in NAV 2013.

I’ve put together a new YouTube clip to show you where to find the OData Web Services in the NAV Server Management tool and the Web Wervices table from the RTC, as well as a couple of examples of how to consume them. As you will find out fairly quickly in this video, I have a LOT to learn about OData. I wanted to share what I do know though, and give you an idea of where to start looking.

This provides a new way to expose data from NAV, in an industry standard way, although I am sure that true OData experts will find missing pieces. It is another possibility for us to expand the reach of the ERP application that we know and love. I hope you enjoy the video, and that you will be inspired to start learning about it, and maybe even get some ideas about how to use them for your business.

First published May 23, 2012