I started working with Navision in 1990 and since then I've done almost everything in this industry.
In 1995 I started the Dynamics User Group, formerly Navision Online User Group and Microsoft Business Solutions User Group. Here on my blog I write mostly about the Dynamics Community, my experiences with Microsoft and especially the Dynamics NAV and Navision projects I'm working on, but also how it is to work as a self-employed Navision freelancer, Navision contractor or whatever you call it.
Have you ever considered using “off-shore resources” for your projects? If you work in “the west” or should we just say in countries with an hourly NAV developer rate of USD +100, then most likely you have. Especially if you work on large projects.
But have you ever been in a project using these so-called off-shore resources? And how did it go?
My friend Peik has done this many time and have written a blog post about how to outsource your development tasks, especially to off-shore resources. Peik gives some tips on how to make your outsourced projects a success. They primary focus on:
I completely agree with all of his comment’s and tips. If you decide to outsource your projects, then that’s a list you need to save and remember.
Now that we know a little about how to do it, then the big questions is, if you should outsource your projects?
If you read Peik’s post, then you also understand that there are a lot of things you need to focus on and give a lot more attention, compared to only using inhouse/sourced resources. You need a very experienced project manager/architect and often much more time on design, documentation and QA. Don’t expect that it comes easy. Face-to-face meetings between the inhouse and offshore teams are very valuable, not just via Skype with video.
My personal experience has primary been gained by working as the ERP solution architect on large international NAV projects. So that’s in a customer environment. Peik’s recommendations are based on his experience in the partner channel. But they are just as valid when used by a customer managed inhouse NAV project.
In the offshore projects I have worked in, we estimated about 15 minutes per outsourced hour for extra project management, communication and quality control. And that’s where you have “your own” team of more or less fully booked developers.
If it’s a one-time project of less than 200-300 development hours, then I would say forget it. And still it could easily take you at least 2-3 project of that size, before you would start seeing the results your expected.
If you are a customer, and your use a Dynamics partner who are using outsourced developers, then make sure to check out references first. If your project is the first they are outsourcing, then I would be scared.
The most successful tasks I have outsourced are within development. And here as already said, primary larger, pre-designed coding tasks. But the more you know your offshore team the smaller task you can assign them. If you have a large user base and a lot of user support, then that could also be an area, just watch time differences.
You have to make sure that your team stay's the same as much as possible. Each time a new developer is assigned to your team, then expect the same delay in productivity, as if you hired a new in-house developer. Here you need to follow the same advises as if you are managing your own employees. If they get bored working on your project, they are more likely to go work for a different company. And much easier if they just have to switch tables.
In the same way, don’t be afraid to tell the company hired them through, if some the developers you were assigned does not live up to your expectations after “a few tries”. Just as you would do if they were your own employees.
As Peik also points out, documentation is very important. It always is, but here even more so here, as it is often the primary source of knowledge transfer. You need to extra carefully document everything. It’s not enough to write a simple requirement specification in a few lines, like just forwarding an error message from a user. If you want things to be done in a special way, then you need to say how. If you have a Skype video meeting, always remember the minutes with any decisions or any follow-up points.
If you are in a company with large enough projects to consider outsourcing, then you probably already have always spend quite a lot of time documenting the processes and standards to be used. At least that’s been my experience as an ERP solution architect. But make sure that your outsourced team are aware of these standards. They should be as easy to use and as close to “Microsoft standards” as possible.
Left is then only to enforce the standards, verify that they are followed. Have a strict code review, before merging any changes with your core system. Give a clear feedback, Skype is often much better than just an email.
If you are not just doing a few projects, but to work with a good full-time team, over a longer period, then yes.
I cannot recommend it unless you give it 100%, as it will take more than one project to get and see the benefits.
To have success with outsourced resources you need to treat them exactly like you would treat any other in-house employees. Which is a lot harder, when they are not in your physical office, but 1000’s of miles away. If you take your time and extra efforts, then you may have great team of relatively low cost Microsoft Dynamics developers.
Just a few days ago I wrote that there would be no new version of Dynamics NAV this year. Instead a new Dynamics 365 "Tenerife" would be released in Spring 2018. Code name "Tenife" would become a "common platform" for both Dynamics NAV and what used to be known as Dynamics 365 for Financials/Finance and Operations, Business Edition. This was announced at the Dynamics partner conference Directions in Orlando on September 18th.
I primary work at end-users, so personally I did not see the big issue. There is nothing worse than buggy releases and I'd rather wait a little longer. But I was not personally in Orlando, so I only had some of the story. It was not so much a question about NAV 2018 being buggy, even if the new AL still is not quite where it needs to be. But that Microsoft seemed to change much more than just the release date of NAV 2018.
Already at the conference this had made a lot of the partners both very upset and confused. Upset because Microsoft not long ago had announced, at a closed partner conference, that there would be a release in Q4, as there had been since the release of NAV 2013. Thus a lot of partners had already lined up customers, ready to go-live as soon as it would be released. And confused because the announcements had been so unclear especially in regards to licensing and pricing.
So at closing session on the conference September 20th., Marko Perisic (General Manager for Dynamics SMB) said that they had heard the feedback. And that we would hear their "reply" soon. Soon, like in not 6 months.
Well it didn't take 6 months to get Microsoft's reply. Friday my fellow MVP Erik Hougaard were the first to spot that there is going be a NAV 2018 released this year.
This was announced by Alysa Taylor in the Microsoft Dynamics 365 Blog. Alysa is General Manager of Global Marketing for the Cloud & Enterprise Business Applications and Industry division at Microsoft (happy I don't have to write that job title too many times ). So she's Marko's boss, as I understand the setup at Microsoft. In the blog post she starts by more or less confirming the announcements made in regards to Dynamics 365. But more importantly "For small businesses who prefer to install their business management solution on-premises, we will continue to offer Dynamics NAV, Dynamics GP, and Dynamics SL. Dynamics NAV 2018 and Dynamics GP 2018 will become generally available later this calendar year".
I'm a little impressed about how fast Microsoft was to come with a statement. Shows that partner and community feedback does matter. Microsoft really does listen. At least for now there is still going go a "traditional" on-premission Dynamics NAV AND a cloud Dynamics 365 for "something" which incorporates a full NAV and a new "ISV-provided/extended" platform. Which basically leaves us just as confused as before Directions.
But I'm also convinced that we have not heard it all yet. It's exciting times!
There will be no new version of Microsoft Dynamics NAV in 2017. That's according to the latest announcement from Microsoft, made at Directions in Orlando yesterday. Instead the next version of Dynamics NAV will be released in "Spring 2018". And it will share the name with what used to be known as Dynamics 365 for Financials.
So far it's common name is Dynamics 365 "Tenerife", but the "x" typically means that it so far only is the project name. Just as they used to call D365 for Financials for "Project Madeira".
You can read much more about the announcements made by Microsoft in waldo 's two blog post about Directions 2017 - Keynote about Dynamics 365 "Tenerife" and Directions 2017 - Keynote 2 about new client and release dates. If you're not at Directions you self, and you work with Microsoft Dynamics, then you should really take the time and read these two posts.
There are also a lot of other interesting updates from Directions. If you have been part of the TAP/ACE program regarding "Tenerife" or if you have checked out the Developer Preview of the new AL/Visual Studio Code development environment, then most of it may not be news to you. But it's the first time we see anything "on paper" - so to say.
When the new version is released, then Dynamics NAV and Dynamics 365 for Financials will be one platform available both for on-premise (installed "locally") and in the cloud. On-premise will remain more or less "as-is", you can continue to host your own fully customized "NAV" locally or in a private cloud. Or you can leave it to Microsoft. You will even have the option of customizing it in the way you're used to. Microsoft still recommends Extensions and that you use the new development and design tools, which creates "customization's" almost in the way you're used to. Microsoft will also handle upgrades, so that you're always running on the newest version. You can even take your current customized NAV and bring it directly to Dynamics 365.
Whereas the previous D365 for Financials only had a subset of the functionality of NAV (no manufacturing, warehousing etc.), then the new version will have all the functionality.
The coming version is still code named "Tenerife", so my guess is that Navision/NAV as a name will history soon. I guess we have all expected this to happen at some point. I just hope that Microsoft is not going to rush into something, that we need to change in a couple of years again. Every name or branding change takes a long time to implement and primarily ends up confusing the customers, who often don't know what they have when they need support.
Personally I'm not at sad about the "delay" (the new version was expected in Q4 as the previous years). I have been part of the "preview programs" and updated my development environment on Azure about every other month. But the "new designer" and the new Visual Studio Code will take some time to get used to. There is a lot of new "stuff" to learn and only so little time. So it gives me (and you) more time to get ready to when it really is going to happen.
Even if you may be able to host your fully customized "NAV" in the cloud, then I believe that most changes going forward are better made as Extensions.
It will make the sessions at the many NAV conferences this fall even more important. You can find a list of the upcoming events here at DUG in our NAV Event Calendar. Or check out the many free webinars at NAV Skills.
When I started DUG as the Navision Online User Group in 1995, we were the only open way to communicate on the internet for both users and partners of Navision to discuss the product we all loved. Now DUG just had its 21st birthday.
The world is very different today. Now there exists many different online Microsoft Dynamics forums and communities. And with everything that is happing especially with Dynamics 365, then we expect that the community is going to change even more.
To serve our ever-changing community better DUG will be adding additional offerings that supplement the existing online presence. In-person meetups, online training, customer/employee matchmaking, and community-led webinars are just a few of the new things we’re cooking up and planning for the near future.
I cannot do this alone. So, to help realize these new plans, Jake Roder and Jon Stypula of AXusers.com will be made part of the leadership team. Jake and Jon have been longtime members and supporters in the at-large Microsoft Dynamics space. Their knowledge of and relationships in the Microsoft Dynamics AX community, position them uniquely to assist me to branch out.
As part of this change, and to ensure that DUG has the community’s best interests at heart and provides fiscal transparency, DUG will begin the process of transitioning to a US-based non-profit organization in the next few months. Although 100% free to users since the beginning, being open about financial information and honest about its role as an educationally-focused community is extremely important to DUG, as we understand it’s extremely important to our fellow Dynamics users.
Please join me in welcoming Jake and Jon officially and also please keep your eyes peeled for these changes, and more, in the coming months. As a community-led group, do not hesitate ask about ways you can get volunteer on the dynamicsuser.net forums or in an in-person meetup near you!
Erik P. Ernst / Webmaster and founder of Dynamics User Group
About Dynamicsuser.net (DUG). Beginning as Navision Online User Group (NOLUG/Navision.net) in 1995 as a web page and mailing list among friends, today DUG receives 80,000 unique visitors and over 250,000 page views per month as the oldest independent Microsoft Dynamics community website (not affiliated with Microsoft). Founded and operated by Erik P. Ernst, a Microsoft Business Solutions MVP since 2004, DUG has a well-attended online forum at https://dynamicsuser.net for each of the Microsoft Dynamics products.
About AXusers.com. AXusers.com curates content through its web forums, social media accounts and blogs while facilitating free in person networking events through the Microsoft Dynamics AX meetups. Currently it is moderated by active Dynamics VAR partner members Jacob Roder and Jonathan Stypula though supports involvement of users from all over the community.
Last week my friend Mark wrote how he fell in love with ForNAV, a great tool for upgrading classic report and allowing users to learn to edit them. I also wrote about it a year ago. Check it out.
ForNAV was not really what I wanted to write about. But it got me inspired to write how I fell in love with Navision. A love story that goes back many years.
The first accounting system I remember I was the special account card typing machines they had in the law office where my mom worked, when I was a child. Each account had its own card, and the machine would allow you to type the description and the debit and credit amounts, and would then calculate the new balance.
Later I learned to program in Basic on the local high school. We are now in 1983. Here we use OCR cards to allow us to write our code at home (without a computer), and then import the lines, fix them when we had a monitor, test them and export them to a paper strips with dotted holes. Took a weeks to write a simple program this way.
I left school in 1985 to become a training in a local furniture company. Here my first year was in the accounting department. We had an old IBM System 34 "mainframe" and then we had a system for sales orders, purchase orders, invoicing and manufacturing etc. (MAPICS), one for accounts receivable and accounts payable. Finally we had a payroll system and of course general ledger etc. But neither of the systems were integrated. At least not automatic. As the trainee I was the interface. I first had to enter the invoices into the accounts receivable system and fill out a data entry form for the general ledger system, per account. It left a lot of space for data errors...
In my second year I had moved on to the sales department (again as the junior the primary data entry person). But when they decided to implement a new accounting system with "everything" integrated (what later became known as ERP systems), I were added to the project team. Implementing the new system became a large part of my job.
And I loved it. Not the system. I actually thought that I could do it much better my self. I was too complex, and it lacked a lot of "must have" functions in a furniture company like ours, like color-size variants.
When my two years trainee period was over they wanted to keep me there. But I wanted to go back to school again.
In the IT business college I studied in one of our courses was about "pc standard systems". We learned about WordPerfect, Lotus 1-2-3, different databases and a lot I don't remember. But also standard systems for accounting, which was a new things for PC's. And here we were given a copy of PC-Plus to install and write a report about. I was in love.
If you don't know it, then PC-Plus was the name of the first version of Navision. Only a single user system running in DOS. It became Navision (Navigator) when they made a LAN-version of it in 1987.
It was so simple, and still did almost all the things the other system I had worked with did. Normally these review reports were 8-10 pages. My report on PC ended up being over 100 pages long. You can read more about the early years in the wiki.
Later in school I saw a demo of the new Navigator, and knew that this was what I wanted to work with, when school was finished.
I made a detour with support and training in a software company, who had developed a great little CRM system (before that name was used).
After a year, I was contacted by one of the companies I had send my resume to, before I got the first job. It was a IBM-Navigator partner, offering me a job as an instructor/project manager for their Navision department.
In January 1991 I finally started working with Navision. I loved it! And despite it really wasn't in my job description, then it didn't take me long before I started changing it. It was coded in my favorite development language from college Pascal, so that part was easy. After a year one of my co-workers got sick, and I was asked to step in, taking over a lot of his development projects.
In all the years since then, I have only not had a job in the Navision industry for 6 months. And that's when I worked as the account receivable manager in a shipping company in Hoboken, NJ, US. The same period as when I started Navision.net in 1995. Here I had to use Solomon (the later Dynamics SL). It was impossible to get any of the numbers out of that system required to do collections!
So when the local Navision partner in New York offered to sponsor my visa, then I said goodbye to the shipping company and Soloman with a big smile.
That's more than 25 years now!
Yes I do. Like in all relations, then I sometimes get frustrated with NAV (and Microsoft). Like when then changed then name from Navision to Dynamics NAV. The worst have been when they have released version that should have been released, or should have been tested a bit more.
The last years have almost been a party every time Microsoft has released a new version. The way Microsoft have continued to improved first the platform and then also the application since NAV 2013 is impressive. NAV 2016 was great and NAV 2017 looks fantastic!
Some of my MVP colleges like Mark, James and others, have had hefty debate if Extensions will be able to handle all future customizations. If it will kill Navision? Of course it will not. It may change the job for most NAV partners and developers and give headaches for others. But I know that the users will love it.
The most important thing in what I understand as the "concept of Navision" is simplicity! Just as the old slogan "The beauty of simplicity". And that's the direction I see Navision is moving back toward. Not technically, but as seen from the user. And isn't that the most important ting?