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.
The nerd inside me of course have been excited about NAV 2013 for a very long time. Just as I’ve always been excited about new technology. I have already written about Navision 2013. In the post “Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2013 – With my own first words” I wrote a little about the changed development environment. It was maybe not the most positive “review”. But as about 50-70% of my time then this is where I spent most of my time is spent as a NAV developer, then this was what I first focused on.
Right now I’m in the process of doing my first upgrade from NAV 2009 R2 to NAV 2013. After some initial issues getting Mergetool for NAV 2013 to run (don’t compare reports – they are changed so much that they basically not comparable between the two versions) then I have now finished it. At least the compare part by now.
At first I was really surprised to see that only 437 out of 3823(*1) objects have not been changed in NAV 2013 (compared to NAV 2009 R2 – excluding reports). That’s almost 90% of all the objects.
The fact that there’s now only a total of 3823 objects is also great. In NAV 2009 R2 there were 5594 objects. With the classic forms and dataports no longer supported by Dynamics NAV, these objects have been removed from the database. Less objects means a less complex system and that it’s going to be easier to do future upgrades.
There are also 459 new objects. Many of them created as part of the new functionality you might have been reading about in other posts: dimensions, cost accounting, cash flow, assemblies, time sheet functionality, queries etc.
If you have followed Luc van Vugt’s blog posts on Dynamics User Group on “NAV 2013 Beta to RTM – Some Striking Code Changes” then you have seen that this version contains a lot of what I would call “code clean-up”. Changes where Microsoft have changed the way code is written and structured. Like when there is a new line and when there is not, in the individual “statements”. Changes that doesn’t add direct value to the end-user in the form of new or extended functionality. But more long term, then these changes are adding a lot of value to the overall quality of Dynamics NAV. When the code structure becomes more standardized then it also becomes easier to read and hereby easier to customize and debug (as long as all developers continue to follow the same standards).
In the category of code clean-up you’ll also see that Microsoft now changed FIND(‘-‘) TO either FINDSET, FINDFIRST or ISEMPTY (depending on the requirement). These functions were added to NAV in version 4.0 (or was it 3.70?) to make the system perform better especially under SQL Server. But except for new code added since, then Microsoft did not change the remaining code until now with 2013.
Having worked with Navision for as many years as I have (20+) then one of the changes you most often are asked to do is to make fields wider. Like changing a code field from 10 to 20 characters, so that the customers data fit into the field. And here I think that the field I have most often been requested to change is “External Document No.”. This field used to be 20 characters long – now it’s 35! Item Description is a different and often changed field. This has been extended from a text of 30 to 50 characters. And there are many other similar examples. Nothing big, but these changes are going to cut out a lot of the typical small customizations and thus making future upgrades easier. Microsoft really listened to the customers here.
Another small thing that always annoyed me with NAV was when you created a new Item and had to specify Unit of Measure. To do so, then you first had to create the Unit of Measure manually in the Item Unit of Measure table, before you could select it on the item. Microsoft now changed the code so that you now can enter the Unit of Measure Code directly without creating in the Item Unit of Measure table first. The validation code on the Item table will now insert it into the Item Unit of Measure table. A small change that really made me smile.
The next you’ll notice when you compare the code are the many bug fixes. These are both small errors with no major consequences, left out captions and some major fixes. I have not not so many bug fixes in a single release since Microsoft released Navision 3.70 in 2003. NAV 3.70 was basically just a major hot fix to NAV 3.60!
All these changes, fixes, all the new functionality, the new clients, new object types (queries), the removal of forms and dataports, the retirement of the native database is all together making Dynamics NAV 2013 to the biggest update since Navision Software released Navision Financials in 1995.
Thus a traditional upgrade of a heavily customized customer is also going to be a big project. A very big project! And unless the customer already is running NAV 2009 on the role tailored client then you’ll often get a better and cheaper result by doing it as a new implementation rather than as a upgrade.
New implementations are also going to be easier. Microsoft have done major improvements to the Rapid Implementation Tools (RIM) which they now calls the RapidStart tools. Here you’ll find tools to help you with data migration, setup data templates, tools to help you to create test and training databases.
As I started this post by saying, then my previous review was not that positive. The issues I pointed out here about specifically regarding the report designer have not changed. I still don’t like the way you create reports in NAV 2013. It’s surely not as simple as it could be.
But really this doesn’t matter that much now. With NAV 2013 you have new ways you can create your “reports”. You can also use the new queries, ODATA or web services. Or even easier the free JetReports Express. Or Microsoft Excel with PowerPivot or ODBC. Reporting doesn’t have to be done inside NAV you have many options!
Sure there are other areas which still could need enhancements or reprogramming but all in all, then Dynamics NAV 2013 is the best Navision ever. And if everything was perfect, if everything what a customer could ask for was already there, well then we wouldn’t need NAV developers anymore. Luckily for me and all the other NAV developers that’s not the case - yet.
I love Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2013. And I’m sure that you will love it too.
*1 = Please notice the compares here was done using the Danish NAV versions, so your number objects might be different if you are using a different country version of NAV.