How I fell in love with Navision?

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.

My first meeting with ERP

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. 

And that's when it happened

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).

The first IBM-Navigator job

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 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!

Do I still love Navision?

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?

Comment List
  • Thank you sharing your story . I guess some of us will never leave NAV... [:)]

  • This might be long but it's my story with NAV...for those who care.  :)  I didn't fall in love with NAV and then shift toward it.  I took a risk by leaving a "guaranteed forever" job with Toyota to take a position with a NAV reseller who told me about this system from Denmark that they had built a practice around (in Canada) and gave me some brochures on it.  I had a background that fit well.  For whatever reason (probably more because I liked the guy I met and the company I was looking at joining than the software itself) I decided to make the move.  I viewed it as a huge risk moving into some "proprietary" software with its own development environment, as opposed to sticking with broader technologies that had universal appeal.  16 years later, I am incredibly thankful I had the faith to make that leap.  The opportunities it has presented have been outstanding.  The things I've done for our customers have brought incredible gratification at seeing the results.  At the same time...I had to deal with the adjustment.  When I started with NAV, I spent my first 3 months (I was on the development side...but i'm a designated accountant) griping about the things I couldn't do in the limited development environment compared with (at the time) VB.  I made a lot of statements in the structure of " VB I could do this and here I can't...".  Some of them are still there (iterating through controls dynamically) but over the course of those three months, I came to appreciate the beauty of NAV's development environment.  This post is all about the development side and not the application functionality (which I could say a lot more about).  I no longer had to manage transactions and rollbacks.  I no longer had to declare recordsets and write code to get the record I wanted (simple variable declaration and a GET and I was good).  I didn't have to manage multi-user conflicts and umpteen other things.  NAV's development environment had been created from the outset to be a development environment for an ERP system and had so many things inherently in place.  My life was simpler.  Sure I had limitations to work within, but I could develop new areas of functionality with complex functionality in a far faster way than I ever had before.  That's where I was sold.  Then NAV extended the application functionality...and went through the (painful in 2009) transition to the new three tier environment.  Now, as I talk to our clients about NAV 2016 and whether they should upgrade...I've never been so enthusiastic about pushing them to do it without feeling like i'm making a sales pitch for our revenue.  It is an honest heartfelt opinion.  NAV 2016 (and soon 2017) is such a beautiful product that I feel i'm not serving customers well if I DON'T tell them they should upgrade (depending on what version they are on).  I've always loved NAV after those first few months and my adjustment to it, apart from periodic lows (ahem...initial 2009 release) but now I would not want to be working with any other ERP application.  I have never in my 16 years with NAV felt better about the product I bet on.  It may have been an unsure bet initially...but I can only smile when I think about it now.

  • Cobol! Learned that as language number 2 after Pascal in collage. Remember that I loved the structure in it, but must admit that I have not seen or used it since. And haven't missed it.

  • I moved to NAV from the  Cobol world. I found C/AL very easy to learn and of course mods were much, much easier than to Cobol ERP system. I only wish I could have moved to it sooner like you did.