Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2009 Upgrades and the RTC Reporting Nightmare

Typically I’m not the one who is writing too much about “technical issues” in my blog. But that doesn’t mean that I’m never dealing with “technical issues” – in fact programming and other technical issues is what I’m doing more than 50% of daily working time. And while this blog post is more “technical” than normally, then it’s not really technical. It’s more about my experiences with NAV 2009 upgrades as seen on a little higher level.

Until recently then I have not been doing so much work on NAV 2009. Most of my client as a freelancer have older versions, and are very happy about it. But now I have just finished my first full Dynamics NAV 2009 upgrade. Before I have done one other NAV 2009, but to a client who didn’t want to use the RoleTailored Client. And right now I’m doing my second RTC upgrade. Not much for many of you, but surely enough to get the feeling of what this “NAV 2009” is all about!

On the surface, then a NAV 2009 upgrade isn’t that much different from any other Navision upgrade. And over the 20 years where I have been working with Navision then I surely have done my share of the upgrades. And until NAV 2009, then it has always been almost like riding a bicycle. Once you have learned, then you will always have it.

Upgrading Pages

For Dynamics NAV 2009 then it was going great with the tables, forms, codeunits etc. All the object types that didn’t change too much from the previous versions. And when it came to the forms, then in both of the projects, I actually decided to create the new pages again using the page designer, instead of actually using the Page Transformation Tools. I did this basically because I’m a bit lazy of nature, and I estimated that it would take me much more time to setup and define the files for the Page Transformation Tool, than to manually upgrade the changed forms and to recreate the 10 new forms that the customer had in his database.

So I can’t even say how much it takes to use the Transformation Tools. At least there is a lot of documentation available regarding page transformation, so I am actually felt quite comfortable that it would not had been a problem, in case the client would have had a lot of new forms. But it is my own estimate that it would require at least 30-50 new forms, before it would be worth to start using the page transformation tool.

Upgrading Reports

When it came to upgrading reports, then it was a much more troublesome. I actually never found any way to upgrade the RoleTailored Part of the reports. Yes, there sure is a function to “Create Layout Suggestion”. But if what you really just wanted to was to insert a few new fields in the standard NAV report, then this function should really not be used. The function deletes the existing layout, which in most cases means that all the optimization and layout improvements done manually by Microsoft will disappear.

Additionally most standard reports are loaded with small controls which are hidden when printed with the Classic Client, but used when printed in the RTC. That makes editing the reports even more difficult.

So my conclusion to this was that it was much easier to upgrade all the reports manually! Both in the Classic and in the RTC.

Upgrading documents like Invoices and Order Confirmations was an bigger task. I think I was reading somewhere on the internet, that one should estimate 8-16 hours on upgrading just one document. I was really laughing about that, until I was sitting there and doing it myself. The first Invoice took me almost 20 hours!!! And it wasn’t because Visual Studio was all new for me, as I have been using Visual Studio to maintain this website for years! My next document (a Order Confirmation with an almost identical header) took me almost 10 hours and the additional document reports all took between 6-10 hours.

The Nightmare is not over

In my other NAV 2009 project upgrading reports was not really an issue, as we just decided to start over. They wanted to have document reports which were a bit more nicely layouted than the standard NAV reports. And that included a printable Purchase Order document, where I had to add the company logo. But right now that’s where I have actually stopped working and started writing this NAV 2009 “review”. I have now spend most of the day trying to get it to work. Starting all over several times. Each time ending up with the same result. NAV 2009 RTC dies when I’m running the report, with a “out of memory” failure. And getting the Debugger to work in Visual Studio also showed to be an even bigger problem. The Debugger finally got to work, but why does it have to be so complex?

If the NAV 2009 Reports had been a Danish Tuborg Beer commercial, then it would have gotten the stamp “Det’ en om’mer!” (internal Danish joke – means “it’s a re-doer” – but I guess the the guys and girls at Microsoft in Copenhagen knows this TV commercial)!!

I really think that this implementation of the reports in the RoleTailored Client is a joke! But not a funny joke. It takes 3-4 times as long to do the same things as in the classic client. Yes you might be able to do much more fancy and nicely designed report, but I think that the cost of doing it is way to high.

Microsoft are doing the exact same mistakes as they have been doing so many times before, and before them Navision Software. They are trying to keep backward compatibility intact, but are loosing while doing it. When they could do it with the forms vs. pages, why didn’t they do it with the reports? Instead of trying to get the same report objects to run both Classic and RTC, then they should have been splitting this up and have two report object types. Sure you might have a bit more administration in having two objects to maintain, but I don’t really see the differences! Right now it takes you much longer to maintain one object than it would have taken you to maintain a classic report and a clean RTC report without all the strange workarounds they have done to make reports happen in RTC!

My conclusion to this is actually that nobody should really upgrade NAV 2009 RTC, if they have a heavy modified Navision, unless they are willing to basically “start over” in most situations (or if they are willing to pay big money for doing the upgrade). And with the reports, then I’m not even sure that they should do it anyway. And as far as I know, then nothing will change in this area for NAV 2009 R2!

It’s not because I don’t think that NAV 2009 is not a great program. NAV 2009 is great. I just love the new design, even when it does take a bit time to get used to. Pages are great and I’m learning new things about them every day! And the reports now really can look great and not have that 1989 (when DOS based Navision 3 was released) look that they have in the classic client.

But let us have a real RTC Report and forget about supporting the Classic report in the same object.

Comment List
  • I'm just in the process of creating a Project Initiation Document for a company to upgrade from NAV2009 Classic Client to NAV 2009 RTC vs. MS NAV2013 R2. We are highly customised. What would you recommend? Is there any improvements in MS NAV2013?

  • I agree with most of what you are saying here about reports. Your suggestion of having two report objects would certainly have made upgrades less painful but I guess by making classic reports run in the RTC MS has sort of achieved this. I'm really hoping MS will get this area sorted in future releases. Nice post!

  • Yes, exactly. You have to think twice even for deleting a field from NAV2009 classic reports, even if client is currently using Classic client only. DataSetFieldName property gives error and then one has to do work-arounds

  • Hi Erik,

    MS did also cut herself with reports experiencing it the hard way when getting all the reports in place for NAV 2009 SP1 for the group 1 countries. Where MS already had spent a tremendous amount on getting reports transformed for NAV 2009 (SP0) they had to invest another amount for SP1. That's one of the main reasons that for group 2 a part of localized reports have not been transformed at all.

    Like you I also wondered why report transformation was not seup like with forms.