Anyone familiar with upgrading customized classic Navision customers to the “new” role-tailored Dynamics NAV experience, knows that it can be a rather challenging and time consuming affair. When it comes to upgrading forms to pages, Microsoft provides a transition tool. But there were not much help getting the classic reports migrated to RDLC. The function to suggest layouts in NAV 2009 were basically not useable, unless it was a very simple report.
Today there are maybe 100000’s of customers “out there” running older classic versions of Navision. Often customized and with hundreds of reports requiring to upgraded. Doing it manually is a huge time consuming project. When I did my first upgrade of an invoice from NAV 4.0 to 2009, it took me about 30 hours to get it right! After I got more familiar with the process, I have of course been able to do it much faster. But it still takes hours for each report. Maybe I am I just slow, but it is pretty much the same I hear from my co-workers.
When I’m doing a classic to “modern” NAV upgrade, I mostly suggest the customer, that we just skip all their old reports, and only do those they really need in the new in the new. Most customers with a +10 year old NAV installation have tons of customizations they no longer are using. Upgrading a classic NAV is a good time to do remove old customizations and unused add-on’s etc. Get rid of everything they don’t need, to get as close to a standard as possible. Or at least making sure that what ever customizations are done in a way, so that future upgrades can become as easy as possible.
But not all companies are able to skip all their customizations when upgrading, and just do a few new.
Which means that they have to spend 100’s of development/upgrade hours on old reports. Good for us the NAV developers, plenty to do, except it gets boring, when you have done a few. The customers then often end up staying on their old Navision.
And if we decide just to skip the old reports, the customer often then asks if this is something he can do himself, like he did in the classic. When I show the customer the report designer and Visual Studio, then he looks at me as if I was mad! In classic NAV it was easy to move a few fields and so.
About 2 months ago I first heard about a new company called ForNAV. It was founded by Michael Nielsen, Jacob Reinholdt Rasmussen and Jan Silleman, who all are very well known in the Dynamics NAV world, where they all have worked for Navision Software/Microsoft/+Partners the last 25-30 years. But you can read more about them here.
Their first product is called Reports ForNAV Converter and is a “tool” you can use to convert old classic reports objects in to object files you can import, compile and run in your new Dynamics NAV, just like any other NAV report. The only difference is that you can not modify the report from within NAV, when it has been created with the Converter. If you need to do any layout changes, then the only way to do it is to go back and do the changes in your old classic NAV, and then migrate it back. But since it really only takes seconds for each report, and the solution is only months away, it not a big problem.
Next year there are releasing Reports ForNAV Designer. Then it will be possible not only to modify the layout of the upgraded report. But also to do it in an environment I’m sure that all users who are familiar with the report designer in the classic version of Navision, would feel right at home.
A few weeks ago co-founder Jacob Reinholdt gave me a demonstration of both the Converter and the Designer. The Converter almost done and being released very soon now. In the current state of the Designer it is not yet possible to change the dataset, but that will also be in the product when released.
ForNAV looks great, and it will be a way for the many customers with old reports to get them into the “modern” NAV experience. And a customer who wants to be able modify his own old reports or create new reports will love it! Yes even developers and consultants will love ForNAV. And everything is much faster than in standard NAV. Creating a 200-300 page report in standard easily takes minutes. With ForNAV it only takes seconds.
That’s all great. But the is also a few minus to be using ForNAV. The way the generate the report is quite different than how NAV is doing it. Whenever a report is created, the output is not XML, as in NAV, but a fully formatted PDF file. That means that the features you have today, to export any report to Excel/Word will not exists. PDF and print only.
And what about the many standard reports in the new NAV, not upgraded from classic. Unless it’s going to be possible to convert a standard NAV RDLC report with the converter also, then I really don’t see ForNAV as a possible replacement for Visual Studio. Because then the customer would not be able to modify any existing standard reports, not available in the classic versions.
Not to talk about potential issues in handling of reports in a mixed environment? As I understood, then it’s not going to use exchangeable layouts (where the user can select different layouts for the same report object – like RDLC or Word). And what about functions like SAVEASEXCEL, SAVEASPDF etc.? They are not going to work either. But I would not be surprised, if ForNAV could find a solution to that too in a later relase, knowing the founders.
If you also want to see the product, then you can watch the latest ForNAV webinar recording on their webpage. And if you’re going to Directions EMEA in October 2015, then you will be able to see a live demonstration of both ForNAV Converter and Designer.
There is the alternative solutions, which gives opportunity to Upgrade Reports from Classic verions to RDLC. In this case there is no fee for customers which will use tyhe report - Simplanova Report Converter - simplanova.com/.../
Yes I know there are other solutions to the same problem. I saw iDyn's at NAVTechDays 2015, and also another one very similar. And yes you're right it's not really compliant with the "new" dataset and layout setup in NAV 2016. Something many customers (and partners) may find being an issue. But the whole reason why it's seems so easy to user forNav, is that it follows a more "user friendly" design process than the current. At least that's my opinion.
Would I be recommending my own customers to use it? If they had a lot of classic reports, they need to be upgraded to NAV 2016, then without doubt. If they were starting up on NAV 2016, only if they need to create a lot of new custom reports, and wants to do it "in-house".
We use idyn's document creator, and it's a great product.
Since we use document creator, our NAV projects stay within budget again.
Due to the limited customer fee, all our customers use document creator. This really sets us free from RDLC reporting.
The modern paradigm of splitting data gathering and data presentation now really has benifits for us.
The report object data set stays developer managed code, where the report layout has become user data.
Our consultants and customers can freely modify the report layout without tampering the report object .
Just like with pages, we now are able to text merge report objects :)
fornav has a somewhat better report converter, but the designer tends to much to the old past.
The document creator report designer is really modern and much more powerfull then the fornav designer.
Furthermore the fornav designer is not compliant with the modern split between dataset and layout.
And what about idyn's document creator?
At least it shows that most of us still aren't really happy with creating reports in NAV.
Well I think they did care. And they did put lots of efforts into doing it right. But when even they don't know how to make something as "standard" as transporting numbers, then it's obvious that RDLC was the wrong choice. The ability to use Word doesn't really make it much better, that's almost as "complex". ForNAV just said, how can we do this better. Not how can we turn something that does really work, into something that work.
I would not be surprised if within a few releases, then ForNAV or similar application can integrate directly into the report, just like using a different layout than RDLC or Word. Then it would start to be good.