Just sharing my experiences in the Dynamics NAV (Navision) consulting world.
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This year, the Dynamics NAV Directions conference is held in a nice resort in Orlando. I always feel guilty about attending these conference nice resort hotel without my kids…
Overall the conference was a bit confusing for me as Microsoft had decided on the last minute to delay the release of the new version of Dynamics NAV “Tenerife”. This created a lot of confusion amongst partners and the people giving sessions on exactly what they’re trying to present.
The general sense of the sessions I’ve attended is that everything is still to be determined. Which made it a really frustrating event in that whatever I learn today, may be wrong tomorrow.
The breakout sessions didn’t help to clear things up, but here’s what we know:
The highlight of this conference was the closing session given by Marko Perisic. It was a heartfelt and unscripted speech regarding the future of NAV, the reseller/ISV channel, and the blood, sweat, tears, and joys of Microsoft employees that worked on the Tenerife project.
Marko firmly believes the future is bright for the Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations, Business Edition. He is extremely proud of the product and what it can do for the customers.
From what they’ve showcased so far, although a ton of work still needs to be done, I’m extremely excited for this release as well. In addition to pricing competitiveness, it will be hard to see why customers would want to purchase NetSuite or Acumatica when Microsoft releases “Tenerife”.
If you haven’t already, get used to developing your custom code and addons for the Microsoft AppSource. There will be challenges on how you approach developing extensions and the pitfalls you will run into.
You will not be able to remove code from the core product and you will not be able to dictate the order in which your extension and other extensions should run. Those are all under the To Be Determined.
After doing ERP implementations with Dynamics NAV (aka Dynamics 365) for almost 2 decades (18 years to be exact…), you kind of know how to get things done.
Usually, when you prepare for a go-live during a software conversion, there are certain tasks and steps that absolutely have to be accomplished in a certain manner. There are certain things that you will also postpone until after you go live with the new system. Balancing what are absolulte musts and what can wait are what every legitimate project manager should do.
Another pitfall is spending countless hours talking about the exceptions and the wrong business process that ensues. Again, a legitimate NAV project leader should not take you down that path. From my experience one of the guarantee failures of taking a customer live is trying to “do too much”. Focusing on things that does not really matter to the business. As a legitimate Dynamics NAV (Dynamics 365) project manager, you should be well aware of what to be done and what shouldn’t be done when going live. On this subject, this is probably a separate article.
A week prior to, you begin to feel the nervousness about switching to a new system. Despite my assurance on how everything will be fine because we followed the plan, they will still feel very anxious. The anxiety in the air is so thick you can scoop it with a spoon.
When the live date approaches, we do our thing to do the final cut over to their legacy system to Dynamics NAV. Run through our check-list and have the customers go through their check-list.
The next day when people come in for work, you can tell they were ready. They were ready for this because that’s what they’ve prepared for.
About a few days after the customer is live with the new system, the most frequent response I get is:
“Yes, that’s it. You’re live with Dynamics NAV.” That’s the response I typically give in response with a smile. As I mentioned, going live with Dynamics NAV is the easy part.
This is the point where my anxiety begins to increase, little by little.
If the customer just transacts with their normal business process and their customers and vendors behaves the same way, then everything would be okay. But it never happens that way.
There are always new problems and challenges as time progresses. Businesses do not stand still.
A couple of of these issues after go live that will begin to raises my blood pressure are, but not limited to the following:
– Exception problems or problems that are just weird and unusual
– Things that were allowed from their old system that are no longer allowed in the new system (i.e. just deleting a posted transaction)
– People circumventing the agreed upon process
– Wanting to turn on new features
– The “I didn’t mention because it’s not that important” processes. Well… It’s important now.
The toughest portion for the end user is after they go live for about 2-3 weeks. This is when all of the weird processes and exceptions start occurring and they have to deal with problems using the new environment and new thinking. Problems where they could just change a few numbers or transactions in the old system quickly, but they can’t do that anymore.
This is the part where the problems gets interest, and quite frankly, more fun. This is also the part where most solution center do not focus on because it’s not as lucrative.
What you resolved with your NAV partner during a new implementation is what you’re currently doing and where you want to go. These are known problems that has been brought up and addressed during the design of the software.
What challenges you going to face in the future are what we haven’t spoken about. It’s tough to plan and have a solution for something that you don’t even know about.
Dynamics NAV is a very good system. It’s also a very strict system. When you have an accurate system, sometimes problems come up where it was not apparent before or been swept under the rug. The reason is because it’s not important enough to deal with on a daily basis. i.e. inventory inaccuracies on the bins or returns processing.
With an accurate system, all of these normal process that no one wants to deal with will become apparent and will require a correct process and procedure for. Sometimes, when addressing these annoyance, owners will be surprised that they need additional resources to manage those processes.
Most of the time, when left unaddressed, those problem will blow up like a huge volcano. Implementing Dynamics NAV prevents these volcano type problems because it needs to be tracked.
Compound to real problems arising after 2-3 weeks is that implementation consultants will have already left by then, patting themselves on the back on a job well done.
As much as I advise on budgeting enough time and money for post implementation support, they always go unheard. Most of the quote that they receive for new software implementation are only enough to take them live, not to address these more interesting problems after they’re live.
Going live with Dynamics NAV (aka Dynamics 365) is the easy part. What comes after will be the core of the challenge during the implementation lifecycle.
Often, we get calls from companies that asks us to help with their Dynamics NAV implementation. The conversation would usually start off about a little history of their implementation, the problems they’re running into, and what they’re looking to resolve.
Inevitably, the request will lead to training the users on how to better use Dynamics NAV.
This is a tough question to respond to.
With every release of Dynamics NAV, the software has become more intuitive and easy to use. In addition, Microsoft has released the full manual on their MSDN site. In addition, there are great step by step examples on how to process, for example, a sales order. So whenever I hear this request, my sense immediately goes into overdrive.
Of course, the customer will want an estimate on how long that will take.
What makes the subject of training a tough question is that the training, in itself, is not what the customer is looking for. What the customer is really looking for is, by the end of our task (whatever that may be), their users will have thorough understanding of their job responsibilities within the company and how Dynamics NAV can better their ability within their job roles.
They’re looking for their users to have an A-ha basically saying “Wow! I fully understand my job and can do my job 300% faster now!”.
Being a terrible salesperson, instead of giving them some numbers and try to close the deal, will naturally ask a ton of questions on their request. I will even question their question because I just find this request (although challenging) very fascinating.
Most of the time, the people that are reaching out are not the managers or the people that are responsible for the task. They’re just “forced” into it by their boss or owners. Instead of a number so they can create a list to find the cheapest one, they get more questions.
On a side note, the calls we get where the person has to hang up and ask their boss or other people for more information ususally never calls us back. Subsequent follow up calls are ususally unreturned as well.
Not All Training Are the Same
There are many aspects when we talk about training. To keep things simple, we’ll just talk about 2 types of training. One is just learning how to use Dynamics NAV, the other is learning how to use Dynamics NAV in conjunction with your job roles within your organization.
In my opinion, training just how to use NAV is not worth to company to spend their money on. The reason is, as mentioned above, there are plenty of resources (such as MSDN site mentioned above) that are free for the user to learn how to navigate around Dynamics NAV.
The training that I would always recommend is the implementation type of training is where the training covers the details of their job on how Dynamics NAV can help them do their specific job. The training would be how to better do their job with Dynamics NAV, instead of just using NAV.
The challenge is how to explain this to the customer who is tasked by their supervisor to “get more training”.
They would need to understanding their internal business process for each department and how NAV will fit into each part of the business process. They will need to fill the consultants in on how things work for the consultants to devise a training plan.
If the customer does not do , they will need to spend the money to have someone else to do so. Very much like an implementation.
Of course if the users do not have time to learn the product or they prefer to learn in a classroom environment, consultants like us would step in and help out. Even then, the training shouldn’t be just how to use NAV. Rather, it should incorporate what their job functions are within NAV.
Sometimes the training should just consist of a big Q&A session where the users can bring up what they’re doing and how to better utilize their job function in the system.
Understanding what type of training you require will save you a ton of time and unnecessary costs from consultants like ourselves. It does require some work on the end user to determine what kind of training is needed.
Better to put the work up front than having to pay, a lot, later.
Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Financials will offer the full functionality of the regular Dynamics NAV by the end of the year!
Dynamics365 for Financials will now cover all functionalities in Dynamics NAV
Until the functionality update take effect, if you signed up for Dynamics 365 for Financials you will only receive limited functionalities for within the Dynamics NAV product. The area available are mainly in the finance and order fulfillment areas.
After the update, which is promised to be by the end of the year, you will receive the full functionality as if you purchased Dynamics NAV. This includes manufacturing and WMS functionalities.
This is the first question that everyone will ask. Why does my company want to purchase a full Dynamics NAV license instead of just signing up for Dynamics 365 for Financials?
The answer is Customization.
For Dynamics 365, the way to “customize” what’s available out of the box is to implement extensions available from the Microsoft Appsource. This means that if you need a one-off change because you provide a differentiating service than your competitors, you will need a work around.
Whereas if you purchased Dynamics NAV product, you will be able to make these types of changes.
Extensions for Dynamics NAV (and Dynamics 365 for Financials) is ever changing. With each release, Microsoft introduces new features and expanding on the previous release. So it’s tough to say whether the paths for Dynamics 365 for Financials and Dynamics NAV will truly converge.
I’m just glad the customers do not have to sign up for the complex Azure infrastructure if they want their solution to be truly on the cloud.