What a morning this has been! I started my day with what was supposed to be another monthly NAV Directions webinar from Microsoft at 7:00AM Pacific. Sure, I knew that Paul White and Kristi Hofer were going to share a strategic update on Dynamics NAV, but I figured it would be “for your eyes only” type of information that we wouldn’t be able to share with anyone on social media.
The call was all shock and awe, at least as far as I was concerned. After the product demonstration and information for partners came the news: Oh, by the way, the Preview is going live TODAY at 8:30AM Pacific and will be announced to partners, clients and prospects at 9:30AM Pacific.
Even as the announcement was being made, I decided to try my luck with the URL in the demonstration, and it worked! A good hour before it was supposed to be available, I was already set up and running the Project Madeira Preview! And if you are in the United States, you can try it too.
Simply go to http://madeira.microsoft.com and click on “Try the preview”, and follow the instructions to get started. In a separate blog post, we will walk you through how signing up for a preview account.
Project “Madeira” is not Microsoft Dynamics NAV, and it will not replace NAV. Yes, it is similar to Dynamics NAV in many ways, but it is a separate product.
General Availability is expected in the second half of 2016 in the United States. Support for other countries will soon follow. The Preview that has rolled out today is also only available in the United States at the moment.
It is a true SaaS (Software as a Service) offering from Microsoft on Azure similar to Dynamics CRM Online or Power BI, optimized for SMBs with 10-99 employees, and it is completely managed by Microsoft.
As a true cloud based solution, new deployments will be provisioned in much the same way you would sign up for an Office 365 account or another web service.
Project “Madeira” will be sold through Cloud Solution Partners (CSPs), and not sold directly by Microsoft.
Comparing Dynamics NAV to Project “Madeira”:
Interface-wise, much of Project “Madeira” resembles Dynamics NAV in the Web Client using the Small Business (Mini) Role Center, with some improvements.
A notable improvement is the “Getting Started” feature which provides a product tour of the interface, as well as how to perform tasks like invoicing, connecting to O365 and Outlook, and configuring the Universal App on tablets and phones.
From a technical perspective, here are some of the key contrasts between Dynamics NAV and Project “Madeira”:
In short, Project “Madeira” is only available as a SaaS offering, and the functionality set today is not identical to what we have in Dynamics NAV (more on that later). Customizations are only allowed using Extensions, and not the way that VARs have traditionally customized Dynamics NAV.
As of today’s Preview rollout, Project “Madeira” supports most of the Financial Management features available in the Dynamics NAV Starter Pack (besides Cash Flow Forecast and Basic XBRL), Receivables, Payables, Sales Order Management, Basic Inventory, Workflow, E-Services, Incoming Document Management w/ OCR, Dynamics CRM integration and Opportunity Management (i.e., “CRM” functionality we have in Dynamics NAV).
Multicurrency and Multi-language functionality is also supported, as is Word Reporting.
In future updates, we can expect to see functionality like Fixed Assets, Basic HR, more Supply Chain Management functionality, Project management (Jobs) and Timecard entry.
There is no ETA on functionality such as Manufacturing and Service Management at the moment.
Here’s a neat little tidbit: In addition to Excel import functionality that we currently have in Dynamics NAV RapidStart, Microsoft will also be adding a QuickBooks migration feature!
Below is a table of “modified” functionality available in Project “Madeira” today (in blue), and features which will be supported in the future.
Availability and Access:
As I stated earlier in this post, Project “Madeira” will not be sold directly by Microsoft. It will be available through Microsoft Partners who are Cloud Solution Providers (CSPs; some, like InterDyn BMI are 1 Tier, i.e. Direct, while others are 2 Tier).
Project “Madeira” is a Microsoft managed SaaS offering and only available on Azure, and not through any other third party’s hosting services (so, no, you can’t host it on Rackspace or AWS).
Because it exists in Azure, there is no need for partners to separately price Azure hosting, or other components of the infrastructure. However, partners may choose to make other offerings available as part of their solution to the end-customer.
The Preview that has been rolled out today is a fully functional Project “Madeira” tenant, so if you sign up for the preview, you will be able to test all the functionality available in the product today using:
I have not yet had a chance to test the Outlook functionality in Project “Madeira”, so more to follow on that once I have had some time to play with it.
In addition, PowerBI.com also has a Content Pack ready to use for Project “Madeira”, but I have run into authentication issues. It appears my friendly neighborhood Microsoft Partner Technology Strategist and advisor has not had much luck with it either, so stay tuned for more on that once I’m able to connect.
So What’s happening to Dynamics NAV?
Microsoft made it very clear during today’s presentation that Dynamics NAV isn’t going away. It is not being replaced by Project “Madeira”, and from my conversation with our Microsoft Partner Technology Strategist (PTS), “NAV Next” (which is the typical way of referencing the next version of NAV in the absence of a known codename or version number) is still moving forward. So take a deep breath: We will continue to receive new versions of Dynamics NAV.
What about the Managed Services offering for Dynamics NAV where partners could offer a repeatable vertical solution? Our Microsoft PTS tells us that won’t be affected either.
So basically, going forward, we will have a landscape where Dynamics NAV and Project “Madeira” (whatever it’s final release name will be) will co-exist.
We don’t know yet if someday the functionality of both products will be identical, but we already know that it will be very similar. So if you are a Dynamics NAV user, consultant, or Partner, your knowledge of Dynamics NAV will continue to be useful if you suddenly find yourself working on a Project “Madeira” deployment.
So, here’s the million dollar question: Which is better, Project “Madeira” or Dynamics NAV?
There isn’t a simple one-size-fits-all answer. It varies from organization to organization, subject to their requirements, infrastructure and preference.
Also, with respect to any perceived shortcomings of Project “Madeira”, it’s important to keep in mind that this is JUST a Preview. By the time we go live with the solution, many more features will have been added, and this could further help differentiate the offerings.