Didn’t make it to Summit this year? We’re glad to share a series of posts with our team’s experience and insights from Summit 2019. Here we hear from Mark Rhodes:
I’m back from Summit 2019 and it was a weird week. Not as weird as I thought it would be, although to be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect. For the first time in 12 years, I attended Summit as an attendee, not as a staff member responsible for the conference itself. I left Dynamic Communities at the end of August to join New View Strategies, and having helped plan the event, I was truly looking forward to it, especially as I wouldn’t have to scurry about the entire week but could spend time learning and networking. I must say, notwithstanding my involvement in the event, it really is the best investment any company using Dynamics NAV or Dynamics 365 Business Central can make. I know full well what an investment of time and money it is to attend, and that especially for a small team having someone out another week is hard. But this is not just another conference, and certainly not a boondoggle. I defy anyone to attend and not return to their office with invaluable new contacts for problem-solving, invigorating ideas for process improvement, and completely exhausted from trying to take advantage of all the activities stretching 16 hours a day. Simply put, you cannot afford not to attend. I will say that it does take effort on the attendee’s part to realize the ROI – it can be overwhelming and you sure better arrive with specific goals targeted. It would take me at least a page to describe all the value you can realize but that’s not the point of this post; perhaps I’ll do that prior to next year’s conference.
This post is about my reflections from the conference, and more significantly, updates regarding our beloved system and Microsoft’s plans, so here we go:
Microsoft has been busy and it’s not slowing down
It used to be you owned Dynamics NAV, and a new version would come out every couple of years. Maybe you owned and integrated Dynamics CRM too. It was consistent and straight-forward. Those days are long gone. Now it is almost impossible to stay abreast of all the new tools and services Microsoft continues to churn out: just within the Office stack in the past couple years are Delve, Stream, Teams, Sway, MyAnalytics and more, then there is a rapidly evolving Power Platform (Power BI, Flow, PowerApps), the new Common Data Service (CDS), likely hundreds of Azure services, AI and Machine Learning, etc. etc. And don’t forget monthly updates to Dynamics NAV and Business Central, with 2 major releases a year for BC.
But, you still have a business to run, so what should you do? In my opinion, the worst thing you can do is stick your head in the sand. Technology is changing the world and you can embrace it and grow, or try to hold onto the status quo and wither. Use the good work that Microsoft is doing as a catalyst to learn about new technologies and identify how it can drive your business. I’m certainly not saying you should use all these new Microsoft tools and technologies, I’m saying that learning about them can drive fantastic conversations for your team to produce new products and services, better processes, enhanced service, and ultimately a better company. It’s going to take an investment, just as any initiative to improve your company would. If you’re lucky you have someone on your staff who likes new technology and can spend the time to investigate and apply these to your operations. Another great solution? Ask your partner to brief you – they are more naturally in-tune with new technologies and already have an understanding of your business. Share with them your strategic goals and pain points, and have an energizing discussion about the future.
Business Central is here to stay, but your path to it will likely be complicated
I’ll cut right to the chase on this one to make sure you get it – if you’ve not talked to your partner recently about how you will migrate to Business Central (whether you’re thinking this will happen soon or in a few years) do it NOW. I’m not trying to be dramatic, but not making this a priority may cause you unpleasant surprises in the future.
Now, let me back up – Business Central 2019 Wave 2 was released the beginning of this month (release 15). If you’re on BC you receive monthly updates and twice a year, in April and October, major updates called waves. Microsoft, in an unprecedented move, released the global counts and is very pleased with the traction that this “new” product is gaining. This release is a watershed moment in our long and storied history – it’s the first one that is exclusively with the modern client (aka web client) and modern development environment (only AL as the programming language). For the 95%+ of the world using NAV or BC with a windows client and C/AL-based mods, this is as large of a change as we’ve ever experienced (if you lived through the conversion to RTC and SQL Server you’d probably like to debate this point). Don’t get me wrong, Microsoft is doing great things with the product, but I know how easy it is to not keep abreast of these changes and am deeply passionate about the customers in our community getting educated to avoid costly mistakes.
While we continue to have the option for an on-premise installation with Release 15, clearly Microsoft is promoting the cloud, and many new installations are choosing that option. Is staying on-prem important to your company? I know it is to a lot of companies. I also know that many of those companies have not truly researched what moving to the cloud would mean, with an unbiased view. Maybe some will change their minds, but I also know there are many companies out there who truly are mandated to be on-prem. Exploring the on-prem vs. cloud option is for another blog post, but I will note as technology continues to evolve, so will this assessment. And here’s another potential pickle: for the majority of you on some version of NAV and not already upgrading, did you know that your next upgrade will not be to some version of NAV but to BC?
I haven’t even scratched the surface of what becomes of your mods, your reports, your ISV add-on integrations, etc. And Microsoft is shortening the support lifecycle with BC and mainstream support for NAV 2015 ends in January (see the timetable here). A lot has changed – get with your partner to understand how all this impacts you and map out a plan.
There are a ton of resources out there to help you increase your ROI
I’m a firm believer that it’s dumb to spend a bunch of money to implement a system and then not spend any more. Done right, you can realize so much more ROI by continuing to invest in learning, training, and process improvement. It doesn’t have to be expensive or fancy. Attending Summit and talking with other NAV and BC users is a great source for ideas and problem-solving, but also learning about all the valuable resources that are available, most for free. I led a session at Summit of the resources I’ve used and you can download the slides here, complete with 60-some hyperlinks. In addition, here are a few I picked up at Summit that I thought you’d want to know about specifically:
These are indeed exciting times, so I hope you’ll take advantage of it and position your company strategically for the next decade.