Directions Asia 2018: Bring on the Future

Directions Asia 2018: Bring on the Future

I have just left Bangkok after attending Directions Asia 2018 and have so many thoughts whirling around in my head I felt it was important to get them down and share. After hearing Microsoft talk about their plans for the future, I have renewed optimism.

Navision, 31 years in the making, now serves 160,000 customers and 2.7 million users across the planet. At Directions Asia, Microsoft announced Dynamics 365 Business Central (D3BC), a universe of ERP functionality, customizations, and integrations, which started as Navision, is expanding at a velocity more rapid than ever before. Finally. From an upgrade perspective (my perspective), this means that there is even more urgency to stay current.

Microsoft’s strategy has been to give customers options for undisrupted evolution. Of course, there have been painful contradictions to that future vision in the past 11 years. Fortunately, those days are gone. The future is here. You can upgrade continuously, without disruption. However, you first have to get current.

What exactly does “current” mean?

Current means being on the latest version of Dynamics NAV and have the most recent cumulative update. You may be wondering how many ArcherPoint clients are current.  Zero. None of our ArcherPoint clients are current. However, we do have a strategy to get our clients current, and that is our subscription model. It takes the pressure off the client and lets ArcherPoint be the steward of the client’s database. Through the upgrade subscription model, we are able to make rapid technical decisions, as Microsoft updates its technology. We are able to move clients’ databases to the future state as efficiently and rapidly as possible, without endless pre-sales or change order conversations. Once we get a client to the point where they are in a continuous upgrade mode, we call that a “Utopia” client. This is in alignment with Microsoft’s upgrade vision: upgrades at will, with all clients being always current.

Over the last three years, 80% of our upgrades have come from Classic. That means that some clients are waiting 7 to 10 years to upgrade. Their NAV systems are prehistoric. My ambition is not to get in the business of upgrading. To the contrary. I envision a day when all clients are on a continuous upgrade path that just happens. No discussion, no presales arguments on ROI, no never-ending testing phases. In fact, I probably won’t have a job in upgrades, once my utopia vision is a reality.

Massive change usually only comes when one is forced to change. I am usually not a fan of too many options in transition periods. When RTC was introduced, for instance, Microsoft gave customers the option to use both Forms and Pages, both RTC and the Classic Client, for 2009R2. Some chose Classic, some RTC. However, many clients choose both and it was a bad idea for many reasons, not the least of which was Page Numbering. It not only caused more work in future upgrades, it perpetuated a pattern of holding on to the past. I am not a fan of holding on to the past, and I’ve seen it create quagmires of disruption in organizations, costing money and precious time.

Navision was, in a way, its own worst enemy. It was so good as a Classic Client, nobody wanted to move into the future. The Classic Client still lives and C/AL is still good. In fact, we still use it for our development environment. Seriously, this is our reality, and nobody questions it. It is just not modern. It’s time to move on. Embrace AL. Embrace D3BC.

Importance of Upgrading to Dynamics 365 Business Central

Ironically, that gets me to the reasons to upgrade to Dynamics 365 Business Central. It would take me a week to write this blog if I had to mention all or even some, so I will just touch on a few.

In Dynamics 365 Business Central (D3BC), Outlook integration seems to be much better, with quotes and order confirmations communicating with D3BC in real time. The Designer is an extension to Personalizations, actually creating AL Code. API’s can be developed in any language. You can now upgrade in the cloud in seconds and can customize per tenant. Everything is an extension in D3BC, but customization extensions can bypass the App Store overhead. Extensions can be re-deployed, meaning, customizations that require multiple iterations do not require layers and layers of extensions. Sandboxes can be customized directly without using an extension, good for development and testing. Customization Extensions are more easily created than ever imagined, simply open tenant in D3BC, click the button “Upload & Deploy” extension. You can also schedule Extension deployments. All pretty cool, but, just the tip of the iceberg of things to come.

People talk about the transition to the future and lazily gravitate towards what seems like the easiest, cheapest, fastest shortcut to as painless of method as possible, upgradeability be damned. When Microsoft gives us options (e.g., Forms or Pages, C/AL or AL, modify Base Code or write upgradeable code), I say rip off the Band-Aid and get to the future as soon as it is an option. The future doesn’t slow down, it only goes faster. If Microsoft gives us options, always go with the option that aligns with the future, not something that chains you to the past. It is always been a bad decision that will cost you in the future.

If other words, don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. Embrace AL, embrace Extensions, embrace Events, embrace everything Microsoft gives you, keeping in mind, their code is not yours. That is why they give us all these gifts.

These are the thoughts top of mind after attending Directions Asia. I would love to hear from others out there that might have a different opinion (whether or not you attended Directions Asia). Please comment below.

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