Project Madeira and Dynamics 365
Project Madeira is a direct SaaS (Software as a Service) offering from Microsoft. It is a separate product with its own business functionality and completely built on Microsoft Dynamics NAV. Therefore, it is no surprise that some of the functionality we see in this product is exactly as Microsoft ships Microsoft Dynamics NAV. It is also no surprise that new application functionality we see in Project Madeira, for example the brick layout in list pages, is now available in Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2017. Project Madeira is still in preview until 31 October 2016 and will be part of the Dynamics 365 SMB edition (SMB = Small and medium sized businesses). Dynamics 365 will include a complete business solution offering based on Office 365, CRM online, SharePoint, Power BI and much more.
From 1 November 2016, Project Madeira will become Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Financials. Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Financials is a true SaaS offering, which also means that company-specific customisations are not possible. BUT, it can be enhanced by using Extensions. Extensions can be purchased via Microsoft AppSource, which is similar to Apple’s app store or Google Play. New Zealand companies still need to wait a while until Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Financials will be available. Microsoft will first launch Dynamics 365 in the US and Canada, and then next in Europe. I think 2018 is the earliest we’ll see it Down Under.
Microsoft Dynamics 2017
Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2017 is here now, and it too can be enhanced using Extensions from AppSource! Every partner can develop Extensions, and Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2017 now supports all object types. Extensions have been introduced in Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2016 and work like a deployment method. In a nutshell, instead of deploying the full changed or new object like a table or page, the developer only deploys the differences to the standard object set into the server and enables them. The service tier then merges these changes into the metadata of the object set in the database, which makes them available to users. The big benefit is that the standard object set hasn’t been touched and therefore can be overwritten (upgraded) with the latest version from Microsoft without any further code merge. We can see already, with the introduction of Extensions and Events in Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2016, that our footprint in standard objects is greatly reduced. Customisations can still be done and deployed in the traditional way as well. So Extensions are not the only way to enhance NAV.
Embedded Power BI
If you have used Power BI before then you can bring these Power BI dashboards into your Role Centre in Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2017. This makes a lot of sense. Users previously had to switch applications to see their data, graphically illustrated with advanced reporting capabilities. Now they can stay in a single application and choose which tiles of an existing Power BI dashboard they would like to include in the Role Centre page.
Integration to PowerApps and Microsoft Flow
Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2017 creates new opportunities with the integration to PowerApps and Microsoft Flow. Both products are Azure-based and still in preview. PowerApps allows a user to design mobile applications without writing a single line of code, with the ability to integrate data from other systems like Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online, SQL Server and now with Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2017. If you like to explore more about PowerApps then follow this link.
Microsoft Flow, part of PowerApps, is basically a Workflow Configurator in Azure, and integrates with Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2017. This opens up many possibilities to integrate other systems.
It’s now possible to send data to Cortana Intelligence and getting forecast figures back with the new Time Series Library, further extending integration to Azure Services. Cortana is a fully managed big data and advanced analytics suite. Microsoft Dynamics NAV has about 600 decimal and date fields which could be used to feed to Cortana and receive back a prediction. Think about your next budget. We could use this new Time Series library take a G/L Account, feed Cortana with the last 24 months and ask for a prediction of the next 12 months. Do the same with the next account and so forth. The end result would be a budget proposal based on previous years’ trends. Think now about stock levels, sales quantities, quantity to manufacture, and the list goes on. A data scientist is usually required for advanced analytics as the required algorithms have to be selected or extended using a language called R. Not for this integration! Microsoft wrapped 5 machine learning experiments into the Time Series library. Microsoft already offers an extension which uses Cortana for sales availability and forecasting.
Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2017 also enhances the core application by introducing Item Attributes. The item card often gets extended by new fields with attributes like colour, size, state or even species. Item Attributes offer a flexible way to set up these attributes with custom defined lists and types, which also can be used to filter items.
Smart Notifications are non-obstructive notifications to the user which can be linked to more details. An example is the credit limit warning. If a customer is selected in a sales order and has exceeded their credit limit then in previous versions of NAV a pop-up window was shown that had to be OK’ed in order to continue working, i.e. an obstructive notification. This same message popped up with every change of the sales order, e.g. adding a new item line or increasing the quantity of an existing line. The new smart notification appears on the top of the screen and doesn’t interrupt the user. If further details are required, the user can click on the provided link. This link can open different pages based on the nature of the notification. Unfortunately, this nice feature is only available in the web client (browser), but I’m sure it will find its way to the Windows client soon.
Some other highlights of NAV 2017
Account categories and sub-categories have been introduced to the Chart of Accounts so that reporting can be standardised.
The Fixed Asset area has been enhanced by standard setups which makes it easier to create new Fixed Assets.
The relationship management pages have been changed to better support the browser client and integration to Microsoft Dynamics CRM now has an assisted setup guide - no CRM connector anymore! – for faster integration.
Every list page can be shown in a brick layout in the browser where for example the item picture is shown.
Better than ever
The Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2017 release offers a richer integration than ever before to Microsoft Azure offerings like Office 365, embedded PowerBI, Cortana Intelligence, Power Apps and Microsoft Flow. Microsoft has also continued its programme of significant improvements to productivity and performance to enhance the user experience even further.