Directions EMEA last week was an overall positive affair – an adjusted message from Microsoft combined with the charm of Madrid clearly had an impact. Sure, some important questions regarding future versions Dynamics NAV remains, but this has been covered extensively by others – instead, we would like to share the ‘feel’ of what we left Madrid with.
During our first Directions in Berlin in 2010, our team left with the feeling of not being fully prepared for the future changes – this despite presenting RTC hands-on-labs together with Microsoft. By comparison, at Directions Madrid 2017, the same people felt quite curious about the future – and it is not really because the changes presented are fewer.
Maybe it is just that the frequency has changed from an annual jump to many smaller changes during the year that we are more used to the pace of change. Still, even for a sizable development team like ours, it is hard to keep up with everything, so somewhere along the way, we must have changed our approach.
This is what was discussed in our retrospective analysis on the plane back.
A shift in mentality!
In 2013, we decided not to invest in new servers, instead moving our development environment to the Azure platform. Since then, we have moved all task management to a suite of Atlassian Jira, Tempo, Bit-bucket and Confluence and built a connector for exchanging data with our NAV-2017 (hosted on Azure). This is then connected with our Microsoft provisioned CRM (now a suite of Apps) and Office 365.
Come to think of it, the only app we use to run our business that is not provisioned by the original developing organization today is Microsoft Dynamics NAV – which is kind of ironic considering that Dynamics NAV was the starting point. Once ‘Tenerife’ is available, we will move to this a soon as possible.
This is no small change for a development organization where people took some pride in its hardware and liked to ‘play around’ with servers that also hosted MS Project and TFS. Today, being in the cloud is second nature ….. well, like many we are still struggling to use its full potential, but the commitment is clear and we are confident that given the benefits others will follow!
A change in how we work!
We started building extensions with our partners early and developed test automation solutions aimed at supporting more product development. At the same time, we built and incorporated a suite of scripts and tools that enable us to do things faster when needed. Currently, we are even pushing our own app through AppSource.
Since the beginning of 2016, the entire NAV development group has been drilled in Architecture and Design Patterns by NAVSkills. At the beginning of the summer 2017, the same group was drilled in VS Code and Extension 2.0 as a preparation for autumn. As a result, we feel just a touch better prepared for Microsoft’s autumn launches than we had in the past.
Through the years, we have had to expand our technical skills in CRM, the .NET framework and Azure. Flow and PowerApps have pushed us to look closer at Office 365 and it seems increasingly clear that future development of functionality will somehow have to take the interaction among Office 365, Dynamics 365 and Azure into consideration (even without being experts in all).
Through the years, many of our interfaces with partners have moved from purely technical people to purely functional people with our team taking on most aspects of technical design. We are now finding ourselves assisting partners completely new to Dynamics 365 connecting to the eco-system and as a result we are now ‘enjoying’ being presented with functionality using many other programming languages.
In short, we have found that not only should we strengthen skills in one application, but we should at least have some understanding of the other applications in the eco-system. So, working with Dynamics NAV may have become ‘easier’ in some ways, whereas working in the eco-system has become more multi-facetted …. which is not always easier.
‘Almost’ confident about the future!
The changes taking place are no smaller than those that took place in 2010, but we feel that we meet them differently this time around. We seem to appreciate that adapting to these enhancements in competitiveness by trying to find a balance between building new skills while building strong solutions based on established best practices is the ‘new normal’. Given our location and business focus, we may have a little more freedom to experiment than many others.
Furthermore, we may have an easier time as a development organization because we have a limited amount of legacy IP. Sure, we continue to build tools and processes to effectively build new functionality, refractor and build extensions / apps for our partners when needed, but, in our view, the new Dynamics ecosystem give us opportunities that we can pursue relatively free of any past initiatives.
Still, despite feeling surprisingly well prepared and motivated by our recent experience, we are continuously aware that we are in the same boat as other Dynamics partners at Directions – hoping with increasing confidence that Microsoft’s commitment to ‘Tenerife’ remains unwavering, because this is what will ultimately define the value of much of the work we have done in the past.
So, are you looking forward to ‘Tenerife’ too?