The 3 days of Directions EMEA 2016 are now behind us and we can look back at the biggest Directions ever. In fact, it was record breaking in a number of ways from number of attendees to number of sessions – even to the amount of food and beverages consumed.
But, without getting too technical, what did we actually learn?
NAV 2017 will have many new and interesting features that we will briefly touch below. Dynamics 365 will be an amazing addition to the Dynamics family, we hope – at least we are not ready to think of it as a replacement for anything, yet.
One thing that we did take away was that the integration with Office365 (O365), PowerBI and possibly even CRM continues and is a major motivator in both launches. However, we also felt that many of our partner colleagues left the event with many questions unanswered. Below is our take on what took place.
The quick NAV 2017 up-date
A main cause for loss of productivity is that users have to open several applications to support the processes they are working on. In NAV2017, Microsoft has taken several steps to reduce these barriers with much new O365 integration and improved functionality in NAV.
In O365, we now have the ability to generate quotes directly from Outlook. In addition, the creation of a new role centre allows for data from CRM to be shown in NAV even before it has been transferred. Embedded PowerBI enables the user to view elements from PowerBI directly in NAV.
We also saw changes to the user interfaces. For years, Microsoft has been struggling to make the app and web interfaceS as strong as the Windows client. They are slowly getting there. This year saw improvements in both areas.
In addition to integration and user interfaces, Microsoft has taken a (first) step to integrate Cortana or machine learning into NAV2017. In the current extensions provided, this technology is used to help predict sales forecasts and, as a result, reduce the risk of stock outs.
Partners also took note of a new development environment to be launched toward the end of the year that is more closely related to Visual Studio than has been the case in the past. Initially, this environment is intended to focus on building extensions (now with improved functionality), but we expect that more will be possible in the future.
Lifting the lid on Dynamics 365 Business Edition
Dynamics 365 Business Edition (BE) holds immense promise for users, as companies can avoid silos of information. Companies that can analyze a unified view of data in near real time and figure out the right actions to perform based on this data can better empower their employees and gain a sustainable competitive advantage.
We received new information about Microsoft Flow that enables you to extend functionality by creating automated workflows between apps and services to get notifications, as well as to synchronize files and collect data. We also saw the new NAV connector for Dynamics 365.
PowerApps that enable people to build internal apps without writing code were explained in greater detail, as was the process with which new apps have to be validated for AppSource – the latter is a new process and is different from the former Certified for Microsoft Dynamics.
We received less information about the common data model than expected, but more about the serious amount of work that has gone into making a secure stable platform with process flow and the provisioning of a new tenant in less than 30 seconds that can handle millions of users. A very impressive endeavour.
We felt that there were quite a few open issues and things than still needed to be done prior to the US and Canada release on November 1. Maybe, as a result, many of our colleagues had a hard time forming a firm opinion about the latest Dynamics offerings.
The elephant in the room
Microsoft has been a long champion of the public, private and hybrid cloud approach allowing users the choice of environment for their applications or choosing to integrate older on premise applications with new cloud services. Many at Directions worried that this no longer holds true.
To be fair, the first key‑note did give credit to a €1,5BN on premise market by 2019 and made a commitment for NAV 2017 to be a strong on premise solution. However, the recent discontinuation of CRM on premise and the fact that AX7 is heavily tuned for the Azure technology stack causes some concern among the Dynamics partners at Directions EMEA that the much-loved locally open-source, on premise NAV solution will not last forever.
To some, this felt like a NAV 2009 déjà vu in the sense that we see major changes and new possible paths of development but with a lack of clarity. In the case of Dynamics 365, we will also see changes in the distribution channel – maybe with less impact than currently thought, as selling ERP software is a very different game than just selling software.
So, just how partners will have to compete in the future can seem a little confusing. Sure partners with vertical solutions and dedicated customers may have a smoother path, but even they have to adjust to a new business model in Dynamics 365.
What is next?
We have previously advocated that we currently need to develop in NAV in three different ways depending on the environment the solution is deployed in. We have considered it pretty clear that cloud is the future and helped start DynamicsAppAlliance to serve this market.
We do not have a clear view with regard to how much time it will take the Dynamics channel to move an estimated 100k non-cloud solutions, including around 65k still on Classic version (NAV 2009 or earlier). Directions EMEA 2016 only gave only a little more clarity.
It seems clearer now that we are in a SaaS paradigm and that solutions made here may (or may not) be added to the standard NAV product later. This makes sense as the future of digitalisation is about integrating solutions that more or less already exist in a cloud environment.
However, one of the main benefits of NAV is that it is ‘local open source’ and companies can modify it to suit their needs. The companies that have spent years building ‘their’ solution will not rush to use standard solutions before new functionality is added to Dynamics 365 and/or new flexibility for modifying a cloud based solution is implemented.
What was your take away from Directions – did we miss anything?