Mid-project? Should you upgrade to Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2016?


Last week Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2016 was launched by Microsoft and became generally available. The question I’ve been fielding from lots of clients ever since is, "should we switch our project to 2016 and how does it affect the project risk by doing so?"

So my answer is unequivocally yes and I would suggest that the risk is not affected at all. How can I make this claim? Those who have an IT background will be saying wait for service pack one, but I don’t believe that applies anymore and I'll explain why.

The first thing to understand is Microsoft’s development cycle is not in fact a year, but weeks. Every two weeks or so they do a build of the software in each of the versions that are supported. They download the code from their code store of each of the features that are in each version, compile it and submit it to thousands of tests. If they pass it gets released.

This means that any fixes in the 2013R2 or 2015 versions are incorporated in 2016. If you look back over the past months you will see that by week two of each month they have released a new cumulative update for each supported version and they all have the issues resolved since the last one incorporated within them.

This means for me that there is no advantage in waiting for the new version. The issues that are in that new version exist in the older versions as well unless they pertain to new features or functionality. I don't see that the risk is any greater with this new release and you get the advantage of those new features.

The other factors are that the version you will go on to, has a longer support lifecycle and of course, those nice new features are available to you straight away.

How difficult is it to convert an existing project? What are the cost and time implications?

Well that of course depends on where the project is in its lifecycle and if final testing and user training has been completed yet, which would need to be repeated. If not then you have the time to upgrade the platform by installing the new software and upgrading the customised objects to 2016. If you’re using standard NAV then this should be very quick, but even if it has been customised, if they have been done following best practise then it's just a few hours or at worst days.

Having completed two upgrades through to live status already as part of Microsoft’s 2016 TAP testing programme, I can say that the only area you need to redesign is approvals. If you use the existing sales or purchase document approvals then these have been rewritten to use the new (much better) workflow, so you will need to go through this in detail and decide how you want it to work. Believe me its worth that though, we lost lots of customisation because multiple approvers are now standard.

Being straight you may have some resistance from any consultants involved in your project because they have not had the chance to get up to speed with the changes yet. Until you’ve completed a project on a new version your always less confident and want to check your answers more. Some consultants and developers (like clients) relish the challenge of discovering what's new and some want to defer it for as long as possible. Trouble is these days it's coming soon so I would say get your knowledge up to date now. Make sure you as the client are not paying for that ‘professional development time’ though, any good partner should have been doing internal briefings and knowledge shares on 2016 as the software has been available to all partners since early August.

The only show stopping issue I see about converting to 2016 now is if you have third party add-ons that have not issued their 2016 version yet. Ask them for a commitment as to when they will release and see what that does to your project timeline. For CFMD (Certified for Microsoft Dynamics) status they are surprised to issue a new version within three months of Microsoft's release.

So I conclude that the saving in testing and training by upgrading now make it something you should do if mid project. It will save you considerable work and change management later for no extra risk and minimal extra costs now. That cost will be much less than the cost of upgrading later. Upgrading before your system is live always easier than once it is in production use.

Final point, the latest cumulative update for 2015 was released yesterday, going to 2016 is no more work than moving to that. Why waste time updating to that CU when you could get the benefit of workflow, phone client, much better web client etc?