NAV Experts – process & design is your value, not your code!

So I've been party to a discussion this week between a group of people who know NAV really well, but have been lamenting the fact that NAV+Extensions and especially Dynamics 365 Business is the end of their profession and even in one instance asking 'how am I going to feed my family'!

The key to their argument is that with even Microsoft shipping enhancements to NAV 2017 as enhancements they will not be able to make the changes to code that enable them to provide the process their clients want anymore and the NAV world as we have known it, is over.

Come on guys (and too few girls unfortunately). What is your primary skill? Writing code? No, it's designing process. OK, you then facilitate that process by writing code but it's the design that's the skilled bit. It's understanding what happens in different types of businesses and defining procedures that are efficient but reliable. And Microsoft could not take that away from you if they wanted to.

The coding bit is the easy bit. I'd point to the number of graduate trainee's that I work with that after joining straight from university, have gone through a six-week course and less than a years' experience, are taking my technical design and creating better, more best practice, pattern compliant code, than I can after twenty. After all C/Side is not a difficult language to learn, that's been one of its strengths.

The edge that twenty years gives me, is the ability to first have a discussion with the client and hone an often chaotic massive wish list down to a realistic deliverable functional requirement. The fact that while doing that, I can 'in real time' think through the technical design with how long it will take to create and assessing how serious the risks are to doing those changes in my head, makes that discussion immensely valuable to the client.

With no 'I'll get back to you's', they are able to rapidly evolve a detailed vision for how their business can progress. As a bit of an entrepreneur myself, I know you value people who enable you to do that more than anyone. Once you've established trust in that person, it enables you to plan and promise in a way that give you a confidence and real competitive edge. Once you've found someone who gives you that, you don't let them go. Even if they cannot amend less than 1% of your NAV systems core objects!

We've all seen a NAV system that's been customised to destruction and some of us more times than we can count. When you trace back it's because someone who has the ability to code has lacked the experience of design to say 'No' to a client when asked to provide a particular result. They know enough to be dangerous but not enough to say why what's requested, is not a good idea.

My all-time favourite screw-up was the fast-tracked developer who changed the Item table to be 'DataPerCompany' to No so they could share item records across companies! Unsurprisingly the FIFO costing (amongst numerous other things) in each company didn't work so well. The kid was a nice, well-meaning person who just didn't understand the application enough to realise what they were doing was catastrophic. The properties on the Item table are not going to be in an extension any time soon I think?

So why will that knowledge of what's possible and safe change with NAV+Extensions or Dynamics 365? Will businesses stop needing processes that Microsoft or the ISV's don't facilitate? Actually, if those extra 70,000+ businesses come on board isn't demand going to go up?

Sure you'll spend less time doing repetitive basics. That function that Microsoft should have provided decades ago will just be an Extension from Appsource instead of the object designer away.

But your time will be spent doing what provides your client real value, explaining the best way to exploit NAV and designing and building that last 5% to make it a real 'perfect fit'.

Maybe those customisations they do need will take slightly longer to create if they are extension dependent. But to put it in perspective, what percentage of your time have you spent on upgrades in the last decade? If building extension dependent extensions is longer, I'll put a lot of money down that it will be less than the saving in upgrade time.

So stop thinking your success is based on inserting any code and believe in your business and process design skills. From where I sit, your primary problem is going to be keeping up with demand, once that's hit, you get your head around the fact that change is inevitable and so you need to evolve as well.