Dynamics NAV customisations and easy upgrades – are they compatible?

I was asked by the chairman of another partner today – how automatic can we make upgrading Dynamics NAV? Specifically, he wanted to know, how realistic was it for him to ask his developers to upgrade his clients within six months of a release by Microsoft?

By posting a reply on here I’m aware of the NoSuite trolls who would love to hear that upgrading NAV is weeks of work for everyone. Happily for me, the actual reality is not what they want to read.

Scripts make it easy with the right coding patterns

If you do your Dynamics NAV customisation in the right way, following the correct design patterns, then upgrading through either the monthly cumulative update or a full release, is a matter of running the scripts. That’s means it’s no more than a few minute’s work.

By comparing the objects you have in your live system with Microsoft’s untouched virgin objects from the exact same version, you can produce first a ‘delta’ of any changes that have been made to those objects.

You then apply that delta to the new set of objects which produces the same changes in the new version. Voila – you’re ready to go!

Events and Extensions make it a none issue

Oh and that’s before you factor in 2016’s new extensions and events. If you use those you will not have to modify the standard objects at all and that means not even the script process is required.

Having had some time since the most recent release of NAV, and had projects go live on 2016 now, we have practical experience of these and even with this first release of the extensions and events its surprising what you can create using it. Events allow lots of zero impact changes to core functions once you have gotten your head around them. This is something your developers need to adapt now if you’re not to incur even more technical debt in the future.

Is it really that simple? Well you can get exceptions during the scripting process when applying the delta’s if the system cannot work out where to reinsert those changes in the new objects. Typically, this happens if either Microsoft have changed the exact same code (something you will want to know about) or you have not done your customisations in a place or way that’s easy to ‘merge’.

Older upgraded code can give exceptions – consider redevelopment sooner rather than later

This means that the exceptions we get are from customisations that have been done many years ago, before the best practise around this was established. Technical debt, I guess, from having a system that’s twenty years old now. That’s a heritage and maturity that solutions like NoSuite can only dream of. I’ll also wager they will have their own issues with this before their system is too much older or supporting all that legacy technology will make them slow, uncompetitive and stifle innovation.

Any recent development done in the last few years should be fine, although its good practise to run it through a scripted delta comparison as part of testing the development prior to acceptance into your live solution. If it fails for any reason, changes can be made before its live – always a better process. If it repeatedly fails to merge, then that’s down to the quality of your developer and they should do the corrective work for free!

For customisations created from before 2013 and just upgraded ‘as is‘, consider paying to have them reworked, I know it’s hard to justify money to make the software just do what it already does but it will pay off in the long run.

Make sure your ISV add-ons are script upgradable

One final point – for any ISV your considering making part of your solution, are their changes ‘script mergeable? – if not I’d advise you either don’t use or find a different one.

Author: James Crowter

I’m passionate about how businesses can improve their efficiency by getting process optimal more of the time. For the last twenty five years I’ve worked to help organisations of all sizes and types implement the ERP & CRM software that typically they decide they need when things are going wrong. I’ve seen that work unbelievably well and enabled those organisations to rapidly grow but I’ve also had some hard projects over that time where it’s felt more like warfare at times. Since 1996 (and version 1.01) I’ve been working with a small Danish product called Navision that’s now become Microsoft’s Dynamics NAV and I’ve also been using and consulting around Microsoft CRM since 2005. As managing Director of one of the longest established first Navision and now Microsoft Dynamics partners I’ve been involved in the complete history including numerous product councils and system design reviews. It’s my privilege to know many of the key Microsoft executives and product designers and have insight into both where the products are now and their future direction. So colleagues & clients have asked me to start this blog to share some of the insight that both this knowledge (obviously where not restricted by NDA’s or client confidentiality) and experience can help. Specifically I want to concentrate not on the specifics of how (there are some great blogs already for that) but why. If any user helps their business make better decisions or consultant can give better advice then that will be objective achieved. I founded Technology Management in 1992 and have led from the front ever since. Helping clients use technology to grow their business is my passion through explaining technology in terms that everyone can understand. My interest in computing began at the age of eight, long before my school had the equipment to cope. Throughout school and university I developed software commercially. I hold many IT certifications, such as Microsoft Dynamics NAV (for over 17 years), Microsoft Dynamics CRM (for over 10 years), as well as Microsoft Windows Server, Exchange and SQL. In October 2015, I was awarded the title of Most Valuable Professional (MVP), a title given to a select few individuals (31 currently) across the world specifically for Dynamics NAV. After years of working with a range of distribution and manufacturing software for hundreds of organisations, I focus on understanding the business requirements of an organisation, what it will take to deliver the systems required to maximise their potential. Follow me online via my other social channels: - Twitter: @jamescrowter - LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/jamescrowter Or email me directly at james[.]crowter[@]tecman.co.uk.

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