“The answer is extensions, now what’s the question”

So I’m quoting Marko Perisic, General Product Manager for Microsoft’s SMB ERP recently who started his presentation with ‘the answer is extensions, now what’s the question’.

And without revealing the all the questions (due to NDA’s) I can confirm that its undoubtedly critical that whether your an end user or even more critical if you’re a partner, that the developers you use, know their way around creating and maintaining extensions.

For me this is the most significant change to hit the developer community since RDL reporting and three tier architecture arrived in 2009.

The difference here is those changes took a while to really have an impact, due to the time it took for existing users to upgrade or for new projects to be based on 2009. I suspect that this time you’re not going to have the same timescale to get skills up to date. 

Now a lot of Dynamics NAV users can and do expect to upgrade easily. They don’t need whole new infrastructure this time and with powershell creating deltas, they can upgrade in just a few days. When they want access to the new features in 2017 they will force the issue.   

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And so once 2017 lands in October and they start to upgrade to that platform, they will want, where ever possible, at least new customisations as extensions.

Now our experience is that, almost anything is possible in an extension once you get your head around how you can use even just the system events, that are already there. Its takes a different thought process and might result in more lines of code than if you had just inserted in the standard object, but the upside is a level of upgradability and portability that is the utopia we’ve been longing for. So changes may not justify doing the final part of packaging them as an extension that’s a moot point to me. What is clear is that zero impact to standard objects should become the standard default way of working.

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So if you’re going to be ready for the demand then your solution architects and developers need to start preparing now.

That means you need

  • Classroom training, get on one of the courses run by my fellow MVP’s Mark Brummel and Luc Van Vugt at https://nav-skills.com
  • Online knowledge, watch the YouTube videos by two more MVP’s, Waldo & Vjeko that take you through loads of important topics.
  • Attend, NAV Techdays conference in Antwerp, Belgium on 17th & 18th November to learn from Microsoft the latest techniques.
  • Time, use the hopefully quieter summer period to make sure you or your people have time scheduled to create some simple extensions

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If you don’t think it’s important then I would ask where you’ve been hiding. You’ve obviously missed AppSource.Com or don’t get its potential.

I also guess you’ve not seen Project Madeira and you’ve certainly not tried installing or uninstalling an extension.

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I’m also betting that you don’t understand that the average end user is frustrated with both the cost and process of getting a developer to customise their system for them and don’t believe they will prefer to pick a standard app from a list that they can install in their test company and try out in minutes.

It hasn’t even cross your mind that the fact they can uninstall the extension as easily as they installed it is going to make them much more willing to try it out? What’s the risk if they can try it on their test system first and uninstall it in seconds?

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If as expected Microsoft put the object ranges for AppSource extensions on every 2017 NAV licence automatically, how are you going to stop them?

What? You won’t support their system if they install any? Really? You think that’s the way to keep them happy? What do you think they will say to you when they uninstall the app and find they have the same problem? Apart from goodbye that is?

Your oblivious to the fact that the simple tasks that probably take up the majority of your developer’s time are going the way of the dinosaurs and that if you’re to justify the high salaries in the future, their skills will need to be cutting edge not decades old.

Forgive me being a cynical Brit these last few paragraphs but I really hope the Dynamics NAV community embraces these changes. Bluntly we are playing catch up in this area with the likes of  Netsuite and SalesForce. Anyone who doesn’t think they are serious competitors obviously missed the  $9.4bn paid by Oracle to acquire Netsuite last week. 

So I guess if you’re a NAV developer who’s planning to retire in September or you work for a company that’s still using classic, you can relax. Otherwise I’d advise you start at least planning for extensions now.

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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