Tag Archives: Dynamics NAV 2016

“Internal Security” in ERP Systems

Internal security in ERP systemsMid-sized companies are being targeted these days by plenty of ads for “IT security in business”. Focus is on securing data and protecting the IT infrastructure against external attack. Daily headlines about hacker attacks are drawing attention to the vulnerability of one’s business at a fundamental level.

For an internal ERP system, however, the data security concept ought to give equal importance to how its user permissions are set up. Because of its complexity this issue is often neglected, although it holds a great potential for harm. Even disregarding any criminal intent of employees who might want to steal or manipulate sensitive data, it should be clear that sensible, role-based granting or limitation of access for individual users is a critically important administrative task.

Defining user rights helps, after all, to avoid errors and to increase data quality, since only entitled (= competent) users can perform certain transactions.

The ERP system Microsoft Dynamics NAV, for example, allows you to adapt which features will be available to a user depending on that user’s permission settings. This greatly improves usability, because each role in a company will only use a fraction of the functions of a typical ERP system. Therefore, many companies have adopted high compliance standards for data access, which have to be guaranteed by a sophisticated access concept.

A number of important updates in this vein have made their way into the NAV standard with the release of NAV Version 2016. Some of these solutions had already existed in partner solutions. Microsoft has now consolidated these into a new release. Unfortunately, they did little to announce these functions, and most of us have had to stumble upon these “hidden features” by accident.

To summarize the most important changes:

It is possible to define specific permission roles. These roles can be assigned to permission sets that precisely control access to a system object (table, table data, report etc.). This administrative level makes configuring new users much more efficient, by having preconfigured roles to choose from.

Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2016 user groups
Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2016 user groups

Matrix views show quickly and clearly which users have been assigned to which groups.

Users ordered by user groups in Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2016
Users ordered by user groups in Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2016

The creation of permission sets has also been simplified. A “recording” mode now lets the authorization administrator select the necessary system objects by simply running a session and working with the system the way a given user will work with it in future. Thus, the system objects are logged and summarized in a permission set. A user assigned to that permission set will then have exactly those permissions (read, write, execute, delete) that the administrator accessed while recording the model use of the application.

User permissions in Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2016
User permissions in Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2016

“Project Madeira”: Improvements and new Features to the July update

In July, Microsoft released an update for its cloud-based solution “Project Madeira”. This offers the users some interesting new expansions in addition to a number of small improvements.

The innovations mostly affect the interaction between “Project Madeira” and Outlook, the improvement of the sales documents and the connection to Dynamics CRM.

New features in Microsoft Outlook

Outlook now is equipped with certain new functions. From an appointment in the Outlook calendar, you can directly open the “Project Madeira” add-in, for example, in order to get an overview over the customer associated to the respective meeting. It is even possible to create and send an invoice for the appointment – without leaving the application.

Microsoft Project Madeira new features in Outlook
Source: Microsoft

A further possibility is, to send e-mail attachments (e.g. invoices as a pdf file) directly from the Outlook add-in to the list of “Incoming Documents” in “Project Madeira”. Then they can be forwarded to an OCR service which converts the received information into a digitally useable format. The entire process is carried out in the Outlook add-in. By the way, the user will also be informed there as soon as a software update is available.

Expansion of sales and delivery documents

The sales documents in “Project Madeira” have been expanded with a number of important fields. The changes now allow information in relation to the transport service and the tracking number to be recorded, which allows a better traceability for the delivery of goods.

Microsoft Project Madeira expansion of sales and delivery documents
Source: Microsoft


Adding own article attributes

Inventory articles can now also be labelled with various characteristics. The user can define his own types of attributes (e.g. colour, country of manufacture or size) and add these to the articles in addition to the built-in item characteristics. The inventory can subsequently be filtered using the various attributes. This makes the search for specific articles easier for both the user and the customer.

Linking with Microsoft Dynamics CRM

“Project Madeira“ already contains basic customer relationship management and opportunity management. If the available functions are not enough, it is now possible – supported by a setup guide on the Business Manager homepage – to create a link to the Microsoft Dynamics CRM in order to use its comprehensive features (e.g. in the area of marketing and customer service). This means that data from “Project Madeira” and information from the CRM can be connected seamlessly.

Further innovations

Further additional expansions can be installed via the “Extension Management” webpage. These include the verification and correction of all addresses in “Project Madeira”, as well as a simplified migration of data (e.g. customers, vendors and items) from Opera or Sage to “Project Madeira”.

Microsoft Dynamics 365: Microsoft will bundle ERP and CRM in one cloud service

With Microsoft Dynamics 365, Microsoft has announced a new platform for cloud-based services that will enrich and correlate the current ERP and CRM applications. Furthermore, the future offer is to include new business apps for domains such as finance, marketing, sales, and customer Service.

Microsoft refers to this service as “end-to-end suite for smart cloud-based business”, which will be available from autumn 2016. The user will then be able to use the individual applications as required. In the event of changing requirements or new challenges, the solutions can then be readily expanded by the new services – allowing users to only pay for what they actually need. Pricing details regarding Dynamics 365 are yet to be announced by Microsoft.

Microsoft Dynamics 365
Source: Microsoft

There will be two Dynamics 365 editions – a Business and an Enterprise Edition. The Business Edition Financial will be published this fall in the US and Canada, followed by its release in four European countries and the worldwide availability of the associated sales and marketing module in 2017. The worldwide availability of the Business Edition Financial is planned for 2018. There is no official release date for the also announced Enterprise Edition of the service, yet.

Moreover, the cloud service will natively integrate the two tools “Power BI” and “Cortana Intelligence” in order to support companies in the field of predictive analytics and regarding specific recommended actions based on their data.

Additionally, the integration of Dynamics 365 and Office 365 is intended to increase productivity, especially when working in teams, through the use of structured workflows. In order to facilitate the processes of managing and analysing data, both solutions draw on the same data model. For example, the applications are linked using “PowerApps” or the “Flow” tool already available with Office 365 today.

The perfect app for your business requirements

Via the new AppSource platform already rolled out by Microsoft, the various applications published so far can be viewed. On the one hand, entire industry solutions can be procured, and on the other hand partial solutions which enrich a default solution for specific purposes and corporate requirements. Look for more Details in the following video:

Microsoft AppSource

Up to now, we are not able to provide any comprehensive information on experience of the quality and compatibility of the individual offers. However, we will continue to keep you up to date here. Please feel free to provide your own experience as a comment.

Analytical CRM – uses and advantages

Analytical CRMToday, in a modern company, technological support is essential for managing all business processes. Therefore, in addition to an efficient ERP system, many companies also deploy a CRM system. After all, through intelligent combination of the data from the two business applications, the constantly changing buying behaviour of the modern and complex market environment can be reacted to in a structured manner within the framework of an analytical CRM concept.

Whether in the creation of marketing campaigns, the generation of leads, the management of sales opportunities or the optimised service of existing customers, an operational CRM system supports companies in all industries in automating various tasks in the fields of marketing, sales and service. In this way the platform makes it possible to influence customers and the market. Thus it offers the ideal basis for optimised customer orientation and making well-founded decisions.

With this, the uses of a CRM system are far from exhausted yet. Combined with other data sources and a suitable business intelligence solution, the software can also be used to pursue the approach of analytical CRM. The combination of the various databases and the exchange of information between them facilitate the systematic processing and evaluation of the data collected in the operational systems and make it possible to link the data. The mentioned information can be, for example, customer reactions, sales figures, transactions or other data from various areas of application of the ERP and CRM systems.

However, it is not always possible to obtain all relevant market data (e.g. interested-party behaviour and customer satisfaction) directly from one’s own ERP or CRM system. In line with the fast-growing quantity of big data, some information is only available externally, i.e. in the cloud. Ultimately, the goal is to filter out the data that is important for the respective company from this cloud and to include it in analyses and evaluations.

So using the idea of analytical CRM, customer behaviour patterns, company potential or current market conditions analysed and evaluated by the BI tool from various internal and external data sources, for example, can serve as an ideal decision-making base for future actions. For even better processing of the analyses and evaluations, integrating these directly into the surface of the other operational systems respectively is a good option. In this case the connected CRM can ensure the optimisation and control of further operational CRM processes and impact on the future strategic alignment of the company.

Analytical CRM

Thus, in a concrete case of application, the buying behaviour of customers could be assessed, for example, on the basis of various internal and external data via the BI software. By means of the analysis, it can ultimately be recognised which customers (e.g. categorised according to age or region) purchased which products in the recent past and how satisfied they were with their purchase. Then, in a subsequent mailing campaign, specific target groups can be written to in operational CRM and encouraged to purchase relevant products again. Customer groups who have not bought anything for a long time or were dissatisfied with their purchases can be left out or receive other offers. In this way, CRM can be used in a targeted manner for efficient communication, for detecting and harnessing trends and consequently for optimising customer satisfaction and sales measures.

Using the NAVdiscovery Toolbox developed by prisma informatik, the integration of the individual systems required for this can be implemented quickly and cost-effectively. The connector links the business intelligence solutions QlikView and Qlik Sense with Microsoft Dynamics NAV, CRM and as many other data sources as desired (e.g. Qlik DataMarket).

Microsoft releases a preview of its new cloud-based solution “Project Madeira”

A few days ago, Microsoft announced the upcoming release of its new business management offering called “Project Madeira”. The cloud-based solution will be released on the US market first, in the fall of 2016, and can be tested as a free preview up until then.

Rolecenter in Microsoft Project Madeira
Rolecenter in Microsoft Project Madeira

“Project Madeira” is an ERP service for small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) with up to 100 employees that interacts with Microsoft’s cloud platform Azure and Office 365. The product serves to execute business processes and is characterized by its high usability and simplicity, which are already appreciable during the systems very easy setup.

“Project Madeira” is based on Microsoft’s established ERP system Dynamics NAV, but limits itself to the most important base functionalities, what makes it especially comfortable to use. That means the solution focusses primarily on companies that have already outgrown their basic finance and accounting tools but are not ready to invest in an expensive, customized ERP system yet.

Due to the simplified and reduced scope of functions, users of “Project Madeira” will have to pass on many of the more complex features. So you can easily create, post, print and dispatch offers, orders and invoices but, for example, can only offer items (not ledger accounts, resources, surcharges or discounts etc.). Despite its simple structure, the solution – like Dynamics NAV – can represent many processes in finance and accounting, sales and even purchasing. “Project Madeira” also permits extensions, of which three are already available and installable in the preview version (PayPal, QuickBooks Import and US Bankimport Envestnet Yoodlee). In future, third-party developers (“independent software vendors”) will be able to develop new extensions and sell them to customers.

Extensions in Microsoft Project Madeira
Extensions in Microsoft Project Madeira

While the solution is functionally limited in many areas, it also offers other new functions that the current version of Dynamics NAV does not. “Project Madeira” features, for example, completely revised online help, integrated tooltips on table fields and actions, as well as a role center for the CRM module within Dynamics NAV and new “ready-to-use” permission sets. Another highlight is the ability to display items from an item list as large pictures.

Item list with big pictures in Microsoft Project Madeira
Item list with big pictures in Microsoft Project Madeira

The most impressive new feature, however, is the strong integration into Outlook or the Outlook Web App (OWA) combined with Office 365, which shows context-sensitive data about the sender from the ERP system. This way, users can create orders directly and send a corresponding e-mail with a PDF attachment without ever leaving Outlook/OWA.

Microsoft Project Madeira Office 365 Integration
Microsoft Project Madeira Office 365 Integration

With “Project Madeira”, Microsoft reveals the efforts they are currently making towards the logical continuation of NAV. The preview version of “Project Madeira” will remain available for testing until fall of 2016, afterwards the solution will be officially released on the US market first and then in other countries.

Keep checking here as we continue to post more about functions that will also affect the new Dynamics NAV release.

Incoming invoice process with OCR in Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2016

Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2015 Incoming Invoice Process with OCREven though, in keeping with tradition, invoices continue to be sent in hard copy by suppliers, Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2016 offers an opportunity to digitalise the process and thus map it more efficiently in the ERP process. Using an OCR service (optical character recognition) provided by Lexmark, each incoming receipt can be converted into a structure processed by NAV.

The new function sends PDF documents (scanned or electronically received incoming receipts) to the recognition service. The recognition service analyses and extracts the information located   centrally on the respective receipt and then supplies the user with an “incoming invoice file” to be processed directly by Microsoft Dynamics NAV on the basis of this information.

Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2015 Incoming Invoice Process with OCR

However, it should be mentioned at this point that the recognition focuses only on information of the invoice head (creditor, receipt no., amount etc.), so that the invoice can be recorded in a purchase/accounting sheet or purchase invoice/credit note in the financial accounting department. Then, by means of the configuration settings, the information recognised can be assigned to various NAV database elements. The recognition of line items and the associated creation of an item-specific invoice in NAV are not provided in this version. The determination of the corresponding general ledger account has to be defined by “Mapping Text to Account”, since it is not automatically linked.

Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2015 Incoming Invoice Process with OCR

The OCR service is available as standard for all users of the 2016 version and requires only a registration. The user then receives corresponding access data and a certain monthly volume of documents to be processed from Lexmark for free. Lexmark offers different rates that can be booked additionally, if the usage increases.

Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2015 Incoming Invoice Process with OCR

Electronic Invoices in Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2016

Microsoft Dynamics NAV As the forwarding of invoice documentation to public agencies (B2G = Business to Government) will soon be obligatory in some European countries, in the latest version of its ERP-system Dynamics NAV 2016, Microsoft has created the application basis to send and receive invoice documentation in digital form.

Linked to this is the implementation of basic data structures for the standardised exchange of data and specific processes which consider the special attributes of incoming and outgoing digital documentation. It is important though, to point out that only the invoice / credit note document types have been implemented by Microsoft so far and can now be sent and received as described below.

Many companies have already automated their processes in this area with the help of EDI processes, and are generally realising the complete process chain, starting with the incoming order through the delivery, ending at the invoice with the corresponding digital documents. On this basis, the introduction of electronic invoices can simply be seen as being a further step towards the complete implementation of digital business processes. Nevertheless, this is an important step, since with the implementation of the invoice a wide-ranging basis has been created both on the setup side and the master data side.

Generic platform
Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2016 has been extended to be able to receive, manage, process and send digital documents in an XML-structure. The appropriate processes can be implemented in NAV on a parameter-controlled basis.

Dynamics NAV 2016 Electronic Invoice

In addition, the appropriate bases in the management of data have been created in NAV in order to support the exchange and allocation of communication parameters (management of conversion tables for units, allocation of the GLN (“Global Identification Number”) codes in the master data etc.). The status of the send/receipt transactions can be recognised by the administrative assistant at a glance at all times, and a drill-down in the activity log of the process is also possible. The GTIN (“Global Trade Item Number”) required for the identification of specific items has also been incorporated in the master data.

Sending of invoices
In the version of 2016, the following formats are provided for the sending of invoice data as standard:

  • PEPPOL AP Connectivity in the formats 2.0 and 2.1
  • Tradeshift
  • Creation of a file and/or and email with an attachment

PEPPOL is a concept which has been created by the European Union and consists of a platform that has been provided for the entire topic-area of “E-Procurement” (B2G).

Tradeshift provides a “Value Added Network” which supports the exchanging of documents in the B2B area. At the basic level it can be used free of charge.

Invoice data which corresponds to the above-mentioned conventions can be imported directly in Dynamics NAV.

Converter software
If your company takes a wide-ranging approach to the digital exchange of external notifications (EDI = “Electronic Data Intercharge”) and internal notifications (EAI = “Enterprise Application Integration”), then as before, the use of specialist software for the conversion, mapping and sending of documents is an economically viable idea (e.g. Microsoft BizTalk Server or Lobster). For this, all the standard formats (EDIFACT, IDoc, VDA etc.) and special methods of transfer (SMTP, AS2, FTP, X.400, OFTP etc.) have been implemented as standard.

For standard EDI notification types (ORDERS, DESADV, INVOIC), in the scope of the sector solutions, prisma informatik has provided an exchange structure on the basis of OPENTRANS. This structure enables the exchanges between NAV and the converter software to consistently take place in a uniform way.

Further technical development in Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2016 and “E-Everything”

Microsoft Dynamics NAV In many versions prior to NAV 2016, technical work had already started on ensuring a high degree of connectivity with the outside world. As a central ERP-system, Microsoft Dynamics NAV has the most modern technical standards, which enable it to exchange data with other systems in real time and to outsource processes unnotelessly for the user to subsystems.

By establishing a higher interoperability with other, above all specialised systems, it is becoming increasingly unimportant to include complex or maintenance-intensive and varying functionality as an individual programming in the ERP-solution. With the so-called Web Service Communication, associated with the XML-based data exchange, it is now possible to design processes synchronically in machine-to-machine communication. This concept has meanwhile become indispensable in many applications in modern ERP-architecture.

Expansion of the Development Environment

For this reason Microsoft is expanding the Integrated Development Environment (IDE) with every version of Dynamics NAV, to implement the design of the application and the process control function effectively with the latest technologies.

Since Dynamics NAV is increasingly positioned by Microsoft in a Cloud Operating Model, it is of greater significance that the solution operated in this way is not optionally individualised, as this will push the supply platforms to their limits. As such, also in the version NAV 2016 a number of innovations were introduced, which essentially target the backgrounds mentioned above.

Developers can now – as in other development environments – also query so-called “events” across the entire system in Dynamics NAV, in order to react in the program code to status changes in other areas of the program. With this technology it is possible to integrate additional functions in the individual processes, without directly modifying the core source code of the standard application. For the user and operator of the ERP-solution, this ultimately means that fewer medium and long-term costs are generated during maintenance work and updates.

Likewise, separated “Apps” can be installed in Dynamics NAV, which do not change the existing object model, although they do have an influence on the data and functional model of the application.

Microsoft not only updates the system “superficially” or in terms of “contents”, but also ensures that current technical requirements can be met. With version 2016, developers and designers are also provided with further high-performance tools to create specific applications, which are of great benefit to them in their day-to-day using.

Continue reading Further technical development in Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2016 and “E-Everything”

Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2016 – CRM Integration

Microsoft Dynamics NAV Not only because of the successful online availability of Dynamics CRM (Software as a Service) and the overall widespread use of the ERP application Dynamics NAV, many companies use both of these Microsoft products.

In the interests of efficient customer management, however, simple parallel operation of the two systems does not make sense. Both products utilize central data structures in a company, like customer management, for example. Instead, it makes sense to integrate the two systems technically so that processes can be organized seamlessly and efficiently in both.

Standard CRM integration into Dynamics NAV
With its new release of Dynamics NAV, Microsoft presents an entirely redesigned method of integration between NAV and CRM, far beyond the synchronization tools of the previous versions. Both products are used for their respective strengths regarding the common business processes and complement each other excellently. Information from Dynamics NAV can now be shown natively in the GUIs of the CRM application and vice versa. All employees are thus guaranteed full view of all processes of a given customer.

Coupling and linking
A customer from the NAV application can be coupled with a customer in the CRM, for example, thus enabling automatic background synchronization of master data. This applies most of all to fields used in both applications (e.g. address information). On top of this, so-called links are offered from both applications for all relevant tables, allowing one-click navigation from one application to the other, where further editing steps can be taken if the appropriate permissions exist. Various content types can then be shown respectively in the context of the other program in so-called FactBoxes (e.g. NAV financial accounting statistics shown in CRM or CRM sales opportunity statistics shown in NAV).

Dynamics NAV 2016 CRM Integration

Process integration
Processes can also be integrated between the two systems. Sales opportunities in the CRM system can thus directly result in quotations and orders in the ERP system. System information will then be posted there in the future as well (e.g. when billing is complete for a process associated with a CRM element).

The strengths of each product should be considered in the respective process stage in the conceptual design. Run-up and initiation of sales transactions belong in CRM while fulfilment, logistical handling and billing belong in NAV.

Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2016 – The New Workflow Module

Microsoft Dynamics NAV The latest version of Microsofts ERP solution Dynamics NAV 2016 includes many optimised and new features that make day-to-day work with the software significantly easier for the user. One of the presumably most interesting new features is the option of generically and flexibly configuring and executing workflows directly within the application.

The new workflow module supports the user in consistently and individually controlling ERP processes and, in so doing, meeting existing compliance requirements. Business Process Management is thus IT-supported to an extent. For instance, a user disposing of the appropriate authorisations can independently configure approval and licence processes by defining the respective reactions to certain events directly in Dynamics NAV 2016 (”If”…”then”…). These may include, for instance, a simple notification, the request for consent or rejection regarding a required action, or the automatic initialisation of a process.

NAV 2016 Workflow Module

Notification

If a notification is selected as the reaction, the desired users will be informed about what happened when the respective event occurred, and, if required, these users will be requested to act accordingly. In this case, the corresponding persons will be provided with an email or a message including the respective information.

Approval of a necessary measure

Furthermore, it can be defined that a necessary subsequent task, goods or a document remain blocked until a responsible person within the company approves the respective action and the object for further processing. For instance, a purchase invoice exceeding a certain amount can be blocked until an employee of the company has reviewed and approved this invoice.

Process automation

It is also possible to decide that the Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2016 system should automatically execute a defined response process upon certain events without there being any need for another user to manually initiate the next task.

Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2016 already includes more than 20 workflow templates (for purchase invoice processes e.g.) the user may use. However, developers may additionally define separate workflow events and reactions.

NAV 2016 Workflow Module

Up to now, Microsoft Dynamics NAV provided the option of partially parameterising business processes, but they were always defined by the system. The new logic regarding the workflows therefore creates the possibility to design processes generically and have them executed by users of the ERP System.