In October, Microsoft is going to roll out new releases for its business applications. Dynamics 365 Business Central will then also be equipped with some improvements and innovations. The release notes recently published by Microsoft provide an overview of the new key features. They also confirm that the on-premise version of Business Central will be the successor to Microsoft Dynamics NAV.
With the upcoming October release, the availability of Dynamics 365 Business Central will be extended. From this point on, the solution can be operated in the cloud, on-premise and as a hybrid model. Customers who currently have a local Dynamics NAV solution in operation can continue to use it. However, subsequent versions of the Dynamics NAV product range will no longer be available under the usual name. Instead, the solution will become “Business Central On-Premise” as part of the new releases.
Optimized productivity and user experience
The new version of Business Central will bring some productivity and usability improvements in the Web Client. Besides a new modern look, improved keyboard navigation and new keyboard shortcuts make working with the program considerably faster and more convenient. Enhanced search functions for pages and reports as well as new filter options for lists also increase user-friendliness – regardless of whether the data is accessed via Web Client or Universal App Client (Smartphone, Tablet or Windows 10).
As announced at the previous Directions, the latest version of Microsoft’s ERP system Dynamics NAV 2018 has been released on the 1st of December. The new version contains several new features and improvements.
Aside from improved Office 365 integration and several new general features, the changes mainly concern financial accounting and inventory management. The most important enhancements and improvements at a glance:
General new features With the new version, the user is fully supported during setup and configuration by various setup wizards accompanying the user step by step in defining the parameters for a certain module or area. In addition, all classic setup pages can now be called at one single place, categorized by area. Another new feature is the ability to change the role center directly in the Web Client without logging off and to create user task lists that – similar to Outlook – can pint to certain ERP-specific tasks, support prioritization and repetition, and can be connected to defined pages or reports. Version 2018 also allows the user to generate a PDF preview of reports in all major browsers (previously only Internet Explorer).
New financial accounting features In financial accounting, dimension filters can now be applied to all dimensions. These are available, among others, in the chart of accounts, general ledger, accounts payable and receivable. Certain Excel reports, such as balance sheets, profit & loss, cash flow statements or traw balance sheets, can now also be constantly updated via Excel. Moreover, lists (e.g. journals) can now be accessed in Excel and changes written back, taking business logic into account. Both require an Office 365 account. Dynamics NAV 2018 also offers an additional subledger for employees with individual “employee” ledger entries as well as an account type “employee” in the general journal (e.g. for settling travel expenses). In addition, the new Accountant Hub provides cloud-based support for external accountants.
New inventory features Dynamics NAV 2018 surcharges based on gross weight and volume can now be assigned. Gross weight and volume are taken from the item card and units are converted based on this information. Another new addition is the opportunity to adjust vendors with OCR for an even more accurate recognition of invoices. Moreover, items can now be classified (category and further attributes) based on images (using a cloud-based Azure Machine Learning Algorithm).
Since last October, users have been benefiting from the many new features introduced by the latest release of Microsoft Dynamics NAV. But there are also several enhancements for developers to discover in the 2017 version.
One of the most important changes is the expansion to options for creating extensions, whose basic functionality was introduced back in the 2016 release. Developers are now able to utilise the remaining object types (Reports, XMLPorts and Queries), which the extensions now usefully make available for creating more comprehensive solutions. Thanks to the new extensions, enhancements can now be built for Dynamics NAV without making changes to the platform’s standard objects. This simplifies the update process in particular, since the base system can be updated and the extension layer is then updated automatically from the service tier. Extensions can also be easily removed again without trace. In addition, extensions from NAV 2017 onwards can now include report templates, table content, permission sets, add-ins and much more besides.
In the next Dynamics NAV version (codename “Tenerife”), developers will also be able to draw on an in-client designer and the Visual Studio Code development platform for creating their extensions. Since last December, the new tools can already be tested by downloading a public Developer Preview.
With the new “application areas”, Dynamics NAV 2017 also makes things simpler for developers when modifying the user experience to the specific application requirements of the individual user. Administrators can now assign sets defined by a developer to application areas, so that the end users only see elements of the user interface that they actually require in order to complete their various tasks.
Thanks to the option of expanding the NAV environment by means of various extensions, Dynamics NAV 2017 users can now also view sales and inventory development forecasts using machine learning.
Dynamics NAV can be expanded with an extension that gives the possibility to acquire knowledge of potential future sales from past data and a clear overview of expected stocks and sales development. Microsoft runs this extension under the name “Cortana Intelligence”. The Dynamics NAV extensions have no functional or content-related connection to the “Cortana Intelligence” concept in Power BI.
The system uses historical data for forecasts and helps the user to manage company stocks more efficient. This supports the supply management and ensures the customers satisfaction by guaranteeing that frequently purchased goods are consistently in stock.
In order to achieve optimal forecasts all the time, the extension uses a trained algorithm within the cloud service Azure Machine Learning, determines a corresponding result using the training data and finally issues this data to the user.
The performance range of the extension “Sales and Inventory Forecast” in Dynamics NAV 2017 covers the following functional areas on the base of historical data:
Forecast within the cash flow module
Inventory forecast and direct creation of purchase orders
In addition to the existing functionality, Dynamics NAV 2017 also offers developers access to the trained algorithm within Azure Machine Learning. In this way, forecasts for the future can also be accessed on the base of further historical data.
In November last year, Microsoft launched its new cloud-based solution Dynamics 365 on the North American market. Release in four more European countries is planned for this year. The Business Edition of the product, which includes Dynamics 365 for Financials (Project Madeira), is based on Dynamics NAV, but varies from the ERP system in many aspects.
Although Dynamics 365 for Financials includes some of the functions of Dynamics NAV, it is not meant to and will not replace it – Dynamics NAV will be developed further in future as well. Unlike the latter, which can be run on-premise, via a private cloud or Microsoft Azure, Dynamics 365 for Financials is a purely cloud-based solution. Since the features of the platform are reduced mainly to basic functionalities of the financial accounting areas, sales and purchasing, it is particularly suitable for small and medium-sized organisations. The simplified functional scope, the high user-friendliness of the intuitive application, as well as assistants and tutorials ensure comfortable acclimatisation and quick understanding in Dynamics 365 for Financials – especially for beginners. Dynamics NAV, on the other hand, comes up with far more extensive processes and additional modules (e.g. assets, production, service and project module), but is also more complex in use.
Comfortable platform expansion via apps and extensions
The flexible cloud platform Dynamics 365 for Financials enables to put the entire system individually together for oneself from various business apps and to adapt it to the requirements of the company, the industry or the role of the user. The corresponding applications can be obtained via Microsoft AppSource and can be supplied and used independently of each other.
For example, you can start with a few fundamental apps and add more as needs rise. The solution deployed includes only functionalities that are actually required in day-to-day operations. Thanks to this flexibility of Dynamics 365 for Financials and the opportunity to implement changes and expansions even without the help of the IT department, it is possible to react quickly and easily to the constantly changing market or company conditions.
Starting with the current 2017 version, the classic Dynamics NAV can also be expanded conveniently thanks to the extensions available. In addition, basic objects in NAV can be changed directly, thus allowing even the most customised adjustments. Updating the respective additional modules in Dynamics 365 for Financials and Dynamics NAV has different levels of difficulty. While Microsoft updates the applications acquired via the AppSource along with the basic application on a monthly basis automatically, extensions installed and basic objects adjusted in Dynamics NAV must always be migrated separately in the event of an update.