For those of us who attended the Directions conference in Orlando in the fall of 2017, we weren’t even sure when we would see a 2018 version of NAV. Shortly after the conference, Microsoft announced 2018 would be released at the beginning of December. They made good on that pledge and now we have some details to share.
Microsoft continues to push the technology envelope with some comparing the degree of change as being the same or even more than the move from DOS to Windows. Despite the fear that Dynamics NAV might get lost in the move towards Dynamics 365, it appears this is not the case. With Dynamics NAV 2018 R2 due in May or June of 2018, the Dynamics NAV and Dynamics 365 products will once again share a common toolkit, albeit under a slightly different and as yet unknown name.
The points listed in this document are specifically for Dynamics NAV 2018, although much of this technology is already present in Dynamics 365 for Financials (also known as Business Edition).
- Centralized place for setup – the new Setup & Extensions page provides a single place for accessing various setup and settings. This includes the ability to manage extensions, a new capability for adding customer-specific functionality without modifying the core development objects in Dynamics NAV.
- User tasks – a cool new feature to allow system-wide tasks to be assigned to any user with options for due dates and recurring capability.
- Employee ledger entries – interesting capability allowing journal entries to be created directly for employees, not something you would generally expect from an accounting system. There is no longer any need to set up related vendors as payments can be made directly to employees now.
- Image analyzer – it remains to be seen whether this is just eye candy. The capability to analyze images is an enhancement from 2017 and allows the system to automatically detect certain characteristics. For example, contacts could be updated for gender and age based on an image. Let’s hope your contacts are providing their passport photos. Categories and attributes can be added to items based on images.
- Improved integration to Dynamics 365 for Sales (Dynamics CRM) – many more options for integrating data between Dynamics NAV and what was Dynamics CRM including a reduction in manual intervention that was required in a number of places.
- Enhanced AP OCR vendor invoice processing – a number of enhancements have been added to the Kofax ICS vendor OCR integration, including the ability to optionally share vendor information with Kofax. Presumably, this would be intended to improve invoice processing as Kofax builds up its database of vendors.
- Other improvements – there are a number of smaller improvements, the most interesting of which include the ability to upgrade master customer or vendor addresses from sales and purchase documents, automation of the intercompany Outbox and Inbox, new Received, Not Invoiced Purchase Orders report, new Shipped, not Invoiced Sales Orders, three checks per page, and payroll import from QuickBooks.
- Microsoft Flow Integration – while Dynamics NAV 2017 allowed Microsoft Flow to be connected, 2018 administers the Flow integrations from directly within Dynamics NAV. This addition looks pretty exciting for anyone with a desire to connect unique business flows to Dynamics NAV.
- Embedded Power BI – integration to Power BI has been greatly improved with Dynamics NAV 2018. There is a new Power BI connector, new content packs, and improved capability for working directly with Power BI.
- Contact interactions in Outlook – this is possibly one of the coolest additions to the Dynamics NAV toolkit over the past few versions, and that is saying a lot. Users can create interactions directly in Outlook that access information from Dynamics NAV and push data back to the accounting system.
- Preconfigured Excel reports – we actually lost a sale one time because the decision-maker said she would never buy a system with default income statement or balance sheet reports. That has never been a priority for Dynamics NAV because of the flexibility to design a unique chart of accounts and customer-specific reports. Now, the system includes preconfigured Excel reports for a default balance sheet, income statement, cash flow statement, retained earnings statement, trial balance, aged accounts payable, and aged accounts receivable.
- Edit in Excel for journals – users will now be able to edit journal content in Excel with the system controlling the fields that can be edited. This will be extremely popular with accountants, I’m sure.
- Session refresh – this might seem like a small thing but changing companies used to require a restart of the Dynamics NAV client. This is no longer necessary and is a major benefit for those who have to operate in multiple companies.
- Company display name – no longer does the change in a customer name require an onerous change to the database. The change is now displayed instantly by changing the name in the Company information.
- Improved report preview – this works for all supported browsers and mobile platforms. The previews are embedded directly in the client and there is no longer a need to download and install viewer apps.
- Powershell improvements – for the more technical readers, there have been some serious improvements, especially in the ability to process upgrades, where Microsoft seems to have taken a fresh look at what can be done without taking a client offline. With the move to a cloud infrastructure, the old methodology was too intrusive and time-consuming.
- Web client personalization – this is a feature already present in Dynamics 365 and that will be coming to Dynamics NAV 2018 shortly, presumably through a new build release.
- 44 integrated API’s – wow! Dynamics NAV now includes 44 API’s in the toolkit and which can be used to integrate many datapoints to external systems. For those in the know, significant progress has been made with ODATA and ODATA4.
- Extensions 2.0 and new modern development toolkit – for those of us with long-term experience with Dynamics NAV (and Navision), we haven’t seen many changes to C/Side, the proprietary development toolkit with Dynamics NAV used for coding business logic. Dynamics NAV 2018 still supports the C/Side option but now there is a new version of Extensions and a Visual Studio AL (Application Language) toolkit to bring the system into the 21st century. Now we will be able to hire people with Visual Studio experience and make them productive much more quickly compared to when we had to teach them C/Side first. This includes replacements for the .Net extensions previously built into the system.
When we first heard there was going to a Dynamics NAV 2018 release, there were a few of us wondering whether it would just be a place keeper until Microsoft released Dynamics NAV 2018 R2 next year. That was despite the assurances from Microsoft that the Dynamics NAV piece of the new product was already done and waiting for the completion of the Dynamics 365 piece.
There are some really impressive and foundational improvements to Dynamics NAV. Microsoft has concentrated on building a firm foundation instead of adding superfluous functionality. It will take some time to get our heads around how to use and demo the new capability but we have a real winner with Dynamics NAV 2018.
Anyone starting with a new Dynamics NAV 2018 database should definitely avoid customizing any of the core development objects. All changes to the database should be made through extensions and the new toolkit. This will allow the changes to be easily brought forward to Dynamics NAV 2018 R2 or any future version.
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