Microsoft Dynamics NAV–formerly Navision–has been in the ERP game since the early 1980s. NAV began as a suite of accounting tools, originally developed by a Danish company and acquired by Microsoft in 2002.
After two decades and countless upgrades, NAV is a flexible system that can adapt to a variety of industries and use cases. It’s popular among SMBs, as well as distributors and manufacturers for its robust suite of production control tools.
It still serves up valuable insights, offers plenty of customizations, and acts as a single source of truth for the whole organization. But, users are bumping up against the limitations of its on-prem infrastructure.
Business Central replaces NAV, offering the same core functionality in the cloud and with some major upgrades. Below, we’ll take a closer look at what’s changed, what hasn’t, and what a successful migration entails.
Difference Between Microsoft Dynamics NAV 365
NAV and Dynamics 365 Business Central both allow SMBs to manage all core business operations in one place. Both platforms improve decision-making and optimize processes & workflows across the entire business. We’re talking finance, manufacturing, sales, HR, marketing, and so on.
But the real difference between Microsoft Dynamics NAV and 365 isn’t what they do, it’s how they do it. Comparing the two platforms demonstrates the impact that infrastructure has on business performance.
Challenges: Migrating From Dynamics NAV to Business Central
Account Executive Sam Miller says, “BC is the same solution as NAV but with different infrastructure.”
Sam’s right, it is the same solution. But the difference in infrastructure has a significant impact on everything. Sure, you’re still using D365 for things like forecasting, purchasing, warehousing.
But implementing old systems, processes, and data flows in the cloud is more complex than it sounds.
Below, Velosio experts share common challenges they’ve encountered on the job.
Clients Aren’t Ready for the Cloud
Some organizations may still have trouble wrapping their head around the shift from on-prem to cloud. It’s not as common today, as cloud-based everything is now ubiquitous, but it still happens.
What’s more common is a poor understanding of how infrastructure impacts everything — customizations, reporting, basic accounting tasks.
“Many clients already understand the concept of on-prem ERPs. The cloud is something they’re just not comfortable with. They no longer have their own data on their own servers–and that can be scary.” – Kim Bateson, Senior Product Owner
Orgs also run into trouble if they haven’t created an environment that can support the new system.
BC Support Engineer, Anthony Dossier says, “speed and response time is slower in BC than NAV due to latency with internet connections.”
Network capacity plays a crucial role in supporting remote work and maintaining the continuous uptime needed for data streaming and IoT solutions.
These are things you’ll need to address before you deploy to mitigate risk. Risks include downtime, outages, delayed responses, cyberattacks, and an inability to tap into the power of the cloud.
The choice between a “lift & shift” or a full reimplementation is a strategic one–requiring organizations to look at several factors.
“Identifying if there should be a technical upgrade, or an actual reimplementation alone is a big challenge for organizations.” – Carrie Gabris, BC Enterprise Consulting Manager
Part of that process involves looking at what migration will actually entail.
As mentioned in another recent post, there are several factors that will determine the best path to the cloud. Think–age, complexity, data volume, and whether your current solution was implemented properly.
The longer you’ve been using your legacy system, the more time you’ll spend sorting and cleaning your data before deciding what you’ll bring with you when you move. That means, mapping the data across NAV and its integrations, cleaning it, and weeding out old, inaccurate, or irrelevant data.
You’ll also need to ensure that the data you plan on keeping doesn’t get corrupted.
In a recent CIODive article, Hava Babay-Adi, software engineer & Google tech lead explained that migrating data from NAV to BC means you’re converting data from one schema to another.
In some instances, existing data may include records or variables that are no longer valid and you’ll need to convert it to a different format.
Beyond that, there are a few different methods and tools you might use to bring your existing data into the new system.
- Replication/Intelligent Cloud. If you’re migrating from NAV 2018 R2 or later, you can replicate data in the new environment via the Intelligent Cloud tool. This process syncs NAV data to BC via manual updates or pre-scheduled replications. And while you can access that data by logging into BC, it’s read-only. Still, you can start taking advantage of new functionalities like Power BI and Flow, as continue with implementation.
- RapidStart. RapidStart is a Microsoft service that allows users to create Configuration Packages that link Excel files to BC tables. The goal is to standardize & streamline implementations–during the initial migration and later, as your company grows.
- Excel. You can transfer vendor, customer, inventory, and transaction data from NAV to Business Central using Edit in Excel. That said, whether your files are compatible with BC depends on what extensions are available. Make sure you’ve filled in all mandatory fields before the import.
Kim Bateson says she often sees clients with NAV customizations they need to convert BC. This adds an extra layer of complexity to the migration process.
“Clients often struggle with customizations they’ve built themselves. You don’t want to recreate too many processes/apps/workflows in the new system, as it can get complicated fast.” – Jeff Smith, Pre-Sales Solution Engineer
Anthony Dossier adds, “migrating customizations to BC requires a lot of extra steps. And–a lot of involvement from developers. Tools for debugging code and related errors are not as robust in BC as they are in NAV.”
D365 is easier to use, so the idea is, many of NAV’s developer tools are no longer necessary. That’s great if you’re starting from scratch–otherwise, you’ll have to perform a code conversion.
Senior Consultant, Nick DiAngelo says, “if you’re using an older version, modifications in C/AL must be converted into AL Extensions. Sometimes, ISV solutions are not available for BC SaaS. This can have an impact on if they stay on-prem, find another solution, or make changes to the functionality of the ISV.”
How to Prepare for the Big Move
We’ve already looked at some of the key challenges businesses face when moving from NAV to Business Central.
Below, we’ve shared some best practices for getting ahead of those challenges before they cause bigger problems.
Understand How Dynamics 365 Adds Business Value and Aligns with Goals
It starts with understanding what value Dynamics 365 brings to the table.
Jeff Smith recommends learning about the big-picture benefits of the cloud before digging deeper. He says, “I like showing clients what they’ll save on hardware, upgrades, and IT spending by moving to the cloud, while also maintaining the core functionality of NAV.”
“The integration with the Microsoft ecosystem is so much more available with Business Central than NAV. On top of that, mobile apps make the system even more available, no matter how and where users work.” – Jeff Smith, Pre Sales Solution Engineer
Those benefits apply across the board but immediately show the potential of a cloud-based ERP. But, you’ll want to dig deeper to learn more about how the improved functionality can help you achieve specific business goals.
That means learning how users engage with the software, then using those insights to determine where you can add new value.
Keep in mind, the needs your end-users have right now may be very different from the needs they had during your initial NAV rollout.
To identify opportunities to improve existing processes, Carrie Gabris recommends answering the following questions:
- Is there old development that no longer serves current or future business needs?
- Can you summarize the areas of previous development? The goal is to understand if Business Central has new functionality to meet that past development.
- Is there a need to review and/or redefine processes to fit current BC functionality and maximize ROI?
Plan with Business Continuity in Mind
Be sure to plan a rollout process that allows you to scale back new features—or even revert back to the legacy platform—if necessary.
You may want to consider a Phase Zero approach. So, rather than moving everything into the cloud at the same time, you take a more gradual approach.
This can help you identify friction points early on and communicate the benefits of the migration to resistant employees.
Next Pathway Chief Strategy Officer, Vinay Mathur, told CIO Dive that his team does an initial pilot or Phase Zero program as part of the migration. The process involves taking a small piece of an application (plus its data and codebase) and moving it to the cloud.
This helps engage end-users in the process and weigh in with feedback and feature requests.
It also helps them master the system they’ll use each day.
Because the ERP is the center of all business activities, planning for continuity is crucial. Downtime could have devastating, long-term consequences on your business. You’re vulnerable to cyber attacks. You lose productive hours and opportunities to sell.
Remember, end-users will be using D365 to perform daily work. That means you’ll need to ensure that the migration won’t prevent them from completing critical tasks.
Test Early & Often
You’ll also want to design a testing strategy that gets end-users involved in defining business processes, workflows, and use cases.
“Success requires engagement at every level and all phases. That includes project planning, but also testing, testing, and more testing.” – Carrie Gabris, Business Central Consulting Manager
Testing is essential for aligning expectations with the business strategy from the start. Plus–it doubles as an interactive training process that prepares users to get results from new features before they go live.
What Separates Clients That Achieve the Desired Business Outcome From Those That Don’t?
Melissa Herbst says, “if you look at successful ERP implementations, you’ll notice they have characteristics in common.” Here’s a quick rundown of the ones with the biggest impact on project success:
- Executive sponsorship. Leadership teams have a clear vision of what needs to change and why. Nick DiAngelo says, “customers that are involved in the migration and testing processes are more successful. Across the board. But that level of involvement can’t happen without a project sponsor who prioritizes the initiative.
”Carrie Gabris says that you’ll also want to stay focused on key objectives and must-have features first. Avoid spending too much time on “nice to have” features early on. Instead, nail the essentials and use data from all that testing to inform what comes next.
- Clear communication of project goals/criticalities. Regular communication with executive sponsors, partners, and project team ensures on-time delivery and avoid obstacles that cost money & cause delays.
Anthony Dossier advises clients to gain an understanding of all elements that impact the migration. “That includes business needs, raw data/inputs, required outputs, internal & external customers & their needs. They also should be able to articulate this information–regardless of the system they are using.”
- Project Management keeps teams on track and accountable. Strong project management needs to happen on both the client-side and the partner side. You want both teams aligned, working toward the same goal. Process owners and leadership with the ability to make decisions.
Make sure you give your teams the authority to push projects through the pipeline. Kim Bateson says organizations need to give teams the tools to “adapt to changes in real-time and be willing to pay for the upgrade. Even if requirements or expenses evolve from what was in the initial plan.” If you’re waiting hours/days/weeks for decision-maker approval you’ll face delays. But also uncertainty and lost momentum–which can prevent teams from completing the project. That’s a lot more waste than going over budget.
- Create an environment that supports collaboration. NAV to D365 migration is a collaboration between the client team, the project delivery team, and any external partners supporting the effort. Carrie says, “Ensure this is a “business project,” not an “IT project.”
All end-users must be involved in the process to accept the change.” The working environment should be designed in a way that keeps teams on track and working toward the same set of goals. That means knowledge management and data sharing processes should be a part of the ERP strategy from the get-go. This is critical for preventing teams from veering off-course and developing incompatible strategies.
The key takeaway here is, the difference between Dynamics NAV and 365 is about infrastructure. The cloud unlocks all these benefits not possible in NAV–with the same features.
Jeffrey Smith sums it up with an important point. “The businesses that succeed believe in the value of the cloud and have executive support for the initiative.”
Working with the right partner makes it easy to gather requirements, select a migration path, and develop a strategy for success.
Velosio offers on-prem ERP services that help NAV users ease into the cloud at their own pace. We can also help you navigate a full implementation, migrate existing processes, and get the most from your new investment.
Request a consultation to learn more about your options and how to get started.