Like Dynamics Business Central, NAV enables SMBs to manage and streamline back-office operations and financials from one unified platform.
It comes stacked with advanced financials, robust reporting tools, and functionality that spans the entire company. It’s just that NAV does this all on-prem, while D365 handles things in the cloud–which allows users to tap into benefits the legacy system can’t support.
Microsoft is ending extended support for NAV early 2023 and encouraging users to upgrade to Business Central in the cloud.
Because there’s so much overlap between the two, you might assume you can port the old system to the cloud in late 2022 and resume business as usual. But the reality is, NAV to Dynamics 365 migrations are incredibly complex.
Here’s what you need to know about what this process entails–and why you should start planning right now.
Why Upgrade from Dynamics NAV to Dynamics 365?
For current NAV users, migrating to D365 might feel more like a prerequisite for doing business than a strategic decision. But as we explain in another recent post, new architecture means access to new opportunities that further enhance operations, cut costs, and deliver better customer outcomes.
A few examples of what you can achieve by migrating:
- Unified system. Dynamics 365 unifies the entire business—finance, sales, marketing, operations, supply chain management, and more. All data comes together in one central hub. This ensures everyone works from a single source of truth and it makes it easier to digitize and automate processes & workflows.
- Enhanced reporting. On prem users don’t have access to the same insights as their cloud-enabled counterparts. D365’s built-in intelligence provides accessible insights and prescriptive AI guidance help users make the right decisions.
- Embedded intelligence. Dynamics 365 also allows businesses to take advantage of AI and machine learning capabilities not available in NAV. BC enables teams to use ML for things like forecasting, equipment monitoring, targeted ad campaigns, and more.
- Improved collaboration. Users can access D365 from any device or location and integrates directly with Microsoft productivity tools like Teams, Office 365 You might build on those capabilities with features like Power BI data with Microsoft Teams. Or—use Power BI goals to ensure teams stay aligned around critical objectives. Users can define metrics and KPIs, create score cards to track progress against strategic goals.
But, these benefits are only possible if you nail the migration, implementation, and continue to optimize for the long haul. None of which will be easy or straightforward.
What Does the Migration Process Entail?
There are several factors that inform the exact steps in your journey. These include customizations, ISV integrations, the condition of your data, what NAV version you’re starting from, and a whole lot more.
But–there are a few elements you can expect to include in your NAV to D365 migration plan. Here’s a quick overview:
First, Define Business Goals & Requirements
You’ll want to define both the big-picture plan and the smaller goals within each business unit.
Make sure you collect feedback from each team so you can address needs from every possible angle.
Try to answer the following questions:
- How well does the current system align with goals?
- Which existing processes are working–or not?
- What would make them more effective? Better data? Automated workflows? Improved collaboration tools?
- Do information silos exist within the current system?
- Can employees use existing reports to drive the desired outcomes?
- How can Dynamics 365 help each team solve problems/identify & act on opportunities?
In other words, what are you trying to achieve with this upgrade and how will improvements help teams align and deliver on the same set of goals.
Upgrading from NAV to Dynamics Business Central
Users migrating from NAV 2015 or later will perform an indirect update that breaks into two stages. First, you’ll upgrade from NAV to Business Central–on-premises (v14). And from there, you’ll migrate to the cloud version. If you’re starting from an older version of NAV, your upgrade path may include a few extra steps.
You’ll need to upgrade to an earlier release of Business Central on-prem, then upgrade to version 14, before doing a technical upgrade to the cloud.
The technical upgrade is a complex process involving a lot of conversions and configurations.
To get a general idea of what this process entails, head over to the data upgrade documentation page.
Right away, you’ll see that you’ll need to complete the following prerequisites before moving forward–each of which are complex, multi-step processes all their own.
- Address conflicting codepages. This can prevent certain characters from appearing in captions, which could result in not being able to access the upgraded database. Microsoft explains how to add translated strings to resolve the problem here.
- Convert V1 extensions to V2 extensions. Here, you’ll use the Txt2Al Conversion Tool to convert the source code from V1 to V2. This tool translates extensions to AL syntax , allowing you to develop and test extensions in Visual Studio Code.
- Upgrading the application code. This process involves merging code from different versions of the application. That way, customizations originally implemented in different databases can be migrated to BC, then merged to ensure a unified experience.
From there, you can work through the 21-step data upgrade process of converting NAV data to BC’s field structure and table format.
Will NAV Integrations Work with a New Dynamics 365 BC Deployment?
You can migrate existing integrations and customizations from later versions of NAV to Business Central. But, if you’re starting from an older version (aka anything pre-2015) the harder it will be to migrate those customizations. In some cases, it may not be possible.
If you’re set on using old customizations, you’ll need to convert them to extensions to prepare them for integration with the new deployment.
When you launch Business Central, some extensions are already installed. You can find and manage them using the Extension Management page.
Some extensions may transfer data away from the BC environment—particularly if transactional data is transmitted between D365 and external services. If you’re migrating 3rd-party solutions, you can get extensions via AppSource.
What Challenges Might You Encounter When Migrating from NAV to D365?
We’re probably starting to sound like a broken record, but migrating from NAV to Business Central in the cloud is a difficult process, just in general.
That said, here are a few of the biggest challenges you’ll want to start thinking about as early in the planning process as possible.
Dealing with a Lot of Complex Customizations
Decisions related to customizations will have the most significant impact on project scope and budget.
You need to be strategic about what you keep and avoid reimplementing everything from the old NAV system.
“If you’re planning on upgrading NAV to Business Central, know that you might not be able to upgrade certain customizations.” – Mohammed Ali, BC Express Practice Director
The Dynamics NAV database server integrates with SQL, meaning, existing processes that rely on that database don’t translate to an online environment.
Mohammed explains that “while you can move NAV’s customizations to Business Central’s cloud environment, it’s often quite costly. It can also prevent you from accessing the benefits the new architecture provides. You’ll need to perform extensive testing on the upgraded BC version before deploying to the live environment. And even then–you might still run into trouble.”
Per Microsoft documentation, setting up the kind of environment you need to support all that testing could be a liability. When a device tries to access the NAV web client over the internet, many computers are involved in locating information and serving it to end-users.
You’ll need more configurations to set up this environment than you would if all components were on the same computer–which means longer implementation times and an increased risk of human error.
All this makes it difficult (and inefficient) to manage NAV data via D365. You’ll need to convert any customizations you’d like to keep into apps or extensions.
Accounting for Depreciated NAV Features
Several features have been depreciated–which adds even more complications to the upgrade process. For example, Codeunit 1 has been replaced by System codeunits. This change doesn’t impact the functionality, but it does mean you’ll need to take the extra step of mapping codeunit 1 triggers to code-free events.
Additionally, variables and fields may have new names–or they may have been redesigned or marked obsolete. This means you’ll need to map old processes to new functionality–taking updated naming conventions and new fields into account. You’ll want to then look for areas where there’s overlap or gaps that need to be filled.
If core processes include features that are no longer available, you’ll need to determine whether Business Central features can be used to fill those gaps or whether add-ons, 3rd-party apps, or ISV solutions are needed.
Converting Code from C/AL to Extensions
NAV allowed users to customize the business logic by directly altering the code with C/AL. So, if you have an older system with lots of customizations and add-ons, rewriting them for BC represents a major investment.
Make sure you review the current system against new capabilities and compatible ISV solutions. Existing customizations may have been replaced with new, improved features.
It’s also worth noting that moving from C/AL to no-code extensions means giving up some flexibility. While this change makes customizations more accessible and less risky, experienced users might feel stifled by these guardrails.
Upgrading from NAV to Business central means you’re staring down a complex journey rife with reconfigurations, code conversions, and of course, that two-tiered migration process.
Given how complicated it is to perform the upgrade, you may want to skip the migration and instead, opt for full implementation. That way, you can be more selective about which data makes the cut–and take full advantage of all that the new system has to offer.
Velosio’s Business Central experts understand the nuances of NAV, Business Central on-premises, and the latest version of the cloud-based ERP. Contact us today to learn more about our process, services, and how we can help.