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Catapult recently had the pleasure of participating in a Dynamics NAV Hangout, hosted by Jason Gumpert from MSdynamicsworld. The hangout included four panelists that bring both an industry and client perspective to the table, covering everything from Dynamics NAV news, upgrades, cloud considerations, licensing, NAV with CRM and more.

Panelists included were:

 

Below, I’ve summarized some of the key takeaways from the discussion. If you prefer video, a recording of the session is available here.

 

Upgrading Dynamics NAV

The general consensus was clear: upgrades are in demand among NAV customers as a significant number are currently running pre-2013 versions. Since support for NAV 2009 will end in 2015, Greg suggested that “[the NAV community] has got to shift the paradigm there people are staying more current.” Ideally, he believes, all customers should be within the supported lifecycle (which is 3 years) whereas the current average is likely closer to 5.

With, Crete, the next release of NAV on its way, and the prospect of an annual release cycle from Microsoft, the panel suggested that once customers get to 2013R2, future upgrades will likely be simpler and more manageable. Elliot mentioned that NAV’s product roadmap will likely support this model:

“I think the shift in terms of future development [of NAV] will probably likely be more about new features and capabilities that add power to the existing platform rather than fundamental platform or core application changes. That’s certainly the hope.”

 

Upgrades as an opportunity to standardize 

When approaching an upgrade, Jeff noted that many customers are showing interest in “leverag[ing] NAV for what it does best and customiz[ing] as little as possible.” This, as Elliot pointed out, is tied to new functionality in 2013 that enables customers to replace previously customized features as well as an interest in creating more sustainable upgrade paths in the future.

 

Upgrading vs. Re-Implementing 

Since many organizations are looking to close major version gaps, the decision to either upgrade or re-implement often comes up. When evaluating which path makes sense, a few key questions to ask include:

  • How old is the deployment? If NAV 2009, there might be a better chance for a technical upgrade when compared with an older version.
  • How customized is the current environment? Could some of these customizations be replaced by new functionality or ISV’s? In this type of situation, the cost to re-implement could actually be less than doing an upgrade and the result may be a cleaner and more stable solution.
  • How much has the business changed since the last implementation? This represents an opportunity to revisit processes and customizations that aren’t effective and determine what, if anything, needs to be brought forward.

 

Cloud Considerations: Azure vs. Traditional Hosting

Elliot touched on some of the common issues with traditional hosting, indicating that there seems to be a higher degree of confidence with Microsoft Azure since the dashboard and controls for managing resources are simple to use. It’s also clear that Microsoft has invested a great deal in building robust data centers.

 “One thing that has been really exciting for us is the volume of cloud migrations happening…pretty much every upgrade conversation that we’re involved in includes a cloud strategy conversation.”

This offering is relatively new for VARs, as Greg noted:

“We haven’t historically had elasticity as something we can offer clients so that’s where they’re getting excited [with Azure].

On the SaaS side, the panelists aren’t seeing as much movement yet. The reality is that although the concept itself is simple, the actual process gets complex very quickly. Once you start to bring ISV’s into the mix, it’s no longer about one single deployment and things can start to get expensive.

Longer term, the panelists noted that for customers that are interested in having more standardized solutions, SaaS could represent a great deployment option.

 

Licensing

Early on in the discussion, Greg mentioned that it’s important for customers to be aware that Microsoft will be eliminating waterfall pricing tiers.

As for available licensing options (meaning perpetual licensing vs. SPLA/subscription-based licensing), Jeff noted how although the concept is appealing, customers find that “SPLA-based pricing gets pricey pretty quickly.”

For example, there could be 4-5 components that add up to one monthly fee and when customers add this up, they determine that it’s just better to buy a license and a server. The result is that this licensing has driven a lot of interest but ultimately isn’t as compelling for most customers in the way it is currently presented.

 

NAV with CRM

Jeff noted a definite drive to use Dynamics CRM more. CRM functionality within NAV is fairly lightweight, so if there is a need for more robust capability around customer service, marketing, or some other sort of service offering, there is often a case for Dynamics CRM.

While on the topic of integrations, another important shift the panelists noted is that when it comes down to it, it’s so easy to connect with NAV that the question has become “What’s the best app for the business I’m running” or “What’s the best app for the job.”

 

Lots of great insights from this chat – thanks again to msdynamicsworld for hosting. Which topics would you like to see covered in the next hangout? Let us know in the comments.

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