By Suzanne Scanlan, Nov 4, 2020
One of the beautiful things about Microsoft Dynamics NAV, and now Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central, is that companies using this ERP to run their businesses can get exactly what they need to run their businesses most effectively.
Add-on products for NAV are abundant, customizations are an option for all, and both options have been utilized by companies to run their businesses exactly how they want, resulting in efficiencies and giving them a competitive edge.
This doesn’t change with Business Central. What has changed, however, is how those customizations and add-ons interact with the base code of the product. Gone are the days of modifying base application objects in C/AL (the language Navision and Dynamics NAV were written in). Now, we’ve moved to a new language called AL. Why? It is open source, a modern tool, more efficient at business processes, and it is cloud ready.
Why Is Everyone Recommending Moving To BC14 Instead Of The Latest Version?
There has been a rush to make the move to Business Central 14 (BC14) over the past year, partly due to Microsoft’s N-2 policy, which allows for acquisition of licenses for two versions prior to the current release. With BC 2020 coming in the fall of 2020, BC14 would no longer be available to users. However, Microsoft recently deviated from this policy when they announced that Dynamics NAV customers who are on maintenance will be able to “downgrade” until the fall release of 2021, tentatively scheduled for October 2021. This means that BC14 licenses will be available for customers versus moving to the latest version of Business Central.
Again, though, the question remains. If you’re going to go through the process of upgrading, why wouldn’t you upgrade to BC2020, the latest version? Why “downgrade” instead? Here are six very good reasons.
Reason #1: If You’re Current On Maintenance…
If you have been paying your annual maintenance fees but don’t have upgrades as part of your IT plan, why not? You’ve been paying for all those feature enhancements, so you might as well take advantage of them. You might even have the opportunity to eliminate some customizations (less upkeep) and/or add-ons (less maintenance).
Reason #2: Two Programming Languages
So, why BC14? Because it’s the last version of BC that allows for both C/AL and AL code, as well as the last version that supports the familiar Role Tailored Client as well as the new Modern Client.
A quick aside about user interfaces: The new user interface, called the Modern Client, is the only interface available in Business Central versions 15 and higher. This interface truly is modern, with simplistic, app-like screens. BC14 offers the use of both interfaces, the traditional, Role Tailored Client and the Modern Client.
With BC14 having both, you can move your customizations to AL code at your pace, with no pressure, and give your users ample time to get familiar with the Modern Client interface.
Reason #3: Longer Support For BC14
Microsoft’s roadmap states that BC14 will be a supported version until 2023, which is much longer than their standard N-2 policy, which states that they will only support the current version and the last two released versions. With a major release cycle of every 6 months, you’re looking at an 18-month window of Microsoft supporting previous releases. This doesn’t mean your partner won’t support older versions, just that it is not supported by Microsoft.
Reason #4: Three Named Users For One Concurrent
This is a short one, but it’s important. While you will have to move from concurrent users to named users, Microsoft is offering three named for each concurrent user you have licensed in Dynamics NAV.
Reason #5: Customizations!
Any company that’s been through an upgrade of a heavily modified Dynamics NAV environment understands that all those customizations can add up to big dollars to migrate from one version to the next. In our experience, the bulk of all Navision/Dynamics NAV installations are heavily customized, so this impacts pretty much everyone.
The benefit to moving to BC14 is that you can slowly, over time move your customizations to AL and/or replace them with core functionality/add-ons. This gives you the luxury of time, allowing you to spread out the costs associated with moving your customs out of base code.
Reason #6: ISV (Independent Software Vendor) Add-Ons
This is a big one, so pay attention. There is a plethora of add-on solutions, developed by Independent Software Vendors (ISVs), that give companies access to functionality for industry and business-specific requirements—requirements that aren’t typically included in a base ERP system, such as:
- Integrations with other software packages
- Relationship management
With the introduction of Business Central and AL (the new coding language) came issues for ISVs. Their solutions needed to be re-written in the new language—and written properly, as an Extension, not by modifying base Business Central objects. This has been quite the feat for many ISVs—not to mention, it’s been a learning curve for developers from the Dynamics NAV world. You have to think about things differently. You have to code differently. And you still have to support all those customers using Dynamics NAV in your old code base.
So, here we are, 2+ years into having a product, Dynamics 365 Business Central, utilizing the AL language, and many ISVs still don’t have an upgrade path for existing customers on NAV. Yes, many have developed their solutions in AL for BC, but how does an existing client on NAV easily get to BC with their ISV solutions, historical data, and customizations intact? The answer: Not easily in many cases.
It’s important to get your partner involved to thoroughly vet the ISV’s upgrade path for the add-on in question. Unfortunately, we’ve had an experience or two where the ISV said they had not modified any base objects, only for us to discover once we reviewed the objects that base objects were modified by their add-on. There is misinformation in some cases.
Reason #7: A Pressure-Free Way To Move To Business Central While You Address Your Modifications And ISV Solutions
A big benefit of moving to BC14 is that you have a comfortable place to “park”. You can move to a Microsoft-supported version of Business Central and work there while decoupling your modifications from the base code and converting them to AL extensions while awaiting upgrade toolkits for ISV data and modifications and getting your end users access to the Modern Client. Again, this takes the pressure off having to make these changes that will inevitably need to be done, so you can plan for and execute on them at your own pace.
Future Benefit: Upgrades Versus Updates
Another benefit: After you’ve decoupled all the code from the base application and have moved your add-ons and customizations into Extensions, your upgrades from one version to the next will be much less time consuming and costly, because you will only upgrading the base application. With the advent of automated test scripts to ensure your Extensions will work properly with the next version, upgrades will become a thing of the past. You will simply be updating Business Central to the next release.