Things are a tad confusing in the Dynamics NAV / Dynamics 365 world.
Personally, I blame Microsoft who decided to blur the lines both in terms of product description and product functionality with the introduction of the generic “Dynamics” tag which was swiftly followed by the, equally confusing, “365” tag. And if we, the resellers, are confused then think how the business software purchaser must be feeling.
So, how do we explain the options?
Well, let me start with Microsoft Dynamics NAV. Called “Navision” back in the day (from the mid-90s until c. 2002 when Microsoft bought it) but we can still refer to it as simple old “NAV”. It’s the Pepsi-Max of the NAV software range… fully functional, fully customisable and available with a host of ‘Certified for NAV’ and non-certified add-ons.
The range off add-ons for NAV is huge and they are extremely sophisticated. It’s not surprising given the level of customer acceptance that NAV garners. Today, there are over 130,000 sites worldwide and around 2,000,000 licensed users. Which software developer wouldn’t want a part of that market? And, where once Turnkey might have made changes or developed new functionality to suit a customer requirements, now it’s more common for us to check whether “there’s an app for that”!
Users can buy their licences upfront and pay an annual “BREP” fee (software support to you and me) or they can pay a per user monthly catch-all subscription which covers the users and their support. It can be on premise or hosted, a decision which is often based around various arguments or business considerations. Typically these might be the availability of a decent broadband connection, there’s a lot of integration required locally with 3rd party apps, the business has invested in local infrastructure and has competent IT professionals manging it or the “we want OUR data on OUR box in OUR office” argument. Whatever the decision, we’re agnostic and will go with the flow.
Whichever route is chosen, there are two licence types – full and limited – and two versions – standard and extended. Full users access everything, limited are best described as read-only as, in our opinion, the restrictions imposed on them make them impractical for any other use. The extended version of NAV offers additional functionality not always required in a business such as full MRP2 Manufacturing and Service Management.
If we move away from the traditional full-fat NAV then our second option is the application known as Dynamics 365 Financials and Operations, Business Edition. Or D365FOBE for short. (Not really, I just made that bit up!). It’s a NAV-lite product whose functionality can be a bit difficult to tie down as it’s a moveable feast in the Microsoft world. It’s ONLY available on subscription and comes with two flavours of user – full app and team member. As the UK edition is a recent release, we’re still coming to terms with what’s in and what’s out in terms of overall functionality and by licensed user type. The team member is rather like our ‘limited’ user as previously lauded above. What we do know is that the “Financials & Operations” app stream is due to be supplemented by a “Sales & Marketing” stream.
Development wise, we still have add-ins but just not quite so many as it’s a recent product. We also need to identify which are UK specific as the product was initially released into North America in the second half of 2016. These 3rd party add-ins are available through AppSource, a library of additional functions that users can purchase. Any customisation, as you’d expect, is tightly managed since the underlying solution will be regularly updated by Microsoft in a manner similar to the various Windows updates that we receive regularly on our PCs . Any changes to the software therefore ‘surround’ the core product as extensions rather than impacting the actual core.
Microsoft are keen to target the business advisory world i.e. accountants or those offering accounting services. To enable this, they provide one free additional ‘business advisory user’ for each company buying D365FOBE (yes, it does have a ring to it, I’m liking it now, I think I’ll stick with it). Whether that will be sufficient to crack the stranglehold of some earlier entrants into the cloud accounting market remains to be seen but we must applaud the effort.
For full transparency, I should mention that there is an Enterprise version of the Dynamics 365 family but it comes with a minimum user purchase of 25 and a myriad of options that would tax the most able minds… and that’s not me. Suffice to say, if you have a few quid, and a project team ready and keen to immerse themselves in the product, be my guest.
So, which to go for? For straightforward simple accounting, in the cloud, then Dynamics365 Financials and Operations, Business Edition could be the way. If your requirements are more complex and likely to change or develop then full NAV either on-premise or hosted is more likely to ensure you’re not disappointed. But, finally, after one or two false dawns, we do now have the choice.
Postscript: Microsoft have just announced they won’t be attaching the tagline “Financials and Operations” to the NAV version which, for the moment, we will refer to as “Dynamics 365 Tenerife”.