Microsoft Dynamics NAV or Business Central? Points to Ponder

Are you aware of the key distinction between these products which might alter your view on which way to go?

Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central is now gaining traction as the SaaS (Software as a Service) business software solution of choice. It’s especially attractive to a customer who’s looking for:

  • A monthly subscription rather than upfront costs; and
  • No requirement for expensive onsite servers and technical staff.

NAV (the on-premise product of some 25 years standing) still exists, continues to be updated (see the latest changes to accommodate GDPR) and remains hugely popular with nearly 3 million licensed users across the world. So, both NAV and Business Central are being updated regularly but there’s a key difference in the approach to development.

Not A Choice

With Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central, Microsoft will carry out updates to the software independently and autonomously. If there’s an upgrade, you’ll get it. It’s not a choice.

What does this mean? Well, clearly, how changes made to your Business Central software are managed will be crucial. Microsoft prevents partners from changing the core system so that these upgrades can be made hassle free i.e. your system won’t break when the update is applied!

For partners to make changes, they must use ‘extensions’ – software changes which are held separately from the ‘core’ system.  During an upgrade, these are automatically unapplied and then reapplied afterwards. There are also a growing number of apps on Microsoft’s AppSource platform which follow the same process.

What About NAV?

With NAV, the decision to upgrade is normally as a result of a discussion between the partner and customer. Customers will look at the new functionality and reach a business decision on whether the new version provides sufficient additional benefit to justify making the change.

The change itself could involve a number of days spent reviewing the modifications made to the system by your partner. Decisions would be made about what to retain in the new system, what was no longer needed or what could now be dropped as the new functionality in NAV provided a suitable replacement.

But Things Are Changing

Importantly, the new ‘extensions’ functionality also applies to NAV and the best partners are utilising this technology wherever possible when making modifications. In this way, the upgrades are quicker to carry out and therefore more easily justified.

There is another trend that is worth mentioning in this context. Add-ons to NAV. While the AppSource world for Business Central is still in its infancy, the attraction of 3 million NAV users means that there is a huge choice of tried and tested add-ins for NAV. Functionality such as document capture, expenses, business intelligence and visual scheduling are mature solutions.

So, where 2 – 3 years ago when customers requested changes to NAV, partners would have reached for the development tools; today they are more likely to search the add-on catalogue.


Either way, the new world of NAV or Business Central is a win-win for customers.

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Post by Stephen Malloy

Talk to me if you’re considering a business solution. If I don’t know the answer, I will know someone who does.