The BCUG/NAVUG Podcast is your easy opportunity to stay current with news and insights on Dynamics 365 Business Central / Dynamics NAV. Each month the User Group interviews community leaders to hear about the latest product and technology developments and discuss their perspectives and insights regarding how these tools are being applied.
In the May 2019 episode, we heard from Microsoft MVPs James Crowter and Erik Hougaard on their thoughts regarding Microsoft’s progress with the new platform, how existing NAV customers can prepare for the future, and a range of other insights on the ever-changing technology landscape.
It’s an informative, engaging discussion- and we’ve transcribed it for you in 3 parts. Here’s Part 1: Enjoy!
BCUG/NAVUG General Manager
James Crowter, MVP
Erik Hougaard, MVP
E Foqus Danmark A/S
MARK RHODES: Hello, this is Mark Rhodes, general manager of the Business Central and NAV user group. We're here doing our monthly podcast. I've been very, very much looking forward to this opportunity to sit down with two Microsoft MVPs. We have James Crowter here and Erik Hougaard.
We're here on site with Directions North America 2019 and I've got to tell you, I always just so much enjoy coming to this conference, hearing from Microsoft what the latest updates are, and certainly catching up with Microsoft MVPs and a lot of other friends.
Guys, it's a very busy, busy schedule for you while you're here, many meetings and presentations, so thank you very much for carving out time to spend with us. James, thanks for coming across the pond.
JAMES CROWTER: Yeah, like you, it's an event I look forward to. I think the move to the spring is inspired because having two of them, Europe and North America, very close together in the fall made it difficult to find the time for both of them. But now there's one in the spring, and we've got a spring release, so we've got a lot of new stuff to talk about. Seems to make total sense to me.
MARK RHODES: Excellent. Yes. We're going to get into it. Hi, Erik.
ERIK HOUGAARD: Hi, Mark. Yeah, it's always a pleasure going to Directions, meeting up with all the partners and getting to meet with the guys from Copenhagen, from Microsoft, because they are ‑‑ everything important from a development standpoint happens either in [inaudible] and lots of people on this continent doesn't go to a meeting that often. It's really neat that Microsoft is bringing the amount of people over that they're actually bringing over.
MARK RHODES: Indeed. Indeed. And I'm personally looking forward to, I'm sitting down with Microsoft this afternoon to talk about what they're going to do at Summit this year in October and the presence they're going to have there and the sessions and the Business Central updates that we'll get then.
Second release of Business Central in April – Roadmap more defined.
MARK RHODES: Let's jump into some questions, guys. We've been here, I don't know how you count it, day and a half so far, call it. We've heard two keynotes from Microsoft. What are your insights so far in terms of product updates - any surprises, any reliefs?
JAMES CROWTER: No, I think the keynotes, dare I say, had less kind of news in them than they have for a couple of years. It all seems to be just a continuation of the plan, not major, major changes. I guess the roadmap is getting more defined as they go through it. So, the news that's been out there for a few weeks, but it's formally announced about what's happening with the Windows Client and CAL is causing a lot of discussion about how that's going to work out.
ERIK HOUGAARD: One of the news items, I guess, was the fact that people will continue to be able to buy the Version 14 with C/SIDE and the Windows Client for a period of time. I agree the product itself is in a good spot now, and Microsoft is just grinding through. And they're tweaking performance and fixing and tweaking the UI to be more efficient, I guess, is exactly the word, to be able, to be a power user, because the users who dread the current Web Client, most are those power users that just enter numbers all day because that has been an issue with the Web Client, and it's getting much better with the new version.
JAMES CROWTER: It is. Our big controversy inside I still think that it's not good enough. I think ‑‑
ERIK HOUGAARD: There's certainly room for improvement, yeah.
JAMES CROWTER: There's room for improvement still. And I think if you actually sit down, keying in sales orders all day, every day, it's still not ‑‑ I don't want to use the Windows Client still, just some of the areas where you need information, the factboxes, if you have the factboxes open it takes too much of the screen. Yeah, great, I've got a keystroke that I can open and close them, but am I going to do want to do that, flip it in and out? There needs to be ‑‑ you can't just set up the interface the way that ‑‑ precisely the way that you wanted, that people have been used to.
And so we're finding that new users coming into that experience are using it fine, but the people who have been used to something, dare I say, in some areas better still miss those other areas that are way better than the Windows Client.
ERIK HOUGAARD: Yeah, I think there's two categories. One is the how much you can see and how much screen real estate you have. And they have improved that with the, like, the focus mode. So when you're on sales order you can hit focus mode and then you can receive the sales line.
But the area that I'm actually more interested in and the areas that still have a lot of room for improvement is just the keyboard to fields interaction. So, if you're entering something and you're looking at the source material and you're just typing away is it predictable, are key pressers getting lost because there's animation taking place and stuff like that? There's still room there for improvement because another thing that we encountered the other day was a client of ours had their item numbers and their item descriptions were very much alike, and the Web Client is using the cross-column search thing. They type in a correct item number in the item number field and press enter. But that item number was part of a description of another item that was before that in the list. So they pressed an item, pressed enter and then they got another item number. Right?
That's not really the issue, if you look at the screen and see the pop‑up list and you click on the right one. But if you're just typing away, grinding through, then you change a number of sales lines or something like that, it's not predictable ‑‑ and not predictable enough, I guess, is the right term. It will release much better with regard ‑‑ but there's still room.
JAMES CROWTER: The April release, the thing that highlighted it and the thing I'm seeing from use, is performance. The scroll performance is just ‑‑ it's where it needs to be now. I don't have a complaint about that where I definitely did previously.
I think ‑‑ I also feel like a little déjà vu because I remember, probably at one of these conferences five or six years ago, the focus was on how many clicks that you have to click through this to get to this.
MARK RHODES: That's right. I remember that.
JAMES CROWTER: And I do think that we've gone back there, the fact that you can't pin all of the action bars down automatically which most of my customers would just take as ‑‑
ERIK HOUGAARD: Yeah, yeah, they really want that ‑‑ global pinned action bars. That would be ‑‑
JAMES CROWTER: You know, the tree expansion view, you had that control and you could just click on in the window and it would expand that element of the tree out. Now you have to select the three dots and take it off the menu. And it's just little things like that make it a little bit slower to use.
And that productivity from power users really does count. When you have a full day of data entry you can't afford 20% loss in productivity.
ERIK HOUGAARD: But an improvement in this version is the quick entry mode, where in the personalization you can go in and say this field needs to be in my tap order or should not be in my tap order. When you run through the field systems, you feel that you never used from the tap order. You don't have to go into that field and go out again. And this is clearly geared toward those power users we're talking about because they were, I'm working this 700 times a day. Saving 700 key presses on the tab key is actually something for users like that.
JAMES CROWTER: Yeah, the personalization has gotten better. I think when Microsoft quick entry, the case in point of, I think, the Web Client, the way that they've done it is much, much better than the previous attempts to do it. So, it appears to be like when Microsoft is addressing an area, I can't think of one that hasn't stayed addressed. When they're doing something, they're doing it right. There's just a list that they haven't done yet. And I guess over the next year, 18 months, they'll get to the majority of that if we see the current rate of progress. And at that point we'll just go, you know what, it's done, very much like we went ‑‑ it took how many years to go from classic line to RTC and that was ‑‑
MARK RHODES: Yeah, basically ‑‑
JAMES CROWTER: Three full years ‑‑
ERIK HOUGAARD: They had it on the fourth try. 2015 was pretty good.
JAMES CROWTER: We're just in that process and I guess we've got to have some patience. But there's still lots of areas where the Web Client is actually faster, better to use, editing itself function. RTP people love ‑‑ and so I don't want to go back. I just want them to ‑‑
ERIK HOUGAARD: But it is faster, no? It's actually faster on the average navigation operation. If you're someone who needs to open something, it may be the same speed of typing in the search entry, but the time from you pressing something until it's on the screen is now faster on the Web Client.
MARK RHODES: Interesting.
ERIK HOUGAARD: It could easily take a couple of seconds on Microsoft. The Web Client is lightning fast on those things. I think the work they're doing where it's a bottom‑up approach. Here we have, I don't know, a hundredths performance improvement. We can actually see those.
JAMES CROWTER: I think the telemetry is really starting to kick in. For years the Role Centers were a drag on the product because you go through the Role Center on a regular basis. And calculating those keys, I think Microsoft finally said that they've seen the telemetry to understand just what the expense to the system of having those, which most people, let's face it, don't even look at.
And so they're making those, as we were discussing outside, asynchronous so that you're not waiting for those before you can move on. But there's lots of good things they're getting from that telemetry.
ERIK HOUGAARD: One of the, let's call them productivity improvements the Web Client has over the Windows Client, is the Windows Clients only have the search box on that main window where you can use the LQ to get the search bar on any page in the Web Client. You don't have to go back and ‑‑ when you have 10, 20 windows open ‑‑ look, oh, this is the one with the search bar to open something new.
MARK RHODES: They're continuing to add functionality to that as well, so that's nice to see.
ERIK HOUGAARD: Yeah. It's [Inaudible] but it's also pretty cool that you search something for payroll in the search bar and then say, hey, there's a payroll app in AppSource you can use.
JAMES CROWTER: I think there's a few systems administrators who are going to want us to block [inaudible] because the idea that the users are going to be going, look, I can do this. It's obviously what we in the community all want ‑‑
ERIK HOUGAARD: We can compare that with the whole issue they have when they put App suggestions into the start menu of Windows 10. [Inaudible]. Same thing.
JAMES CROWTER: Same thing. And so ‑‑
ERIK HOUGAARD: But also kind of cool because a lot of users don't really realize that, hey, now this is an option, right? There's an App for that.
JAMES CROWTER: I think the ability to put in that list kind of operating instructions in help and articles that ‑‑ of how to do something as well is pretty cool. In order to get it all.
ERIK HOUGAARD: It's also interesting that one of the lesser known things about the whole Business Central page is that the whole conversation has been reworked.
MARK RHODES: Right.
ERIK HOUGAARD: The whole documentation for Business Central is now on docs at Microsoft.com, which operates in a more or less open‑source way. There's actually a GitHub repository that covers all the pages that are there. You can go in and say ‘okay, this is wrong’; ‘this should be something’. And you could ‑‑ if you're like us, you would submit a pull request for them and then we would change the organization. But there's like a feedback page, a feedback option on every help page. And they listen. And the help is now also restructured into more of a task and area kind of help [inaudible] how to ‑‑ in the item number field you can type an item number. Okay, that's good [inaudible].
JAMES CROWTER: Stating the obvious is what it's called.
ERIK HOUGAARD: The help has changed a lot and it's really good.
JAMES CROWTER: I'd have to agree with that.
Be a voice to Microsoft: They’re listening.
MARK RHODES: And I wanted to highlight, again, the Microsoft lessons point, because that's one thing that I wrote down in my notes. Consensus, same consensus I've really picked up from many of our members and partners, right? It's not there yet, but, boy, they are listening; they're moving in the right direction, very encouraging. They threw up a stat yesterday that said it was 51% of the functions and features ideas.
JAMES CROWTER: It was 51% of the votes.
MARK RHODES: Of the voted, right, of the votes. Yeah, yeah. Thanks for the clarification.
JAMES CROWTER: So you top [inaudible] have 60 votes, so that might be 10 percent of the whole thing or whatever. So ‑‑
ERIK HOUGAARD: Statistics.
JAMES CROWTER: Statistics. Still great.
MARK RHODES: They're submitting ideas at aka.MS/BCideas. And, guess what? They're pulling from that. So that's real encouraging. It's not a black hole.
ERIK HOUGAARD: And it's not a secret. They keep telling about it –
MARK RHODES: Yes, yes.
ERIK HOUGAARD: [Inaudible] filtered. Use it.
JAMES CROWTER: I think the user group is a role here to kind of push in the community forums to share, this is, go vote for this.
MARK RHODES: Right.
JAMES CROWTER: Because that really gets their attention when things have a rapid number of votes, the raises, then we as MVPs get the kind of notification of this is a highly voted for topic. What do you think? And then that starts the conversation.
ERIK HOUGAARD: It's gaming.
JAMES CROWTER: Play the game, and let's tell them where we want them to spend time on.
ERIK HOUGAARD: I agree.
[END OF PART 1]
Stay tuned for Part 2 coming soon!
Listen to the full version of this podcast (and other episodes) at: www.navug.com/podcast