Upgrading From Microsoft Dynamics NAV To Business Central: Everything You Always Wanted to Know
At ArcherPoint, we have always been big fans of Microsoft Dynamics NAV, but we are really excited about Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central...so excited, in fact, that we recommend our NAV clients start planning for a move to Business Central as soon as possible. But upgrading is not something most companies look forward to - and moving from NAV to Business Central can seem even more overwhelming. There certainly are a lot of questions out there.
Question #1: Is Moving From NAV To BC Really Considered An Upgrade? Regardless, What’s It Going To Look Like For My Company?
First, there are many approaches to moving from one version of a product to another or from one product to a different one. It gets confusing because they’re all lumped under the term, “upgrade.” In short, it doesn’t matter what you call it. What matters is determining the best approach to making the move for your organization. Since every organization is different, dealing with different challenges, budgets, and processes, every “upgrade” will be different. This is also true for moving from NAV to BC.
So, the very short answer to the question of what your “upgrade” will look like is this: The approach you need to take will depend primarily on how old your current version of NAV is, along with the number and complexity of your integrations, your customizations, your add-ons, your processes, and other unique factors. This does not mean an upgrade is impossible or cost-prohibitive!
Question #2: What Will Happen To My Customizations? And Why Is Everyone Talking About Events And Extensions?!?
One of the advantages of NAV is the ease of modifying the application to match the way you do business. This is accomplished by editing NAV’s base code so it performs precisely to your requirements, rather than having to rely on NAV’s “out-of-the-box” capabilities.
One of the issues involved when upgrading from an older version of NAV to a newer version of NAV is accounting for all the code modifications that were made and bringing them forward.
One of the advantages of BC is the introduction of Events and Extensions using AL code. In general, Events and Extensions allow customizations to be treated as code that is separate from the base application logic, allowing the base application to be upgraded without affecting any customizations you have made. The result is a faster, less complex upgrade process.
Events are elements of code that are placed in a custom object (or Codeunit) away from the base application code, taking the customization out of the NAV code itself and eliminating the object merge step in the upgrade process.
Extensions can be thought of as “packages” of AL coded Events that sit on top of the base application, but do not reside inside the base application itself. This lets your base BC application reside anywhere and be upgraded without affecting any customizations that have been written.
Question #3: What About My Add-Ons? Are They Ready For Microsoft Dynamics Business Central, And Do They Have An Upgrade Path?
Most NAV users run one or more add-on products from Independent Software Vendors (ISVs). These third-party add-on products add specific functionality that is not part of the base product, such as credit card acceptance, advanced inventory management capabilities, or some other type of industry-specific solution.
As you move from NAV to BC, it’s reasonable to ask: Will my ISV product be ready when we’re ready to make the move?
While most ISVs have upgraded their solutions to the current version of Business Central, not all have completed the process of converting their solution to using Events and Extensions using AL.
Let’s consider several options:
- Is your ISV product even necessary? Perhaps the first question to ask is, Is your current ISV product even necessary anymore? As NAV as matured over the years, new functionality has been added in areas as diverse as reporting, user security, and bank reconciliation. Find out if the ISV product in question is now part of the BC base product. You may find you don’t even need that plug-in any more.
- Has the ISV product been updated to the latest version of BC? If the ISV has removed all C/AL code and moved its solution to utilize Extensions and Events, then you can rest assured that it is fully capable to support BC on premises or in the cloud.
- If the ISV has not completed the transition to Events and Extensions, is there a plan for them to do so? If the ISV is not ready for BC Extensions using AL code, find out if there is a roadmap for it to become compliant. If so, decide if that timeframe works for you. If your ISV’s timeframe will be too far in the future, or if they do not intend to be compliant with Extensions, work with your Dynamics partner to determine if another ISV product that is compliant can replace the product you have been using.
Question #4: What About My Data? Is It Going To Be A Painful Process To Move It?
This is definitely a legitimate concern. Your data is your gold, and you don’t want to lose it or be put into a position where it’s difficult to get to it. The short answer is, all data and history can move forward; you do not have to worry about losing it. However, your partner does not have to move everything over if you don’t need it…that’s up to you.
What about the data stored in add-ons? As discussed in the previous section, not all ISVs are ready with their add-ons, including a data migration tool.
Question #5: How Long Will the upgrade take?
This is a good question. Unfortunately, there is no clear answer. The time it takes depends on many things, including company size, database size, and customizations. In general, however, this is what you can expect:
- 1-2 months for your partner to convert your database and create/deliver a test database
- 2 months minimum for testing
- 2 days (usually over a weekend) for go-live
Keep in mind that this does not include what’s going on at your end, like upgrading hardware and getting other infrastructure in place. Your partner should work with you on your “to-do” list to help keep you on track, but they can only give you guidance; you need to commit the time and resources to execute on your end.
Question #6 : How Much Will This Upgrade Cost?
There are several variables that must be considered before we can answer this question, such as:
- When was the last time you upgraded your version of NAV?
- What version of NAV are you running?
- How many customizations do you have?
- How many ISV products are you using? Which ones?
- How large is your database?
Your answers to these and other questions will determine how much time and money the upgrade will take. When you discuss moving NAV to Business Central with your upgrade partner, provide as much detail as possible so they can accurately assess the time and cost of the project.
Remember, though, that upgrading NAV to Business Central should be viewed as an investment, one that will pay rich dividends for you once you complete the process.
Upgrades help you stay in compliance with business rules and regulations, provide increased security to protect your users and your company’s data, and can help eliminate the cost of additional software that has been incorporated into the base product.
But the real value of upgrading comes when all your customizations and third-party add-ons have been converted to Events and Extensions. Once that process has been completed, all future upgrades will be fast, less complicated, and very affordable.
Question #7 - What About Future Upgrades? Will They Be Different?
Once you complete the migration from Microsoft NAV to Business Central in the cloud using Events, “upgrades” as you know them will be a thing of the past.
As one of our upgrade specialists has said, “After Eventing, all an upgrade will be is deploying new features…the move to BC will be the LAST upgrade you’ll ever need.”
Events and Extensions were developed for the purpose of making upgrades easier, faster, and less disruptive. Because they are no longer in base objects, customizations are not impacted in future upgrades. This allows the core application to be upgraded without impacting your customizations. With that task out of the way, your future “upgrades” will be fast, painless, and inexpensive...essentially a “non-event”.
We strongly encourage you to look to your Dynamics upgrade partner for help with deciding on your path to upgrading from NAV to BC. There are many considerations, but if you have a partner who understands the upgrade process and work closely with them on where you are now and where you want to be, the upgrade does not have to be painful.