How to execute bigger Dynamics NAV upgrade projects with no additional in-house staff

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As the CEO or owner of a software reseller or IT consultancy, you want to take full advantage of the business opportunities that Microsoft Dynamics NAV offers. Upgrades represent an important and growing part of the market. And, with a high proportion of NAV’s 120,000 (from Microsoft at QBShare) global customers using a pre-2009 R2 NAV version, there are great revenue and profit opportunities for your business.

The challenge is to take on large upgrade projects while making the most efficient and productive use of your own teams. NAV upgrades are very time consuming and labor intensive. Upgrade projects consist of many repetitive tasks that can be a distraction from your core business.

Spending time and money to train your team on non-routine tasks represents a poor investment with little opportunity for a good return. So, what’s the best way to handle NAV upgrades and grow your business in a way that makes the best use of your existing investments and resources?

Growing demand for NAV upgrades

It’s essential for your clients to upgrade to the latest version of NAV. Microsoft is continuing to introduce a range of new features and functionality that can help them drive new levels of efficiency, productivity, customer service and cost savings. And, the latest versions can help your clients take greater advantage of the cloud.

However, despite the clear benefits, many NAV users are still running older versions of NAV. Part of the reason is a reluctance to go through the disruption of a major upgrade. And, they may not have a partner capable of carrying out upgrades quickly and cost effectively.

So, if you can extend your resources through partnering, upgrading will give your business an opportunity to increase revenue, meet growing market demand and strengthen relationships with your clients.

Upgrade challenges

It’s important to understand why large upgrades are so challenging. They are both time-consuming and require people with special skills and a detailed knowledge of different Dynamics NAV versions. You may not have those skills or knowledge on your team; a typical Dynamics Partner performs only up to 5 upgrades a year and does not have dedicated people for those tasks. And, even if you do acquire the right skills for upgrades, your team may be busy specializing where you are best – consulting your customers or developing new functionality that creates more value for them.

Start with reviewing the scope

Reviewing the scope can reduce the number of in-house staff that you would need for your upgrade project. In our experience, one way to reduce the time and cost of NAV upgrades is to identify and eliminate any functionalities that are no longer essential. Upgrading all functionality, regardless of its importance, increases project cost and time.

Unfortunately, many users are uncertain which NAV functions are in current use or essential to their business. By asking clients to audit their NAV installations and submit a list of essential functionalities, you can streamline the upgrade project and avoid unnecessary costs.

Evaluating any customizations or add-on functionality before the upgrade also avoids waste. Many certified add-ons can be upgraded to work with newer versions of NAV, but it‘s worth checking before the upgrade. The add-on provider can supply an appropriate upgrade tool or you can ask the upgrade partner to carry out the work. From our experience of upgrade projects with more than 10 add-ons, we know that there is always a solution.

It’s the same with upgrades for customizations. It’s always worth checking because some customizations may already exist in the latest version of NAV. By carrying out this preliminary work, you can prepare the ground for a successful upgrade project in partnership with Simplanova as your upgrade specialist.

Restarting with plain vanilla or upgrading AS-IS?

This is one of the first questions partners raise when evaluating the efficiency and resources they could use for each option. Since bigger upgrade projects sometimes cost around the same as the initial implementation of Dynamics NAV, some partners consider reimplementing the system and essentially rebuild the whole solution while only migrating the old database.

This is always a good idea if the business has changed significantly over the years and if the current system does not fit the end user’s current business model. That means it would have to be rebuilt or heavily modified anyway. Starting with plain vanilla and building new modifications on top helps build the right solution for the new business model. However, that is the only case when we suggest reimplementing.

Upgrading AS-IS is not recommended if you are upgrading a system older than 7 years. Reviewing the system and changing some processes will most probably be essential because of changes in processes in between Dynamics NAV versions. Many of the older customizations might not be necessary anymore as well.

Our advice would be to evaluate the customer business processes and the changes that might have occurred over the years – that would be the very first step. Most of the upgrade tasks then become more of an upgrade AS-IS with some changes and refactoring. This is more efficient than simply using a reimplementation approach or upgrading AS-IS.  You are then able to take most of the customizations using semi-automated upgrade tools and make the solution much more efficient, rather than redeveloping the old customizations if you start with plain vanilla.

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 Automate the repetitive tasks

When you have decided that some or most of the older customizations have to appear in the new solution, it’s time to see what automation tools could be applied to reduce the resource requirement even further. Numerous tools are available today for automating the classic report conversion, so there is no reason not to use them if you are executing a larger Dynamics NAV upgrade project.

When you have identified the objects that should be moved onto a new NAV version, you can then convert them semi-automatically. When choosing the right tools, we advise checking to see if they convert to RDLC reports or if you need any additional software to run the reports. If the latter, your customer would most probably be tied in to a new license fee for running their own reports.

Apart from the reports, you should also look into other classic object converters for matrix forms and dataports. A reputable NAV upgrade partner must have a set of tools to make the upgrade process as automated as possible for all object groups.

Extending your team with the right skills

When you have finally decided on the upgrade approach, reviewed the scope and chosen to automate the object conversion, you would still need to find the resources to execute what’s left. That would include some manual merging, migrating the data, building migration tools, and testing the solution in the new version. This is where an experienced NAV upgrade partner helps you the most. It is not just about executing the project if you don’t have the necessary resources; it’s also about using the right skills for the upgrade project.

Upgrades consist of consulting the customer, a large number of repetitive merging tasks and refactoring the old modifications. Therefore you need a combination of consulting, development and customization-merging skills for each large project.

Normally, you would have to find at least three people with each of the essential skills, which would distract them from other tasks. For redevelopment and routine merging tasks, you have to develop skills for each upgrade. Since you, as a Dynamics Partner, are strongest at consulting and knowing your customer, you should only focus on that and transfer the refactoring and other upgrade tasks to an upgrade specialist. This way, you can achieve the best combination of efficiency and strategic focus.

Trust an experienced NAV upgrade partner

Simplanova is an expert in Microsoft Dynamics NAV upgrades and we understand the challenges that NAV developers face. Partners throughout the world use our expertise and resources to deliver successful upgrade projects to their clients and free their teams to focus on strategic development tasks.

It‘s important to recognize that upgrades are different to other NAV development tasks and your team may not have the relevant skills, tools or processes. Upgrade specialists have developed standardized, highly automated processes to handle projects efficiently using common methods and repetitive techniques.

We have carried out more than 70 upgrades for value-added resellers and independent software vendors. Our teams are experienced in upgrades from the earliest versions of NAV right up to NAV 2017, and they also understand the specific requirements in many different business sectors.

Our upgrade process

We have developed an efficient process that helps you deliver fast upgrades to your clients at very competitive prices. To start the process, you need to provide an FOB file from your client. We use the information to give you a fixed price proposal within five working days.

You can then provide your client with a competitive proposal and schedule.

We carry out the upgrade and functional testing and provide you with a complete upgraded solution. We can also carry out and test a live migration to ensure the new solution works effectively. As part of our agreement, we will provide you with a free support period.

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Increase your competitive advantage

Working with Simplanova can help you increase your share of the growing market for Microsoft Dynamics NAV services. By taking responsibility for upgrades and adding skills, resources and value to your own capabilities, Simplanova can help your business grow and meet market demands.

We can help you improve productivity and customer service by delivering upgrade releases faster in line with your clients‘schedules. And, we can help you improve efficiency and reduce costs compared with upgrading products in-house.

You can grow your business by recognizing and focusing on your core strengths and working with upgrade partners that extend your business capability. Now you can implement very large-scale NAV upgrade projects without extending your own resources because Simplanova will take care of the complete upgrade.

Save time and effort

We believe that growth can be achieved by recognizing what you’re best at, excelling at it, and bringing in the right partners to help you expand your capabilities.

Partnering with an upgrade specialist can help you streamline the process and gives you the opportunity to take on upgrade projects without diverting your team from strategic development tasks. And, partnering with a specialist with automation tools like Simplanova can save you time and money, with time savings of up to 54 percent on NAV upgrades and up to 89 percent on upgrades to RDLC reports.

If You are interested in Simplanova Dynamics NAV upgrade services, request FREE Dynamics NAV upgrade project estimate in 5 days.

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Petras Butėnas,

CEO | Simplanova

Phone No.: +370 671 72155
E-mail: petras.butenas@simplanova.com

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