Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2016: What’s New, Upgrading Tips and Tools

With Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2016, Microsoft is delivering a solution for SMBs that is “quick to deploy, easy to use, and has the power to support the growth ambitions of SMBs worldwide.”

To that end, Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2016 offers new mobility, business insight, and cloud services features as well as deeper interoperability with Microsoft Azure, Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Office 365 – all geared to small and midsize businesses.

“These are all features tailored to the end-user, so I am excited about all of them,” said Domas Kudzevicius, Project Manager, Simplanova. “Probably the most impressive things are CRM integration and Workflow functional area.”

What’s New & Exciting in Dynamics NAV 2016

Kudzevicius said that he is most excited about the improvements to the developer‘s environment, especially the C/AL Editor.

“We have the autocomplete function, also we are able to catch errors in functions using TryFunction mechanism instead of using codeunits,” he added.

Additionally, new features such as Events in Dynamics NAV 2016 will make the process of customization easier and reduce the price of upgrades in the future, Kudzevicius said.

Arend-Jan Kauffmann, a Microsoft Dynamics NAV MVP based in the Netherlands, said that Dynamics NAV 2016 is a huge release with a large number of improvements to the platform and also on the application side.

“I’m mostly technically oriented so from that point of view, one of the things that I am absolutely enthusiastic about is the eventing platform and the app platform they’ve built in 2016,” Kauffmann said. “The eventing platform is a new way to deliver your customizations. You have a fewer number of integrations and it makes it possible to separate the customizations from the standard code. And having fewer modified base objects makes it easier to upgrade in the future.”

Kauffmann is also excited about the integration between Dynamics NAV and Dynamics CRM because the integration is done on a platform level rather than via third-party tools.

Because business logic must be tested, Dynamics NAV 2016 also includes a suite of automated testing tools for partners’ solutions and customer implementations that reduce or eliminate the need for manual testing. This suite improves efficiency and reduces man-hours.

Eric Wauters, a Microsoft Dynamics MVP from Belgium, is also most excited about the features for developers, including the test automation suite.

“There are some new platform tools that developers will be able to use, including the test automation suite, which lets us developers test the software in an automated way,” he said. “So we will know beforehand if there is something wrong, or at least if there is something going wrong, and how to act upon it.”

Tips for Upgrading

Upgrading to Dynamics NAV 2016 is done in exactly the same way upgrades to previous NAV versions are done, Kudzevicius said.

“First you identify customizations that are no longer needed,” he said. “If you’re upgrading from the Classic Client, you should identify the usage of Forms and Reports, which will reduce the price dramatically. Then you have to find time to analyze the technical upgrade process (customizations merge, data migration, transformation) and evaluate the effort required.”

Microsoft’s Windows PowerShell also helps with upgrading. PowerShell was developed for the purposes of task automation and configuration management. The shell is based on the .NET framework and includes a command-line shell and a scripting language. It’s a programming tool that lets users simplify and automate monotonous and repetitive tasks by creating scripts and combining multiple commands.

Windows PowerShell scripts can help with the upgrade to the latest version of Microsoft Dynamics NAV.

When it comes to upgrading to Dynamics NAV 2016, if people don’t know about PowerShell, they should start learning how to use it, Kauffmann said.

“If someone tries to upgrade like they did before, it will be possible, but partners who redesign their add-ons to make use of the new features in Dynamics NAV 2016, will be able to more quickly adapt new upgrades and upgrades to newer versions,” he added.

Wauters, who had upgraded to the beta version of Dynamics NAV 2016, said the process is pretty straightforward.

“There is not much to fear,” he said. “I didn’t have too many problems. But obviously when you upgrade, you need to change some things to take advantage of the new features.”

Wauters also pointed to Workflows, which allows easy customizations via events.

“This enables us to write our code in such a way that we will have easier upgrades in the future,” he said.

Third-Party Upgrade Tools

There are many third-party tools that can help make the upgrade process go more smoothly, including Simplanova Reports Transformation Tool (together with its services) to upgrade reports, as well as tools to merge the code such as PowerShell and, Kudzevicius said.

The most complex and slowest parts of an upgrade, such as reports, can be automated, he said.

Simplanova’s advanced automated tools enable a time savings of up to 54% on upgrades and up to 89% on upgrades to RDLC reports compared to project performance times without the tools.

Simplanova helps Microsoft partners to do faster upgrades using its set of automated tools:
1. The upgrade tools allow Simplanova to automatically transform matrix and menu forms, Dataports to Xmlports and Classic reports to RDLC reports. Thus Simplanova offers better performance of upgrade projects. It also keeps developers motivated as they can avoid long manual tasks and enable them to improve their services or products or work on new projects.
2. The automated evaluation tool enables Simplanova to identify changes more precisely, identify pain-points in the customized solution and plan the upgrade more accurately. This advanced tool analyzes the code and picks up the important parts to evaluate. In some cases, Simplanova is able to identify customizations that are no longer in use or replaced by Microsoft Dynamics NAV advancements, which leads to upgrade cost reduction.
3. The data masking tool randomizes all the sensitive customer (end-user) data in a database that Simplanova uses for testing after database (such as the customer name, address fields, etc.).
4. The translation tool allows Simplanova to identify missing captions and generate a translation sheet. Additionally it removes a language layer, so it doesn’t get in the way while transferring other changes and re-import it directly to the new version of NAV.

Ensuring the deliverables are functioning and tested, the automatically generated results are then reviewed by Simplanova developers.

Other upgrade tools include:

ForNAV also makes it easier to work with reports. The Reports ForNAV Converter is a reporting tool that makes it easy to run reports developed for Microsoft Dynamics NAV in C/SIDE (also known as “classic” reports) on newer Microsoft Dynamics NAV versions requiring the RDLC format.

This is a three-step automated process:

1. Export: Export your current reports. C/SIDE reports are exported from a NAV 5.0/2009 database. This can be done with single or multiple reports.
2. Convert: Convert using the Reports ForNAV Converter. The exported file is converted to a format that can be imported to NAV 2016. This requires a standard web service in Dynamics NAV. At this point, you have the option to choose a permanent PDF format for the report. This will give you a faster execution in NAV 2016, and your output size will be smaller than with RDLC. You can of course always choose to print your report to a PDF printer later on.
3. Import: Import the converted file to your new NAV version. When you open the development environment on your Dynamics NAV upgrade, all you have to do is import the converted file, compile it and run the report. Partners have found that this whole operation is done in less than a minute, even for complex reports. All it requires is the same data (table) structure, upgraded business logic (something you would do anyway for an upgrade project), and the same language version.

1ClickFactory’s upgrade engine includes:

• Automated upgrade tools for merge and transformation translate into faster and more cost-efficient Microsoft Dynamics NAV upgrades.
• Classic report to RDLC report transformation tools: It allows customers to smoothly move their solutions to the RoleTailored Client. The company also provides partners with 1ClickFactory Report Usage Tracking Tool that decreases their reports transformation to RDLC; estimates while collecting statistics on their customer solution report usage; and identifies their customers’ RDLC transformation needs.

The Mergetool supports both source code compare and merge development with Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2016. Additionally, many other tools have been developed within the framework of the Mergetool. All the code in the Mergetool is available for C/SIDE developers to modify. This enables advanced users to build reports and unique features in the same way that they would customize the application for customers.

“What I use is out-of-the-box tools,” Wauters said. “I use the PowerShell cmdlets that come with the product. They are enough for me to upgrade.”