Directions USA 2016 – Conference Recap for Clients

By Warren Young | October 3, 2016

Directions USA is a conference for Dynamics NAV partners and is unique in that it is hosted by Dynamics NAV partners. Microsoft is a key sponsor, using Directions over the years from time to time to make key product announcements and even releases of Dynamics NAV. While the conference content is partner-oriented, information around product releases is relevant to clients as well.

Unique to 2016 is that there are actually two products to discuss: Dynamics NAV and Dynamics 365 for Financials.

Though some of the features and pricing information still under NDA until release, there are a few things worth sharing:

Dynamics NAV vs. Dynamics 365 for Financials

First up, Dynamics NAV is the same as you know it today. Check out the section for “What’s New in NAV 2017” section of this blog post for a quick rundown of new features announced by Microsoft.

Dynamics 365 for Financials, previously known as Project Madeira, is a new SaaS (Software as a Service) product by Microsoft that is built on the same platform as Dynamics NAV. We originally covered the Dynamics 365 announcement in this blog post if you are interested in more information on Dynamics 365.

It is worth mentioning that Dynamics NAV and Dynamics 365 for Financials are distinctly separate products going forward. Dynamics NAV continues to be the on-premise option and also partner-hosted model. Dynamics 365 will only be available in the SaaS model.

What’s New in NAV 2017

Official “What’s New” documentation has not yet been released yet, but here are some highlights we saw that will be included in the upcoming Dynamics NAV 2017 release:

1. In Office 365 Experience

We saw several new features between Outlook and Dynamics NAV. Features around entering an Order in Dynamics NAV directly from Outlook, to seeing a sidebar of A/R information from Dynamics NAV when reading an email from a contact, to having a Document Links be able to find a relevant document in Dynamics NAV based on the content of the email, all showed how Dynamics NAV is being further integration to Office.

2. Embedded Power BI

We previously had “dynamic charts” in Role Centers and those have been refactored into Power BI (www.powerbi.com). It’s a two-way integration, meaning you can access your own Power BI dashboards via Dynamics NAV and also access your Dynamics NAV charts in Power BI. A good step forward to take advantage of the increasingly popular Power BI offering from Microsoft.

3. Setup and Configuration

Streamlined wizards for initial company setup; primarily focused on speeding up the File > Company > New process. Getting data from legacy systems into the new company is still a separate step, though Microsoft and other 3rd party developers are adding many data conversion tools to this task to Microsoft AppSource just for this purpose.

4. User Experience

Many improvements were shown around the streamlining of pages and fields. Lots of conversations about improving “the little things.” Traditionally partners had to handle this streamlining while Microsoft focused on the platform, so getting that attention from Microsoft and further UI standards will help out usability a lot through this and later versions. Some highlights that caught our eye:

a. Report Request Forms, “Save Configuration” – A new feature to setup a report and save different filter and option combinations each as an individual configuration. Previously, the Report would simply save your “last used” options. We think this configuration feature will get a lot of use by clients.

b. Finance — More usability improvements, including a solution to the old “gotcha” of adding a new G/L Account but not having it missing from your Account Schedules. (A new Category Code on the G/L Account is used to auto-include on Account Schedule reports.)

c. Items — Attributes, which allow user-defined item attributes (could be anything from measurement information to branding to internal callout names) are the most notable feature-add. New List views (system wide, not just items) and other features inspired by Madeira.

d. Jobs — We heard Jobs received a similar UI / usability update as Finance and Items, though we did not see specifics.

e. New List Views – New list views (system wide) that range from “detail” to “large image” similar to what you see when browsing files in Windows Explorer today.

5. CRM Integration Update

A new integration between Dynamics CRM and Dynamics NAV was introduced in last year’s Dynamics NAV 2016 release. The NAV 2017 release touts “updates and enhancements” to this integration. While that’s a bit generic, we can say as a partner that we’ve been pleased with this integration and recommending it to clients. That it receives continued attention from Microsoft is a good thing from our perspective.

6. Cortana Intelligence

This feature is most easily described as an API to Cortana Intelligence. The most interesting use example we saw was forecasting with factors such as seasonality in play for item requisitions.

7. Notifications

This a new UI feature by a familiar name. Notifications are an opportunity for NAV to escalate a message “to the page” without interrupting the user. An example use is when a user is creating a new Purchase Order for a Vendor and they add an Item, the notification can identify that there are additional items with low stock that the user might also want to order. As this is only a “notification” there is no window or prompt to dismiss, just an optional link on the page for more information. We see this feature getting a lot of use.

8. Extensions

A small branding note that Extensions will be referred to as “Apps” now and can be retrieved by a user through Microsoft AppSource. This year’s release includes several updates to extensions including additional objects. Clients will continue to see more and more extensions from ISVs in the marketplace.

9. PowerApps and the Common Data Model

The demo we were shown was fairly interesting and unexpected for a Dynamics NAV conference. A list of items with inventory, reporting counts from multiple countries on an item list. That felt pretty “standard” until we were shown the inventory counts were being pulled from 1 AX and 2 NAV systems, and the PowerApp shown was only interfacing with the Common Data Model, not each system individually.

Official Announcements

Expect official announcements from Microsoft (including screenshots and video that we can’t show here) between now and early November. NAVUG Summit in Tampa FL running October 11-14 is another set of dates to keep an eye out for information.

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