This post discusses the brief history of Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central (D365BC) and NAV, one of Microsoft’s ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) products. The objective is to familiarize our readers with some of the key development stages of this software, explain the current stage, and outline its future.
What is an ERP system? According to English Oxford Living Dictionaries, ERP is “the management of all the information and resources involved in a company’s operations by means of an integrated computer system.” (OD, 2018) In the IT world, an ERP system can be defined as “the software (such as D365BC) that helps companies manage their resources including finances, inventory, and labour”.
Due to ERP systems potential to improve the efficiency of businesses, many companies choose to implement an ERP software. D365BC’s moderate cost means it’s easy and fast to implement and it offers a wide array of functions for companies.
D365BC initially appeared as a Cloud version of NAV and using its code base. Both D365BC and NAV dispose of the ability to grow with the business and share same functions. Therefore, it made sense that they should share the name too. As a result, Microsoft renamed NAV to Business Central (on premises). Companies now have the choice to implement D365BC on Cloud, on premise, or on Microsoft Azure (“personal Cloud”).
The next section addresses some of the frequently asked questions about D365BC and NAV.
. The objective of this section is to provide quick answers to some of the most frequently asked questions we hear from our existing and prospective clients. Below are three of the most frequently asked questions:
Q: Is NAV discontinued?
A: No. On the contrary, NAV was renamed to “Business Central” and continues to grow. In 2015, there were 110,000 companies using NAV (ERP Softwareblog, 2015) and it is hard to imagine such a popular product being discontinued.
Q: Will I still be able to get the product installed on premises (my company’s own server)?
A: Yes. D365BC is available to be installed on the client’s server. Additionally, it is also available on Microsoft Azure (“personal Cloud”) and Cloud (true SaaS).
Q: Can D365BC be integrated with Dynamics 365 for Sales (CRM)?
A: Yes. In fact, D365BC has the out-of-the-box tool to do so.
The next section discusses different versions of the ERP product in question.
3. Versions of the Product
This section explores available versions of the product. Research on different versions was conducted prior to creating this list (Ernst, 2018; Thomas, 2016). It was subdivided into three generations for convenience only and is based on the platforms used to access the system. The objective of the brief description next to each version is not intended as a comprehensive outline of all the related features. It is to provide a general idea, an example of the features and updates in that version, or some information about that particular release:
- 1984+, PC Plus:
- Single-user application. Accounting package.
- 1987+, Navigator 1.00:
- Multi-user application.
- 1988+, Navigator 2.00; 2.10; 2.12:
- The function to build reports by Users is available.
- 1989+, Navigator 3.00; 3.01; 3.02; 3.03; 3.04:
- AL – the new language of the application with which came the ability for official Partners (service providers) to modify the core code of the system to meet business objectives of their customers.
- 1990+, Fjördiner (Iceland); Navigator (Germany); Navision (Spain, UK):
- Apparition in other countries, beyond Denmark, where the product was branded under different names.
- 1994+, Navision 3.50; 3.51; 3.56; Navigator (DK); Avista (US):
- “Navision” is now the primary name of the product. Support for different OS platforms and integration with other products. The database access is open through C++ code.
- 1995+, Navision Financials 0.9x; 1.00; 1.00A; 1.00B; 1.10; 1.10A; 1.20; 1.30; [1.40]; Navigator Financials (DK); Avista Financials (US):
- The product works on Windows 95 platform. The application undergoes a series of improvements until it becomes stable and fast.
- 1998+, Navision Financials 2.00; 2.00A; 2.00B; 2.00C; 2.01; 2.01A; 2.01B; 2.50; 2.50M; 2.60:
- Conversion to EUR currency happened. The “Print” button is fully functional. SQL Server option is released. The manufacturing package is available.
- 2001+,Navision Solutions 3.00; 3.01; 3.01A; 3.01B; 3.10; 3.10A; 3.10B; Microsoft Business Solutions Navision (Attain) 3.60; 3.60A; 3.70; 3.70A; 3.70B:
- Financial management and other functionalities are extended. The distribution function is available. Multi-currency and multi-language options are present.
- 2003, Project Green:
- This became known as the intention to bring together all the best features from multiple ERP products (AX, GP, NAV, SL) into one, that is “Project Green” (Boucher Ferguson, 2004; Foley, 2007).
- 2004+, Microsoft Business Solutions Navision 4.00; 4.00 SP1; 4.00 SP2; 4.00 SP3:
- Interface is brought closer to that of Outlook 2003. XMLPort is introduced. Business Notifications is another new feature. The “Intercompany” function has made its way into the application. Security is enhanced.
- 2007+, Microsoft Dynamics NAV 5.00; 5.00 SP1:
- Approval, Prepayment, Service Order and other functions are introduced. Account Schedules, Jobs, inventory costing, Intercompany and other features are improved.
- 2008+, Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2009 (00); 2009 SP1; 2009 R2:
- Role Tailored Client (RTC) is introduced making the interface more user-friendly. Creating Users in NAV automatically creates Users in SQL Server. CRM integration tool is added.
- 2012+, Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2013 (7.00), 2013 R2 (7.10):
- The integration with Excel is now available — it refreshes financial reports in Excel using NAV data. FactBoxes with charts can be added. ClickOnce deployment is introduced. “Small Business” Role Center is added.
- 2014+, Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2015 (8.00):
- Office 365 integration is enabled. Word Reports can be built by end Users without developers’ help. Integration with Power BI is available. UI Removal Tool has made its way into the program.
- 2015+, Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2016 (9.00):
- Integration with CRM is enhanced. The ‘Extension’ concept is introduced. Web Client is improved. The OCR function is available. “Posting Previews” are possible. Deferrals are added. Approval Workflows are improved. Security setup options are optimized (e.g. User Groups added). The “Exchange Rate Services” function is added.
- 2016+, Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2017 (10.00):
- Embedded Power BI is built in. Assisted setups can now be used. Contextualized Notifications are offered. Cortana (IE) is introduced. Item Attributes are available. The option to add G/L Account Categories and Subcategories is provided. Jobs are simplified.
- 2017+, Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2018 (11.00):
- Employee sub ledger is added. Tasks are introduced. New Cheque Report (Cheque-Cheque-Cheque) format is supplied. Image Analyzer is provisioned. Dynamics 365 for Sales integration is available and enhanced. Microsoft Flow is embedded. Contact interactions in Outlook are possible. “Edit in Excel” for Journals function is added.
- 2018+, Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central, on Premises (13.00):
- Web Client is improved. The “Catalog Item” function is added. Blocking Items for sales only is possible. The “Copy Account Schedule” function is available.
- 2016, Project Madeira:
- Due to its short life span and the name, this later became known among some professionals as the Beta version of Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Financials.
- 2017+, Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Financials, Business Edition; Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations, Business Edition:
- These versions of the product are true SaaS options. The functionality is limited (e.g. the only available Posting Type at the beginning was “Item”) as compared to the analogous NAV version. Tools for migrating from QuickBooks and Dynamics GP are offered.
- 2018, Project Tenerife:
- Due to its short life span and the name, this later became known among some professionals as the Beta version of Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central, Cloud.
- 2018+, Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central, Cloud (12.00; 13.00):
- The search function is optimized. Copying to/from Excel is enabled. Advanced Filters are provisioned. Keyboard shortcuts are added. New administration portal with debugging and other functions is created.
Below are several screenshots of some of the versions discussed above. The author of this article would like to thank his colleagues Abhishek Agnihotri, Andrew Hazen and Darren Bezzant for aiding in collecting some of the screenshots below.
Microsoft Dynamics NAV 5.00:
Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2009 (Role Tailored Client):
Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2013:
Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2015:
Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2018:
Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central, on Premises:
Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central, Cloud:
4. Conclusion and Further Reading
D365BC is Microsoft ERP system that helps companies run their business more efficiently. The product has been in the market, under different names and forms, for over 35 years (as of 2019). Three generations can be distinguished based on the way users access the system: DOS, Windows, and Cloud. Presently the product can be accessed through Role Tailored Client (RTC – Windows Desktop access), Azure (RTC, RDP, Web Client), and Cloud.
Moving forward, the product is staying. Web Client access only is going to be available: Cloud, Azure, and on premises (no RTC). These areas are likely to see further development and enhancements: CDS (common data service); AI (artificial intelligence); VS (Visual Studio) code and development with the help of AL Language, trigger-based and extension-oriented (Demiliani, 2018) development. Free monthly fixes and biannual new function releases are going to be available in Cloud-based installations; this approach should save Partner time reducing the cost of system upgrades.
The resources below are available to those who would like to learn more on the topic, including how to access online courses and where to get help in connection with your D365BC questions:
- Microsoft (2018, November 15) D365BC website. Retrieved from https://dynamics.microsoft.com/en-us/business-central/overview/
- Pankovskyi, I. (2018, October 19). Get help with Dynamics 365 Business Central and NAV: Online courses. Retrieved from https://itsolutions.bdo.ca/insights/get-help-with-dynamics-365-business-central-and-nav-online-courses/
- Pankovskyi, I. (2018, October 8). Top 10 links to learn Dynamics 365 Business Central (Cloud) faster. Retrieved from https://itsolutions.bdo.ca/insights/top-10-links-to-learn-dynamics-365-business-central-cloud-faster/
- Boucher Ferguson, R. (2004, March 29). Microsoft Grows Project Green. Retrieved from http://www.eweek.com/news/microsoft-grows-project-green
- Demiliani, S. (2018, October 25). Mastering new methods for Dynamics 365 Business Central success. Retrieved from https://msdynamicsworld.com/story/mastering-new-methods-dynamics-365-business-central-success
- English Oxford Living Dictionaries (OD) (2018, November 15). Retrieved from https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/erp
- Ernst, E.P. (2018, April 14). History of Navision from 1983 till today. Retrieved from https://dynamicsuser.net/nav/w/history
- ERP Softwareblog (2015, March 16). How Many Companies Use Microsoft Dynamics ERP? Updated 2015. Retrieved from https://community.dynamics.com/nav/b/erpsoftwareblog/archive/2015/03/16/how-many-companies-use-microsoft-dynamics-erp-updated-2015
- Foley, M. J. (2007, March 13). Microsoft’s Project ‘Green’: Still alive and kicking. Retrieved from https://www.zdnet.com/article/microsofts-project-green-still-alive-and-kicking/
- Thomas, J. (2016, September 19). Dynamics NAV Versions List. Retrieved from https://www.navisionplanet.com/2009/06/navision-versions.html