Five considerations for evaluating a Microsoft Dynamics NAV upgrade

Five considerations for evaluating a Microsoft Dynamics NAV upgrade

In my experience, well more than half of Microsoft Dynamics NAV users continue to run old versions of the software. Many still rely on NAV software that is more than five versions old!

Dynamics NAV has delivered powerful business and operational benefits throughout its evolution; and upgrading to Dynamics NAV 2017 takes performance, functionality, agility and interoperability to new levels. Too many Dynamics NAV customers are missing out on the real benefits of upgrading to Dynamics NAV in today's cloud-based environment.

It is very important to bear in mind that when we talk about a NAV upgrade from versions older than NAV 2009, each case must be analyzed carefully. In our experience, when a list of customizations is not used anymore, or those customizations are already standard in the latest NAV version, then reimplementation of NAV should be done; or in some cases, NAV is partly upgraded and partly reimplemented, especially when the customer needs to keep a sales history and all data tables.

 

Barriers to upgrading

One main reason for the high percentage of older NAV systems is a reluctance to upgrade. Upgrades in the past have been expensive time-consuming tasks that meant downtime and disruption.

Apart from the fear factor, many businesses are not sure how to approach an upgrade to Dynamics NAV 2017. Where should they start? What do they need to consider? Where can they get help? What difference will an upgrade make to their business?

The good news is that recent versions of Dynamics NAV have made upgrading a smoother process than it had been in years past. And once an organization is on the latest release, staying current is far less challenging. With the right support, businesses can plan to take advantage of future features and benefits on the NAV roadmap as they are released.

 

Regular upgrades deliver business benefits

Regular upgrading is important because Microsoft's Dynamics NAV strategy is based on adding even more functionality, features, and interoperability with each annual release. For example, the latest version, NAV 2017, offers a broad range of options to integrate with other platforms, devices and services.

Upgrading regularly also reduces the incremental cost of moving from version to version, and the benefits really are worth the effort. Regular updates ensure that the customer's NAV installation has the latest security measures in place to minimize risk.

 

Five key considerations

To help your customers get ready for a smooth migration to the latest versions of Dynamics NAV, we recommend that they consider five important issues.

 

  1. Which version of Dynamics NAV is currently running?

Now that Microsoft has switched to annual releases, a Dynamics NAV upgrade is an evolution, rather than a revolution. Although it is possible to upgrade from any version of Dynamics NAV, the process is simpler and less costly if customers keep up to date. Generally, customers with versions more than three releases old will require a major upgrade or reimplementation because they have missed so many changes.

Regular updating has another important benefit. If your customers only upgrade occasionally, each upgrade will take longer. Some customizations will not upgrade easily between versions and customers will miss bundled capabilities on intermediate versions that could have saved them money.

Service providers must consider a number of issues when customers upgrade to Dynamics NAV 2017 from versions older than Dynamics NAV 2009 (NAV 5.0). Here are the most common:

Identify outdated customizations and get rid of them. It will reduce your overall time to complete the upgrade. (More on customizations below.)

Identify ISV solutions. You will save a lot of time if you identify add-ons used in the customer solution and get the latest version objects together with a data migration toolkit, instead of upgrading the solutions by yourself. This involves merging, transforming and migrating the data. In some cases, it is worth re-implementing the ISV solution instead of upgrading it.

Identify database size. This will help you get a better idea of the time that will be required for data migration. All migration steps before 2013 are very time consuming as they are unable to run simultaneously on multiple companies.

Be aware of refactoring. The bigger the gap between NAV versions, the bigger the risk that customizations will have to be re-implemented from scratch. There is a risk that the standard area on which customizations were built was completely redeveloped by Microsoft between Dynamics NAV releases.

Identify the reports that are actually used and get rid of the rest. Upgrading reports is the biggest challenge during any upgrade from Classic to RTC client version because it is the most time-consuming part of the whole process.

Move customizations to Events as much as possible. By doing that, all future upgrades will take less time.

 

  1. What's the best upgrade path to get NAV up to date?

Depending on the version they are currently running, your customers can opt for an upgrade to a higher version or an upgrade to the latest release, NAV 2017. As we discussed in the previous section, upgrading older versions will take longer and cost more, but the long-term business and operational benefits should outweigh the cost.

If your customers run a version of NAV less than three years old, they should adopt a series of best practices that will keep their systems running efficiently and simplify any future upgrades. These include running Microsoft updates regularly and taking advantage of cumulative updates. They should also monitor system performance to look for signs that it's time to upgrade, for example, if their system is running slowly or they encounter frequent errors.

When customers have moved to a recent version of NAV, encourage them to upgrade with each Microsoft annual release. This will make future upgrades relatively pain-free.

 

  1. Which customizations can be upgraded?

Dynamics NAV has historically been easy to customize, and many businesses have used that quality to help meet their specific operating requirements. However, customizations may not migrate smoothly between versions, creating problems and adding time to an upgrade project. And those customizations may be unnecessary, given a newer version's features and capabilities. Some might no longer be in use and some might have only been used once. However, upgrading those outdated customizations will cost you time and money.

The second thing you must think about is customized areas that were completely rebuilt by Microsoft. You will have to invest more time to upgrade those customizations because you will have to re-align them to new standard functionality.

While customization upgrades in earlier versions required time-consuming manual changes, the structure of Dynamics NAV in the latest versions has simplified the process.

The introduction of Extensions has transformed the upgrade of customizations. Dynamics NAV 2017 now has separate layers for core objects and customizations. Because customizations are captured in the Events and Extensions layer, developers can take the existing code and customize the new system without modifying the core.

 

  1. What's the impact of ISV add-ons?

Like customizations, add-ons have acted as barriers to smooth upgrades in the past. Before starting the upgrade, it's important to identify the source of the add-on. Many Microsoft-certified add-ons (identified by a CfMD logo) are available for upgrade with every new NAV version.

If the installation includes ISV add-ons, businesses must check that their installed version of the add-on will work correctly with the NAV upgrade they are planning. If necessary, contact the ISV to obtain a later version of the add-on that will meet the requirements of the new version of NAV.

 

  1. Develop an upgrade strategy

To avoid falling behind on the NAV roadmap, businesses should develop an upgrade strategy and agree to the plan with their in-house or consulting developer. Developers should ensure that they have the skills and resources to handle upgrades from older NAV versions, particularly those beyond five versions.

If they don‘t have the resources or prefer to concentrate on development task, they can work with a Dynamics NAV upgrade specialist like Simplanova and take advantage of the partner's upgrade experience, skills, and automated tools to provide customers with a fast, seamless migration.

 

Make upgrading an opportunity, not a challenge

Upgrading to newer versions of Dynamics NAV is becoming a simple, evolutionary process rather than a time-consuming, disruptive operation. Users of recent versions of NAV have already experienced the change in migration effort and realized the benefits of upgrading.

Users of older Dynamics NAV versions must overcome their reluctance to upgrade, which is often based on well-earned perceptions of traditional migrations as lengthy and costly. But just as Dynamics NAV has evolved, so have the tools and best practices of migrations. Customers can help make upgrading smoother and simpler by recognizing the benefits of newer versions and following our five recommendations.

 

The original article appeared on MSDynamicsWorld. You can view the original text here.

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