The exciting opportunities offered by Extensions
Key takeaways from NAVUG Summit EMEA 2017
Having participated in several local NAV community events in the UK, Belgium, Denmark and the Netherlands, I was keen to witness how they scaled to an EMEA wide event. Yes, this was my first NAVUG summit EMEA, and I was thrilled to be invited to share Equisys' experiences, challenges and vision of the possibilities of extending NAV. More about that later.
Dynamics 365 update
As you might expect, the most popular sessions focused on Dynamics 365. Microsoft personnel were out in force to share with us what they were able to about Dynamics 365 for financials. I say "what they were able to", because there remains a dearth of information out there in the public domain about the platform. Whilst it's reasonably clear what you might expect as a net-new Microsoft Dynamics customer, during the conference it was evident that the question on everyone's mind as a current NAV customers is "what does this mean for me?" Such a lack of information makes it difficult for customers, partners and ISVs to make decisions about investing in the platform. Fortunately, community events such as these help you pick up snippets of additional information, many of which are shared online.
One such session, and one of my favorites of the event was presented by MVPs Mark Brummel and Waldo who did a great job explaining why Extensions are critical to help ensure that customers and partners can reuse their IP, helping solve the "upgrade problem". What was great about the session was that it gave a thorough background of why Extensions are important, while also being very candidly critical of the risks and limitations of doing so with the current version 1 of NAV Extensions. The good news is that Extensions version 2 is coming soon and offers substantial improvements over v1. Is Extensions version 2 the nirvana we're all hoping it will be? Time will tell.
As a NAV user ourselves since 2001 and having developed NAV add-ons for over 10 years (which are implemented at over 5,000 sites), Equisys has volumes of experience we could share with attendees at the event. Let's face it, everyone chose to work with NAV because it is a platform suited to customisation. However, with the Microsoft's annual cadence for new releases, monthly updates and always up-to-date SaaS editions coming very soon, the case for modifying NAV code is becoming untenable. That is, of course, where extensions come in.
At Equisys, we share this vision for extensions. However, we also believe that a powerful way to use extensions is to build connect apps. Unlike add-on apps, connect apps connect a 3rd Party service with NAV on premises or Dynamics 365 For Financials. Examples of this kind of service in NAV 2017 include links to Yahoo Exchange Rates or PayPal integration.
A significant benefit of consuming third party services like this is that the code is executed outside of NAV, which means it's relatively upgrade proof. The connector just needs to be configured to point to the web service, meaning the frequency of it needing to be upgraded is reduced.
In other words, what Extensions offers is greater choice of extending NAV, which in today's online connected world has to be a positive thing. I will blog about the pros and cons of customising NAV, extending NAV and connecting to NAV in a subsequent post.
Although the community in EMEA is relatively immature compared to its North American sibling and the delegate numbers were understandably fewer, the organisers did a great job in putting together some compelling content. Indeed at times during the conference, I could have been forgiven for thinking I was at the US event because of the frequency of American accents. Clearly, the appetite for learning and sharing is incredibly strong in North America that so many made the trip to Amsterdam to consume, share and learn.
My call to action fellow Europeans (sic)? Get involved in the community - Dynamics is changing more quickly than ever before and there is much to learn and share.