Upgrading - Who, When, Why and How?

Upgrading a Dynamics NAV implementation that’s working well should only be considered if the new version offers sufficient benefit over the stability offered by an existing solution.

When combining a new version of Dynamics NAV with the plethora of optional modules available as out-of-the-box extensions to Dynamics NAV from The NAV People, including our nHanced NAV product suite, the possible new NAV world is a light year away from an old NAV world for most people.

So the question is, is that world achievable with a budget that won’t cost the earth? As ever there is no straight answer to the cost of any upgrade when there are many hugely varied customer solutions, levels of modification, requirement differences and appetite to change. By breaking the process down, it might help you to understand what the ‘new world’ could do. So let’s look at the who, when and why of upgrading.

WHO? (and a little bit of ‘When?’)

Everyone.  Everyone should plan to upgrade.  However this plan could be three months, eight months, eighteen months or three years away. In other words think about the costs, benefits and risks of not doing so and visualise when you believe you will upgrade.  If you think about it, everyone will have to upgrade at some point or buy a new system.  Can you see yourself on the same system in twenty years, ten years or even five years? If the answer is ‘no’ then you will have to change solutions or upgrade at some point. Having a plan helps you decide how much to invest in extending the capabilities of your existing solution by providing a time frame over which it will pay back.

As (most of) you pay for Microsoft Enhancement, the software cost come upgrade-time is already paid for.  As Dynamics NAV continues to exploit, more than ever, the technology we take for granted these days, it’s more likely you will choose to stick with your flexible friend and upgrade rather than switch solution. Dynamics NAV is still one of the leading ERP products available and your people know how to use it.

WHEN?

The ‘when’ question is interesting. When you see that the benefits are worth the investment in time and money, that’s your starting point.  With the latest version of Dynamics NAV and complementary product enhancements, it’s easy to see improvements in efficiencies, user-friendliness and management of information.  By simply looking at them in the context of your organisation, it’s easier to justify to the business and easy to see how things could be improved. But! You could take some of those add-ons like Jet Reports (if you don’t have them already) along with the nHanced NAV Suite and other modules, and bolt them on to your existing solution.  Many people have implemented nHanced Workflow and Document Management on to (very) old versions of Dynamics NAV solutions and gained immediate benefits for limited cost.

You can certainly do small projects and solve point issues to get a leap forward with minimum cost, but think about that timescale talked about earlier.  If you have planned to upgrade in two years, then implementing workflow on your existing system makes sense, as you will be investing in something with a reasonable payback period.  If, however, you had eight months as your plan but you need workflow now, wouldn’t it be better to invest all your efforts (and money) in the new solution?

WHY?

There is a footnote to the when, which also drives the why. The Dynamics NAV Classic Client is no longer supported and there will no longer be another Classic version.  In the past, if a Classic Client didn’t work on a new Windows version, you simply did a small technical upgrade and everyone was happy after minimal effort.  This last occurred when version 3 Clients (and earlier) were found not to work on Windows 7. 

This ‘technical upgrade’ is no longer possible.  The move to Dynamics NAV 2009 RTC through to the latest version will be a full upgrade.  That is to say thought will be given to functionality, modifications, data requirements and so on. No one knows when or which version may cause this, but it’s important to understand that it could.  This should simply provide one more component to add to your thoughts of ‘when to upgrade.’

HOW?

The ‘how’ is the more tricky part.  People who think about upgrading to a significant new version will obviously be full of doubt – ‘Will it be hard?’ ‘Will it be worth it?’ ‘How much will it cost?’ ‘How long will it take?’ All of these questions are why people too often park the thought of upgrading and bury their heads in the sand.  So to try to help make this more understandable The NAV People have created a process that has proven to be effective in at least lowering the doubt threshold and helping the business feel more comfortable in what they will undertake before agreeing to make the move.

The first thing we recommend is that a project is created with a fixed and agreed number of days to create a ‘Day in the Life’ NAV solution. This involves a rapid start approach and the creation of a Dynamics NAV installation. This can be done on either a new machine on the customer system or on a cloud environment created for temporary use. Data is then loaded.

The starting point will be a standard ‘Day in the Life’.  This involves: purchase an item > book into stock > sell the item > process the purchase invoice > ship and invoice the item > chase the customer for payment > receive the cash > pay the supplier, and assess the profit and balance sheet information.  Obviously, customer systems vary hugely but hopefully here you can understand the process.

The NAV People then seek to understand with the customer how we could introduce new components to the Day in the Life. For example, what workflows can be utilised? With the out-of-the-box solution you will have purchase order approval and many others, but maybe you can include a scenario to use an nForm (e.g. expense process).  Is there a need for sales force automation with a tablet solution for salespeople, integration of calendars and contacts, or is there a use for the planning board function?  New modules in Dynamics NAV can now easily be configured.

Finally, are there standard processes that could be looked at to replace modifications on the previous solution?  For example, a bespoke time sheet may be replaced with new standard functionality and CRM could be used to replace bespoke note taking against a customer's account.

This process leads to a combined business presentation of the ‘art of the possible’ Day in the Life as a way to introduce the potential new solution to business stakeholders. This acts as a further way to extract ideas and thoughts from the teams before moving into a more detailed specification process. Matt Dredge, Sales Director for The NAV People comments:  ‘The important thing here is that we have something to use as a platform against which we can then agree amendments required for the completed new solution. We generally feel that people are more able to understand what they want and need, when they see what’s available!’

The end result of this is that some of those questions asked earlier, ‘How long will it take?’ ‘How much will it cost?’ ‘How hard will it be?’ and 'Will it be worth it?' can all be more easily understood.  In understanding comes comfort.  

In Summary - Plan to Upgrade

Even if it’s two, three of four years away, you must have a plan but whatever happens - don’t be forced into it.  Think about what benefits could be gained and try to attach a value or time saving (especially improved visibility, workflow, improved document handling and sharing).  Remember it’s only software not landing on the moon. You won’t be the first or the last. Your issues will have answers; your concerns will be understood and just like having a baby - after the pain will be joy at what you have produced!