Dynamics 365 Business Central – A New Way of Customising Your Solution

Over the last 18 months, we developers have been preparing ourselves for a new way of delivering customisations to the Dynamics 365 Business Central world.

For the last 20+ years, customisations were delivered using C/AL (Client/Server Application Language) within C/SIDE (Client/Service Integrated Development Environment). Even though the environment has worked wonderfully for us all over the years, technology has moved on and left C/AL behind. Microsoft decided it was time to update the environment to better reflect the technology and infrastructures of today, along with the current tool sets that are being taught in schools, colleges and universities. This also works hand in hand with the future product strategy that Microsoft has got lined up for Dynamics 365 Business Central.

Removal of the Development Environment
Microsoft has announced that from October 2019 they will no longer be shipping the Windows client and C/SIDE application with Dynamics 365 Business Central. This means all customisations must be created using extensions and delivered to customer databases in the form of an app. To facilitate this Microsoft have been working hard to create a new way of customising the Business Central base application. The clever thinkers at Microsoft have also considered how best to deliver customisations without carving up the functionality of the base application, meaning that future upgrades will be less time consuming and therefore more cost effective for the end user. How are they doing this? Enter AL and extensions.

What is AL?
AL is the name of the language that is used to create the customisations. It has its foundations linked with C/AL but is a more modern version of the language; introducing new functionality and, in some cases, more complexities. Rather than using a dedicated application for creating AL code, customisations are now created in the more modern Visual Studio Code (VS Code) environment that is more familiar to those used to more modern development applications. VS Code is a freely available development environment from Microsoft that is used for many different types of development and languages.

Microsoft have created an extension for VS Code to not only make it understand the syntax of the AL language, but also to give real-time compilation feedback, and publishing capabilities to your Business Central server.

Objects are now defined through simple text definitions, being almost entirely handwritten rather than through a dedicated graphical user interface. This can increase the overall amount of time to create customisations, but Microsoft have included a clever set of shortcuts that reduce this time where possible. Evo-soft are also working hard to create additional tools to further reduce this time for our customers.

In a previous blogpost we have discussed the benefits of using the event publishing functionality within Business Central (if you didn’t see that blog post, you can read it here XXXXXXXXX). The extensions methodology builds on that functionality to deliver additional benefits.

In older versions of Dynamics NAV and Business Central, existing database functionality was customised by changing the base code of the application (for example updating a standard page to a new field to it). This is no longer the case, and from the October 2019 release of Business Central, not actually possible.

Microsoft have created new object types to allow developers to make changes to existing objects without the need for actually changing the base application. These are called “Extension Objects” and describe additions to already existing areas of the Business Central application. These sit alongside any newly created functionality that are created such as new tables, pages and reports.

At runtime extension objects are superimposed over the top of standard database objects, with the combination of the two providing the standard and enhance functionality. Ultimately this means that the standard objects can be replaced without the need to update and reinstall the extension that is built on top of it.

What is an Extension?
An extension is a series of AL objects that make up some specific functionality that can be applied to a Business Central implementation. Extensions can be very small or very large, depending on the functionality that they provide. They can be standalone or dependant on other extensions that must be installed before it will operate correctly (or in some cases at all).
A number of extensions are provided by Microsoft “out of the box” with Business Central, and a recent announcement from Microsoft has stated that all new functionality will be introduced in the form of extensions. The most notable extension so far is the Making Tax Digital extension for the UK.

Extensions can be managed directly from the Business Central web client but can only be published to your database by a partner.
Evo-soft are currently bringing all our add-on functionality into line with the development environment and “extensionising” our product set. We will release new functionality via extensions going forward, and a these will be communicated to our customer base when they are available.

What impact does this have on me as a customer of Evo-soft?
Existing users will largely remain unaffected by the introduction of the new development processes, as it will only affect those that are upgrading their system to the latest versions of Business Central. As that transition takes place all, existing customisations to the database will need to be converted to AL in order to function. This sounds pretty scary, but don’t worry, Microsoft provide tools that make this process relatively straight forward. Once this process has been completed, future upgrades will be available more often and at a lower cost to the end user as an existing scenario.

Summary
Although this is a pretty significant change in the way that customisations are delivered into Business Central implementation, it is a necessary and a welcome change. There are many benefits to what Microsoft are doing, ultimately leading to improved system architecture and better upgradability for the end user.


If you would like more information on Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central, please get in touch with Evo-soft and we will be happy to discuss your needs.

Making Tax Digital with Microsoft Dynamics NAV and Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central

The introduction of the new HMRC VAT submission systems “Making Tax Digital” (MTD) is now live! The latest changes are just the first steps in bringing in the new framework for VAT return submissions and affects companies with a turnover above the VAT threshold (currently £85,000) who may now be required to keep their records digitally (for VAT purposes only). Those companies affected will no longer be able to manually submit their VAT returns online using the current portal and will need to provide VAT return information, via an API directly, to HMRC servers.

If you are unsure whether your business will be affected by this new legislation you can find out by contacting HMRC.

Microsoft Dynamics NAV and Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central update for Making Tax Digital

In December, Microsoft announced that they have released the relevant cumulative updates (CU) to support the new MTD processes. These updates have been, and will only be, released for supported versions of Dynamics NAV and Business Central. This means that if you are running Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2013 R2 or below will not have access to the new functionality and will need to find alternative solutions.

What does MTD mean for your business?

In order to take advantage of the MTD functionality, the December 2018 CU needs to be applied to Microsoft Dynamics NAV and Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central business database. This will involve merging the updated objects in the CU into the customers database. There are two different ways this can be done…

•           A partial merge that just introduces the MTD functionality.

•           A complete merge of the latest cumulative update. Not only does this include the MTD functionality, but also updates the customers database with any additional hot fixes that Microsoft have released since the application went live.

There are also options available outside of NAV for those customers that do not want to invest in the latest CU to be merged, which are noted below.

What about customers using Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2013 R2 and below?

It is possible to utilise MTD in the following ways:

  • It is possible that your MTD needs can be fulfilled by your accountants.
  • There are Excel solutions available in the market place to support MTD requirements. These solutions submit the VAT return using the new systems and are easy to use. However, it is not certain at this point how long these solutions will be valid for use.
  • Ultimately, you can upgrade to the latest version of Business Central. This is obviously the most expensive option but is the most future proof in terms of software.

Take a look at some useful MTD resources to help you get started.

   Making Tax Digital Readiness Checklist                 

  Making Tax Digital Evo-soft Video       

As a Microsoft Dynamics NAV and Business Central specialist, Evo-Soft can provide resources to get your business ready for MTD and assist you with your understanding of the processes within the application.

All Change! Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central the future of Dynamics NAV

Over the last 12 months, there has been a lot of chatter about Microsoft’s new ERP offering for small to medium enterprises (SMEs).  In April 2018, the world was presented with the first release of Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central, a cloud-based solution based around the Dynamics NAV platform. This was closely followed by the release of Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central (On-Premise) in October 2018.

What is Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central, and what does it mean for NAV?

Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central (Business Central) is the next iteration of the Dynamics NAV product life-cycle. For the last few years we have been graced with NAV versions numbered by the year of release (2015 to 2018). So, to all intents and purpose, BC could be considered as NAV 2019 – or could it?

Well, the answer to that is pretty complex, but can be summarised as follows… yes and no!

Why Yes AND No?

As the world’s infrastructure moves towards cloud computing, so too do the software applications we all use regularly. Over the last few years Microsoft have invested heavily in their different product sets, creating subscription based licensing and regular updates to introduce new features. Microsoft Office 365 is a prime example of this transformation, and there is more to come from Microsoft in the future! It is only the next logical step that our business applications do the same.

The release of Business Central in April of 2018 showed to the world Microsoft’s first truly cloud based ERP solution for the SME market. A feature rich business solution that is simple to use, quick to implement, and most importantly requires no additional infrastructure to operate – all available at a single monthly cost per user.

In order to facilitate this move to the cloud, Microsoft have had to take a serious look at the NAV platform that we have known and loved for almost three decades and overcome some difficult challenges on the way. They have achieved this by having two different application streams:

  • Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central
  • Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central (On-Premise)

Business Central is a purely cloud based solution aimed at the lower end of the ERP market (in our opinion, three to five users that require no or very little system enhancements). With this offering, there are only web, tablet and phone clients available for users. System enhancements are delivered via extensions (more on these later) available from the AppSource, or from a recognised partner such as Evo-Soft.

Business Central (On-Premise) is more suited to project type implementations, larger user counts with considerable system enhancements to further tailor the application to the users’ needs. It can be installed wherever you like, either in your own Azure platform, or on a machine in your server room. System enhancements can be delivered in the traditional way (for the moment), or via extensions. You also can run the Windows client with an on-premise installation (again for the moment).

Although they are different product streams, they are really pretty much the same. You just don’t have as much control over the cloud-based solution as you do with the on-premise.  Observant users will notice, when using the on-premise version of Business Central, that the Windows client splash screen actually reads “Microsoft Dynamics NAV – connected to Dynamics 365 Business Central”!

Licensing

The way Business Central is licensed has been updated in order to support a cloud-based subscription model.  With all the previous versions of NAV the concurrent licensing model was utilised. That meant you could have as many users created within your NAV system as you wanted, but only the licensed number of users could access it at any one time. With Business Central, that model has been updated to “named users”. This now means that every active user within the application must have a valid license, whether they are logged in or not.  But fear not, all is not lost! Along with the new model comes a new pricing structure for users, three different tiers of user type, and the extension of your user license to all devices – so a licensed user can now access Business Central whenever, from wherever, using whatever!

Three tiers of user licenses are now available:

  • Dynamics 365 Business Central Essentials
  • Dynamics 365 Business Central Premium
  • Dynamics 365 Business Central Team Members

Cloud-based offerings are subscription based only, but on-premise licenses can be purchased outright or leased via subscription depending on what suits the end user. Subscription based licenses do not incur the annual enhancement fee to Microsoft.

Interface

For many years now, Microsoft have been adding functionality to the NAV platform. Some of the screens have become cluttered with fields and fact-boxes and we had ribbons close to bursting with different functions on them. It was time for a refresh, and from a web, tablet and phone client perspective it is a significant change! In fact, the majority of UI updates that Microsoft have done over the last 18 months have been in and around the web client.

The Windows client has had a few updates too, but only to declutter some screens!

System Enhancements

The single biggest change is the way in which enhancements are delivered to the system. Microsoft have created “AppSource” an online repository for Business Central enhancements that can be downloaded, tested and purchased via the Microsoft website. Standalone enhancements can still be created by a partner, but they have to follow the same rules and development methodology as functionality delivered via the AppSource site.

New functionality extends the base application (hence the term extension) rather than modifying it. This means the base functionality of the application can be updated relatively simply, without the need for rewriting any bespoke functionality that an end user may have had created, or purchased from the AppSource.

To facilitate this new way of development Microsoft have introduced the AL language, and developers use the VSCODE application to create new system enhancements.

Look out in the AppSource for Evo-Soft’s extension offerings – coming soon!

Road Map There’s quite a lot to take in there, which is why they are the same product, yet very different products – and Microsoft are only just getting started! They have already started publishing new minor releases of Business Central every month, and have committed to a major release every six months. To support their vision for the application Microsoft have published the following roadmap.

Summary

This is quite a big change in the way Dynamics NAV is not only delivered, but implemented. It requires a new approach to system implementations and enhancements, whilst at the same time offering a great opportunity for companies such as Evo-Soft. From an end user perspective, this is purely a rebranding exercise by Microsoft, whilst at the same time preparing for the future.

Here at Evo-Soft, we have been busy over the last 12 months preparing for the new way of working and supporting end users that wish to transition to either the cloud or on-premise versions of Business Central. Of course, older versions of NAV are still being supported and maintained by Microsoft through their product life-cycle, and Evo-Soft will continue to provide support for all versions for end users who are not ready to upgrade their NAV system just yet.

This is an exciting time for the Dynamics product range, and we are looking forward to helping you with your journey to Business Central.

Evo-soft Sponsors the Global Auction House Summit, London 4-6 February 2019

The 2019 Global Auction House Summit will again bring together leading auction industry representatives to discuss strategies for innovation in the art world.

The Summit will include speakers, panel discussions, and interactive sessions delivered by leading industry experts & global influencers across the two days.

We look forward to meeting our many auction house customers for what promises to be an excellent event.

Visit Evo-soft at Spring Fair

It’s the New Year, often a time for new dreams and goals as well as renewed energy to get things done. The Evo-soft team look forward to supporting you and your business through continued growth with the support of our services.

Spring Fair 2019 is just around the corner and the Evo-soft team will be on hand at our stand, 6P55 in Hall 6. For all those of you who will be exhibiting alongside Evo-soft this year, we would like to wish you every success at the event.

We look forward to meeting up with you and having the opportunity for a catch up. We look forward to demonstrating our complete E-Commerce to ERP offering. For those of you reviewing your website requirements, this is a great opportunity to see the latest developments in our Evo-supply offering.

We appreciate that Spring Fair is a very busy time for exhibitors. If we miss you during the event do let us know and we will be very happy to catch up at a time that is more convenient for you.

Thanks to our many Evo-soft customers who have helped us produce clients success stories at past Spring Fair, which have providing a glimpse into how Evo-supply has become the chosen software provider for many of the Spring Fair Exhibitors.

Happy Christmas from Evo-soft Limited

All of us here at Evo-soft Limited wish you a Happy Christmas and a Prosperous New Year!

We wish you every success in the year ahead and look forward to having the opportunity to help you achieve the individual and specific goals of your business using Microsoft technology.

Christmas and New Year Opening Hours

  • 24th December: 8.30am – 5.30pm
  • 25th December: Closed
  • 26th December: Closed
  • 27th December: 8.30am – 5.30pm
  • 28th December: 8.30am – 5.30pm
  • 31st December: 8.30am – 5.30pm
  • 1st January: Closed
  • 2nd January: 8.30am – 5.30pm

If you would like to discuss your project plans for the year ahead with one of our consultants you are very welcome to call us on 01793 677633 or email us at info@evo-soft.co.uk.