Do We Really Want a SharePoint Client for Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2009?

When NAV 2009 was officially launched at Convergence EMEA in November 2008, there was something missing: the SharePoint client.

At the time, I felt a little saddened by this, after all, the three-tiered architecture promised new clients: a RoleTailored Windows application and a SharePoint client.

I felt let down, but most of all, I was disappointed that Employee Portal was still my only option for implementing a NAV client in SharePoint (unless I looked for third-party solutions). Then I asked myself: do we really want a SharePoint client for NAV 2009?

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About David Roys
David Roys is a Dynamics NAV programmer and consultant with Intergen, New Zealand's most experienced provider of Microsoft-based business solutions. He is a Microsoft MVP for Dynamics NAV and co-author of Implementing Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2009. Additional thoughts, tips and tricks from David can be found on his blog, Gaspode's Brain Dump.

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SharePoint Client

Hi David

You have shared really good information with us. Thanks for the same.

Well, why do we need SharePoint - basically because that is what we have with us if we want to be on web and get a feel of NAV also. If now we have web services and other support for web in the new version - I really do not think it would be worthwhile to use sharepoint because of the cost factor indeed.

But would really want to know what else can Sharepoint provide us.

regards

SharePoint Client

Hi Sanshray,

SharePoint is a very powerful tool - a browser-based collaboration and document management tool, that even in the WSS version can be extremely beneficial. It certainly has a lot to offer the world of ERP. It would be nice, for instance if we could create a Job in NAV and there would be a SharePoint site created simultaneously that would allow us to store documents, have discussions, link to resources. All of this could be discoverable through our SharePoint search. We can do all of this now with a bit of programming.

I like the idea of searching for a customer in SharePoint and being able to see a record of any interactions we have had with that client but also some key details such as the state of their account, number of credit notes, etc. This sort of information can be exposed from the ERP system to users of the intranet without them needing to know where it came from. That is a great benefit of SharePoint and I think there is still a long way to go for people that can bring the world of ERP and the world of SharePoint together.

However, I believe that seeing SharePoint as the only way to get NAV functionality in a browser is where we have gone wrong. Now with the new architecture we can acheive much more, and I think we would be better served by a browser-based client that offers an excellent experience such as CRM 4.0 or Outlook 2007 Web Client. It is definitely possible. The point of this article was to challenge conventional thinking that in order to get a browser-based application for NAV, we need to work within the confines of SharePoint - there has to be a point where you draw the line and say "hey, this just doesn't feel like the right way to do it anymore".

Yes, we really want a SharePoint Client

David

Points taken, however, a few things to note:
1. The RTC is still not a true thin client. So, remote access (unless you go to EP, RDC or build your own .NET/ASP pages) is quite limited.
2. The new DCO clients are there to allow access NOT using the RTC. There is an expectation here I believe, that when Microsoft refernces SharePoint in the DCO licence, you might well assume that there is a SharePoint access provided with this. After all, the customer pays enhancement on this as well, but enhancement for WHAT? Not a SharePoint client at the moment
3. We are almost always asked in deals about remote access. Most of the solutions we compete against have an out of the box web access (or indeed, are accessed purely through the web)
4. Microsoft are pushing SharePoint heavily. Fastest growing solution in MSFT etc. But NAV seems to have been left behind.
5. Slide decks from Microsoft still reference the SharePoint client. I have seen these presented by MSFT staff (with red faces).

Whether the application is hosted in SharePoint, or we simply have some extended web parts (ie, EP on steriods that customers can actually use), I think Microsoft has missed a trick here. NAV 2009 was VERY late to market, you would have though that MSFT could have finished off the SharePoint client in that time.

My thoughts on the subject.