Four Steps to Planning Your Microsoft Dynamics NAV Upgrade

December 13 2011

If you are a user of Microsoft Dynamics NAV, the impending arrival of NAV 7 (currently scheduled for late-2012) may inspire excitement, or it may inspire dread. Either way, it is inevitable; you have to start planning for a transition.

As Microsoft's Todd Bergeson, senior product marketing manager, told a room full of NAV users at NAVUG in Las Vegas on Nov. 8, "To get to (NAV) 7, you have to go through 2009." Those still on version 4 or 5, can't jump, Bergeson added, because of release 7's SQL server requirement and its switch from the Classic Client to the Role Tailored Client. The upgrade may be done all at once, but a transition through 2009 is unavoidable.

To help you prepare, we spoke to three people with some relevant experience. Brent Fisher, NAV practice manager for Microsoft partner Tribridge, has already started helping some of his clients make the transition. Nicki Stewart, sales and marketing director for Microsoft partner TVision, recently wrote a blog outlining clients' three options for upgrading. And James Everett Kochheiser, CIO and senior operations manager at Otis McAllister, recently completed an upgrade to NAV 5, and is currently planning his next move with his vendor. Highlights of their advice follow.

  1. Find the right partner. An initial failed implementation (followed by a successful one with his current reseller) taught Kochheiser the importance of thoroughly vetting potential partners. "Dynamics is not an off-the-shelf piece of software. For most companies, it has to be customized," he says. "You can't just have some jack-of-all-trades walk in and tell you it's going to be a piece of cake. You need someone who will listen, take in your business processes, analyze them, test them, do any necessary redesign, and go back to implementation."

Kochheiser suggests checking references in person, no matter how bothersome it seems. When you call references, go beyond the obvious questions and ask for details about how much money they spent with the vendor and what they got for it. User groups and forums are great places to gather intel on products and vendors, he adds.

  1. Set a timeline and budget. Working with your vendor, pull up your paperwork and figure out exactly where you are in the support life cycle of your current NAV product. You can check Microsoft's Product Lifecycle page, but Stewart notes, "We don't have much information as Microsoft has stated it will issue details around 120 days before the retirement of NAV 5 (April 2012)." Once you know how much time you have left on your current product, you can begin to plan and budget for the upgrade.

    The amount of work that goes into an upgrade can depend on several factors, adds Fisher.  These include how old the version is, the number of ISVs, number of modifications, complexity of modifications and if you are going to classic or directly to the RTC.  He sees the typical upgrades ranging anywhere from 150 hrs to 600 hrs of work in timelines of one to three months.

    "The majority of the focus is the development side in the upgrade and also the pilot testing," Fisher says. "I strongly recommend that customers make time for pilot testing to go through their business scenarios."
  2. Know your options. If you are on version 2009 and already using the Role Tailored Client, the move to NAV 7 will be a standard upgrade, Fisher says. However, he adds, this describes very few of his clients. Others should must consider their specific situations, but there are some general guidelines, based on which version of the product they are using:
    1. NAV 4 - It might make sense to do a full upgrade. Consider the data you input and modifications you made when you first implemented, and how your business has changed since then, Fisher says. "Gather documentation. What reports do you use? Which ones don't you use? This could help lower your upgrade cost."
    2. NAV 5 - The functional application of the product didn't change as much from NAV 5 to NAV 2009, Fisher says, so clients are more likely to need only a technical switch to the Role Tailored Client and less likely to need full reimplementation.
    3. NAV 2009 - Start thinking about how to phase in the Role Tailored Client.

For some, upgrading to the Role Tailored Client in the short term will not be an option. For them, Stewart recommends the following strategies:

    1. Take a technical upgrade to NAV 2009 Classic Client. "This will buy time, as it won't retire until at least April 2014," she says.
    2. Take out extended support on NAV 5.
  1. Assess the benefits. Fisher says many of his clients are reluctant to let go of the Classic Client. To them, he says, "You won't be able to take advantage of Share Point, ISVs, three-tiered architecture. From a usability standpoint, the Role Tailored Client offers a lot of personalization features that perhaps before were modifications or customizations."

    Stewart adds that those who don't upgrade risk running a mission-critical system that is not supported. "Software systems need ongoing maintenance and investment if you're going to get the best out of them," she says. "The RTC will provide efficiency gains and future-proofing."

Above all, sources agreed, don't panic. With some thought and a strong partner, the transition to NAV 7 need not be frightening, or even cumbersome.

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About Heidi Kyser

I’m a freelance writer in Las Vegas. I’ve been a journalist for 11 years, starting as a news editor at trade journals (Tradeshow Week, World Tea News), and recently becoming a regular contributor to regional magazines.

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Nicki's picture

Quoted slightly out of context! What we have yet to see is pricing for the extended support, despite Microsoft's promise that detail for extended support would be available 120 days before mainstream support ends. We do expect an additional charge for the hotfix agreement on top of the BREP. Will post information on the TVision blog when we have it, unless anyone has been more successful acquiring pricing?