Saturday, 26 May 2007

Dynamics NAV 5.1 – Incredible New Features

There is a new version of Dynamics NAV and it has got me pretty excited. Not because of its new features, or technology, or roles-based user interface, but because I have never used it.

There is a magical time in a product’s life when it is perfect, and, for me, Dynamics NAV 5.1 is there. Having never used the product, I can unreliably inform you it is the best version of Dynamics NAV yet. The roles-based client is intuitive and a pleasure to use; the online help has been completely re-written with a focus on the roles within an organisation and the business processes that keep it running.

In a stroke of genius, Microsoft has completely re-engineered the application architecture in order to make all functions available to the NAV developer. Any actions that can be triggered by a user can now be triggered through code. This is probably the one non-feature I find most exciting. NAV developers can now create tools that will dramatically improve the Dynamics experience for re-sellers and end-users alike. The testing tool is a prime example of this. Similar to the Record Macro feature in Microsoft Office, it is now possible to record a series of actions, save them as a script (using your preferred language of C/AL, C# or VB.NET) and finally edit the code to produce testing programs. This will allow new features to be automatically tested to ensure they meet requirements and do not introduce nasty side-effects to other parts of the application. The application comes with a set of pre-defined localised test cases that allow Dynamics NAV resellers to develop their own applications and have total confidence that they have not broken the standard application.

Programming objects within Dynamics NAV can now be exported and imported through code (either using the built-in programming tools or via the web-service interface.) This, coupled with the fact that all programming objects are now stored internally in an open XML format, means that Dynamics NAV is now limited only by the imagination of the business community and the skills of the developers. Being able to hook into events makes it possible to write tools that will revolutionise version control within business applications. One of the sample applications illustrates this feature by waiting for customers to make modifications to their programming objects, and then sending a copy of the change to the Dynamics NAV Partner. No longer will we need to worry about lost, undocumented, or inappropriate programming changes.

These new features are available for a limited time only. Eventually, Microsoft will release Dynamics NAV 5.1 and my fantasy vapourware version will be replaced with the real thing, but until that day, I have the perfect ERP system.

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