Estimated reading time: 24 minutes
I have compiled a lot of information for you here, especially for the requirements of conversions/replacements of midrange systems such as AS400, System36, Siemens Nixdorf Quattro Pro Comet and comparable solutions based on RPG, Cobol and Business Basic.
In general, Business Central or Navision is really cool with
- Merchandise management: Incl. batch/serial number tracking and batch/serial number tracing. Already included as standard. Storage locations and storage bin management, location-specific inventory management
- Materials management: Incl. parts lists, production, capacity monitoring
- Financial accounting: In my opinion, Navision and Business Central have the simplest and fastest integrated financial accounting. Within a few hours, even for previous laymen (at the latest when I give the lessons), comprehensible.
- Purchasing & sales management: credit limit control, payment proposals, order proposals (OK, my order proposal is even better...), scale prices & group prices, scale & group discounts
- And so much more... Everything is already standard! Even for industries, you don't have to bend much anymore. That's also the reason for my reluctance to use industry solutions.
And yet there are always disputes between Navision or Business Central buyers and Business Central or Navision providers (system houses).
Reasons for the failure of IT projects
In general, the dilemma can be summarized very briefly: Customers who want to spend as little money as possible for as many functions as possible meet retailers who want to earn as much as possible with as little effort as possible. That bites. It has to bite. That was already very aptly analyzed by George A. Akerlof in 1970. This is the case with toasters, used cars, tomatoes... and also with software for which there is a competitive situation. Here in Germany, product liability still protects us from the worst undesirable developments. Just go to America 🙂 …
The opposite can be seen quite clearly in products such as Rolex watches, Teslas, Photoshop and Microsoft Office: These products are what they are. Only the manufacturer determines what these products can do. Ideally also what they cost. And there is no competition worth mentioning. Nobody in their right mind goes to their Rolex dealer and complains that their Datejust doesn't take leap years into account. With ERP, however, this is a supposedly logical feature. OK, it's the same with Navision or Business Central, but that's just an example 🙂 .
Why do IT projects fail so much more often today than "back then"?
On the one hand, of course, there are the rose-colored glasses with the "everything used to be better" function.
In a Cobol, RPG or Business Basic program of the past, there was simply much less "going on" than is possible today. And the integration of archive systems, mail or fax solutions also became more powerful and therefore more complicated. Workflows, adaptability and user-friendliness placed completely new demands on developers than before.
With a Comet solution on a Quattro, just as with an ERP solution on an AS400, the product offered and supplied was often used exactly as it was offered and supplied. It was only later that a separate RPG or DB2 or Business Basic "specialist" was set up in the company, who made more and more individual adaptations with / in very simple structures.
However, the systems became more and more complex, the customers' demands for an egg-laying wool-milk sow (perhaps even better a beer cow?) became higher... and the cost pressure on the system houses increased. An AS400 salesperson has... sold. Just like a salesman for Comet on a Siemens Nixdorf Quattro. They didn't negotiate (or only a little, for the good feeling). "We're not worth this price to you? OK, call us again when we are worth it". In times of Navision or Business Central, however, there is competition. System houses that are in competition with each other. Decisions are often based on price rather than quality (which is impossible for the buyer to verify!). This results in low wages for the developers at the system houses, which in turn leads to high fluctuation. An AS400 (AS/400) programmer (perhaps already coming from System36) practically never left his employer, rather he was carried out of the office feet first... Not without quickly pressing the "Compile" button in delirium 🙂
Even a Business Basic programmer rarely left his system house voluntarily. The problem was rather the closure of Siemens Nixdorf.
All of this - higher expectations, price pressure, interchangeability of products, fluctuation of developers - makes projects more susceptible to failure today.
Can anyone program Navision?
Anyone who can program can also program Navision or Business Central!?
Microsoft's serious(!) reasoning: Navision is a development environment that happens to include financial accounting and merchandise management. This is reinforced by the RDLC programming of the RTC and the new AL development environment with extensions.
But: Navision or Business Central or Dynamics NAV is not bought by practically anyone in the world because it is such a great development environment (although Navision or Business Central is exactly THAT!), but because of its functionality as a financial accounting, statistics tool, purchasing/sales, inventory management, warehouse management, production control, production planning, price calculation, sales representative accounting, etc.
And it is precisely these functions that are very easy to damage if you don't know how they work and the background.
As a comparison: a car mechatronics technician can be a super specialist in his field of vehicle repair and be very familiar with FKZ engines. And yet he should not repair an Airbus 320 overnight. At least I wouldn't want to be a passenger on the test flight. Unfortunately, when changing the business logic of Business Central or Navision, the same approach is taken far too often.
Only those who have understood Navision or Business Central should even begin to customize Navision. Otherwise - almost inevitably - there will be a lot of suffering. Believe me...
That's right: Navision / Microsoft Business Solutions Dynamics Nav / Business Central can be adapted to practically any individual requirement. And is - in principle - also very easy to set up. You just have to know what you are doing.
What characterizes a Navision developer?
However, when it comes to extending the system's flow logic (which is still quite easy to do) or even changing it (which is much more critical), the designer has to be involved:
- Business knowledge: If you don't know that debits and credits always have to add up, you shouldn't attempt to customize a commercial solution such as Business Central and Navision. If you don't know what to do with debits and credits , you should avoid it altogether.
- Database knowledge: A new Flowfield can be set up in Navision in just a few seconds without any programming, and in Business Central in AL in just a few minutes.
keys too, even with SIFT keys. Anyone who does not understand how databases work, what Resultsets are and how SIFT-Keys are maintained, they will not understand that a seemingly "tiny change" suddenly requires millions of read or write transactions just to post a a line or display an article. Suddenly the accounts receivable list is slow, and screen masks take forever to be displayed.
And then likes to blame it on the "hardware being too weak". Remember: If the hardware is too weak, the programmer is too bad. And a little knowledge of standard forms doesn't hurt either... Unfortunately, today it has become much cheaper to buy faster hardware than to write reasonable programs. This is exactly why the old Cobol and PHP programs (or Business Basic on a Siemens Nixdorf Quattro with e.g. Comet) on an AS/400 (AS400) are so robust and stable and usually also fast: Because back then, when the programs were written, a System/36 with DB2 was still the foundation. Both the Cobol/RPG programs of an AS/400 (AS400) and the Business Basic programs of the Siemens Nixdorf Quattro with e.g. Comet are a great example of how easily such mid-range or mainframe systems can be replaced with Navision or Business Central! The business logic dormant in the old systems is trimmed for efficiency and can therefore be easily replicated in Navision and Business Central. You just shouldn't start with an "industry solution" here... You won't be happy, believe me. It is better to take everything good from Navision or Business Central and then take the good from your Siemens Nixdorf Comet or AS/400 (AS400) with RPG. That works, and it works really well!
- If you don't believe all this (no industry solution, instead as400 Cobol and RPG business logic in Navision or Business Central): Put this page in your clipboard. And if you get a bloody nose with your AS400 or other mid-range or mainframe systems such as Siemens Nixdorf Comet on the Quattro, we'll be happy to talk again...
- Programming knowledge: The difference between Repeat and While should of course also be known.
- Internal knowledge: If you don't know the difference between Findfirst and Findset and don't know how to use Navision Cursor, you can only write slow (possibly working, but slow) code.
- And not at all unimportant: Basic knowledge of Navision operation itself. How else can you test your own programs?
Are there a lot of Navision developers?
Designers with these basic skills are practically impossible to find on the open market. Just enter the search terms NAV and programmer on Stepstone, for example. Hundreds of companies are desperately looking for Navision developers.
- Companies as Navision users shy away from the effort of training someone as a Navision developer themselves. And even if you wanted to: How are you supposed to train someone in something that you only have rudimentary knowledge of?
- System houses are dependent on constantly training new employees in Navision. The reason for this is simple: programmers in system houses very often and very quickly migrate to end customers. (see point one): Regulated working hours, higher salary, higher appreciation. As a result, the quality, the genuine specialist knowledge that takes a long time to build up, falls by the wayside.
The know-how is thus forcibly shared:
–The salesperson, who makes the first contact with the customer and therefore has (should have) an overview of what makes the customer tick.
–The Consultant, who (hopefully) knows what makes Navision tick.
–New developers, , who are thrown into lucrative customer projects immediately after - or even during - their two-week training..
–The senior developer, who is often the only one in a system house who still has an overview of the entire Navision or Business Central and who, pressed for time, runs after his constantly changing colleagues to put out the fire they have caused before it leaves scorched earth behind... and it often does.
What does this mean for Navision and Business Central projects?
Nothing good. Your best bet is to find someone who is really happy with Business Central or Navision. Ask him for the name of his developer and find out which system house he may still be working for. This is your reference.
Don't put too much stock in reference customers or industry solutions provided by system houses. A good developer will solve any task for you, even in your industry. However, a bad industry solution will tie you to a bad system house and a perpetual construction site with permanent costs.
Rule of thumb: Good program code is not, when there is nothing more to add. Good program code is when there is nothing more to take away. (Freely adapted from Antoine de Saint Exupéry).
What if I've caught a bad developer?
But what do entrepreneurs do if they feel they have received an incomplete or, even worse, faulty product?
Here you are usually on your own. On an equal footing with the supplier (you have money, he wants money) and yet without equality of arms.
Is a function correct and user-friendly just because it is there? Is it easy to use and "state of the art" or is it somehow through the chest into the eye? Do I have to live with the fact that I have to wait 20 minutes for an evaluation "because that's how long it takes", or could it be on the screen in 2 seconds?
As an entrepreneur, you often only have your gut feeling here, and you may well feel at the mercy of it. Who can you ask for advice? Do you stand alone in court when the situation gets tough? Who can support me in confirming my feelings - or invalidating them? That could also help!
Rule of thumb: If you have concluded something like a contract for work and services with your system house, your chances of being reimbursed for the amounts you have paid are much better (not 100%) than with a service contract. Incidentally, this is the main reason why I only act as a service provider and never sell Navision as a contract for work.
Options for dispute resolution
The simplest form of dispute resolution. The term "mediator" is not protected, so you'll find lots of them on Google. Look out for the minimum standard of a certified mediator. The rest is better left to marriage counseling 🙂 .
Apart from the costs for the mediator(s), you have no further costs. This is the quickest and cheapest option: sit down with your Business Central & Navision salesperson. Have a list of defects ready, sorted by pain factor. And talk to each other. Gladly with my support, also in the preparation. But only as your advisor, not as a mediator. Experience has shown that I'm too expensive for that.
Of course, this also requires that you can still talk to each other - or want to talk to each other again. For this process it is not even necessary for the mediator to really know Navision / Business Central. He/she just needs to listen attentively and be a good moderator. Mediation has no legal consequences, and all subsequent dispute resolutions remain open to you. Of course, this only makes sense if both parties are interested in reaching an amicable agreement.
The effort involved is already higher than in mediation. You appoint a conciliator (often provided by the courts) to hear both points of view. An agreement can be reached directly, as in mediation. If no agreement is reached, the conciliator can / should make an arbitration award. This requires some specialist knowledge. Therefore, the easiest way to find specialist arbitration boards is to Google it arbitration boards and your place of work, e.g. "it arbitration boards Kassel". You are unlikely to find Navision & Business Central arbitration boards. I can also support you here, but as a direct consultant, not as an arbitrator. Experience has shown that I am too biased for that. Arbitration also has no legal consequences and you are free to pursue all subsequent dispute resolutions. Like mediation, this only makes sense if both parties are interested in reaching an amicable agreement.
Here we are for the first time with legal consequences: Appealing to a court of arbitration precludes the subsequent appeal to a state court! In Germany, arbitration proceedings are offered, for example, by chambers of commerce or the German Institution of Arbitration (DIS) . It is essential that you seek advice from a lawyer experienced in IT and arbitration proceedings beforehand. In addition, you can also make use of my support, also in consultation with your legal advisor. This creates a kind of equality of arms with your Navision or Business Central system house.
Even though I earn money with expert opinions and dispute support, please consider court proceedings as the very last step. Any other method is faster and more helpful. There are a handful of reasons for this:
- As a rule, courts have no specialist knowledge of your problem. They talk to judges, not technicians.
- Judges therefore need the support of experts. In Germany there are (as far as I know) only 2 experts who are at all familiar with Navision. One of them is me. However, this does not prevent courts from commissioning experts who are completely inexperienced with Navision or Business Central to provide an expert opinion.
- Expert opinions and a lack of judgment lead to long proceedings and high legal costs.
- In Germany (and presumably in all other countries) you don't get justice, you get a judgment! Judges try to evaluate the facts (expert opinion, your contracts, correspondence) in order to form a judgment. When formulating contracts and emails, your Navision or Business Central dealer (hopefully in principle) has more experience with subliminal formulations. As a fully qualified merchant, the court expects you to be able to read between the lines. At this point at the latest, saving on experienced project support will cost you hard cash.
Types of expert opinion
If you have the feeling that "there is something wrong with my Navision", you can request a so-called "private assessment" from me at any time. We will discuss the scope of the audit/task. It will be cheaper if I can obtain a copy of your database for further analysis. Either way, only my regular hourly rates apply.
The result of this expert report is then at your free disposal. You can use it, for example, to ask me or another Navision developer to correct any errors and/or suggestions for improvement contained in the report, or you can use this document to sit down at a table with your previous system house.
Until this time, your previous guardian does not need to know about my assignment. You can also use this document as a basis for court proceedings. However, the court is free to decide (as with any other type of report) whether this report should be introduced as evidence in the case.
Expert opinion of the parties:
This is also legally a private expert opinion, but is commissioned jointly by both parties to the dispute. This means that both parties to the dispute are usually interested in supporting the expert. The rules of the court expert opinion regarding a conflict of interest should be observed here.
You must have already taken legal action for this, as a court expert opinion can only be commissioned by a court. You can recommend an expert for this yourself. However, it is at the discretion of the court which expert is actually consulted.
Interesting fact: The court may call pretty much any citizen as an expert witness on a topic if the court considers this to be relevant! In this case, both parties to the dispute are required to support the expert.
Impartiality, bias: If I have already worked for you in any form (advisor, consultant, expert witness for a private report), this generally excludes my later use as an expert witness in court due to bias.
Conversely, as long as I am active as a court expert in your dispute, this always excludes any other cooperation, e.g. as a programmer, advisor or consultant, for the duration of the dispute.
What makes Mr. Thöne a reliable expert?
I myself was also in this situation (described in the last point) through my former employer. Although I always delivered correct and user-friendly work, I was suddenly faced with a Navision report from Lübeck that could not have been more unqualified.
Someone who had never seen Navision and Business Central in his entire life suddenly wanted to pass judgment on Navision - presumably for the money alone. And he did so. To make it less noticeable, he simply copied a description of Navision from Wikipedia into the report.
This made me curious: Why does someone who simply has no specialist knowledge of Navision get an appraisal assignment about Navision?
The solution was only a few Google searches away: At the time, there were simply no experts for EDP/IT solutions & individual programming + customizations who were specifically familiar with Business Central or Navision.
In 2019, I completed an appraiser training program in accordance with the European standard DIN EN 16775:2015 and have been actively offering this service since 2020.
-Thanks to my experience with Navision since 1993, I know practically every function of Navision.
-I know what is possible in terms of speed - both under the blazingly fast but table-locking native database server and under MS-SQL, which in turn suffers from poor flow fields.
-Supported by numerous additional trainings (high school diploma with additional subject area "economics", industrial business management, computer science studies, PC&C Navision trainings, Get&use trainings, regular advanced courses also outside the Navision world (ACMP, ET-Connector, D3 Develop, Windows 2000 & Windows 2008 server administration...) I am not only qualified to assess the implementation of Navision itself, but also its environment. In addition to all the training courses, I also have more than 25 years of irreplaceable practical experience.
What distinguishes a Business Central & Navision expert from a simple software expert?
–Thanks to decades of practical experience and the supervision of many a project that has "hit the wall", I know both the performance pressure of the system houses ("But this and that must also be included!") and the wishes of the users ("It can't be that complicated").
I also stand by it against the odds:
Navision is in my eyes:
-The fastest and simplest financial accounting system
-The most elegant and powerful merchandise management system
-A production planning system that can be used out-of-the-box
Contact me without obligation to get an overview of your solution.
- The outcome will be open-ended.
- You may then be reassured that you have received the best possible solution to your problem.
- This may give you a basis for deciding whether to reach an amicable agreement or to take legal action against your provider.
- You may even end up with a "cookbook" that your provider or a competitor can use to get you back on track.
- As a certified expert witness, I can of course also support you in court.
Please note that I, as a commissioned consultant, may have a conflict of interest and in this case I am not available to you as a Navision developer and consultant.
However, you can of course always choose to engage me not as an expert but as a consultant and helper. But you can't have both together.
Expert opinions on other areas
I have been "doing" Navision since 1993, both as a senior consultant in a system house, as IT manager of two larger medium-sized companies and since 2013 as a freelancer/self-employed consultant, developer and programmer.
In the Navision environment, I also work with web stores, especially Shopware. For me, the native database server up to version 2009R2 and the SQL server (only useful from the technical version of Navision from 4.03 onwards) also count as a central unit. In connection with this, Windows Server is of course also the underlying operating system for me, including Active Directory etc.
Nevertheless, I do not consider myself
qualified to give a reliable opinion on these topics on my own. My area of expertise remains the various Navision versions and their configurations/customizations.
Catchment area / work locations
My main area of work as a Navision expert and freelancer / consultant is our beautiful five-state region of Hesse, Lower Saxony, Thuringia, Bavaria and North Rhine-Westphalia.
But I also like to visit the somewhat more distant federal states such as Saxony-Anhalt, Baden-Württemberg and Berlin / Brandenburg in my role as an expert and Navision programmer / consultant.
Thanks to its location in central Germany with excellent ICE and highway connections, even Saarland, Rhineland-Palatinate, Schleswig-Holstein and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern are within easy reach.
Rarely, but from time to time, I also visit Austria and the German-speaking part of Switzerland, as the judicial requirements for an expert opinion here are comparable to those in Germany.
I could also offer you this service in English-speaking countries, but here the requirements of the courts are often very different from the German courts.
Will my system house know that I am requesting an expert opinion?
This depends on the specific assignment and the environment. You can of course commission an expert opinion on a specific fact yourself, independently of a court ("private expert opinion"). In this case, I would only evaluate the materials and programs you submit.
Until Navision 2016, the entire program code ("source code") was always contained in your Navision database - but not always readable!
Of course, I can always examine the evidence you provide me with (including your Navision installation). However, locked source code is often not accessible to me either. In this case, the cooperation of your system house is essential. If there is no other way, you can also demand this in court. I can also help you with this. Of course, your system house will also learn about these steps from this point on - not before.
Extensions V1 have been available since Navision 2017. This is the first time that source code no longer has to be available in-house. Since Business Central and Extensions V2, this has even become the rule. In this case, I can continue to examine workflows, speed bottlenecks, errors and unclean user guidance, but your system house must play along to view the source code - with judicial force if necessary.
External components ("DLL's", "Automation Server"...) are a different matter. As a rule, no source code is available here either - but this is usually not necessary, as these modules usually connect an external function, which has no direct influence on the data in Navision. In most cases, the source code is simply not necessary.