Dynamics NAV vs Dynamics 365 Business Central

What’s the difference between them?

If you are looking for a Dynamics NAV vs Dynamics 365 Business Central comparison, then look no further!

In some ways the question at hand - ‘weighing up the differences between Dynamics NAV and Dynamics 365 Business Central’ - can be answered in a short sentence; ‘Dynamics 365 Business Central is the just new name for Dynamics NAV’, it really is that simple. The product which was originally known as Navision, became Dynamics NAV and is now called Dynamics 365 Business Central. 

As with all great products, names can change and brands can adapt under new ownership, but a software product is defined in its code and in Dynamics NAV and Dynamics 365 Business Central, it is defined in its deep rich application logic. That business logic is its DNA, it’s what has made it survive when others failed, it’s why today it’s broad and deep functionality runs thousands of companies all over the globe. 

Think of Dynamics NAV vs Dynamics 365 Business Central as an evolution

Like all great products, and like all DNA, evolution takes its course (take a look at its impressive history here!) and adapts something already great and makes it even stronger. Names alone don’t make a product stronger, but Microsoft have taken the insides of this product we’ve loved for so long and made it into a giant of a technology solution. The core has been radically reformed to be cloud at its heart, the development environment has been set free with tools that make developers not only more productive but will allow users to upgrade with frequency and ease to be constantly feeding new efficiency into their organisations and the user experience has been honed into a thing of beauty.

It’s true, a new name does not make a product greater, but when a product adapts to be such a new and evolved breed, it deserves a new name. So, let’s take a look at Dynamics 365 Business Central – the latest version of Dynamics NAV and the best version ever! 

Can be hosted in the public cloud

One of the biggest technological advances that comes with the launch of Dynamics 365 Business Central is the option to host it in the Microsoft Public Cloud. This means that it is possible to sign up and go for a Software as a Service (SAAS) subscription (i.e. pay per user per month). It still requires setting up and, whilst there are restrictions to development capabilities, you can nonetheless extend the functionality with the extension technology (which we’ll come onto shortly.) So now, with Dynamics 365 Business Central, you can host your ERP solution wherever you like: 

• On-Premise – within your own company’s facilities (your own ‘tin’ in the server room)
• Public Cloud - Microsoft’s out-of-the-box shared Azure cloud (all your data remains totally private and is completely separated from all other customers)
• Private Cloud - your own cloud on Azure
• Dedicated hosting – through a service provider

Delve into the fascinating world of hosting options and their pros and cons here!

New AL coding

In the past, all developments and modifications were written in the C/AL language and were integral to the core system. This meant it was a big job when updates and upgrades were needed as the whole system needed to be reviewed, unpicked and potentially redeveloped. With Dynamics 365 Business Central, Microsoft made an important and fundamental change in that modifications are now written in the AL language as extensions and C/AL is no longer used. This means that the core system remains untouched and customisations are linked from the outside in little chunks so changes can be made without having to alter the core coding – absolutely key for easy upgrades going forward! 

Easy to update and upgrade

Updating and upgrading was an expensive exercise in the past – but not in the new Dynamics 365 Business Central world. When it is time to update or upgrade the core system or any extensions, it will be very easy because the core system hasn’t been touched. You only have to invest once to implement / upgrade to Dynamics 365 Business Central, and then all you have to do is maintain it with free updates and upgrades for years to come. 

If Dynamics 365 Business Central is hosted on-premise or in the Private Cloud, you can control when the upgrade is applied; however, with the Public Cloud, updates occur automatically every six months. The best news is that all updates are completely free. Welcome to the new world of upgrading where you and your business will always be at the forefront of Microsoft technology! 

Apps and extensions can be simply integrated

The new AL coding is a ‘game-changer’ in the world of ERPs. It opens a door into unlimited choices of extensions which are easy to install, integrate and upgrade – saving valuable time and money – and offering great flexibility, productivity and effectiveness to businesses as these can be individually customised. Essentially an app or extension is a set of modifications packaged up and provided by a Dynamics 365 Business Central partner or downloaded from an app store. The install will add default data, for example setup information, and can be easily installed to get going quickly. We at The NAV | 365 People have already updated our add-on solutions so that they are all available as extensions for Dynamics 365 Business Central – you can browse through them all here.

Beautiful Web Client

The next feature worth mentioning within Dynamics 365 Business Central is the beautiful re-skinning of the web client (including its sisters, the tablet and phone clients). As for the Windows client, the visual user experience remains the same as in Dynamics NAV 2018… why no change to the Windows client? Because as of Dynamics 365 Business Central 15, the Windows (RTC) client has been retired! The web client is beautiful. New and varied fonts to highlight important information as a headline banner on the Role Centre, a fabulous teal Role Centre with easy navigation and interestingly capitalised field names on lists! It’s a curiously small difference but actually a nice touch. The web client is now the better client. It’s no longer the ‘nearly as good’ client. So, bite the bullet if you’re moving to Dynamics 365 Business Central. It’s the future. 

Modern User Experience

The new experience is truly beautiful and optimises key features for maximum user efficiency. You get a more streamlined navigation with the back button displayed prominently on the left of the page and with special dynamic system commands occupying the middle section. These elements prioritise navigation for users and simplify working between items, allowing them to stay focused on the data and task at hand. Multiple elements related to lists, lookup windows and grids have been refreshed to align with the rest of the product, steering Dynamics 365 Business Central to look and feel like modern software as a cloud and on-premise solution. With the new command bar, users can now be more productive with larger screen estate devoted to their business data, reducing space previously used for menus and ribbons. These new elements within the user interface are fully flexible and dynamic, therefore you can customise it easily to only show features and options that users need at any given time while consuming less space on the screen. All of the lists in the product feature a new, refreshed layout with flexible grid customisation, tile view readily accessible and with quick access to search and view. Users are able to access their data whenever it is needed.

Design Features

Is it easy to amend the experience and functionality I hear you say? Changing the fields on a page or adding new fields? Yes, it is! In fact, it’s very similar to ‘the old days’ in Classic NAV where you can go straight from the user experience into the design tool! Isn’t progress amusing in software? Finally, it’s as good as it used to be. In fact, it’s a very smart new design tool. As a ‘non-developer’ you can amend pages, add new fields and save the result as an extension. 

Filtering Lists

Filtering has been given a nice polish. Anchored to the side of lists, the new filter pane has a familiar design. Appearing at the side of the page means filtering now makes better use of your screen rather than consuming space at the top. You can switch between predefined filtered views of your list, adjust a view by adding your own filters or simply start from scratch. Dynamics 365 Business Central remembers the filters you applied throughout the session as you navigate back and forth across pages. 

Limit Totals

Thank goodness this feature has found its way to the web client! Dynamics 365 Business Central gives you a whole new level of control through which you can apply filters to one or more of the dimensions that influence computed values. This was one of the key missing features that caused people to cling to the Windows client. Sorry, that excuse is gone! 

Keyboard Shortcuts

Although the filter pane is just a click away, you can also have a mouse-free experience with a variety of keyboard shortcut combinations, including the Alt+F3 shortcut to filter to the current value. You can now create compound filters on the fly without ever leaving the list, using shortcuts to navigate across cells and then filter to the currently focused value or clear the filter on the current column. Pretty much like we could in the old classic client! Also, welcome back F8! Another return of an old favourite! Check out our handy list of Dynamics 365 Business Central shortcuts! If you're interested, here are the shortcuts for Dynamics NAV.

In Summary

Wow. Dynamics 365 Business Central really is the best version of Dynamics NAV ever; it has the very latest in technology and has been created not just for doing business today – but for doing business in the years to come. Hats off to our friends at Microsoft!