How to Upgrade to Dynamics 365 Business Central

It doesn't have to be all smoke and mirrors!

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Take the Upgrading Quiz!

One of the questions we get asked the most frequently is ‘How can I upgrade my Dynamics NAV to Dynamics 365 Business Central and how much will it cost?’ Sadly there isn't a simple answer – the route that you take to upgrade and the associated costs very much depend on what your starting point is and what you want to achieve with the upgrade. That’s why we’ve created this quick quiz to help you find the best upgrading route for your business.

Take the Quiz
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Take the sorcery out of Dynamics NAV upgrading routes!

The routes you can take to upgrade to Dynamics 365 Business Central very much depend on your starting point – if you are on a 2013 or later system there is a bit more flexibility how you can get to Business Central.  Select your current Dynamics NAV version from the wizard below and to discover how each of the upgrading routes work and how you can choose between them.  Not a word of jargon or a hocus pocus spell in sight - we promise!

Alternatively - if you'd like to speak to an upgrading specialist just click the link below and we'll get in touch to arrange a date and time that works for you!

Get a free upgrading consultation

What version of Dynamics NAV are you on?

Full Upgrade

If you want all of your data in your new system and all your modifications too, then doing this upgrade will get you there. We will convert all the data, convert all of your modifications and implement the same processes you have today. Converting all the modifications to AL and extensions means that your solution will be ready for all future updates. (Note - the option to not convert to extensions is still valid but we don’t recommend it!)

If you have a significantly modified solution and you feel that little has changed in your business since you implemented Dynamics NAV, and you believe you still need all that data in your day-to-day solution, it may be that this is the best upgrading approach for you. It brings your modifications across to Dynamics 365 Business Central as 'Extensions' i.e. written in AL, and whilst this can be complex with some modification types, the result is your Dynamics 365 Business Central solution will be upgradeable in the future.
Taking older modifications from a Dynamics NAV solution and transferring them to a new AL Extension in Dynamics 365 Business Central potentially requires some redesign and plumbing. Complete modules developed in Dynamics NAV as stand-alone functionality are easier than modifications to the core of Dynamics NAV functionality. Also bear in mind the functionality in Dynamics 365 Business Central is potentially newer than that in your solution (depending on the version you are on), so many of the modifications you had may be irrelevant. By simply moving every modification into Dynamics 365 Business Central you could lose the chance to gain from the improved standard functionality. Remember the more standard the solution the easier its long term maintainability!
This depends largely on the level and type of modification, but in essence it's generally a more complex task than the clean start approach. The move of bespoke code to AL Extensions can be complex as described in 'things to consider'. If you have a huge database, moving and upgrading all that data is a significant task to do in this process too.
1. We take your database and review it for the type of modifications you have
2. We convert the easy stuff to AL
3. We investigate the hard stuff and decide how to revise the functionality
4. We build an initial system to play through the existing processes in the new version of Dynamics 365 Business Central
5. We find areas that can longer be used in the old way and revise
6. We create a test system to test the existing processes
7. Significant process testing is required by your team as the processes will be largely bespoke and every modification from the old system needs to be assessed in the Dynamics 365 Business Central upgrade
Companies who do not want to look at their processes. Companies who have a lot of modifications and believe they are all still required in the new system. Companies who want all their old data brought across to the new one.
1. Do I have to upgrade the code to AL? (Or can I stick with old mods in C/AL?)
No, you don't have to upgrade the code to AL. It is possible to keep your modifications in C/AL but it is important to recognise that the solutions will not be easily upgradeable to new versions of Dynamics 365 Business Central. None-the-less this is an option if you decide it's the best way forward for your business

2. Will I keep my old data?
Yes, for good and bad you will have the same data in the new system as the old

3. Could I revise the data taken into Dynamics 365 Business Central?
Yes, you could have bespoke data transfer mechanisms created to only move the data you want into the new Dynamics 365 Business Central solution
Learn More
Clean Start Upgrade

A Clean Start gets you a clean ERP. You'll load the data you need from your old Dynamics NAV, use the latest standard processes, add the latest extensions from the huge market place and make any modifications with the new AL development tool delivered as extensions. Your new solution will be cloud ready and can be deployed wherever you like, Public Cloud, Private Cloud or your own servers. You are now ready for the future of Dynamics 365 Business Central, with the ability to keep up to date with every new advancement. This will be your last big upgrade!

1. Start your new world ERP solution with a nice clean approach. Only take the data you need (remember the old stuff isn't going away).
2. Take an opportunity to revise your business processes and tune them to best practice with the standard functionality delivered in Dynamics 365 Business Central - your current processes may have been agreed a while ago by different people! You may be a different company, sell different products or want to embrace new ways to bring efficiencies to your business.
3. Investigate how to use the new technologies available to you to replace bespoke code or add-ons in your existing solution that you no longer need. e.g. Adopt standard extensions for warehouse mobility, use standard bank reconciliation functions to replace bespoke code or nHanced modules such as nHanced Order Management to solve your order processing needs with standard software.
This approach helps your organisation get the best from the new ERP. This is the first time you've changed solutions for over a decade so it needs some input from your key staff. The right people need to help decide which features in Business Central, or its market add-ons, make sense to be used in the new world. Some of these staff may need their time 'back filled' by others in the organisation or temporary staff to allow them time to give their valuable input.
In terms of 'complexity' this is generally the least 'technically complex' solution and requires the lowest level of technical testing as the task is to use as much standard code, either Dynamics 365 Business Central or standard extensions, and only modify the solution via extensions (the new upgradeable development mechanism). So, the level of difficulty depends how modified your solution is and where/what those modifications are. But we have an established process for understanding these.
1. We take your database and using our Upgrade Bridge technology we build a 'clean start' database consisting of standard master data like Customers, Items, Vendors, GL Accounts etc. We calculate and post opening figures for customer, vendor and stock ledgers as well as bringing over open orders for both purchase and sales.
2. We use this database to run through a 'Day in the Life' of your business (we work with you to document this first). This helps us both understand how your transactions flow (sales to cash, purchase to pay etc.) will work in Dynamics 365 Business Central.
3. We work out and document the gaps in functionality and data which enables use to estimate the work needed to get this implemented.
4. We work together on a cut over plan. This may be all in one go or in phases using a Functional Bridge approach.
Web Client, Tablet Client, access to everything on a phone client, visibility in Outlook of your 365 Business Central information, the latest features in the functional areas, Cloud ready, fully web serviceable access and complete upgradeability!
Companies with a very old solution, where many of the modifications are no longer used or required. The data has built up with lots of useless and unused information clogging up reporting and user screens. Companies who want to start afresh.
1. What happens to my old data?
It doesn't go away, you can still access all your history in your old Dynamics NAV system. Even better we provide automatic links from screens in Dynamics 365 Business Central to your old historical data to make the process easier.

2. If my data changes between the 'Day in the Life' and Go Live how do I reload it?
You can use the Upgrade Bridge to reload a clean dataset as regularly as you like. You can supplement this with other bespoke imports of data, but the Upgrade Bridge does a lot of the heavy lifting, even at go-live.

3. Do you ignore my old modifications?
We don't ignore them and we may refer to them during the process, however we do not simply transfer them. The modifications may have modified parts of Dynamics NAV no longer the same, your modification may be replaced by a standard feature or extension or you may no longer need the modification as your process has changed.

4. Are all modifications in AL as extensions?
Yes, all modifications (unless we agree otherwise) will be AL Extensions. This means your upgrade is using all the latest technology and completely upgradeable.

5. Will this be my last upgrade?
We recommend you upgrade to new versions of Dynamics 365 Business Central more regularly than you have in the past! But these upgrades will be a much simpler process because your Dynamics 365 Business Central solution will not have modifications, just extensions, which will be completely upgradeable.
Learn More
Technical Upgrade

This is the easy one if you are on 2013 or beyond! Basically keep your functionality as it is, keep your modifications, and just access your system with Dynamics 365 Business Central clients (Web, Phone, Tablet and Outlook) in addition to the Windows clients you have today. Note that some of the modifications may not work in new clients without additional effort!

This upgrade potentially provides a lot for little cost and effort. The technical upgrade gives you the latest technology components of Dynamics 365 Business Central but leaves your existing modifications and functionality alone. You gain access to a Dynamics 365 Business Central technology with your information and functionality accessed via the Web, Phone, Tablet and Outlook clients. This option also provides a platform to exploit partner extensions like nHanced 365 solutions and the ability to develop with extensions & AL.
Existing modifications and functionality will continue to work in the same client they did in the past (e.g. if you are using Windows client they will still work). You may have to make changes to use certain modified screens in the Web, Tablet, Phone or Outlook clients.
It's very easy to do on a test system, so try it! Getting the system live depends on whether you swap to the Web client or continue to use the Windows client and swap over to Web client later (our recommendation is the latter). Of course, some users could move to the Web and other clients before other users.
1. We install Dynamics 365 Business Central on a server (or in our cloud)
2. We open your existing system (a copy of your live system) in Dynamics 365 Business Central
3. We do some jiggery-pokery to make things like the Outlook client work
4. We add any relevant and simple add-on extensions for you to try
5. You play
6. We plan to do the live switch.
Companies who are on a 'relatively' new version of Dynamics NAV. Companies who are happy with their modifications and data but would like to use the latest technology and in particular the Web, Phone and Tablet clients whilst maintaining their functionality. Companies looking for quick wins. Companies who want to make some gains prior to investing further in a complete Full Upgrade.
1. Do I get the latest functionality?
No you don't get any functionality because we don't change your objects

2. Will my modifications still work?
Your existing modifications will continue to work in the same client they did in the past (e.g. if you are using Windows client they will still work). You may have to make changes to use certain modified screens in the Web/Tablet or Phone clients
Learn More
Clean Start Upgrade

A Clean Start gets you a clean ERP. You'll load the data you need from your old Dynamics NAV, use the latest standard processes, add the latest extensions from the huge market place and make any modifications with the new AL development tool delivered as extensions. Your new solution will be cloud ready and can be deployed wherever you like, Public Cloud, Private Cloud or your own servers. You are now ready for the future of Dynamics 365 Business Central, with the ability to keep up to date with every new advancement. This will be your last big upgrade!

1. Start your new world ERP solution with a nice clean approach. Only take the data you need (remember the old stuff isn't going away).
2. Take an opportunity to revise your business processes and tune them to best practice with the standard functionality delivered in Dynamics 365 Business Central - your current processes may have been agreed a while ago by different people! You may be a different company, sell different products or want to embrace new ways to bring efficiencies to your business.
3. Investigate how to use the new technologies available to you to replace bespoke code or add-ons in your existing solution that you no longer need. e.g. Adopt standard extensions for warehouse mobility, use standard bank reconciliation functions to replace bespoke code or nHanced modules such as nHanced Order Management to solve your order processing needs with standard software.
This approach helps your organisation get the best from the new ERP. This is maybe the first time you've changed solutions for over a decade so it needs some input from your key staff. The right people need to help decide which features in Dynamics 365 Business Central, or its market extensions, make sense to be used in the new world. Some of these staff may need their time 'back filled' by others in the organisation or temporary staff to allow them time to give their valuable input.
In terms of 'complexity' this is generally the least 'technically complex' solution and requires the lowest level of technical testing as the task is to use as much standard code, either Dynamics 365 Business Central or standard extensions, and only modify the solution via extensions (the new upgradeable development mechanism). So, the level of difficulty depends how modified your solution is and where/what those modifications are. But we have an established process for understanding these.
1. We take your database and using our Upgrade Bridge technology we build a 'clean start' database consisting of standard master data like Customers, Items, Vendors, GL Accounts etc. We calculate and post opening figures for customer, vendor and stock ledgers as well as bringing over open orders for both purchase and sales.
2. We use this database to run through a 'Day in the Life' of your business (we work with you to document this first). This helps us both understand how your transactions flow (sales to cash, purchase to pay etc.) will work in Dynamics 365 Business Central.
3. We work out and document the gaps in functionality and data which enables use to estimate the work needed to get this implemented.
4. We work together on a cut over plan. This may be all in one go or in phases using a Functional Bridge approach.
Companies with a very old solution, where many of the modifications are no longer used or required. The data has built up with lots of useless and unused information clogging up reporting and user screens. Companies who want to start afresh.
1. What happens to my old data?
It doesn't go away, you can still access all your history in your old Dynamics NAV system. Even better we provide automatic links from screens in Dynamics 365 Business Central to your old historical data to make the process easier.

2. If my data changes between the 'Day in the Life' and Go Live how do I reload it?
You can use the Upgrade Bridge to reload a clean dataset as regularly as you like. You can supplement this with other bespoke imports of data, but the Upgrade Bridge does a lot of the heavy lifting, even at go-live.

3. Do you ignore my old modifications?
We don't ignore them and we may refer to them during the process, however we do not simply transfer them. The modifications may have modified parts of Dynamics NAV no longer the same, your modification may be replaced by a standard feature or extension or you may no longer need the modification as your process has changed.

4. Are all modifications in AL as extensions?
Yes, all modifications (unless we agree otherwise) will be AL Extensions. This means your upgrade is using all the latest technology and completely upgradeable.

5. Will this be my last upgrade?
We recommend you upgrade to new versions of Dynamics 365 Business Central more regularly than you have in the past! But these upgrades will be a much simpler process because your Dynamics 365 Business Central solution will not have modifications, just extensions, which will be completely upgradeable.
Learn More
Full Upgrade

If you want all of your data in your new system and all your modifications too, then doing this upgrade will get you there. We will convert all the data, convert all of your modifications and implement the same processes you have today. Converting all the modifications to AL and extensions means that your solution will be ready for all future updates. (Note - the option to not convert to extensions is still valid but we don’t recommend it!)

If you have a significantly modified solution and you feel that little has changed in your business since you implemented Dynamics NAV, and you believe you still need all that data in your day-to-day solution, it may be that this is the best upgrading approach for you. It brings your modifications across to Dynamics 365 Business Central as 'Extensions' i.e. written in AL, and whilst this can be complex with some modification types, the result is your Dynamics 365 Business Central solution will be upgradeable in the future.
Taking older modifications from a Dynamics NAV solution and transferring them to a new AL Extension in Dynamics 365 Business Central potentially requires some redesign and plumbing. Complete modules developed in Dynamics NAV as stand-alone functionality are easier than modifications to the core of Dynamics NAV functionality. Also bear in mind the functionality in Dynamics 365 Business Central is potentially newer than that in your solution (depending on the version you are on), so many of the modifications you had may be irrelevant. By simply moving every modification into Dynamics 365 Business Central you could lose the chance to gain from the improved standard functionality. Remember the more standard the solution the easier its long term maintainability!
This depends largely on the level and type of modifications, but in essence it's generally more complex than the clean start approach. The move of the bespoke code to AL Extensions can be complex (as described in 'things to consider'). If you have a huge database, moving and upgrading all that data is a significant task to do in this process too.
1. We take your database and review it for the type of modifications you have
2. We convert the easy stuff to AL
3. We investigate the hard stuff and decide how to revise the functionality
4. We build an initial system to play through the existing processes in the new version of Dynamics 365 Business Central
5. We find areas that can longer be used in the old way and revise
6. We create a test system to test the existing processes
7. Significant process testing is required by your team as the processes will be largely bespoke and every modification from the old system needs to be assessed in the Dynamics 365 Business Central upgrade
Companies who do not want to look at their processes. Companies who have a lot of modifications and believe they are all still required in the new system. Companies who want all their old data brought across to the new one.
1. Do I have to upgrade the code to AL? (Or can I stick with old mods in C/AL?)
No, you don't have to upgrade the code to AL. It is possible to keep your modifications in C/AL but it is important to recognise that the solutions will not be easily upgradeable to new versions of Dynamics 365 Business Central. None-the-less this is an option if you decide it's the best way forward for your business

2. Will I keep my old data?
Yes, for good and bad you will have the same data in the new system as the old

3. Could I revise the data taken into Dynamics 365 Business Central?
Yes, you could have bespoke data transfer mechanisms created to only move the data you want into the new Dynamics 365 Business Central solution
Learn More
Pondering wizard on Should I upgrade Dynamics NAV to 365 Business Central slice

Hang on, should I upgrade to Dynamics 365 Business Central at all?

A very good question to ask yourself before you get anywhere near the processes of upgrading is whether you should be upgrading your Dynamics NAV system at all.  If your Dynamics NAV implementation is working well you should only consider upgrading if the new version offers sufficient benefit over the stability offered by your existing solution.

So our advice is yes, you should upgrade but only in your own time! It’s always important to start planning for an upgrade. The benefits of the latest version of Dynamics NAV i.e Dynamics 365 Business Central, and the extended functionality provided by The NAV | 365 People, means that upgrading has never before delivered so many benefits. Most importantly, no new versions of the Classic Client will be released, meaning that at some point the Classic Client will no longer be supported on future versions of Windows.  Planning to do something will always be preferable than having to react.

So, we say have a plan.  Even if it's two years away, don't be forced into upgrading without a plan. Think about what benefits could be gained and try to attach a value or time saving (especially improved visibility, workflow, document handling and sharing).  Remember - it's only software, not landing on the moon. You won't be the first or the last, your issues will have answers and your concerns will be understood!

Castle image on Upgrading Dynamics NAV to 365 Business Central page

When should I upgrade?

Just like deciding to move house, you need to know when the time is right!

The ‘when’ question is an interesting one when it comes to upgrading to Dynamics 365 Business Central. When you see that the benefits are worth the investment in time and money, that’s your starting point.  With the latest version, Dynamics 365 Business Central, and complementary product enhancements, it’s easy to see improvements in efficiencies, user-friendliness and management of information.  By simply looking at them in the context of your organisation, it’s easier to justify to the business and easy to see how things could be improved. But! You could take some of those add-ons like Jet Reports (if you don’t have them already) along with the nHanced 365 Suite and other modules, and bolt them on to your existing solution.  Many people have implemented nHanced Workflow and nHanced Document Distribution onto (very) old versions of Dynamics NAV solutions and gained immediate benefits for limited cost.

You can certainly do small projects and solve point issues to get a leap forward with minimum cost, but think about that timescale talked about earlier.  If you have planned to upgrade in two years, then implementing workflow on your existing system makes sense, as you will be investing in something with a reasonable payback period.  If, however, you had eight months as your plan but you need workflow now, wouldn’t it be better to invest all your efforts (and money) in the new solution?

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What’s your perfect world?

If you’ve got this far you know that there are different routes to get you to Dynamics 365 Business Central - some easier than others, some with better end-results. The option you choose will depend largely on where you are today and what the goals are for your upgrade.

A good starting question to ask yourself is ‘What does my perfect end-position looks like once I’ve upgraded?’ There are 3 big things to consider to help you establish this:

  • Do you want to keep all your modifications?
  • Do you want to be on the easy upgrade route in the future?
  • Do you like all the data in your system? Setup data, structures, and/or transactional data?
Find out more here
Dynamics 365 Business Central logo on Upgrading your Dynamics NAV system

Bridges – getting some Dynamics 365 Business Central in your life quickly!

We know that it’s not always possible to upgrade your Dynamics NAV system in one go.  That’s why we’ve developed the concept of ‘Bridging’ – helping you to get some of the benefits of Dynamics 365 Business Central quickly without having to do an all-guns-blazing upgrade!

Find out how ‘Bridging’ works!

Upgrading Terminology Explained!

  • Dynamics NAV / Navision: Microsoft Dynamics NAV up to version 2018
  • Dynamics 365 Business Central: New Dynamics NAV.  (If the marketing team at Microsoft hadn’t got a hold of it, it would have just been called Dynamics NAV 2019!)
  • Dynamics 365 Sales and Operations: This is not Dynamics NAV! It is what was previously known as Dynamics AX.
  • C/AL: The name for the programming language used in Dynamics NAV 2018 and previous versions. C/AL can be used in Dynamics 365 Business Central but by the end of 2019 it won’t be used any more so it’s not a coding route that we would recommend.
  • AL: The name for the new programming language which will be used in Dynamics 365 Business Central going forward.  This new language does not change any source code which means that it allows you to take software updates and easily do upgrades whilst still keeping your modifications.  It’s super clever stuff and it’s the approach that we recommend you use where possible.
  • Extensions: These are pieces of code written in AL that connect to your system via Events.
  • Events: Standard hooks in the system code that look to see if an Extension exists.
  • The Public Cloud: Microsoft’s out-of-the-box shared cloud offering.
  • The Private Cloud: Your own Cloud on Azure, AWS or the likes.
  • On-Premise: Your own ‘tin’ in the server room.
  • The Upgrade Bridge: This is a mechanism that automatically takes your static data, open balances for finance ledgers and stock, open documents for sales and purchase orders, and creates a Dynamics 365 Business Central ‘Clean Start’ system. This is used to help you see the standard solution with your data and allow you to test your processes with the latest functionality. You could also see how your go-live cut-over could look too and assess what modifications you will need from your old system to solve similar shortfalls in the new system i.e. if you have some bespoke industry need. It is also a great way to review add-ons like nHanced 365, Continia Invoice Scanning, MobileNAV, Anveo and Jet Reports in the new world. 
  • The Data Bridge: A way of passing all data from your current Dynamics NAV system to Dynamics 365 Business Central solutions to take advantage of Mobile Clients (Web, Tablet, Phone & Outlook) and the Intelligent Edge.  With the Data Bridge no functionality will be passed to Dynamics 365 Business Central. Data can be processed to help build you clean start system Dynamics 365 Business Central database.
  • The Functional Bridge: A way of interfacing 2 or more Dynamics NAV Solutions with Dynamics 365 Business Central.  It requires scoping because it is essentially a project.  You will also need to consider licences. Ideal for large business that doesn’t want a big bang approach to upgrading to Dynamics 365 Business Central.
6 Reasons why Dynamics 365 Business Central is the best version of Dynamics NAV ... Ever!

6 Reasons Why Dynamics 365 Business Central is the Best Version of NAV ... EVER!

We're excited to proclaim that Microsoft’s latest version of NAV – Dynamics 365 Business Central – is a thing of beauty and is most certainly the best version of NAV ever! Why do we say that?

Read 6 big reasons here!
Pondering man image on Upgrading Dynamics NAV to 365 Business Central

Got questions about Dynamics 365 Business Central?

Then get all your answers with our Dynamics 365 Business Central FAQ page!

DYNAMICS 365 BUSINESS CENTRAL FAQS