Upgrading from Dynamics NAV to Dynamics 365 Business Central

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

Pillar Page - Upgrading - What is Dynamics NAV Upgrading all About

What is Dynamics NAV upgrading all about?

Navision became Dynamics NAV; Dynamics NAV became the solution we know and love today: Dynamics 365 Business Central. Previous versions of this brilliant Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution, from Navision 1.0 all the way to Dynamics NAV 2018, can be upgraded through various routes to bring your platform into the modern world. You can read about the history of ERP here. We, The NAV | 365 People (TNP), can assist you on your journey to a new and state-of-the-art platform. It's the application you know and love, wrapped up in an amazing new technology.

Upgrading the Dynamics NAV platform gives you more of the Dynamics 365 Business Central functionality you’ve always wanted, access to the modern clients on phone, tablet, web and Outlook, as well as easy to apply, bi-annual upgrades. You’re also given the flexibility to make the solution your own with Dynamics 365 Business Central extensions technology. Because these only hook into your system rather than affecting core code, as with previous versions, you can remove, add and take them to new versions with ease.

Pillar Page - Upgrading - Why might you consider upgrading

Why might you consider upgrading Dynamics NAV to Business Central?

Microsoft’s investment in the solution, and the technology surrounding it, has been nothing short of revolutionary. Where processes in your business may have become stagnant and modified so heavily that performance and business efficiency has suffered, upgrading Dynamics NAV to a Business Central solution could provide you with a method of re-evaluating how your day to day operations work. You would be able to take a step back, review the way your business works from ‘Purchase to Pay’ to ‘Sales to Cash’ and prepare your new solution to be the most efficient and user friendly it can be. For more information on Dynamics 365 Business Central features and functionality, click here. We've also picked out our top 15 features of Dynamics 365 Business Central, which you can read as part of our blog.

The technological benefits are also vast. The world of Power Platform (Power Apps, Power Automate and Power BI) begins to open up to you with the added OData technology, which can bring efficiency and automation to your business at a low cost. Not to mention the integrations to Office 365 products like Outlook, Teams and SharePoint, access to new apps and extensions via AppSource and partner add-ons like warehouse management solutions and mobile tools for salespeople.

Pillar Page - Upgrading - When should you upgrade Dynamics NAV

When should you upgrade your Dynamics NAV solution?

Firstly, consider if you should be upgrading at all. If your Dynamics NAV system is working well, you should only consider upgrading if the new version offers sufficient benefit over the stability offered by your existing solution. If you're happy with your current version rest assured we look after many old NAV solutions and are happy to look after yours until you're ready to move forward; you can also read our blog post about how to get more out of an older Dynamics NAV solution. It would be difficult to imagine a situation where the brand-new Business Central solution did not benefit your business in any way, especially when your system ages and the gulf between old and new becomes that much greater. The older your system, the more benefits will flow simply from the technology of the product; when you add the functionality and usability features, it could revolutionise how you see and use your business system.

Once you have made the choice to upgrade Dynamics NAV to Business Central, ‘when’ is a very important question. The decision relies upon value exceeding effort. The effort to upgrade from any version of Navision or Dynamics NAV to Business Central remains steady but the value to your business increases more and more over time.

As well as the many platform and functional advantages, many companies currently use a version of Dynamics NAV that is over a decade old (these include early RTC versions 2013, 2013R2 and 2015). They then find that it’s out of Microsoft support, meaning Microsoft can't guarantee the client will continue to run on newer versions of Windows. It also means the loss of security patches – a potential critical threat in this digital age. A large number of businesses are required by industry standards or by corporate governance to be on "supported software" across all areas of their business and therefore moving to Business Central may be a requirement rather than a choice. You can explore the functionality changes throughout all versions of Navision, Dynamics NAV and Business Central here.

How can you upgrade Dynamics NAV to Business Central?

Depending on which version you’re upgrading from, there are three different routes you could potentially take to get to Business Central: a technical upgrade, Start from Standard or Start from Modified. As you can see from the table, there are various reasons why each of the options would be more or less suitable for your business. You’ll also notice that there is a fourth option: a Functional Bridge. This methodology, designed by TNP, gives you the option for an incremental upgrade i.e. a phased upgrade path. If you are concerned about upgrading your entire system in one go, the Functional Bridge could be the best way to get some Business Central in your life.

Upgrading Table

What version of Dynamics NAV are you on?

Start from Modified Upgrade

If you want all 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 still be upgradeable in 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 may 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 'Start from Standard' 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. It also doesn't give you the opportunity to review code which may be deemed obsolute because new standard features may replace it, or your business may not require the modification any more.
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 either 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 stick with your old 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. In addition, you can only upgrade to Business Central 14 (the 2019 Spring Release) as it allows both AL and CAL. 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 on 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
Start from Standard Upgrade

Start from Standard gets you just that - a standard Business Central solution! 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 your 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 on 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 tools we build a standard 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 us 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. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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 and automated 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 add-ons like nHanced 365 solutions and the ability to start developing in extensions & AL, allowing you to start future proofing your system for a future upgrade.
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 Start from Modified upgrade by doing any new development in extensions or slowly moving existing development into extensions.
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/Table or Phone clients.
Learn More
Start from Standard Upgrade

Start from Standard gets you just that - a standard Business Central solution! 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 your 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 on 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 tools we build a standard 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 us 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. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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 and automated process because your Dynamics 365 Business Central solution will not have modifications, just extensions, which will be completely upgradeable.
Learn More
Start from Modified Upgrade

If you want all 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 still be upgradeable in 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 may 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 'Start from Standard' 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. It also doesn't give you the opportunity to review code which may be deemed obsolute because new standard features may replace it, or your business may not require the modification any more.
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 either 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 stick with your old 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. In addition, you can only upgrade to Business Central 14 (the 2019 Spring Release) as it allows both AL and CAL. 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 on 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
Pillar Page - Upgrading - Bridging

Bridging to Business Central

When a full upgrade isn’t possible in one go, why not consider bridging the gap to Business Central? Make gains towards your ideal Business Central upgrade in smaller, more manageable chunks. A common example is with the Finance department, where the Finance team would begin using and benefitting from Business Central and the brand-new functionality whilst the rest of the business continues as normal. The Functional Bridge works by synchronising pertinent data between the two systems e.g. customer data, sales prices, customer specific catalogues, item availability and order data.

Business Central Bridge

Dynamics NAV Upgrade Resources

We’ve collated a bunch of free resources on upgrading to help you consider all of the options. Have a look through the resources below and click through to peruse them - if there is anything else that you might need that isn't covered here, please do contact us. We also have a resource hub dedicated to all things Dynamics NAV and Business Central if you need help understanding a certain topic. There are:

Hands at keyboard with a clapper board, note book and guide book

Videos, Blogs and Guides
Version comparison table: See what's changed over the years in terms of functionality and visualise how you and your business will benefit if you choose to upgrade your Dynamics NAV system to the latest version of Business Central.
Our Ultimate Guide to Dynamics 365 Business Central and Dynamics NAV: Crammed full of informative articles, discussions, visuals and technical know-how, we just love to publish our yearly magazine on everything there is to know about Dynamics 365 Business Central and Dynamics NAV.
Dynamics NAV shortcuts and Business Central shortcuts: Speed up the way you work, bring efficiency to data entry and whizz around the system like a professional! We have keyboard shortcuts for Dynamics NAV and Business Central, so make sure to check out both!
'Upgrading to Dynamics 365 Business Central' blog post: Read our blog post for information on accessing the new clients with Business Central, OData 4 benefits, user features and extensibility. We've also created animations describing each of the upgrading routes in more detail, so you can see exactly how an upgrade would work for you.
'Top 15 Features of Dynamics 365 Business Central 2019 Wave 2' blog post: This blog piece highlights the features we are so excited to welcome into Business Central. With two 'waves' of sizeable updates every year from Microsoft, we are looking forward to seeing what benefits each release brings.

Thumb print with a hand holding a magnifying glass

Case studies from customers
Hear from customers of ours who have been through an upgrade - their experiences could answer your burning questions or help to shape the way you approach an upgrade project.
Van Hage's eCommerce sales blossom with The NAV | 365 People's Functional Bridge
The NAV | 365 People help Harding Retail's online sales set sail

Quizzical man with laptop and Dynamics Business Central & NAV Logo

Dynamics NAV Upgrading Frequently Asked Questions
For questions that come up time and time again, our Dynamics NAV upgrade FAQ has answers to them all! And if it doesn’t, feel free to contact us with any questions you might have.

Upgrading Terminology

  • 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 Finance: This is not Dynamics NAV! It is what was previously known as Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations.
  • Dynamics 365 for Finance 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 / SaaS: 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 Functional Bridge: A way of interfacing two 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 a large business that doesn’t want a big bang approach to upgrading to Dynamics 365 Business Central.
Pillar Page - Upgrading - Consultation

Book a free upgrading consultation

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 around getting you to Business Central. 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