Microsoft Convergence 2015 Recap
Every year Microsoft hosts a conference called Convergence. It is meant for all of the Dynamics partners and customers. This year it was held in Atlanta and it did not disappoint. Roughly around 15.000 people attended. The audience this year was widened to include also people interested in any Microsoft business related product, such as SQL Server, Office 365 and Azure.
This year Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, was the keynote speaker. I had never heard him or seen him live before. I thought he was a very engaging speaker. He spoke about Microsoft being a company set to empower people. This is exactly what I think Microsoft has always done and should continue doing. All the way from productivity tools like Office and Dynamics, down to developer tools like visual studio. Everything programmable, configurable and adaptable. The power is put in your hands.
Of the Dynamics products, it seems that NAV and AX have the most relative growth, with Dynamics NAV out selling the other products by a landslide. This is very exciting news for us who have sworn our life to NAV. Last year NAV added 9,000 customers to go at around 130,000 worldwide. None of the other products come close to this number.
Microsoft’s goal is to unify all their business services so they function seamlessly together. In my opinion, they have done a great job at that. Once a customer goes on the cloud with Office 365 and Azure, adding on the Dynamics ERP/CRM systems is a breeze. All of the power behind the signature products in the Microsoft portfolio basically works in harmony as the data is being fed from one system to the next automatically.
Microsoft made the announcement that they are renaming Lync to Skype for Business. This is probably going to move Lync closer to skype, which is already a solid communication platform. Companies have been wanting a more corporate style communication, which behaves well with firewalls, and they get that with Skype for business, but hopefully will also get all the benefits that come with skype.
Azure and Office 365 have taken massive steps forward. What was once a mysterious concept, the cloud, has now taken form as a technology leap. Users are able to manage all kinds of things, including virtual servers, virtual domains, cloud storage, SQL server and web services, right from the Azure platform. Office 365 gives you access to the complete office including e-mail in the cloud as well as on client. These products have now been integrated further into the dynamics products to allow for an integrated experience. For example, pieces of Dynamics can be spliced into Sharepoint, so the user does not know he is interacting with Dynamics, when he is working in Office 365.
There were many memorable sessions outside the keynote. Claus Busk Andersen and Kurt Juvyns talked about deploying NAV on Azure. NAV2015 is now available in the Azure gallery and can be deployed in minutes on a VM. I did try this and it indeed works. The problem, if you want a demo machine, it does not include the office package so export to excel or word does not work. To configure office 365 and single sign on take a little effort, but power shell scripts exists to get that done without much thought.
I did, out of religion, attend Freddy’s (Freddy Kristiansen) session “Developing in Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2015” He went through showing all the different ways you can extract and modify the customer table in NAV. Although I had seen most of those before, a couple of items stood out. He showed dot net code next to CAL code referencing dot net libraries and they were very similar. Although referencing the dot net libraries can be a little tedious in NAV it is clear that you are not limited in the CAL environment. Additionally he confirmed that getting date through queries, instead of pages is faster. Both support the ODATA standard.
I was surprised to see that Tom Blaisdell did not talk about costing this convergence. He instead provided moral support to the current speaker Benjamin Leposa. Benjamin talked about the costing structure in general, outlining the item ledger entries and value entries. It was a good session as an introduction to costing which is probably appropriate for convergence. I would have liked to hear a Q/A in the end. Perhaps next time.
One of the anticipated features of NAV are the improvements in cash management. Brian Nielsen did a good job in going through those in his session “Tips and Tricks: Cash Management in Microsoft Dymamics NAV”. NAV can now automatically interact with the bank through bank reconciliations and payment journals. This is done through web services with a third party “clearing house” that manages the mapping of data to the banks. Finally we can rival Quickbooks in this area! The system also tries to auto reconcile the bank statement based on rules. A very welcome addition that unfortunately bulldozes some third parties out there.
I can’t to a rundown of important sessions at convergence without mentioning Jesper Raebild. He did a few sessions, one of them called “Tips and Tricks: Understanding the value of Microsoft Dynamics NAV in office 365” In this session he showed some very cool features where NAV data is being pulled into Office 365 Sharepoint and manipulated seamlessly. The used almost never has to know he is actually using Dynamics NAV inside Office 365. Jesper is a natural speaker and has comedic timing which is rare to find in technical conferences. It is always a treat to attend his talks.
Finally, I wanted to mention a session that was general for all the Dynamics products and focused on SQL performance. This is a pretty hot field. Rod “Hot Rod” Hansen and Pepe Sifuentes lead a session called “Securing Performance with Performance Analyzer for Microsoft Dynamics”. They presented a tool they use in the field, DynamicsPerf, where they have accumulated a lot of data gathering scripts in order to troubleshoot where the performance issue is. We at iNECTA have started using this tool an d sincerely welcome efforts like this. Big thanks to “Hot Rod” and Pepe!
I have been attending the annual NAV conference since 2001 and things have certainly changed since then. It is amazing that every year I attend I find new things to be excited about and empowered. It feels very good to be a part of the Microsoft team and know that big bets are being made towards the future. Convergence 2016 will be in New Orleans and we at iNECTA are already booking our ticket!