Business Central, what now?
Based on the information currently provided, Dynamics 365 Business Central is Microsoft's SaaS (Software as a Service) solution for small and medium enterprises. An enterprise application platform in the cloud to which independent software vendors (ISVs) will develop industry-specific solutions.
A brand new Dynamics NAV?
A widespread opinion is that Business Central is basically 'Dynamics NAV in the cloud'. Since Microsoft acquired Navision in 2002 and renamed the solution Dynamics NAV, the solution has grown to be the most widely used ERP solution (measured by number of users, implementations, revenue, partners, etc.).
Since 2013, it has been possible to place Dynamics NAV in the cloud, but it has been up to the individual partner to host the solution. Business Central, on the other hand, is an application where Microsoft delivers both the platform itself and the business application as a service and for monthly allowance per user.
But is Dynamics 365 Business Central basically not just an NAV application located in the cloud?
Not quite, but it's not entirely wrong either. Business Central is based on the same codebase as Dynamics NAV, so the platform's basic software is almost the same as the one that was installed on local servers decades earlier. On a screen, it would be very difficult to see if the code belongs to NAV or Business Central.
However, there are differences between the two solutions. Here are some of them:
Desktopklient vs. webklient
Unlike NAV, Business Central consists solely of a web client with apps that are compatible with both iOS and Android and work for both tablet and phone. In other words, for Business Central, there will be no Windows client. This means that the desktop users will have to access the application through their preferred browser and not via a client. And the lack of the local client will undoubtedly be a problem for some of the experienced NAV users. For users who are used to using a web client, the missing client will of course not be a problem, but it turned out to be a definite showstopper for the spread of the solution to the broader market, we must expect Microsoft to update and improve the solution with a desktop client.
Business Central is licensed per named user, via a monthly subscription. Therefore it will not be possible for simultaneous users, prior purchase or annual maintenance agreements. Again, the new model will probably be problematic for some of the tanned NAV users who are used to the current payment models, while Office 365 partners already working on this licensing model will be easier to adapt.
Changes to the application
There are small functionality changes in Business Central that have been added for security reasons which is required to be taken when an application is to be run as a SaaS multitenant application. These functionality changes, among other things, mean that access to certain files on the servers and even access to some of the system tables has been blocked for developers.
With Business Central, you can install the ISV (Independent software vendor) developed applications or extensions you need directly from Microsoft AppSource. That way, you can quickly test and try out new options and quickly uninstall, if the application does not deliver the functionality you need. This option is not available with Dynamics NAV. On the other hand, the ISV capabilities we know from Navision, that is, the ability to customize the solution's functionality to each individual company and develop add-on solutions that extend the functionality of the system, will probably at some point be transferred to Business Central. In any case, it is probably necessary if the solution is to achieve the strength needed to become a serious alternative to Dynamics NAV.
The development team at Microsoft will continuously update Business Central, so instead of waiting for the annual release as you are used to do with Dynamics NAV, Business Central will be updated on a monthly basis. You will probably receive an email once a month, informing you if the application has been added or changed.
Not just a NAV light
Dynamics 365 Business Central is likely to be almost a full Dynamics NAV, but delivered as a SaaS application in the cloud, and not a light version, as we've seen with Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations Business Edition. Business Central has not only financial and limited supply chain functionality, but has also advanced stock management and the opportunity for reduced production and service management. In other words, there is no functionality in Dynamics NAV that will not be available in Dynamics 365 Business Central.