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Submitted by Jon Long on 21 April 2020

Upgrade to Microsoft Dynamics Business Central Before September 1, 2020 to Save Money, Time, and Effort

Editor’s Note: The information in this post has been updated since the publish date. In September 2020, Microsoft announced a change in their support policy for Dynamics 365 Business Central 14. The announcement states that Microsoft will provide continued support for customers on Business Central 14 until October 2021. Please read Seven Reasons You Should Upgrade From Dynamics NAV to Business Central 14 for details to this update.

You should start your upgrade to Microsoft Dynamics Business Central 14 (BC14) before September 1, 2020, or you will be missing out an important opportunity to keep your upgrade costs down forever. After September 1, with the current policies in place at Microsoft, you will be forced to upgrade to BC15 or above or stay where you are and delay the inevitable, making it even more certain that your next upgrade will be more expensive than it should be.

There are two reasons holding off is likely going to cost you 50% more for your upgrade. After September 1:

  1. When BC17 is released, Microsoft’s N-2 License Policy will restrict you from purchasing BC14.
  2. BC14 is the last version with C/AL.

You might want to read Microsoft’s Software Lifecycle Policy and Dynamics 365 Business Central On-Premises Updates, which is also known as N-2. I’ll follow up this blog with an interpretation of what this means and what your best options are so you can make the right decision for your company and your strategy. It’s really no different than in the past; it’s just important that you understand the technical ramifications that your decision can create during this dynamic change in technology.

Upgrading prior to BC15 was a relatively simple process, just tedious and disruptive, especially if you got behind more than one version, which is the case for most companies. Once you get to BC15, it is likely that all your code will be in extensions and therefore will be updatable with few exceptions. Each upgrade will be less of a traditional upgrade and more of an update, with little risk of breakage or data issues.

We call this Staying Current.

Your next upgrade to BC14 is a traditional upgrade with a twist. You have all of the new AL-ability—new word: ALability—but you also have C/ALability. Figure 1 is the ALability and C/ALability chart for all versions:

Figure 1 - ALability and C/ALability chart for Microsoft Dynamics NAV and Dynamics 365 Business Central

As you can see in the chart, BC14 is the last version of BC to include C/AL, the language used since Navision 1.0, 30+ years ago. BC14 will be supported by Microsoft until the Fall of 2023; that’s 3+ more years of support. After BC14, there will only be AL.

The beautiful thing about upgrading to BC14 is that you can merge your C/AL just like before, but you can also refactor at your leisure for 3 more years while getting cumulative upgrades from Microsoft. This is important because if you wait and can only go to BC15 and pure AL, your next upgrade will require all your ISV code to be in AL and all of your C/AL refactored to AL using Events, assuming all the Events you need even exist in Microsoft’s and your ISV vendor’s base code.

This reality introduces a huge amount of risk, time, money, and disruption to your business all at once. Did I say risk? Yes, risk. All your code works great now, but in a SaaS or SaaS-like environment, like BC15 on premises, your code might not work at all—.NET for instance. The problem is that you won’t know until you are 6 months into your project, after spending half your upgrade budget. Even small things will pop up. The main obstacles are usually around peripherals like scales, scanners, printers, and file handling, but email and EDI customizations are also frequent challenges. If you go this route, double your projected timeline.

In BC14, these challenges can be encountered in an upgrade project, but you have the luxury of just putting it in your backlog because, if it works in previous versions, it will likely work the same in BC14. This is because BC14 has a platform and application that are not that much different than NAV 2016 and above. BC14 allows .NET, C/AL, and AL.

An unexpected .NET interface fail that cripples your shipping or a security workaround for some custom file handling process can kill a project’s velocity and add unexpected costs at the worst time, like at go-live. There is always something that was not tested. In BC14, there are more options for rolling back or delaying AL customizations because you still have C/ALability.

So, take advantage of the luxury of being able to incrementally refactor your code to AL rather than in one giant project. I always like to use the analogy of Mt. Everest to describe upgrading in BC14. Before climbing Mt. Everest, you need to camp out at base camp. Climbers typically rest at base camp for several days for acclimatization, to reduce the risks and severity of altitude sickness.

BC14 can be considered the base camp of BC. Along with the gift of C/AL and because BC14’s 3+ year tail of support, you can camp out on BC14 while preparing and acclimating for the inevitable upgrade to SaaS-ready BC, on-premises or otherwise. I’m going to make a probable assumption that Microsoft is supporting BC14 for so long to give ISVs and customers time to camp out.

Interesting how we’re all camping out now, in our own homes. Hope you are all making the best of it and staying healthy.

Figure 2 - Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central Modern Lifecycle Policy

To learn more about upgrading, watch this video, Upgrading From Microsoft Dynamics NAV To Business Central: The Future Of Upgrades.

As Microsoft continues to advance Microsoft Dynamics Business Central, having the ability to keep pace with the technology while overcoming the obstacles to upgrading is the important. Read this blog to learn more about ArcherPoint’s Stay Current Plan.

Still not sure if you should upgrade? To get answers to your upgrade questions, download this free eBook: Upgrading from Microsoft Dynamics NAV to Business Central: Everything You Always Wanted to Know…but Didn’t Know to Ask.
 

 

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