The Who's Who of Business Central
Today we are going to discuss the terminology used to describe the different people that work with NAV/BC and their roles in the business. This break down will help you understand which role you might be interested in.
I use NAV/BC to describe anything relating to Dynamics NAV or Dynamics 365 Business Central. We are all one people, regardless of the age of the product. We are a relatively small community and most of us know each other or know of one another.
End-Users, Partners, and ISV's
End-user is a term used to describe a company and their employees that use NAV/BC ERP for their day-to-day operations. Microsoft requires installation, implementation, and maintenance of the software to be done by a Microsoft Partner, known as a Value Added Reseller (VAR). They are also known as the "Partner on Record". This means this is the Microsoft Partner that you pay your yearly licensing fees to and will provide support for your software. Only a VAR can reach out to Microsoft on an end-user's behalf if there is an issue with the base product as they are the ones who are authorized to administer the fix to the product.
Independent Software Vendors (ISV) are 3rd party applications that are added onto the base NAV/BC product that enhances functionality. The framework of NAV/BC is built to generically handle different types of industries. ISV's build software that you can add to NAV/BC to better align this generic framework to your particular industry, enhance exiting functionalities, or fill gaps that are not included in the base product.
Some of the biggest and most popular ISV's are as follows:
- LS Retail (now called LS Central)
- Used for Retailers and the Hospitality industry.
- Provides EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) functionality,
- Shipping and warehouse enhancements
- Production Planning
- Provides tools and enhancements for the Food & Beverage industry
- Suite Engine
- Provides eComm connectors,
- Equipment and Construction tools,
- Payment Solutions
- Shipping enhancements
- Production Floor Management
- Avalara or SureTax
- Calculates and tracks complicated tax matrices in real time whereas the base application would require regular manual updates and monitoring.
- ChargeLogic (now called VersaPay)
- Used to process credit cards within the application.
ISV's who develop applications for Microsoft products are also considered partners because they have to be authorized to develop applications for Microsoft's products and Microsoft has to approve the stability of the application before they will allow integration with their base product.
While most ISV's partnership with Microsoft ends at their own product development, a few of them are also VARs. This means that they are also authorized to support and maintain the base product. LS Retail and Aptean are good examples of ISV's that also function as a VAR.
Some VARs develop their own add-on applications and will partner with other Microsoft partners to distribute their applications to a wider audience of end users. LS Retail, once again, is a great example. Most VARs will market their products under another name. This is because Microsoft Partnerships are an extremely competitive business. Partners are not going to resell products that have their competitor's name all over it. I'm not going to list any examples here as it is none of your business unless you work for them. 😉
End Users want to work with a partner that really knows the best practices and intricacies of their industry. So partners will usually market themselves for a particular industry.
Different types of NAV/BC Consultants
Next, we are going to breakdown the different types of NAV/BC professionals. These people can work for an End-User, Partner, or ISV directly. Sometimes they are full-time employees or they can be contractors hired on the help with a particular project.
Consultants are people who have an understanding of how the base product works and can recommend ways to use the system to accomplish the particular needs of your unique business. Whether it is a matter of setting up the system, performing a process in a particular way or recommending development, it is the job of the consultant to understand what the customer wants based on the customer's knowledge of their job/industry and steering them towards what they can accomplish with the system they currently have.
Functional Consulting (NAV/BC Doctors)
Functional Consultants are like doctors; you have General Practitioners and Specialists.
NAV/BC, much like the human body, has many functional areas. It is impossible to know everything about every module. Most consultants will specialize in at least one or two major areas. The most common and highly demanded areas are:
- Finance and Accounting
- Sales & Purchasing
- Specific Add-on applications/modules
In addition to the knowledge of the product, a great Functional Consultant must have exceptional soft skills, interrogation skills, as well as the ability to train and guide users with grace and patience, and write clear and concise documentation. Although it is very helpful to know the customer's industry, if you have an end user who knows exactly what they wish to accomplish, a good functional consultant should be able to work with that user to find a solution based on their knowledge of how the system works functionally.
Functional Consultants setup modules and train users on how to use them. Advise users on best practices, work with the user to identify and fix bugs and issues, develop workarounds until bug fixes and solutions are tested and ready for implementation. They assist with testing scripts, consult with developers, technical teams, project managers, account managers, product managers, ISV's, as well as their customers (or VAR depending on which side of the aisle you're on) to find and plan solutions.
Functional Consultants are customer facing, so they must like talking to and working with customers.
Development (NAV/BC Surgeons)
If you snore, you're not going to undergo a rhinoplasty without knowing the underlying cause of the snoring and trying several non-invasive treatments before considering a surgical option. A rhinoplasty might make the issue worse. Perhaps there is a more appropriate/targeted surgical procedure you should have considered. Surgeons like to cut; Developers like to code.
A Developer is going to get into the code and do what you have asked them to do. Without functional knowledge of the system, they could break existing functionalities or add something that could have been accomplished with existing functionality. It is very important that a Functional Consultants work with Development to design and implement the desired outcome appropriately.
Now, a Functional Consultant may recommend a solution based on their understanding of the system, but a developer will know best if the Functional Consultant's approach is even possible with the code. Together, they should be able to find a viable approach to the solution.
Developers may also find an area of expertise. They can be, but are not limited to:
- Functional understanding of the system (Unicorn)
- AL code, C/AL code or both
- Custom built modules (like Commissions reports, Container management)
- Specific Add-ons (Lanham EDI, ChargeLogic, LS Retail, etc)
Technical (NAV/BC Therapists)
Much like Physical/Occupational/Speech Therapy, Infusion Therapy, or even Mental Health Therapy, Technical Consultants manage and maintain the infrastructure that the Application runs on.
Technical Consultants are people who work on things that are related to NAV/BC but fall outside of the application itself such as Azure environments, Servers, Databases, Application Services, Printers, external applications that integrate with Business Central, Operating Systems and platforms. Everything outside of the application that is required for the product to work/function appropriately is managed by the technical team.
Technical Consultants install the NAV/BC applications and services, run database backups and refreshes. They review issues with latency/slowness and service disconnections. They recommend infrastructure improvements.
A great NAV/BC Technical Consultant should be knowledgeable in the installation and connection of the following areas:
- Azure Virutal Machines and Databases
- Microsoft 365
- Dynamics 365 Sales (CRM)
- Office 365
- SQL Server
- Windows Server (v.12 and up)
- Cleo LexiCom
- Jet Reports and Power BI
- FTP or File Shares
- Network stability
Technical Consultants are usually System Engineers who specialize in NAV/BC. These guys/gals work on the partner side. The End User will have either a 3rd party IT partner or an internal IT department that manage the company's entire network and devices. Their NAV/BC partner will have a Tech team on staff to work with the end user's IT team to resolve issues related to the NAV/BC application infrastructure.
People who are strong with all three areas are called Solution Architects. These are Super Consultants that can design elaborate custom modules for your business needs.
People who know functional and development are considered "unicorns". There are actually a lot of Functional Consultants that know how to do some development, and some very Functional Developers who know and understand how the system works but they will usually pick the one that they are strongest in and use their additional knowledge to their advantage.
Since Business Central no longer uses "object-like code" accessible through a desktop application, these practitioners are becoming increasingly rare. It is no longer a simple task to open the code behind an object or run the debugger. End Users who have no plans of upgrading to Business Central any time soon are snatching these folks up like hot cakes. They are offering a LOT of money to lure them away from the partners. I like to call this the "retirement plan".
Professional Services vs. Support (Partners and ISVs)
Maybe an End User has outgrown their basic accounting software like Quickbooks or Sage and decided that NAV/BC is the right product for their growing business. Maybe they are already on NAV/BC but want to upgrade to the newest version to make use of new functionality or stay current for security and compliance purposes. Perhaps they haven't been able to accomplish a needed business function and have their eye on a 3rd party application or want something custom built for them.
Implementations and Upgrades are generally done by a team called Professional Services. The End User will work with an Account Manager to discuss a need. The Account Manager will work with Professional Services and ISV's to write up a statement of work (SOW) and prepare an estimate. Once a contract is approved, the project managers will lead the charge to complete the work within the scope of the agreement. There may be a few custom items here and there, but generally, there's a repeatable process that is followed to ensure a smooth implementation.
Many people start off in implementations. It's easy to hand things off to junior consultants and developers with clear instructions of what to do. Between setups and testing, eventually they will have touched just about every area and should have a pretty good understanding of the functionality of the product. This frees up the more Senior Consultants to handle some of the larger more complicated tasks.
Generally, Professional Services will travel to the End Users site to conduct training, setup hardware, and address issues on the ground. Sometimes they will go during discovery to conduct interviews with departments to gather requirements and get an idea of how the business operates.
Once a customer has "gone live" meaning that full validation and testing has passed, the customer has signed off that they are ready to start doing business in their production environment, there will be a handoff to support. Support is handled a myriad of ways depending on the partner. Some will keep the implementation in Professional Services for a period of time until they are handed off to support, some will immediately send the end user to support to address any after go-live issues. Some partners offer support plans. They may have "go-live" support for a certain period of time after the implementation and then offer a support plan to address issues after that go-live support time period is over. Without a support plan, support issues are generally addressed on a "Time and Material" basis.
If you are not interested in traveling, Support may be the place for you as they don't usually travel. However, some partners don't make a real distinction between Professional Services and Support. If the partner does not offer a support plan, they likely don't have a separate support team.