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December 13, 2023

The History of Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central

By Bobbi Seymour

The Enterprise resource planning (ERP) landscape is dynamic and ever changing with new products and functionality being introduced to meet the changing needs of businesses in an increasingly digital and interconnected world.

One of those ERP solutions is Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central; a widely adopted system on a global scale with millions of users.  It has a long history dating back to 1983 originating as a single-user accounting package with basic functionality developed by three college students in Denmark: Jesper Balser, Torben Wind and Peter Bang.

In 1987 the first multi-user version of Navision, known as Navigator was released allowing users to access the system simultaneously!  It was then introduced into the United States by the founders PC&C and Peachtree Software putting Navision firmly onto the global stage.

By 1990 Navision 3.0 was established providing a development environment and the ability to modify objects was introduced.  Navigator was renamed to Navision and the first Windows based version of Navision Financials was released in 1995.  It was the first accounting solution to be independently certified as ‘designed for Windows 95’ and had to be rewritten from the ground up.

Navision Expansion

The expansion of Navision grew beyond Denmark and the United States and was rolled out into Germany, Spain, and the UK. One of our more experienced SpiderGroup employees was lucky enough to be involved in the inception of Navision UK from its offices in Borehamwood headed up by the late Yash Nagpal.

Quite the character, Yash and the team quickly built up a network of UK partners and in 1996 the first Windows version of the software made its debut in the UK. The partner network quickly transformed into a thriving community of Navision enthusiasts.  Despite competing on occasion, they united to grow the user base and put Navision firmly on the UK ERP landscape.

Fun fact: Back in the 90’s the partners were known as NSC’s (Navision Solution Centres) and the partner portal resided in a blue A4 ring binder made up by one of our more experienced Spider team members!

Navision even appeared in the Accounting Today Magazine in the Top 100 Software list and there was a sense that everyone involved was on the start of an exciting journey with an incredible product.

With further expansion into South Africa, Canada, and Italy in 1998 the Navision Solution Centre (NSC) network grew to 800 with 30,000 customers worldwide.  Navision also started to expand as a product with enterprise-wide functionality and the release of its manufacturing module.

Following several mergers and acquisitions in the market, Navision Software and Damgaard (providers of Axapta) announced they were to merge in 2000 to create an even stronger worldwide provider of integrated business solutions. 

Microsoft Makes an Entrance

Only two years later, on May 7, 2002, Microsoft acquires Navision following the acquisition of Great Plains software in 2001. This became a defining moment in Microsoft’s history propelling it to become a dominant player in the mid-range market for ERP. This strategic move for Microsoft enabled them to expand its footprint into the mid-range market for ERP software and position themselves as a formidable contender among established industry leaders.

Microsoft Dynamics NAV is Launched

In 2005 Microsoft rebranded Navision and released it as Microsoft Dynamics NAV.  Three years later Microsoft launched Dynamics NAV 2009 at Convergence in Denmark which contained both the classic client and the first release of the three-tier client.

Dynamics NAV Role Tailored Client

In 2009 the highly anticipated Role-Tailored client (RTC) was released, designed to provide a personalised and efficient user experience based on an individual's specific roles and responsibilities. This approach aimed to streamline user interactions by presenting relevant information and tasks and allowing users to personalise their workspace to suit their preferences and workflows enhancing their productivity. This was the first change in the look and feel of Dynamics NAV since 1995!

Integrations with Microsoft Dynamics NAV

Over the next few years, Dynamics NAV consistently improved with the releases 2013, 2015, 2016, 2017 and the last version in the series - Dynamics NAV 2018! It continued to deliver on a functional level as well as introducing some powerful integrations to Office 365, native integration with Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Power BI, and Microsoft Azure SQL database.

Along the way, upgrade tools became much improved allowing existing changes to a system to be merged much easier and quicker than before plus a few major milestones with the release of the phone client in the Dynamics NAV 2015 version and the web client.

Dynamics 365 Business Central is Released

It’s worth noting that we often get asked what the difference is between Dynamics NAV and Business Central; Business Central is effectively a new version of Microsoft Dynamics NAV. It reflects that the product is an integral part of the Microsoft offering with Office 365 at the centre of it all.

In 2018 the complete rebrand was announced with Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central being officially released with cloud-based deployment options allowing users to access the system from anywhere, fostering collaboration and flexibility in managing business operations.

An exciting development was announced in 2020 with integration to the Common Data Service providing a foundation for integration to Microsoft’s Power Platform. This brings together information from across the full suite of Dynamics 365 apps allowing them to communicate with, and even learn from each other.

2021 saw the release of Microsoft Teams Integration with Dynamics 365 Business Central, an exciting integration providing a unified interface with a single sign-on bolstering operational efficiency.

The Evolution of Business Central

The product is going from strength to strength with exciting innovations. We believe the real benefits come with the cloud deployment where ultimately all applications can work seamlessly together allowing for interoperability with Microsoft 365, Teams, SharePoint, Power BI reporting dashboards, and analytics all firmly embedded within the platform.

Next Generation AI and Business Central

According to a recent Microsoft survey on business trends, nearly 9 out of 10 workers hope to use AI to reduce repetitive tasks in their jobs. But until today, AI has been a commodity few SMBs could truly invest in.

In March of this year, Microsoft announced the next generation of AI product updates making sophisticated AI within reach for the small to medium-size business market.  The launch of Microsoft Dynamics 365 Copilot provides interactive and AI powered assistance across business functions – from sales, service, and marketing to supply chain.

The integration of AI into Dynamics 365 Business Central represents a promising and transformative direction of the platform. Copilot enables professionals to perform their day-to-day work with the assistance of cutting-edge AI by their side, empowering employees to get more done with less effort and without the need to become data scientists.

Watch this space for our next blog on the Future of Dynamics 365 Business Central with AI and Copilot for further info.

Migrating to Business Central with Ease

The mainstream support for NAV 2018 has come to an end meaning no new features will be introduced along with security updates, bug fixes, and technology updates. If you’re looking to upgrade your ERP system, the benefits of this platform are significant and will allow you to say goodbye to those significant upgrades from the past. 

With various upgrade options available wherever you are in the product lifecycle of Business Central, now is the time to move to the Cloud. Here at SpiderGroup, we have a trained team of experts to help you transfer across! Contact us to arrange a discovery call to discuss the options available to your business.   


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