From Navision to the Cloud: How Dynamics 365 Business Central Came To Be

Dynamics 365 Business Central from Microsoft is the newest cloud-based ERP solution on the market, but it is far from inexperienced. This blog will detail the history and rise of Microsoft Dynamics NAV as it spread around the world, gained a loyal user base, and eventually transitioned to its successor, Dynamics 365 Business Central.

How it Began; PC&C

Dynamics NAV was one of the first computerized accounting systems in Europe, founded by a company named PC&C (Personal Computing & Consulting) in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1983, but it has not always been the NAV we know now. PC&C released PC Plus in 1984 as a single user, character-based accounting solution for small and home offices that contained modules for finance, customers, vendors, and inventory.


In 1987, PC Plus was re-released under the name Navigator and looked mostly just like an upgraded version of PC Plus. What is notable is that this is the first time it was able to run as a client/server application over a LAN (local area network) and was a multi-user system unlike PC Plus. 1987 is also when PC&C partnered with IBM as they were more equipped to take over all sales, marketing, and support aspects.

Navision 3.0

In late 1989, Navision Software launched Navision version 3.0. This was a big deal because it was the first time users could modify the core of the system. Users could previously edit certain reports, forms, and tables, but now, the whole system was open to edits as long as users had an “AL-key”. Application Language was implemented in Navision in this release and opened up all code related to the accounting application, allowing users more freedom to do advanced modifications. AL was extremely unique at the time and is what enabled Navision to take control of the Danish market. In 1990, Navision became available outside of Denmark through distributors in Iceland and Germany, followed by Spain and the UK

Navision Financials for Windows 95

Released in Spring of 1995, Navision Financials 1.00 was the first release to run as a true Microsoft Windows application. The application was completely rewritten and was received fantastically by most users, as it was one of the few products that lived up to 100% of Microsoft’s Windows 95 design guidelines.

The late 90’s is when Navision really started taking shape and began to look and work like the Dynamics NAV platform we know today. In 1997 came the new Contact Management (CRM) functionality that was released with Navision Financials 2.0, followed by Manufacturing and Advanced Distribution in 1998 and 1999, respectively.

Through the early 2000’s, Navision experienced several rebrands, name changes, and even acquired a few companies such as Damgaard who developed a competing software known as Axapta (to become Microsoft Dynamics AX). Updates continued to be released regularly with new and improved features, modules, and functionality.

Microsoft Acquisition

On May 7th, 2002, in a move that was surprising to pretty much nobody, Microsoft acquired Navision A/S (the most recent of several name changes and rebrands mentioned earlier) for $2 billion USD. The first release of Navision as a subsidiary of Microsoft was called Microsoft Business Solutions Navision with new releases until 2005.

Microsoft also ditched the ‘Microsoft Business Solutions’ name in 2005 and changed the product grouping to Microsoft Dynamics. Navision became Dynamics NAV and came with one big new feature, the Navision Employee Portal, which was Navision/NAV’s first SharePoint portal. As a part of this name change, a new NAV user interface was promised by Microsoft. The new interface was highly anticipated, especially as it was continually pushed back from 2006 all the way until the release of Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2009.

The Role Tailored Client

In late 2008, Dynamics NAV 2009 was released after several years of delays. This release featured the new user interface, new objects, and the RoleTailored Client. This signaled a big shift in how Microsoft would be designing their apps going forward. Users could now be assigned roles within an organization, with each role having specific different permissions, capabilities, and access to the NAV system. Other Microsoft business products have since followed suit. In addition to all of this, NAV 2009 also contained the SharePoint Framework that allowed users to run NAV within SharePoint for the first time.

For the next several years, only minor updates and changes were made in new releases with bits and pieces of new functionalities and features. Dynamics NAV 2013 R2 was released on Halloween of 2013 and brought with it new support for multi-tenency, brand new Cash Management functionality, and a much improved Bank Reconciliation module.

The introduction of Dynamics 365 Business Central

The user experience in a Dynamics 365 Business Central sandbox environment.

The user experience in a Dynamics 365 Business Central sandbox environment.

In April 2016, Microsoft announced Project “Madeira”, a codename for what was to be the next release of NAV as a SAAS product with lots of connectivity to Office 365 apps. It was one of the most anticipated releases in years for Microsoft and became official on March 13th, 2018 when Microsoft announced that Madeira would be named Dynamics 365 Business Central. Built entirely on the same code base that exists in NAV, Business Central improves upon NAV by offering a more modern user experience in terms of design, integrations, and personalization possibilities. Business Central also runs on the Azure Cloud, meaning that businesses need not worry about server space and costs, data backups, or the speed at which Business Central will operate. Additionally, Business Central connects with and extends what you can do with your other Microsoft products. Integrations to your Outlook mailbox and Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement environment gives you access to certain Business Central data and processes right where you are. Above all, with a starting price of just $70/user/month, Business Central is far and away the most cost effective ERP system and provides the biggest bang for your buck.

What’s in Store for Business Central Going Forward

Although NAV, or at least some version of it, has been around since the mid 1980’s, Business Central is only in its infancy, having been released in April of 2018. This is not to say that Business Central is inexperienced though since its built from the same code as NAV. In October, the first update of Business Central was released and brought with it lots of improvements, new markets, and an on-premise option, meaning that those using NAV on-premise will essentially only experience an upgrade, not a whole new system introduction. A full list of feature updates that came in October, as well as what will be in the next release, is available here. Because Business Central already contains anything an organization would need from its ERP solution, Microsoft’s focus going forward will be to build more integrations with other business products and extend Business Central’s reach into programs made for other business processes.


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