Day 1 at Directions NAV North America Conference in Orlando

There is a lot of exciting news as Microsoft continues to integrate its productivity and business applications, expand their cloud offerings, and put more power in the hands of the end user.

Microsoft partners got an in-depth preview of Dynamics 365 as well as the next installment of Microsoft Dynamics NAV, code named “Tenerife”, at the Directions North America 2017 event in Orlando, Florida.

The newest release of Dynamics NAV promises full NAV functionality, a single product for both on-premise and cloud deployment, powerful base functionality with great options for customizations, integration with social media, and even greater connectivity to Microsoft products including Outlook.

NAV users can now do more tasks without leaving Outlook. Customer requests received by email can be scanned to automatically create a draft quote and can be converted to an order. The customer receives a link to pay the invoice from a list of their credit cards.

In addition to the base functionality in Tenerife, available apps from Microsoft will extend the capability of the Dynamics NAV system and make tailoring the system easier than ever.

A couple of exciting apps to extend functionality in Dynamics NAV “Tenerife”

  • Accountant API – the accountant can see a list view of clients in his/her NAV system who have given the accountant approval for accessing their system as well as track tasks with priority and date management, manage recurring tasks, and accomplish tasks within the accountant’s hub.
  • Bookings – utilize API’s to accept bookings through Facebook and automatically process with NAV Invoicing.
  • Other API’s are also available from Microsoft.

Dynamics 365 – The importance of cloud computing isn’t new to Microsoft.

Microsoft is continuing to build on the growing popularity of cloud computing in all their products, but particularly in Dynamics 365. Marco Perisic, the general manager for Dynamics 365, stated a recent survey found 80 percent of businesses are considering the cloud, whereas only eight percent were not.

An exciting feature is the option to extensively personalize the Dynamics 365 Role Center. Now each user can personalize their own systems by dragging and dropping elements such as fact boxes and fields to suit the user’s preference. Search capability can be used to add fields to list views or pages.

Some Dynamics 365 features to be excited about

Dynamics 365 will be feature expanded functionality to enable more complex business requirements as well as:

  • More connected apps and business API’s.
  • Solution for accountants to service multiple clients.
  • Common data service to connect everything in Microsoft, not just Dynamics.
  • Improved data import, including the ability to retrieve information directly from QuickBooks Online.
  • Data set up in one place through Assisted Setup.
  • Advance warning for setup and other issues instead of after the fact while posting
  • Edit all 17 ledgers using Excel
  • Add transactions to employee records in journals
  • Enhanced scalability in Dynamics 365.
  • Faster processing with new sessions provisioned in 7 seconds.
  • Upgrade speed is less than 30% without interrupting clients.
  • Auto healing has a 98.9% uptime.
  • 40 TB of analytical data stored each month to improve the system.

Dynamics NAV continues to boast cutting edge technology and innovation as Microsoft focuses on connectivity and seamless integrations guaranteed to make your work day easier and your business thrive.

More to come on Day 2 regarding integrated sales and marketing improvements to Dynamics 365.

Best Conversion Practices When Moving Data to a New Accounting System

One of the biggest questions companies face when they move to a new accounting system is the amount of data to bring forward from the old one. The temptation is to keep as much information as possible but that policy has little merit while increasing risk and cost.

1. Data table definitions are likely very different from the old to the new system

This factor greatly increases both risk and cost. Whether you are talking about inventory purchase and sales history or historical customer and vendor transactions, moving legacy data may have a huge impact on the new system. A posted sales invoice, as an example, may impact up to fifteen to twenty unique tables, meaning that any reports or functions, such as inventory replenishment routines, may be working with incomplete or inconsistent data, if you try to bring legacy data forward.

2. General ledger data can often be brought forward, if the information is consolidated to an appropriate level

There are number of factors that influence the success of this action. The first is the consistency of the chart of accounts between the two systems. New account numbers or changes in account numbers can be accommodated, with a conversion table, if there is a “one to one” relationship or “many to one” relationship between the old and new account numbers. “One to many” relationships can only be accommodated if the company is willing to spend a lot of time analyzing the transactions in the account to determine how they should be split up. Account segmentation and cost dimensions also affect the ability to create consistent reporting using old and new data in the new system. Sometimes, it just makes sense to start with a balance sheet as of the conversion date if there are just too many differences. At other times, net changes by account by month will work well. If the systems are completely compatible, a company may choose to bring in several years of detailed data. If you choose the detail route, make sure there is time to post the data before you need it.

3. Imported data should be imported into posting journals, not directly into tables

Importing data directly into tables by-passes the business rules necessary for the system to work properly. Better systems have a variety of journals that data can be dropped in. Using the post function in these journals forces the data to pass the business rules in place. Directly importing data requires a perfect understanding of the data structure and manipulation of the data from the legacy system to it will match the new schema. High risk, for both cost and the time delays that may result if the process doesn’t work out perfectly. In many cases, the problem with data will not become obvious until the system has been live for several days or weeks, which requires either a huge reset to re-do the “go live” or massive effort to analyze and fix the errant information.

4. Customer, vendor, and inventory item tables as often full of old data

A major advantage of moving to a new system is shed inactive customer, vendor, and inventory item records that are no longer applicable. In some cases, only 20-30% of records should be brought forward. This is the change to clean things up and make the system easier to use after the conversion.

5. Make sure to run at least two practice data conversions with testing in the new system

The test data conversions do not have to include all data from the old system but they must include representative examples of everything to be brought forward, and not just a few samples. Remember, it is the exceptions that break processes, not the 99% that are all the same. There can’t be any hiccups in this process when the “go live” data conversion is carried out as there is often little time for re-doing it, if something doesn’t work. Data conversion routines, which often require data validation as transactions are imported and posted, can run for several days straight.

6. Pick a time of year when things are slower, not necessarily the year-end

It might seem obvious but picking a time of year to prepare for a system conversion, run the data conversion, and then work through reduced productivity while people learn the new system, is an important factor in reducing the stress on the organization and people. Make sure they have the time they need to work on the data preparation, testing, and training or hire more people to make that possible. Year-end is often the worst time to convert to a new system as the finance people, in particular, are going to very busy with quarter-end, year-end and auditors.

7. Be ruthless with data to be brought forward

One of our larger customers converting to Microsoft Dynamics NAV was adamant about needing two years of purchasing history for their purchasers. It turns out the purchasers never used the legacy data, wasting significant effort and incurring unnecessary costs. Every request to bring legacy data forward, other than the basic items, should be accompanied by a business case.

8. Keep the old system running as long as possible

Depending on the circumstances, the company may be able to keep the old system running with a few user licenses in case anyone needs to query the system. After a few months on the new system, it is unlikely that anyone will need to access the old one. Reliability of the old system isn’t so important. In some cases, a report writer may be able to combine information from both systems, creating a cost-effective and useful solution.

Productivity Increases through Role Tailored Navigation

Implementing a new ERP solution can be a stressful process for everyone involved and navigating new menu structures is almost like having staff learn a new language. When considering a new system, choosing one that is intuitive for users and easy to learn should be on the top of your list. After all, user adoption is key to the long-term success of any ERP project.

The concept of making a system “user friendly” for users has been around for as long as software has been on the market. Some would say it’s an overused term although the standard has changed over time as technology advances.

Some operating systems are so revolutionary they have become the standard bearers throughout the years. Decades ago the “Windows” user interface was so intuitive and user friendly that software vendors re-wrote their text “green screen” workstations into a graphical user interface and a new era of computer use was born.

Breaking away from strict menu-based systems

Users are now demanding the ability to navigate information without relying on menu-based systems that are cumbersome and difficult to learn. After all, if each person is unique, why shouldn’t their interaction with their user interface be personalized to reflect what’s important to them?

Microsoft asked the same question and did extensive research into improving the user experience for their customers. They conducted 43 Usability Labs, 1,100 research studies involving 10,000 participants, as well as 1,700 customer site visits to gather valuable user feedback.

They determined organizations would become more agile and productive if workers focused on the highest-value work after they were given tools to increase efficiencies.

Microsoft introduced the Role Center (RT) navigation in its 2009 version of Dynamics NAV with this new user in mind. The Role Center allowed users to have quick access to their important tasks and data through customized options including Ribbons across the top of their screens, Navigations Panes on the left, Queues to track ongoing projects, and Views to summarize key data. All of these options allowed for a level of personalization not previously seen.

The next generation of user-friendly systems

Open Door Technology and Microsoft have some new and exciting developments for their ERP systems, which will now allow users to access business transactions from the familiar environment of Microsoft Office. With over 1 billion people using the Office Suite worldwide, it makes sense to bring the ERP functionality to the user and keep everything in one, easy to use environment.

The next generation of users will not settle for outdated systems that aren’t keeping pace with technology leaders such as Microsoft. Choosing a Microsoft system allows your new and existing users to quickly learn new processes in a familiar environment.

Reduce or eliminate duplicate data entry with a single ERP system

With the exclusion of payroll, approximately 90 percent of mid-size organizations should operate with one integrated business management system. This can sometimes be more difficult than you would expect as more and more companies in the low to mid-range are requiring the same system capability as much larger entities. It wasn’t all that long ago that foreign currency and inventory serial number tracking were a faint hope. Manufacturing in small shops was often managed off the back of a cigarette package. Now all of these capabilities and more are required for nearly any size of company.

So why should companies stick to one system?  There are a lot of solid reasons, some of which we will discuss.

One of the most important reasons is the enormous cost of entering the same data into multiple systems. Not only will your staff have to double, or triple their efforts, the potential errors will cost in the long run. There are studies that show fixing data entry errors costs seven times as much as the cost to input the data in the first place. Unreliable data with a degree of error ensures that every bit of information must be carefully scrutinized during the month and at month-end.  If you are not sure about the numbers, you certainly don’t want to share them with anyone.

Another is the high cost of running multiple systems.  Besides the cost of duplicate data entry or integration, you will now need to work with multiple software vendors and possibly different hardware platforms.  Running multiple systems that are key to your business will likely increase your systems cost by 40-50 percent over a five year period. Having multiple systems can also demand a complex and sometimes unreliable integration between systems that were never designed to communicate with each other.

A less obvious cost is the time it takes to train and support your staff on multiple systems.  If your business is experiencing growth and changes in its business model, you need an adaptable and capable of system that can both grow to virtually any level and be able to accommodate change.  You can’t afford to change systems any more than you can help, both in terms of time and cost.

You need to find the right system that can do everything your organization requires.  Make sure it is the last system you ever need to work.

Contact us to hear more about how Microsoft Dynamics NAV can be the last system you ever invest in.

Alberta Advantage built on back of high priced oil

Those of us who live in Alberta can sometimes be smug about the “Alberta Advantage”, which we like to attribute to our business acumen and hard work.  While we indeed may have our fair share of those characteristics, watching the peaks and valleys of the industry sector does make me wonder how much of our perceived advantage is actually built on the back of high priced oil.  With some customers asking for 20 per cent discounts, it looks like we will find out in 2016 and beyond.

A large portion of the Canadian oil patch was built on the back of $80 to $100 USD per barrel or more, as we saw when prices spiked above $120.  Those prices were necessary to cover the ever escalating service costs and provide investment capital for the next round of development in the energy industry.  The question is whether Alberta, in particular, can bring costs down fast enough to be competitive on a global basis?  The shale plays in the United States have generally been more successful in bringing their costs down, to the point where at $60 USD per barrel they will be much more profitable than most investment in Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin or the oil sands.  That means if the oversupply of oil does not resolve itself somehow in a major way, it will take several years to reduce or eliminate the glut of oil.  In the short term, most operators will continue to produce oil but will have little left to invest in new projects.  Fewer projects mean fewer jobs and lower payroll and corporate taxes, a vicious spiral that may see the NDP government take unexpected actions to raise additional revenue.  Royalty uncertainty, higher corporate taxes, and an unknown effect from newly proposed environmental standards all combine to add to the uncertainty many businesses find themselves now.

The current cost structure must change as it is not sustainable.  If not, the oil sands industry, in particular, will find itself out of business.  The smaller oil sands developers with only one or two projects are the ones that are struggling the most without the access to additional capital available to the larger players.  Southern Pacific Resource Corp. has already filed for creditor protection and Connacher Oil and Gas Ltd. has been forced to recapitalize.

It is time for all businesses to look at what makes them great and consider legitimate business opportunities available to them.  It is no longer “business as usual” in the oil patch and there is little hope of a short or even medium term resolution.  There will also be some unique opportunities available through acquisition and other means as we work our way through this.

By Malcolm Roach, President, Open Door Technology

Drilling forecast for 2016 is more than grim

In November news, the Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors (CAODC) released a negative forecast for 2016 that promises a prolonged downturn in the drilling sector.  CAODC projects that only 4,728 wells will be drilled in 2016, which represents a decrease of 58 per cent from 2014.  Many rig companies have already downsized to less than one half of their 2014 levels and consolidations have begun.  The drilling industry expects to lose 28,485 jobs compared to 2014, a decline of 57 per cent.

CAODC president, Mark Scholz, was quoted as saying “The oil and gas services industry is facing one of the most difficult economic times in a generation.”  One of the worst periods in the industry’s history was 1983 and rig counts in Western Canada during 2016 are expected to drop to that level.

Besides the decline in demand for drilling rigs, there is a triple whammy facing the drilling companies.  Corporate taxes have already been hiked in Alberta.  There are possible royalty hikes on the horizon as the new NDP government in Alberta reviews the current royalty regime.  And, finally, who knows for sure what the final impact will be of proposed environmental standards.  One thing that is for sure is that only the most resilient companies are likely to survive.  How long that will take is anyone’s guess at the moment.

As service companies adjust their cost structure to match the new reality of low oil prices, this will reduce the costs to their customers, which will hopefully make more projects economically feasible.  An article in the Calgary Herald on December 17, 2015 suggested that costs have already dropped 9 per cent, with more in store for 2016.  This will be a critical factor moving forward as costs in the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin and the oil sands are generally higher than for the shale formations found in the United States, which makes them our most immediate competitor as we struggle out of this recession.

Despite the continuing bad news, the best advice is not to panic and ride out the storm.  It will take some creativity to re-position business strategies but Western Canada has done this many times before.

Reduce your costs with the effective management of your oilfield service business in order to maintain your operations.

When will oil prices recover

As mentioned in my previous blog post, “Oversupply driving low oil prices, not weak demand”, even though the world economies are relatively healthy, we have a glut of oil on the market and it is not likely we will see an end soon. With prior drops in the oil prices, we have become accustomed to see prices rebound with 1-2 years at the most. In the past we could always count on the Saudis cutting back production or some world crisis to threaten supply. Well, things have changed and in some long-term ways, especially for the oilsands in Canada.

In order to stave off the inevitable, crude stockpiles have been increased to levels not seen in the United States since the 1930’s.  As of the beginning of November, overall oil inventories have climbed to three billion barrels. OPEC has been pumping above its collective quota while Russian output has climbed to a post-Soviet high. Iran is seeking to increase its output now that sanctions are being lifted, although that will take some time to reverse the neglect in its oil infrastructure. Iraq output has been climbing. Shale output in the US and from the oilsands in Canada have both been setting production records. The Saudi strategy of attempting to stimulate additional demand through low prices has little chance of absorbing the surplus in oil production.

While the drop in oil prices over the past year by more than one half has certainly hurt the Saudis and others, the Saudis, even with an annual budget deficit of over $100 billion, are well-positioned with reserved of approximately $600 billion to see this through several years. With no immediate crisis on the horizon in the Middle East, it is unlikely that there will be conflict anytime soon on the battlefield. At some point, the damage from low oil prices will become too much and there will have to be a truce eventually, but that could be several years off. While an increase in oil prices in unlikely to take six years to kick in, the same economics will apply once the price goes up to $60 per barrel. Shale production in the US will kick in again, as will lower cost production in Canada. Both of these factors and the additional growth expected out of Iraq and Iran will generate long-term downward pressure on the price of oil. Demand will also suffer as the new mileage standards kick in over the next few years for automotive fleets.

We had all better figure out how to survive and prosper in an era of low oil prices as they likely won’t improve anytime soon.

Streamlining your business process could be the key to the effective management of your oilfield service business, which will see you through these slow economic times.

By Malcolm Roach, President, Open Door Technology

Oversupply driving low oil prices, not weak demand

It was back in October of 1973 when I was still in high school that the world encountered its first major oil crisis when the members of the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) proclaimed an oil embargo. By the end of the embargo in March 1974 oil prices had risen from $3 per barrel to nearly $12 globally with prices in the United States were even higher. To those of us impacted by this change, it was natural to assume there was a shortage of oil. I can remember thinking that we would be lucky to have any oil left by the mid-1980’s but at the time I knew little of economics and the principles of supply and demand.

Since then we have gone through a number of price spikes and crashes, either created by supply or demand challenges. The most recent, in 2009, was driven by weak demand after the crash in a number of important economies. Today’s low oil prices, however, are driven by oversupply, not weak demand. Saudi Arabia appears to finally gotten weary of cutting its own production while other members of OPEC and non-members continued to pump out as much oil as they could. OPEC continues to pump out its full quote of 30,000,000 barrels per day or even more to drive the price down. While many readers are aware that the Saudis are trying to punish the higher cost producers, such as shale oil in the United States or the oilsands in Canada, there is a second element to this strategy, which is to increase demand through lower prices. For now they seem content to let the market determine oil prices rather than manipulate supply.

While many suspect this OPEC strategy as being purely political, it is more of a market-driven decision. Whether it will bring any positive benefits to the Saudis is debatable at this point. They are running $100 billion deficits but with $600 billion in savings, they can afford to wait awhile. Some accuse the Saudis of attempting to weaken their neighbors, especially Iran, and there is probably some truth to that with the two of them waging a proxy war in Yemen and being involved in competing interests elsewhere.

The current oversupply means oil prices are on a slow recovery, but how long will it take? We will explore this topic further in a future post.

The right oilfield software creates a foundation for success through the effective management of units, people, and jobs.

By Malcolm Roach, President and CEO of Open Door Technology

What Dynamics NAV 2016 means for the Oilfield Service Industry

Microsoft’s release of Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2016 in October offers exciting new capability for oilfield service organizations.

Microsoft continues to invest heavily in the Microsoft Dynamics NAV product and have been rewarded to the point where Dynamics NAV is the most popular mid-market system in the world with over 110,000 customers worldwide as of June 2015. This new release continues down the path of the product’s original mantra of building a superior technology platform capable of being adapted to fit varying customer needs. That design makes Dynamics NAV an ideal choice for oilfield service organizations for whom the only constant seems to be the need to adapt to continuous change.

Versions 2009 through 2015 added significant changes including three-tier architecture, web services, SQL Server reporting services, improved scalability, and a choice of clients to better fit a variety of users including mobile staff. Dynamics NAV 2016 has continued the enhancement of this platform while adding a few key features, some of which take advantage of the changes.

These are just some of the new features in Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2016:

  • One of the most exciting features for organizations is the addition of a configurable workflow engine. While there was rudimentary document workflow capability before in purchasing and sales, the workflow engine now goes much further into virtually of the application suite and adds user configurability.
  • Integration to the web has been enhanced by taking the NAV 2015 tablet client, enhancing it, and making it the standard platform for web browser and phone clients, giving mobile and distributed users a consistent experience, regardless of platform. The new web client offers significant enhancements to the configuration capability.
  • Utilizing the web services capability of the three-tier architecture, Dynamics NAV can now automatically retrieve foreign exchange rates for anyone involved in international business.
  • A new Dynamics NAV content pack enables Power BI to provide end users with a more powerful business intelligence and dashboard capabilities for little or no additional cost.
  • Staff can now submit printed expense receipts by taking a photo with a smartphone and then scanning it directly into Dynamics NAV using OCR.
  • New code extensions allow partner add-on products or customer enhancements to be added to customer databases in a multi-tenant environment, which usually limits modifications. The code extensions can survive upgrades, which is a real benefit for many organizations.
  • Users will now have access to posting previews, which allows them to see the effects of posting the document or transactions in question.
  • A very exciting development for Dynamics CRM users is the native integration between Dynamics NAV and Dynamics CRM where customers can configure the integration from the Dynamics NAV toolkit instead of a separate and limited connector. System integrators will no longer have to rely on third party integration tools, such as Scribe, if they need to deal with advanced business rules.

Whether you are an existing or new Dynamics NAV customer, Dynamics NAV 2016 brings much to the table, with promises of more to come in “Madeira”, their next generation of the NAV product due in 2017.

See why Microsoft Dynamics NAV for the Oilfield Industry is a great fit.

Windows 10 Release Promising for Mobile Users

Microsoft releases its highly anticipated Windows 10 operating system amidst skepticism of whether it will allow the company to remain the king of desktops as well as become a real contender in the mobile space. Among other exciting features, Windows 10 boasts of one operating system for any device with universal apps to keep the user experience consistent across platforms.

The Continuum feature of Windows 10 could be a game changer for Microsoft as Windows 10 makes it possible to adjust the user interface at will. A Microsoft tablet automatically can switch back and forth from a desktop or tablet interface by connecting a keyboard or other accessories. A smartphone can function as essentially a mini computer by connecting a monitor and keyboard and having all applications accommodate the larger screen for a seamless experience. In fact, the experience of working on a PC or a phone connected to a monitor is exactly the same.

Continuum alone should be enough to get you excited about Windows 10 and the direction Microsoft is leading. We’ve seen a shift from desktops to laptops, to tablets, and now to mobile and Windows 10. Universal apps will keep you up to date across any device with a consistent user interface. Down the road employees could simply be issued smartphones and Office 365 corporate memberships with a desk station equipped with a monitor, Bluetooth keyboard and mouse. Mobile workers armed with smartphones in the field will be able to see exactly what their counterparts in the office see. The potential efficiency is intoxicating for organizations willing to embrace these new concepts.

A goal expressed by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella of 1 billion Windows powered devices by 2019 may seem like a stretch with the worldwide shipments of desktops expected to fall by 5% in 2015 and an ever-growing trend towards mobile. Microsoft isn’t relinquishing control just yet, however, with more than 9 in 10 desktops currently running Windows operating systems and free upgrades to Windows 10 being offered until Summer 2016. The corporate market remains cornered by Microsoft and with greater integration offered with universal apps including the Office Suite with Office 365, organizations will soon adopt Windows 10 as an enterprise IT standard.

The real success for Windows 10 and Microsoft will be based on how users respond to the new functionality and use the technology in creative and groundbreaking ways.