Technology Management named as one of UK’s Best Workplaces 2017

TM March 2017

We’ve been named by Great Place to Work® as one of the UK’s Best Workplaces™ in the medium business category for 2017, – and I couldn’t be prouder of our team!

This is the first time we’ve submitted an entry to Great Place to Work® and to have achieved a place in the Medium Business Category an honour, and reflects the great team we have in place at Tecman!

We originally entered this year as a benchmarking exercise, to see how we ranked against other like-sized companies and to better understand how our staff felt about working with us. I was thrilled with the positivity of our survey replies, but have also taken the feedback practically and since the results we have implemented three major changes:

  • purchasing a second car park so our staff no longer have to park on the road
  • a modified career development plan and skills matrix to reflect the many different internal departments
  • now offering soft skills training for those who are more technically orientated

The award, to us, recognises the strength of our leadership and the range of innovative and effective HR strategies we have in place, which has created our successful culture that our team thrives in.

We have always believed that the best way to ensure staff understand the values and ethics we live by is through the way we expect all staff, and especially management, to act. No politics and prima donnas welcome: we are one team and we all do what it takes to succeed on our client projects. Anyone will help anyone.

Employee recognition is high on our company list of priorities; we endeavour to make sure our whole company knows when any employee achieves results above and beyond their expected roles – this goes a long way to our employees feeling valued and safe in our organisation – and most importantly this keeps productivity high for our customers!

We couldn’t be happier at becoming a ‘great place to work’ and know that we owe this achievement to our dedicated and hardworking team.

Onwards and upwards!

Using Dynamics NAV to avoid a growing and significant fraud risk

Recently the UK has seen a massive increase in a fraud described as ‘spoofed email payment requests’. Its estimated to be over 500% up year on year and according to BBC sources expected to cost UK businesses over £200m in just 2016.

How does it work and how do you prevent yourself or your company becoming its next victim? Having personally been the subject of an attempted scam on Monday this week, I’ve done some research and think good ERP controls are the answer.

The scam works by the fraudsters sending an email that looks as if it’s from a senior member of your management team, to your finance team, requesting that they either change the bank details of a major supplier or make a payment into a specified bank account. It seems the fraudsters take real email from that management person and alter it before sending it back into your company. The one sent to my team for instance was aliased with my real email address but actually sent used a specially registered email domain as teccman.co.uk hoping the extra ‘C’ would be missed by the person receiving it. The domain and account was created on google mail that morning apparently by someone in the USA but in reality they could be anywhere.

Now fortunately my team spotted it having been aware of this type of scam through several of our clients in the past, so we have a informal rule about things like this. The fact they received it while I was in the room helped – had been missed though we could have been £50k+ out of pocket.

So simple but clever, your finance team think they are being helpful by making the change and by the time the payment is questioned or the supplier chases to see why their bank account has not had the money, its long gone for the account it was sent to. At that point you don’t have any way of recovery and your bank will say the responsibility is yours, as you authorised the payment.

How can you use Dynamics NAV to prevent this happening? Well first I’d suggest the following process rules:

1. Only pay into bank accounts setup against a vendor in Dynamics NAV. No exceptions, it has to be a vendor – you’re going to need to setup that vendor soon anyway.

2. Only use the suggested payments worksheet to compile your list of payments and the bank accounts they are going to pay into. That means that the vendor must have its bank account details setup on NAV. You should not be able to amend the bank account details on the worksheet, just select a different bank account for that vendor. Remember you can manually add lines to the worksheet if its not ‘due for payment’.

3. You export the bank payment details for the payment worksheet, import into your online banking system and send for payment without editing. You do not store bank account details for vendors in your banking system.

This means that what we now really need to control is the ability to setup and edit bank account details against vendors. In Dynamics NAV 2016 its simple to have one of the new authorisation workflows that approves any creation or changes but in previous versions you need to set the security roles so that only one role has the ability to edit the ‘Vendor Bank Accounts’ (T288) table and restrict that to a list of people who understand the risks.

In fact what we have done is amend our 2016 system so that the workflow means any bank changes not only have to be approved but that it makes a payment of just £1 into that account first. We then have a further approval process step in the workflow, that enforces confirmation that that £1 has ended up in our vendors account (we expect a phone call to ask why have you only paid us £1?) before we can make any further payments to that bank account.

If we want to give money away, we will find a worthwhile charity. I really resent these criminals getting significant reward for just sending a few emails. If this heads up prevents just one company (or individual) getting taken it was worth it.

– See more at: http://www.dynamicsbusiness.co.uk/#sthash.YnDq2gpA.dpuf

Microsoft Dynamics NAV customisations and easy upgrades – are they compatible?

I was asked by the chairman of another partner today – how automatic can we make upgrading Microsoft Dynamics NAV? Specifically, he wanted to know how realistic was it for him to ask his developers to upgrade his clients within six months of a release by Microsoft?

By posting a reply on here I’m aware of the NoSuite trolls who would love to hear that upgrading Dynamics NAV is weeks of work for everyone. Happily for me, the actual reality is not what they want to read.

View the full article by James Crowter, Microsoft Dynamics NAV MVP and MD of Technology Management here:

http://www.dynamicsbusiness.co.uk/2016/01/dynamics-nav-customisations-and-easy-upgrades-are-they-compatible.html

Can the Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2016 web client be the only client?

Over the Christmas break we finally got around to upgrading my company's internal Microsoft Dynamics NAV system to 2016, pretty late this time but we wanted to refactor some of the customisation to use events and our clients took priority, we finally got there. As part of that we decided to try internally what we had been suggesting should be a viable strategy to our customers which was to only use the web client rather than any full windows clients.

How did that work out for us? Well we failed and although I was pretty insistent that people give it a thorough go, there where three consistent issues that eventually forced me to deploy the windows client. What where they?

View the full article by James Crowter, Microsoft Dynamics NAV MVP and MD of Technology Management here:

http://www.dynamicsbusiness.co.uk/2016/01/can-the-dynamics-nav-2016-web-client-be-the-only-client.html

Dynamics NAV windows tablet app supports zoom

Been playing (sorry proof of concept proving) the new NAV tablet app that comes with Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2015 and one of the features I didn’t realised it supported was screen zoom. If the resolution on your windows tablet at least is too small to see than use the same ctrl + you would in explorer and it will zoom to a viewable resolution as shown below.

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The project we are looking at will use the NAV app with a custom role centre to replace classic NAV forms with large fonts on the shop floor so the screens can bee seen at a distance. On then new pages you don’t have the option to set the font or size as the ‘display independence’ means that the device should pick the best size and font rather than the developer. Being able to zoom like this means we don’t have to worry about being able to see it from distance in maybe poor light conditions though.

On the iPad the normal pinch and stretch gestures with your fingers don’t work but after enabling zoom in the settings, accessibility area and then the same three finger double tap that works in the rest of the apps works in the NAV app.

Not had the opportunity to test it on Android but I’ll put it on my Samsung Galaxy Tab soon and update you.

This is another reason I prefer my Surface to my iPad these days, more flexibility and power with the same convenience by a distance. 

Microsoft Surface 3 – great laptop and well as tablet

Quite a few of you know that when we went to the US in July all of us came back with a Microsoft Surface 3. It’s a great piece of kit with a magnificent hi-res multi-touch screen and combined with the included pen device I haven’t taken notes onto paper since.

But recently I’ve taken delivery of a docking station for it now they’ve become available in the UK and after just a few days I’m at the point where it can now be my only device. My Lenovo is going back to our technical team and my iPad is getting left at home, the Surface 3 will be my tablet and laptop in one form now on – it really does do it all. 

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Although only an i5 processor on mine I find it more than more fast enough. Actually using Office 365 and especially the 1Tb of OneDrive storage you get with that plus Microsoft Dynamics NAV & CRM on our hosting platform or increasingly Microsoft Azure I don’t need the ultimate power or storage locally any more – just 8Gb of memory so I can multitask efficiently and and fast communications.

The most difficult thing was figuring out how to drive multiple external monitors but a little displayport splitter means I can plus a third one in if I need to, not sure where I’d put it though.

Think this means that you’ll see more of TecMan’s people using Surface X’s going forward – sorry Lenovo not sure you will get an order for 60 units from us again.      

Implementing upgrades for Microsoft Dynamics NAV

So you only have to read the through the blog posts relating to Dynamics NAV for the 2013, then the 2013R2 and now the 2015 versions to understand that Microsoft are

  1. Serious in their commitment to release a new version every October
  2. Getting a remarkable amount of new capability in each new release

While we have to applaud the agile development techniques that’s enabling them to do this with quality it does mean that we need to up our implementation cadence to match, something that’s historically been a problem with each one taking such major time and effort.

So the great news is that new upgrade tools in 2015 mean that the upgrade from 2013 takes just a few hours both objects and data. Even when we tried it on a database that had over a thousand customisations to the objects and over five hundred gigabytes of data we completed to the point of end user testing in just two days.

Which means that for clients on the 2013 version or above we can offer a fixed price annual upgrade which depending on the level of customisation will be between just three and five consulting days.

So what happens if your not on that 2013+ platform, well as your probably aware there are no shortcuts to that upgrade. Sure we will advise going directly to 2015 now but especially if your on the classic client we still have the task of converting forms to pages and reports to the new RDL/Word format.

And with mainstream support for NAV 2009 R2 now ending in just a few months on 13/01/15 this upgrade is getting ever more precipitant . Previously as a partner we’ve been able to support versions all the way back to version 3 by doing what’s known as a technical upgrade. This means using for instance, the executables  (i.e. setup.exe etc.)  from the 2009 R2 version with the objects from your old version, to allow it to install on later versions of Windows for example.

As 2009 R2 was the last version with a classic client,  the end of mainstream support means there will be no more releases of the classic client to do technical upgrades to. This means as soon as a windows component such as windows itself, internet explorer, the .net libraries or office are upgraded and 2009 R2 breaks, we will be unable to give you a new executable set for NAV that fixes it. In a word of increasing security issues that may mean that you are exposed to a vulnerability that you can’t close.

Technology Management will continue to provide the assistance it can for these older versions and its a case of if its working now, there is no reason it will suddenly stop. What you will face however is increasing restrictions in how you can change that in an increasingly complex IT centric world, will in a couple of years at most, become a real pain.

When you combine this news with the fact that its now proven that once you’ve done this ‘big upgrade’ to the new platform, subsequent ones are much much easier then its something you should seriously plan for. My criteria has always been ‘if I were you would I spend the money knowing what I know’ and this time it’s a definite yes.

Over the next few weeks we will be contacting all our clients on versions prior to 2013 to make sure they are aware of the risks, this is not an immediate panic and were not forcing your hand or timescales but we are not doing our job if we don’t explain the risks you’ll face.

iPad & Android client for Dynamics NAV 2015

So one of the most exciting new features for Dynamics NAV 2015 are the new clients for the Apple iPad , Google Android and of course Windows 8 tablets. So now either internally over Wi-Fi or better still from anywhere with a 3G connection you can access your Dynamics NAV system both to find information and to input new transactions.

Letting you use Microsoft Dynamics NAV on the move they expose all the functionality  another ERP available in the standard client in a new touch friendly interface, wow – tell system that does this. You don’t need a finger as sharp as a pencil on this one. Designed to be used on devices down to 7 inches in size (so not phones yet) it provides an intuitive experience that anyone used to a tablet will get straight away. 

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Better still it connects and used standard pages from your core system so any customisations to for instance role centres or order entry will be reflected immediately on the tablet interface.

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It supports any of the reports that you can produce via the windows client and you can even download  then to a local PDF reader for into the tablets email calendar to send on.

One other thing I really like (and would like in the standard client please Microsoft) is that the search is active on every column on the page so that you don’t have to select the column to search on – much easier.  In the example below for instance its found ‘CAN’ in both the company names and the contact.

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As you would expect it when you rotate the tablet it adapts its layout to the portrait format which is often the most convenient to hold it on the move with its similarity to a writing pad.

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So what do you need to setup NAV 2015 for the tablet? Well you have to publish the middle tier service with a security certificate (even if only using internally) and while you can use a free self signed versions its so much hassle that we suggest you buy one at about £120 a year. This makes your system as secure as possible being the same technology that gives you that little padlock when you connect to your online banking.

Other than that you have to connect to the appropriate app store for your tablet, download the app and sign in with the address of your middle tier (which has to be in the format of for instance https://nav2015.tecman.co.uk) and then enter the same security credentials as you would for running it in a browser or signing into windows.

And talking of browsers if you like the interface better than the standard one you can use it in the browser of your choice – its shown below working in Google Chrome and yes, all the touch functions are still working so that nice new touch screen laptop is finally justifiable. In fact to use the touch interface you have to just add ‘/tablet.aspx’ to the end of the URL you’d normally use for the standard client.

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Now I’ve started let me finish the technical bit by saying that Microsoft have built the clients using Apache Cordova so similar to the Dynamics CRM client its very light and actually very little is held or happens on the tablet. This means as new standards or formats appear they should be really quickly supported. As you might expect client side controls need to be JavaScript based to work on the tablet, .net assembles are the one thing not supported. The other things currently is that due to the differences on each OS client side devices such as camera’s or barcode readers are not supported, partners can add support via JavaScript though.

So who will use this, we a lot of company managers have iPad’s for note taking now so that’s one group. Obviously sales staff on the road will find it an absolute gift but I also think that with more rugged versions that are starting to appear now it will prove a great shop floor data capture device.

Devices like the MioWork tablet shown below have a larger display area than handhelds and with their touch screens, ability to survive drops and water, exchangeable batteries, easy communication over Wi-Fi  combined with a reasonable cost, they could make printed production orders a thing of the past with a few simplified screens delivered via the Android app.

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Having used the client for a while now I have to congratulate Microsoft for the quality of this interface, it is truly as useable and complete as version 3 is not version 1. For sure its a great addition to the Dynamics NAV. Just for once I don’t have actually anything I’d like to see in 2016!

Mandatory Fields in Dynamics NAV 2015

Open the master data cards in Dynamics NAV 2015 and you see some new red asterisk’s next to key fields. These indicate a new mandatory fields functionality introduced in 2015 and works across both  the windows and tablet clients as shown below.

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So how can you configure which fields are mandatory, well the bad news is that unless your a developer you can’t. Setting a field as mandatory is actually done by turning a property on the field on the page to true.  Why could this be part of the page configuration similar to the ‘quick entry’  introduced in 2013 you ask, very good question, epic fail on this occasion Microsoft.

As it is you have to set the ‘Show Mandatory’ property against each field. At least this can be set to a variable and you could then populate the variable given if the field is set as mandatory in a custom selection similar to the way you select which fields are audited by the change log for example. How much customisation is that going to be though even if you only do it for the major master data cards such as customer, vender and item.

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One thing to note though is that this does not actually enforce the mandatory fields are completed and while that might seem slightly illogical this time I agree with Microsoft’s decision. Nothing would be more annoying than have to delete a nearly complete record because one piece of mandatory data was missing and if you were going to have to re-do a significant amount of entry the temptation to enter anything to get past the mandatory field would be just too great. Trouble is that data never gets updated with the correct entry once that happens.

We already have the ‘Not Blank’ property on fields on pages, this is closer to enforcing entry of field if you need it but again is slightly different in that it only enforces entry if the field is either in the primary key or has had an entry made in it. Again if the field is skipped completely then the record can be saved with fields having the not blank field set to true being empty. Again this seems illogical but Microsoft do not consider it so.

I would suggest that what most companies want is to prevent a record being used before all of the fields they mandate have valid entries. This should as I hinted earlier be part of the customisation so that each company and even role can set its own policies.

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(Mandatory entry below Quick entry please)

At Technology Management we often achieve this result by setting the Blocked flag to default to true and when this is being manually removed (which it has to be before it can be used) we validate the required fields are valid. This ensures no partially complete records are going to be used and the resulting issues that can cause occur.

Windows 10 first impressions

As you maybe noticed  in the press this week Microsoft announced the release of Windows 10, yes they skipped 9, went from 8.1 straight to 10.

So after it became available for us to download yesterday I got a copy and loaded it onto my Surface 3 to give it a try. Happy to report at the end of the first day that its been as totally stable and I’m already wishing it was on all my machines.

So what’s new, well lots of minor changes but the two things I’ve really noticed are the new ‘Start Button’ – as you can see from the screenshot below they combined the live tiles of Windows 8 with the start button of Windows 7 – once configured it works well and as someone with a fair few apps I find it easier to spot the one I want with the larger tiles especially as old age degrades my eyesight! 

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Other major change for me is that the modern or metro apps can now be windowed meaning that you don’t have to have them full screen then switch the whole screen back to the desktop. Much better Microsoft – totally more useable now.

Other than that I’m happy to report all the Dynamics apps seem to run well, no problems at all there.

I’ll update this posting as I find things of significance either good or bad but so far so good.