Dynamics NAV vs Business Central: What’s the difference?

Understanding Microsoft’s ERP software offering for small to medium businesses

Dynamics NAV vs Business Central: What’s the difference? post image

Microsoft Dynamics NAV has been an invaluable ERP asset for small to medium businesses (SMBs) for almost 2 decades.

However, since 2018, Microsoft has been sunsetting support for each version of the software in favour of the cloud-based Dynamics 365 Business Central, which is now Microsoft’s default ERP software solution for SMBs.

To help anyone looking to understand the features of Dynamics NAV vs Business Central or begin a migration between the two platforms, the software procurement experts at YourShortlist have prepared this short explainer article.

What is Dynamics NAV?

Microsoft Dynamics NAV, originally called Navision, is an on-premises ERP system developed and designed for SMBs, with over 110,000 installations worldwide. Through additional modules and integrations, the platform can assist in several business functions, including:

  • Accounting and financial management
  • Purchases and payables
  • Inventory management and tracking
  • Supply chain management
  • Project management
  • Service management
  • Warehouse management
  • Sales and marketing (CRM system)
  • Manufacturing
  • Human resources (HR)

Aside from module and integration specific features, the system provides an ideal solution for any accounting or project management function to help a business grow and streamline processes while enhancing customer interactions, business growth, and business development.

What is Dynamics 365 Business Central?

Microsoft Dynamics NAV was rebranded in 2018 to Microsoft Dynamics Business Central for on-premises and private cloud versions, and Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central for the cloud version.

In addition to the functions carried over from Dynamics NAV, the Dynamics 365 Business Central system affords users with access to:

  • Integration with Microsoft 365 applications for increased productivity and streamlined data
  • Data connectivity and business intelligence through Microsoft Power Platform
  • Microsoft Azure architecture for cloud security, presence, and scale
  • Increased pool of third-party software integrations
  • Multiple deployment options for on-premises, private server, or cloud hosting

Dynamics 365 Business Central is relevant for businesses adopting flexible, hybrid, or remote working models thanks to the scalable, cloud-based architecture and integration with Microsoft 365 and Power BI tools.

It is an all-in-one solution that can be adapted for many industries including software developers, IT services, financial services, healthcare, and educational institutions.

The system also has large user bases in manufacturing, distribution, ecommerce, and retail. 

Dynamics NAV vs Business Central: What’s the Difference?

Put simply, Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central is the next generation of Microsoft Dynamics NAV. Anyone looking to purchase the system through Microsoft 365 now will only have the option of choosing Business Central.

Existing NAV users can continue using older versions of the system, which is a decent solution for organisations that require a secure, on-site solution to manage internal operations on-premises and are happy to bear server implementation and hosting costs.

However, the product is now in its end-of-life cycle (more on this in the next section) so is soon to no longer receive security or quality of life updates.

As a cloud service, Dynamics 365 provides businesses with the abilities and flexibilities that come with moving their operations onto the cloud. Teams don’t need to be constrained by physical infrastructure and processes are more flexible, improving both the quantity and quality of work.

Further improvements from Dynamics NAV can be seen in several areas:

User Interface

Business Central is a website-based application with a more modern interface and functionality, with expanded customisation options including the creation and automation of workflows. Improved reporting and analytics tools provide real-time intelligence and actionable insight at a glance.

Updates

Automatic updates to the environment ensure security is maintained and new features are added seamlessly. These are released bi-annually, meaning they can provide improvements requested by users between releases.

Licensing

There are monthly subscription or perpetual deployment options available, with pricing based per user. Different plans can also include added features or additional Dynamics 365 applications, such as Dynamics 365 Sales (CRM solution) or Dynamics 365 Finance.

Hosting

Whether as a cloud-based SaaS or hosted on a private server, Business Central is built on Microsoft’s Azure architecture, which ensures best-in-class security.

The End of Dynamics NAV Support

If you are a current user of Microsoft Dynamics NAV, you are probably aware of the end-of-life cycle that came into effect following the release of Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central in 2018.

There are three different lifecycle support categories for older versions of the software:

  • Mainstream Support – the product will receive new features, security updates and non-security updates.
  • Extended Support – the product will only receive security updates.
  • Beyond End of Support – the product won’t receive updates of any kind.

Mainstream Support for Dynamics NAV versions from 2013 to 2017 has already ended, with the 2018 version losing support in January 2023. This deadline is fast approaching, so if you are currently using NAV 2018 you should begin to consider your optimal course of action going forward.

Choosing to stick with Dynamics NAV vs Business Central upgrade will ultimately come down to your specific business requirements and specifications that determine the usability and benefit of either product.

Read our Guide on Dynamics NAV vs Business Central to learn more about the end of NAV support.

Dynamics NAV vs Business Central: How to Migrate

For a current Dynamics NAV user looking to migrate away from the platform before Mainstream Support ends, there are two options for how you could proceed:

Migrate Now to Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central – this will include support for as long as you’re subscribed.

Switch to another ERP software solution – you will need to assess which options suit your business needs.

There are advantages and disadvantages to each option, and your choice of Dynamics NAV vs Business Central vs an alternative ERP solution will depend on what you are currently using, your ERP requirements, and your budget.

At least in the immediate term, sticking with your current Dynamics NAV system may continue to serve your needs (should you be using the 2018 version).

However, making the jump to a cloud-based solution now will allow your business to:

  • Accelerate digitalisation
  • Utilise faster ERP software with a more intuitive user interface
  • Stay up to date with new features and integrations
  • Avoid cybersecurity or GDPR risks
  • Ensure continued support and automatic updates

From our experience, we would suggest a lead-in time of around 6 months for a full migration from Dynamics NAV, and 6 to 12 months for adoption of a new ERP framework.

With very little time remaining before the end of Dynamics NAV Mainstream Support in January 2023, the sooner you decide on your course of action, the better.

Read our full Guide on Dynamics NAV vs Business Central to learn about alternative ERP solutions.

Download Our Guide to Dynamics NAV vs Business Central

The software procurement experts at YourShortlist have created a handy downloadable guide to make the capability of Dynamics NAV vs Business Central easier to understand and relevant for businesses assessing their current ERP requirements.

It is intended to help you as an IT buyer or key business decision maker to understand the timeline for the end of Microsoft Dynamics NAV support, the potential impact this will have on your business, and what options are available to keep your cloud ERP systems up to date.

Click here to download our full Guide on Dynamics NAV vs Business Central.

Our Advice. YourShortlist.

With the help of YourShortlist, IT buyers across the globe have made better-informed decisions on new software, infrastructure, and managed services to improve their business.

We’re all about helping our members understand and implement the solutions that will pay dividends and facilitate successful growth.

For those deciding on Dynamics NAV vs Business Central, our consultants can provide a migration plan for those looking to upgrade, or for those looking to switch we can provide a bespoke shortlist of recommendations from our diverse database of over 680 software partners.

Over the past 2 years alone, we’ve provided over 1800 leads for SMBs to help them narrow down their search for new ERP software. And our database of partners and software solutions is always growing.

Call or email us to speak to a member of our team today and begin the journey towards a free, no obligation shortlist tailored to your requirements.

Our advice, your decision.