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Dynamics NAV vs Business Central: A Detailed Comparison

Choosing the right Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system for your business is a very important decision. One of the most prominent ERP systems is Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central, but some organizations opt to use the legacy choice – NAV (Navision). Both systems are designed to control business processes, improve customer interactions, and boost overall efficiency. However, they have many differences, that are important when choosing whether to upgrade to BC or stay with NAV. In this article, we will dive into a detailed comparison of Dynamics 365 NAV vs Business Central to help you decide which system fits your business requirements best.

An illustration with logos of Dynamics Navision vs Dynamics 365 Business Central

A Short Introduction to Dynamics 365 NAV

Dynamics 365 NAV, originally known as Navision before its acquisition by Microsoft, has been a popular ERP solution for small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs). It has many functionalities covering finance, manufacturing, customer relationship management, supply chains, analytics, and electronic commerce. NAV is particularly known for its flexibility and the ability to be customized to fit the any needs of businesses. For detailed insights and resources on Dynamics 365 NAV, visit the official Microsoft documentation page here.

A Brief Introduction to Dynamics 365 Business Central

Dynamics 365 Business Central, launched in 2018, is essentially the newer version of NAV, rebranded and built on the same codebase, but deeply integrated with other Microsoft services like Office 365, Power BI and others, which gives it even greater potential for customizations. Business Central is specifically designed to be an all-in-one business management solution for SMBs, while larger enterprises might choose Dynamics F&SCM, you can find detailed comparison here. It is easy to adapt and connect to other applications and offers capabilities across finance, operations, sales, and customer service.

Key Differences of Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central vs Dynamics NAV

Further you will find the main differences between the systems. Business Central and Navision have a lot of similarities, but the differences are what usually makes many users move from NAV to BC:

Platform Integration and Accessibility

Business Central is fully integrated with other Microsoft cloud services and other Dynamics 365 applications, Office 365, Power Automate, Power Apps, Microsoft Flow, and Power BI. This integration enhances productivity and provides a unified experience. It is cloud-first, which means it is primarily designed to be used in the cloud, but also has an option for on-premises installation.

NAV, on the other hand, was initially designed as an on-premises solution but has adapted to offer cloud capabilities. However, its integration with other cloud services isn’t as developed as Business Central, which for some business is an downgrade.

User Interface and Experience

Business Central offers a modern, user-friendly interface that is similar to other Dynamics 365 applications, making it easier for users who are familiar with the Microsoft ecosystem. Its interface promotes greater productivity and collaboration.

NAV has a more traditional interface that might require a steeper learning curve for users who are not familiar with older Microsoft ERP systems. However, it offers a level of familiarity for long-time users and can be deeply customized to business needs.

A representation of Business Central interface with various graphs and business data

Customization and Scalability

Business Central offers customization but through a different approach. It encourages the use of extensions rather than direct modifications to the core product, which makes upgrading easier and less disruptive. This approach maintains system integrity and reduces long-term maintenance issues. Moreover, this not only maintains system integrity but also ensures that scalability is more manageable. Business Central is designed to be scaled more easily, benefiting from Microsoft’s cloud infrastructure, which allows businesses to easily adjust their usage based on growth and changing needs without significant downtime or re-deployment.

NAV, as mentioned before, is highly customizable, which is a significant advantage for businesses with specific needs that standard ERP solutions cannot meet. It can be modified extensively through development. In terms of scalability, while NAV can be adapted to support larger businesses, its traditional architecture might require additional resources and custom development to handle increased loads effectively.

Cost Implications and Target Audience

Business Central is targeted at small to medium-sized businesses that require a robust, scalable ERP solution with easier management and upgrade paths. BC is generally more cost-effective, especially for new users, because it is available on a subscription basis and does not require a big initial investment in hardware and infrastructure, particularly for cloud deployments. 

NAV is ideal for businesses that need a highly customized solution and may have complex, industry-specific needs. Though it’s implementation may involve higher upfront costs, especially if deployed on-premises, due to hardware investments and the need for more extensive customization done by developers.

Feature Comparison Table

In the table below you can find a summarized version of our feature analysis of variations of these two ERP systems.

Features

Navision

Business Central

Deployment Options

Primarily on-premises with some cloud options.

Primarily cloud with on-premises option.

User Interface

Desktop-based, traditional, customizable.

Mobile/Desktop-based, modern, consistent with Dynamics 365 suite.

Integration

Limited cloud service integration.

Seamless integration with Microsoft cloud services.

Customization

Highly customizable through development

Customization via extensions, less disruptive upgrades.

Cost

Higher initial costs for on-premises.

Lower upfront cost, subscription-based.

Target Business Size

Small to medium businesses with complex needs.

Small to medium businesses seeking scalability and extensive integrations.

Updates

No

Yes

Reporting Capabilities

Restricted

Integration with Power BI

Conclusion

Choosing between Dynamics NAV vs Business Central depends largely on your business size, industry, budget, and specific needs. For companies looking for a modern, scalable solution that integrates with other Microsoft products and is constantly updated, Dynamics 365 Business Central is the recommended choice. For those that need deep customization and have specific operational requirements, Dynamics 365 NAV might be the better fit. Each solution offers unique advantages and the decision should align with your long-term business strategies and operational requirements. If you are still not sure which system will bring the most benefits to your business, contact us and our experts will consult you.

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