On September 29 & 30 the NAV TechDays 2011 were held in Antwerp. And it was definitely a great conference! Almost 450 people attended the conference, which originally started as the mibuso conference a few years ago. What really made the event worthwile was of course the content delivered. The venue was great, though. But without content it would be just an ordinary greet & meet conference.
As Luc van Dyck mentioned in his opening speech, his approach was to set up a conference with a session length that is long enough to deep dive into code and still have enough time for explanation and questions and answers. The sessions had a length of 90 minutes and I can tell you for sure that the speakers and the audience exploited the time as much as possible! Most of the sessions used the full length and that on itself says enough about the huge load of information that was delivered to the audience. If you ever attended a Microsoft TechDays event or Tech-Ed event, you would recognize the NAV TechDays as being equivalent.
A big compliment for Luc and his team who made this possible!
A number of sessions were about the upcoming version of Microsoft Dynamics NAV ‘7.0’. Topics in these area:
- Developer Tools in NAV ‘7.0’
- Administrating NAV ‘7.0’ with Windows Powershell 2.0
- Reporting story in NAV ‘7.0’
- UI Add-ins for RoleTailored Client
For those sessions we had to sign a confidentiality agreement, so it is not allowed to publish anything about the content here. The only thing I can say, is that it was very good to see where Microsoft is heading with Dynamics NAV. The next version will definitely contain many technical improvements and new possibilities. Personally, I’m thrilled about it and I can’t wait for the new version to hit the market. I would like to thank Microsoft with their kindliness to share so much details with us before the official release.
There were of course other sessions as well. Sessions about topics that immediately could be used in our daily work. I want to mention two sessions that I attended:
Test automation for NAV applications
This session was hosted by Bas Graaf. He showed us how the Dynamics NAV Testing Framework. The concept, the basics, the pitfalls, it was all covered. He explained the concept of test driven development: first develop your test scenario and then your custom code.
There was a lot of coding on the screen and during the session a test scenario was built up from scratch. It is a real challenge to do so much coding in a presentation, but Bas managed it. For me, it was a very good opportunity to see how the Testing Framework works and it motivated me to implement it in our own development procedures.
On PartnerSource you can download a set of 226 predefined test from here (login required). It contains also a tool to manage and execture the test. A good starting point to implement your own testing procedures and to make sure that standard NAV functionality is not corrupted by any custom coding.
Partner Ready Software
The Partner Ready Software session was a stranger among the other sessions. It was not about code, but… well… about code. Or better: how to design code. The statement of the presenters, Gary Winter, Eric Wauters and Mark Brummel, was: it is not enough to have your solution, you should also care about the code. With well designed and structured code your solution will be more stable and maintainable.
And honestly, they showed a lot of good ideas about structuring code. Of course we can learn from NAV, there are a lot of good examples of well structured code. At the other hand they were not recitent to point out where NAV could be improved.
And they had many other, fresh ideas about structuring code. Terms like atomic coding, object oriented programming, hook-ins and app-like structure were introduced and explained. I had a déjà vu moment and feeled like I was back in school, more than 20 years ago, learning about how to structure code…
Partner Ready Software is an initiative and not a company. The people behind it are willing to share their ideas and experiences on how to build stable code. Two of them are working with an ISV partner. I think that it is a strong signal that they are willing to share their knowledge instead of keeping it for themselves.
In my opinion, one topic was not really covered: designing and structuring data. A well designed data model is the basis for well designed and structured code. Without a data model you should not even start coding! Some examples about not so well designed data model were given, though. However, the examples on itself do not explain how to design a data model correctly.
Thanks to everybody who made this event happen!
And for the Dutch people: see you at our event with the Dutch Dynamics Community, November 23. We will publish the details on our website very soon.