We recently launched a new product. How did the new product come about? What is the idea behind it? I'm looking into this question in my blog series, for which I have interviewed different colleagues involved in product design, development and overall strategy. For this blog post, I talked to Martin, CEO and Co-Owner about the first steps towards the Visual Scheduling Add-in Developer Toolbox.
Interview with our CEO on the first step into the Dynamics NAV world
NETRONIC and Microsoft Dynamics NAV - how did that come together?
Martin: We have a very long business relationship with Microsoft. When Microsoft was looking for a graphical planning board for its production module in Dynamics NAV (version 4), they decided to cooperate with NETRONIC. This was back in 2004.
The reasons for this were
- our Gantt component VARCHART XGantt and
- our developers were able to develop a graphical planning board in VB for Microsoft very quickly with the help of this component.
Microsoft took care of the data transfer and NETRONIC of the visualization. Still, a lot of partners and end-users know the result of this cooperation: the Production Scheduler in the production module of the Microsoft Dynamics NAV Classic Client.
We as developers of a Gantt chart component, were always happy to say that Microsoft was on our customer list. However, the truth is that neither we nor Microsoft did a very good job with the Classic Client Production Scheduler. It was a kind of "let's make a tick in the box feature" and hence very rudimentary.
The good thing was: partners who were not happy with this initial scope of supply could get a developer license of our VARCHART XGantt component. With this, they could individually adapt and extend the planning board. Many partners took advantage of this opportunity to develop a suitable overview for their customers. Sometimes, partners also asked us to do these enhancements for them. This was our first step into the world of Dynamics NAV and its partner system.
Then the Production Scheduler was no longer part of the RTC .. .
Martin: Exactly. The change from the Classic Client to the Role Tailored Client brought many changes to Dynamics NAV. Just to mention the role center concept, new UI, new architecture, etc. As part of this major redesign, well: this major rebuilt, Microsoft removed third party components from the system. And they made no exception to the Production Scheduler that was based on our developer components.
That created an interesting case: although the Production Scheduler had been rudimentary, customers around the world were using it. When approached by the partner with the idea to upgrade to the RTC, the project came to a halt as customers didn't want to lose functionality.
You can imagine that in 2011, 2012 and 2013 we received a lot of calls from partners asking if we could help solving this problem.
So ... I decided to invest in building the Visual Production Scheduler and found the best possible person to achieve this. Sascha Hermann, who is our CTO today, took this burden and delivered. As such, he laid the fundament for a true success and growth story.
Sascha had previously been involved in the co-development of the Classic Client Production Scheduler and had a rough overview of the production module and, of course, the visualization of the production data. But it was a long way to the finished product and hard work. At the beginning of 2013 a new product was born: the Visual Production Scheduler. One year later, the Visual Jobs Scheduler, and another year later the Visual Service Scheduler followed. And now we are converting all our products to Dynamics 365 Business Central ... and are building even more.
And how did the Visual Scheduling Add-In Developer Toolbox benefit from this long cooperation?
Martin: On the one hand, many ISVs have known us for quite some time. NETRONIC/ VARCHART XGantt/ NAV still is a well-known connection in the community. And many ISVs are currently facing the challenge of migrating their industry solutions to Business Central. They are in the same boat as we are, they are in the same struggle as we are: migrate great IP from NAV to Business Central.
With the toolbox, we're going back to our roots. But in a state-of-the-art way. The toolbox is rather comparable to our Gantt component VARCHART XGantt - it offers a bouquet of visualization possibilities to make a planning board intelligent and functional. ISVs can easily visualize their business logic in the form of a suitable planning board.
After all, every ISV with a planning application knows how valuable a planning board is. Simply put: a picture is worth a thousand words and customers just love it.
PS: To all of you who are not yet ready for a trial - we are so excited about the toolbox that we dedicated a very content-rich website to further discuss its idea and some best practices. Take a deeper dive into visual scheduling for Dynamics 365 Business Central ISV solutions here.
More about "The story behind":