Sure, there have been other major changes in older releases such as the NAV 2009 to the three tier architecture, but none have had the potential to be game changers. At first look, NAV 2016 appears to be the coming to fruition of all of the architectural and UI changes that Microsoft has been making over the past several releases.
There are many new features to NAV 2016 that we will be highlighting over the coming days, but today, I'm going to give a quick peek into the Phone Client.
At A Glance
Like the Tablet Client that debuted in NAV 2015 (and carried forward in NAV 2016), the new Phone Client is an HTML 5 based application. While it can be accessed via a web browser, it is best used via one of the native clients that Microsoft has built for iOS, Android and Windows Phone. The native applications are now available in each of the OS's application stores as free downloads. The native applications provide a better experience by making the navigation through the app work in the way each OS navigation normally does, such as hooking up the OS back button to function as expected.
To get started "playing", I spun up an environment in Microsoft Azure comprised of a standalone 4 core 7gb RAM VM with all of the NAV 2016 components installed and utilizing SQL Server 2014 Express - in other words, nothing too exiciting on the hardware side. After a little configuration, creation of SSL certificates (and installation of cert on phone), and installation of the App on my phone I was ready to fire it up. You are first presented a screen to get connected to your server, thankfully you only need to do this once as the url is long and cumbersome to input on a phone. Choosing to use any of the web clients necessitates the use of one of the alternate authentication methods, I went with NAVUserPassword so you are prompted to input your given userid and password.
Once authenticated and logged in, you are presented a "baby" version of your Role Center page. The screen defaults to show the pane in the upper left with all of the other panes accessed via the Main Menu ribbon.
You will find that everything has been nicely designed for touch with most touch targets sized for ease of use. Touching elements on the home pages invokes the same functionality as in the Windows client, but nicely formatted for the phone screen. Additionally, both portrait and landscape orientations are supported, with the interface morphing to best display information based on the orientation. To access other pages/functionality, the UI provides two avenues 1) the "hamburger" menu and 2) the ellipsis button as seen in the screenshot above.
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The "hambuger" menu surfaces the user's profile Navigation Menu, shown here is the "Accounting Manager" profile. All functionality defined for the user's profile is accessible from this screen. One thing to note though, in the Phone Client, you only have access to the navigation pane options defined for the user's profile, it does not surface the "Departments" pane so any functionality a mobile user will need, needs to be included in the profile.
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The Ellipsis Menu surfaces all of the functionality from the user's profile "Actions" tab from the ribbon on the home page, above showing the actions associated with the "Accounting Manager" profile.
Wrap It Up
So after a short while test driving the Phone Client, I can say I am impressed and looking forward to additional functionality being added over time. Or better yet, added by me! A couple of additional things to highlight, you can actually run reports in the client with all of the configuration options as RTC and the ability to save them to PDF, Word or Excel. When the report finishes, it will automatically open the saved document in the appropriate app on your phone. Additionally, the performance, even on my middling setup is quite snappy! You rarely have to wait long for pages to open and data to load; plus Microsoft implemented all lists as "endless" loaders where only 20 or so items are loaded at a time and additional ones loaded as you scroll to the bottom. The Phone Client does have some short comings, some touch targets such as checkboxes are a bit fiddly to hit, and some functionality such as trying to send e-mail confirmations throw errors or refer you to the Tablet or Windows Client to execute. Overall though, I have to give Microsoft two thumbs up for their initial take of the Phone Client.
I'll wrap it up with Microsoft's plug from the NAV Team Blog:
Navigate your business data using a fast and fluid interface which leverages design concepts from modern Windows and Office 365, whilst remaining distinctly Dynamics NAV. Do more on the go with capabilities such as send to Excel or Office 365, up-to-date charts and KPIs, emailing of sales quotes and invoices, and shoot and attach pictures with your camera. Your executives, sales field, service technicians, warehouse workers and many more can now get access to the data they need from the device they prefer. Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2016 comes ready for small businesses with the Small Business role. For midsized businesses seeking custom solutions for various roles, talk to your Partner.