Project Texel inside out: How developers experience working on Business Central

As many of you know by now, this January we started developing Foodware 365 on the Dynamics 365 Business Central platform. And the team behind it is part of Project Texel – an exciting, fun and innovative project. This focus is also new for our colleagues at Schouw Informatisering. Last year, a few of our colleagues were picked from their trusted work environment and started working on Project Texel. What are their experiences working for and within this project? A month ago, Laura & Lisa shared their first experiences working on Project Texel with us. This time around, Annemaria Andries about her first experience in Team Texel.

What is your role in Project Texel?

“I work as a developer. Project Texel is divided into two teams: Team Core and Team Extend. I work in Team Extend. Basically, both teams do the same: building food specific software modules for Foodware 365. The difference is that the modules that have been assigned to Team Core, respond to the functionalities of Dynamics 365 Business Central (BC). Team Extend focuses on the entire 365 platform. In addition to BC, we work with PowerApps, Flow, Azure functions, APIs, etc. In Team Extend I work together with two other developers. The goal is to create the modules together. Usually, one of the developers takes the lead on one specific module. Gradually, as we are figuring things out, it appears that activities of Team Core and Team Extend have some overlap. Meaning it is possible that Team Extend is building a basic solution and Team Core is building a PowerApp for the same issue.”

You are then mainly busy with building module?

“That’s right. Last year, the modules that needed to be built were defined. With tight deadlines that we must adhere to, because our big first release is planned for the end of 2019. Both teams in Project Texel are making a number of modules for this first release.”

Where in the process do you, as a developer, come into play?

"A big part has already been shaped before I come into the picture. First, a lot of brainstorming to pinpoint which modules have to be created to come to a Minimal Viable Solution of Foodware 365. What do food companies, that are going to work with Business Central, really need? Now that we have actually started the process, we start with a rethink phase for every module. Is the functionality we came up with last year still what the market wants? Together with a reference group, that consists of customers and Foodware partners, we check if this is still what they’re expecting. That’s when we arrive at the redesign phase, where we as developers come into play. During this phase I look at the process with a technical eye. Is what we want achievable technically? If that is the case, we will get to work. If not, we redesign in order to come to a solution that is achievable. Of course, considering the requirement that the solution still adheres to the wish that we initially wanted to fulfil with this module. A completely new, very challenging way of working compared to what we were used to.
We also have two validation sessions every week. That’s where we check whether the programmed parts are in line with what we had in mind or if we need to make some adjustments."

Have you encountered many challenges these past few weeks?

"There are new challenges every day! Working with Business Central is new for all of us. I have been working at Schouw for about 13 years now, but this is completely different than what I am used to as a developer. Rewriting Microsoft’s code is no longer an option; now we have to determine, on the basis of Events, where in the code we hook up our code. Doing this, we must bear in mind that we cannot alter the basis of Microsoft, we can only enhance it. Basically, you must re-apply the knowledge that you have gathered the past few years in a new context. The logic is there, but it needs some reinventing. In addition, we also work with automatic test scripts now. This entails that when there is an update or new release from Microsoft, we can easily test whether the functionality of the modules stays intact. Previously, we had to test this by hand. Ideal, and much more efficient!"

Which milestones have you reached already?

"The biggest milestones are reached when we completely finish the modules. The first modules have now been completed, both in Team Core and Team Extend. Due to tight deadlines, this was really hard work right until the last minute. But this sort of work makes you realize that you’ve achieve something together as a team. And this is very important, since these first modules are included in the first internal Alpha 1 release, which is coming up very soon."

What do you see happening in the future?

"I really believe in the Dynamics 365 Business Central story. In the future, everything will move to the Cloud. In fact, it will soon become old-fashioned to want to host everything yourself, even though I understand that, for many, this way of doing things can still feel safer. In time to come, everything will go online. No more expensive purchase prices, but paying per month. With Project Texel, we can perfectly respond to this trend."