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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

AX 2012 - BI Artifacts & Source Control

I hope everyone is doing well today, and your working on exciting Dynamics AX projects. There is for sure a lot going on within the Ecosystem as a whole. New partner highlights across the board, and interest in Microsoft Dynamics AX has never been Higher!. With that, as you have seen in my past post, I like to talk about value and how value is best derived from investing in AX 2012. With that, one of the hot topics that I see day in, and day out as a well under-served part of the Dynamics Ecosystem is around true Business Intelligence .

Now being that I'm a true solutions architect, one of the focuses around BI, is the management, and processes that help us create such needed artifacts likes cubes, KPI's, AX-SSRS reports, etc. That's what prompted me to write up, for example the post on processing cubes error for standard edt. SQL Server 2012 Analysis Services. Further, you've seen me post about future topics as well, with the BI Semantic Model (BISM) post.

With this post, I wanted to continue my dive into value added topics, around AX 2012 & BI. That brings us to today's topic, around Source Control for BI Artifacts.

When thinking in terms of BI Artifacts that are created, that need version control, we are speaking about: Classes for DataContracts & RDP Framework, Query Elements, VS Report Model Projects, Perspectives, Views & Analysis Services Projects. Thinking in terms of Version Control or better Application Lifecycle Management (ALM), there are some great resources on the web. One for sure you need to book mark, is Joris information on the topic, located here.: DAX Musings: ALF | TFS Resource page.

With that resource in hand, and going back to what we need source control for, lets look at the obvious. Please do note, at this time, the article assumes that you have TFS being used with your AX 2012 instance. To continue, with the obvious, things like Classes, Query Elements, Views and Perspectives, most people are use to understanding how this works. These are added to source control by someone, and then can be checked in and out. This means, that understanding the base BI artifacts, when TFS is used, then it's controlled as such.

What about the other artifacts? For example Perspectives build cubes, and Perspectives are made of views and tables. These then are the basis for the Analysis Services Project which is what builds the cubes for AX 2012. This project can be updated, or configured through the Analysis Services Wizard of Ax 2012. Understanding that, what about this project? Well This project, just like the VS Report Model Projects, or even C# Projects. All of these are controlled with the same rules for Models, Layers and Version Control from the AOT as any other object or element in the AOT.

This is important to keep in mind, when thinking about using Source Control outside of AX 2012, or along side of it. The choice of where the source control is being implemented really, is the focus and point. Meaning, that for anything managed by AX 2012 It's best to allow the AOT / AX to enable source control on any objects it has. Everything else, that truly lives outside of AX, should be managed through Visual Studio.

Well that's all I have time for today, check back soon as more to come including a book review, some spotlight post, more into the real Semantics of BI and what it means for AX 2012, as well as a lot-lot more! Till Next!
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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

AX 2012 - Process Cubes Error: translations in Standard Edition

I hope everyone is having a great week so far. Like I said in a previous post, I love spring, and we got a cool reminder these past two days in the south that it is still spring. 37 Degrees at night is way to cold for my blood, this close to May. With that cool reminder of spring, let me jump right into today's post. You might get this error message: "Only dimension attributes and attribute relationships can have translations in Standard Edition" When you process cubes, after deploying them in AX 2012 on a SQL Server Analysis Services, Standard Edt.

If you happen to get such a message, and need help getting past it, make use of the following steps and you should be back on track for processing those out-of-the-box cubes.

What you see in the above image is the location of the Analysis Services Project. This is what you want to make sure and delete. This is what is used to actually build, or update the cube structures. It houses the Datasource, Dataview, and all cube, dimension, etc. setup and design. This project can be accessed, via highlighting it, after deleting it, and then right click, and left click on edit.

Moving beyond this project however, once you have deleted it, the next step is going to be update the cube designs. You can do this, through the Business Intelligence tools menu option, for the "SQL Server Analysis Services project wizard".

The next screen you should see is the 'select option' form, in which you need to select the Update option. This will take the Analysis Services Project, and use it to build out the cube structures in the Analysis database. Since we want out-of-the-box, then this is the option we want to take.

Now having a success on the verifying screen, we can move on to the confirmation of changes.

This, now will show changes across the board from the project. Seeing this means that all of the elements will be dropped and recreated. This is critical for changing the translations setup. In doing this, you should be able to move on to processing and not have any such issues moving forward.

Now that this is taking care of you should be able to process cubes without such issues. You will run into this, if you are trying to get your out-of-the-box AX 2012 cubes, deployed and then processed on a SQL Server Analysis Service's Standard Edt. Finally, I will leave you with, I have this now running on SQL Server 2012. More on that, and other topics later! Till Next Time!

Update: For those of you who run into any issues with the update choice, you can also go with Deploy. Doing so will take the Analysis Services Project, deploy and process it. This all assumes out-of-the-box, when talking about this issue.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

VSLive - New York & Focus on Metro UX

I wanted to bring together in today's post some great cross conference, and cross technology information - that of course applies directly to Microsoft Dynamics AX! To help set the stage, lets reference back to my coverage and promotion of the VSLive Event in Las Vegas.

Based on the feedback from that event in Vegas, there was some really great sessions that apply directly to Microsoft Dynamics AX. Specifically what I was most interested in, and what Kees Hertogh - Director of Product Development for Microsoft Dynamics AX, recently wrote about: Metro UX and it's impact on the future client of Microsoft Dynamics.

Image Provided By Microsoft

The above image, comes from a recent article that Kees wrote, talking about the efforts the product team is making, in the embrace of Windows 8 OS and the Metro UX. I first starting writing about this in Jan., and had an article that was picked myself by ZDNet here.: Microsoft Dynamics AX - The future Client Win8 / HTML5.

Kees' recent article, points and shows off this in action.: Introducing modern business application with Metro style design. In this article, Kees shows off the investments being made by the product team for making use of the Metro UX. Further, he goes on to ask for input and feedback. What does the community think of this effort, being put forth by the product team? This is where we cross now, into the VSLive conference, and specifically to Brian Randell's session "Building Metro Style Apps - Getting the UX Right.

With this focus, I virtually sat down with Brian and asked him a few questions. These were in reference to the article posted by Kees, as well as his own session and focus around the Metro UX design. The following is the result of that interview.:

1.Brian, if you don't mind can you speak a bit to the type of audience and people that you will be targeting with you session "Building Metro Style Apps Getting the UX Right" and some high-value take away's from someone attending?

"The primary target is developers. From there, it’s really any team member who’s concerned with user experience."

2. With the focus on getting the UX right for Metro Style App design, can you comment on the recent story, from Microsoft's Own Kees Hertogh, Director of Product Development for Microsoft Dynamics AX?

"I think the article provides a great concept that Metro style apps are not just for consumers. You can build great LOB Metro style apps that both consume and create/modify data. If you look at the first screen shot in the article, you’ll see a very “digital dashboard” type UX (to dig up an old term from the late 90’) rich information display in a heads up format. Beyond you still can create an immersive experience that lets you create and change data."

3. With the push of Enterprise Apps to the Metro Style design, can you give a few value points as to what metro brings, for people who are use to traditional style Windows UX, that might not be so obvious but for sure add value and increase productivity?

"A key point is having applications laser focused on the user and the data that’s being presented; remove the chrome and have data center stage. With “big data”, we need to have better ways of visualizing data and Metro is a ripe design language to use for that."

4. In talking in terms of app design, in general, can you speak to some of the things you like best about the Metro UI design approach, compared to traditional Windows UX design?

"I think number one is that I get a clean slate. I’m not beholding to a lot of the traditional UI conventions. I own the screen. I can create an experience the draws my user in and lets them get to the point. One type of application that’s shown popularity in the mobile device space are “data snacking” applications. These applications provide a rich view on a narrow band of data. To something simple but do it very well. I like the built-in metro templates that make it easy to create tiles of information. I can use the tile to summarize and then provide a great drill down to more detailed data. I can do all of this with a touch and a swipe. The templates provide structure for the design challenged. Then once you understand the basic structure, you can dig into layout and color theory, so you can go beyond. The key is that there’s a nice baseline. It does mean that folks need to work with a designer and push the limits however."

I would like to take the time to thank Brian for his feedback on the VSLive session, as well as great information around the Metro UX design - and specifically being able to tie this back directly to Microsoft Dynamics AX. I think a critical point here that Brian makes, and that it seems the AX product team is getting right from the start, is a focus on "have data center stage". This is critical for the success of Metro style apps, and specifically applies without a doubt to Microsoft Dynamics AX. Register for Visual Studio Live in New York and save $300 off the standard Best Value Package rate when you use code VSNYTU: http://bit.ly/VSNYiDB

Well that's all for this post, I hope everyone has a great Dynamics day! Make sure to sign up for VSLive event, if you can, and check back soon as more to come. Till Next time!
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Monday, April 16, 2012

New Workflow Types with Feature Pack Release for AX 2012

Well I hope everyone has had a great weekend, your fully rested and ready to have a productive Dynamics week! Recently I wrote about how the feature pack for AX 2012 should be adopted now for all projects. In that post, I highlighted some of the reasons this is critical, including being a stepping stone to AX 2012 R2 set to be released in H1 2013. With that being stated, I wanted to dig deeper into some valid reasons, from a business impact and value add of such a move - beyond what has already been pointed out.

To this end, I wanted to point to the new workflow types that have been added as part of this feature pack release for Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012. There are five new workflow types that are part of this feature pack release, that cover three area's: Advanced Ledger Entry, Project III & Public Sector.

The following is a list of those new workflow types.:
  • AdvancedLedgerEntryTemplate - "Use this type to create approval workflows for advance ledger entries" [Configuration Key: AdvancedLedgerEntry ]
  • PSAProjInvoiceProposal - "Workflow for handling invoice proposals" [Configuration Key: Project3 ]
  • PSAProjQuotationTemplate - "Project quotation workflow template" [Configuration Key: Project3 ]
  • PurchAgreementType - "Use this type to create approval workflows for purchase agreements" [Configuration Key: PublicSector ]
  • PurchCommitmentTemplate_PSN - "Use this template to create approval workflows for commitment documents" [Configuration Key: PublicSector ]

As you can see Microsoft is for sure committed to the idea that Workflows should be used to modeling business processes. Further you can see past coverage of this topic, that I wrote about, in the past for creating custom workflows here.: Modeling Business Processes with AX 2012 and Workflow - Part III - Enabling Custom Workflows

It is critical that when thinking in terms of implementing AX 2012, and designing the customers usage - to get the most derived value from such an investments, workflow usage and design has to be a top priority. This great feature of AX 2012 will only continue to evolve and truly enable domain specific modeling & language for companies and the verticals they live and work in.

Well that's all for now, check back soon however as there is a lot more coming, including my postmortem on my AXUG BI webinar I'm putting on next Friday. Beyond that, there is a lot of great coverage in general from the entire Ecosystem, which is wonderful to see. Till Next Time!
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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

AX 2012 - Query Elements, a reusable API

I hope everyone is doing well, as we launch full on into our Dynamics Spring! I love it when the time changes here in America, and we are able to enjoy longer hours in the sun. I'm a spring-summer-fall guy, which really means I love being out in the sun. With that said, I wanted to talk with you today, about Query Element Objects, within the AOT for Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012.

Query node objects, in AX 2012 has received some major overhauls, with giving us the ability to now offer having use, for example, and more complex outer joins, as well as non-exist joins. These kinds of improvements, along with others helps lend themselves to the use of Query Elements from the AOT for a multiple use scenario's. This is where the concept of the Query Element, being slated as a reusable API comes into play. Before we continue forward with that concept, there are some really nice resources from MSDN on this topic I think it's important to share. Mostly, how to create and make use of query elements.: How to: Create Queries by Using the AOT [AX 2012].

With that noted, lets take a look at where all queries are used within AX 2012 and see for ourselves what makes a query element, truly a reusable API. First up, we have the obvious, in which I've talked to in the past on this blog. Specifically I'm making reference to using a query element as the source of a dataset for modeled approach to an AX-SSRS report.

In talking in terms of reporting & BI, having the query as the basis for a reports dataset is the desired, "modeled solution" for report design. In this, as I point out in the past post, the query is the source for the data of the report, and the control of the report is the ranges that one setups from the query.

Moving right along with this concept, we also have seen - in past articles, where query objects can be used as the source of OData feeds for PowerPivot based reports.

In this, we can create a query element in the AOT, that we reference and make use of from the Document Data Sources form that we find under Document Management for an instance of AX 2012. In doing this, we are then able to enable, and publish this query as an OData feed, through the out-of-the-box ODataQueryService. Doing this, we are able to apply and make use of security from within the context of AX, yet offer the flexibility and power, that a tool like Microsoft PowerPivot brings to users and it's nature for creating ad-hoc reports. I've seen in the past, partners training users, even on AX 2012 - to create views that go directly to the database. There is no reason for this, and you should never do such. Instead, make the correct choice with the use of query elements and consume those as your OData feeds for PowerPivot needs.

As we continue to move on with this discover process of what really makes a query element a reusable API, lets look at something else we have talked to in the past on this blog. That is the creation and use of Document Services for AX 2012.

As shown in the above image, referenced from the above post, the use of a query as the basis and start of a document service is critical to understand. There are some key point specific's around certain settings for query elements that are used as the basis for document services, however it does start with the design or use of a query element from within the AOT. The image above is showing the context menu, when you right click on a query element, and what kicks off the AIF Document Service Wizard

The above are just a few examples, in which we can easily speak to and say that query elements truly are a reusable API for AX 2012. Some other area's include: Workflow design, Basis for an RDP class (ie: CustAgingReport), View datasources that themselves are sources for perspectives and cubes, modeling security with XDS, ListPage designs, Cue's, and more!

With the power of Query elements in AX 2012, when you start to look at what all they are the basis of, you should really ask yourself when doing in design work - Can a Query Element be used here? If so, does one already exist, or should I create a new query element? How can it be used throughout my instance of AX 2012? It's a true statement, in that Query Elements are reusable API's for AX 2012, and understanding there value, use cases, and design aspects will help you get the most out of your AX 2012 investment.

That's all for this post, I hope you have a great productive wed, and check back soon as more to come! Till Next Time!
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Friday, April 06, 2012

AX 2012 - Procurement Catalogs Explained

Well I hope everyone is having a great Friday! Man what a week for Microsoft Dynamics news, with so much great coverage from around the community. There is so much interest in Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012, and you can just feel the momentum that started at Convergence keep surging through the Ecosystem.

Today I wanted to focus in on some great features around the Enterprise Portal in AX 2012, and specifically around Employee Procurement. Microsoft really has listened to the client base in this area, and has shown that AX 2012 is truly powerful platform. One pain point for a lot of companies has revolved around the procurement process for employee's. With the release of AX 2012, and further the improvements from the Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 Feature Pack the ability for companies to have multiple types of procurement catalog's helps to ease this area from a pain point, to a value add.

There are three different types of Procurement catalog's that can be created, for a Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 instance. Those include: Procurement catalogs, Vendor catalogs & External catalogs.

You can have multiple of these types of catalog's, and can enable them by legal entity. This means that you can shape the catalog ordering experience by legal entity and role even. Take this further, a Procurement Catalog is made up of internal products, with specific formatting, images, descriptions, and a hierarchy.

Next option, is around the Vendor Catalogs, which can be setup through an import & mapping process. Further, you can create rules for automated approval's of new products, release options and what legal entities that the specific imported vendor catalog's are enabled for. Finally, you can - as would be expected - setup vendor catalog import parameters for root folder, upload size as well as files to process.

Our third and final option for procurement catalog management, is External catalogs. This has some really neat feature offers, but there is also a bit of technical understanding, and working with your external vendors for getting this setup.

You will notice, in looking at the demo data version of this setup, for the "Zones-Test Catalog" that there are several things that need to be understood when enabling this. First the site settings, in what can of call method, content type and return URL Key. Further there are session specific properties, as well as destination, return URL options & Shopping Protocol.

On the topic of the Shopping Protocol, you will notice that the listed method for the demo is OCI_HTML. This represents a sample class by the name of Sample_Code_CatMessageFormatterOCI40HTML. This class enables the implementation of the OCI 4.0, or Open Catalog Interface, which you can find out more about from the following resource link.: Wikipedia - Open Catalog Interface

You can find out more details about the setup and overview of the external vendor catalogs, from the following resource on MSDN: External vendor catalogs overview [AX 2012]

From the resource page.:
"If you rely on your vendors to host procurement catalog data for you, you can configure access to the vendor’s external catalog site in Microsoft Dynamics AX so that users can access the vendor’s external catalog directly. You receive the remote access settings from your vendor, and then set up the required configurations in Microsoft Dynamics AX using the Maintain details for an external catalog form."

With all of these great options for Procurement Catalogs, the pain points of employee procurement that existed in the past are now value add solutions out-of-the-box. This mixed, with a host of great features around request for new items, vendors, and enabling workflow's to control all of these processes truly make the tag line Powerfully Simple a reality.

Well that's all for this week, I hope everyone has a blessed & wonderful Easter weekend! Make sure to check back soon as there is a whole lot more to come. Till Next Time!
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