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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Spotlight: RF-SMART simplifies Warehouse Operations for Microsoft Dynamics AX Customers

Today, I wanted to take the time and give a spotlight to a sponsor of this blog. Who exactly am I talking about? RF-SMART - the company that simplifies warehouse operations for Microsoft Dynamics AX Customers.

I sat down, virtually with Stephen Morgan, Vice President of Global Sales and North American Partner Manager for ICS, Inc – Developers of RF-SMART offering for Microsoft Dynamics ERP. I wanted to pick Stephen’s brain a bit, and get his thoughts on specific topics of what exactly is the value message; RF-SMART brings to AX customers. The following is the result of that interview.

Stephen Morgan
VP of Global Sales

Stephen, being the VP of Global Sales, can you give us some insight into the value that you see RF-SMART bring to AX 2012 customers?

"RF-SMART’s dashboards for Dynamics AX 2012 unchain the manager from his desk, allowing him to address additional warehouse needs. Our Picking Activity Dashboard, for example, organizes and displays picking progress on the shop floor, where an average of 60% - 70% of a warehouse’s manpower is focused.

In addition to extending and simplifying AX for the worker on the warehouse floor, RF-SMART adds functionality to AX with our Advanced Logistics workflows. For example, RF-SMART’s Container Management workflow grants visibility into the contents of your containers and allows for the real-time creation of container reports. Carton packing and shipping and cross docking are also among our Advanced Logistics capabilities.

RF-SMART provides its customers with the intangible value of peace of mind! With nearly 200 customers in over 30 countries, we are accustomed to delivering our solutions to customers with single sites, all the way to multiple sites across the globe."

Stephen, what are your thoughts on the AX 2012 market, and what do you see the future holding for it as a product - and how RF-SMART will continue to add value?

"In reference to added value, we would of course want to reference back to our Advanced Logistics for AX 2012. Additionally the 2012 solution is written using HTML 5, making RF-SMART available on iPad, iPhone, iTouch, Windows Mobile, Windows CE, Android and more.

Microsoft Dynamics AX has been a proven and trusted ERP for many years. It meets the needs of its customers and keeps in step with the ever changing demands of the market. RF-SMART works closely with Microsoft to align our focuses and ensure a highly compatible product. Dynamics AX and RF-SMART are a perfect partnership for manufacturers, retailers and distributors who need one source of truth, inventory accuracy and real-time visibility into their products."

Give us a real world example, of where RF-SMART has been brought into an AX 2012 project and save time, reduced cost, and that shows off the value points you mentioned earlier.

"The value of RF-SMART’s automated data collection solution is evident as RF-SMART has recently welcomed their 25th MS Dynamics AX 2012 customer. One such delighted customer is a specialized retailer of close to 100 stores. RF-SMART combined with AX has extended the real-time visibility of actual inventory levels all the way to the storefront. In addition, store-to-store transfers, PO receiving, cycle counting and more can be done at both the distribution center and storefront with a single solution – and both update AX in real-time!

Other AX 2012 customers include manufacturers, distributors and food and beverage companies that are finding RF-SMART to be instrumental in achieving inventory and shipping accuracy, on-time delivery, increase productivity and reduced labor costs."

Stephen, if you could point out one or two things that you think is really a game changer with the RF-SMART for Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 product, what would those be?

"RF-SMART offers enhanced Advanced Logistics for AX 2012, such as container management, cross-docking and more. Our new manager dashboards facilitate even greater productivity, freeing the manager from the confines of his office.

Because we leverage HTML 5, RF-SMART tools are made available on virtually any device.

RF-SMART has made it a high priority to be a company that is easy to do business with, not only nationwide, but globally as well. Thanks to RF-SMART’s user-friendly workflow studio, customers around the world can make changes to RF-SMART fields without needing to contact support. Our over 1,500 pages of documentation prove that RF-SMART is focused on being the best in our field and on enhancing our solution to meet our customer’s growing needs."

"RF-SMART is the #1 automated data collection (ADC) solution for Microsoft Dynamics AX. With more than 70 workflows, RF-SMART supports Dynamics AX transactions and also provides advanced functionality to help companies achieve measurable increases in data accuracy and operational efficiency. Learn more at http://ax.rfsmart.com or visit our blog at http://dynamicsax.rfsmart.com/blog/"

You can follow RF-SMART at the following social channels.:

I would like to thank both Stephen and the people behind RF-SMART for taking the time and sharing with all of us. Having seen RF-SMART in action over the years, I can speak to the value it brings to the Microsoft Dynamics Ecosystem. That the whole point of looking at such a solution, to derive the most value out of a customer’s Microsoft Dynamics AX investment. If you have manual warehouse operations, paper-based workloads, and a need for automation – find out how RF-SMART can help you at: http://ax.rfsmart.com

That’s all for this post. Check back soon as more to come including a continued focus on creating a system of engagement with AX 2012, and how this is practically achieved. Till Next Time!
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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

How to Configure SharePoint 2010 for Microsoft Management Reporter 2012

I hope everyone is doing well today. I wanted to take the time, and point out a very specific walk through, that I believe has not gotten a lot of coverage yet. With a focus around reporting & BI for AX 2012, as well as EP Development that we have had - what a great time to talk about how to Configure SharePoint 2010 for Microsoft Management Reporter 2012

The above link does require ParterSource or CustomerSource Access. Further, if you have access, the following is also a direct link to the word document that is referenced in the above resource page.: How to Configure SharePoint 2010 for Microsoft Management Reporter 2012 - Download

If followed correctly, and I mean to the "T", then you can enable - truly - the publishing of Management Reporter - Report artifacts - to your SharePoint instance. This helps further complete the Financial Reporting piece of the story we are focusing on, in our target to use Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 to create a system of engagement.

That's all for now, for this quick highlight but check back soon as so much more to come! Till Next Time!
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Friday, June 15, 2012

Highlight of MSDW Spring Decisions 2012

I hope everyone has had a great week so far! I wanted to close the week out with a look towards MSDW Spring Decisions 2012 kicking off next week. As you can see from the dates above, it all kicks off with AX Day June 18th – next Monday.

This conference is great because of all the wonderful speakers, content, networking – and it’s virtual! You can drop in for specific sessions, hang out in the different lounges during your lunch, and get informed about topics that matter to you – and your Microsoft Dynamics Investment.

Being that I’m mostly focused around Microsoft Dynamics AX, my highlight is more concerned about the sessions and information related to AX 2012. Robert Boone, a peer of mine, is putting on a session that covers a topic I spend a lot of time on myself. His session, “Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012, SQL Server 2012, ad how BI fits into your ERP implementation” ties directly to what I’ve been writing about, as well as recently talked at from a higher level in Creating a System of Engagement with Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012.

Some highlights from Robert’s session.:
SQL Server 2012 has major new features for BI and Microsoft is heavily promoting the idea of self-service BI. There have been announcements of AX BI enhancements coming in R2 of AX 2012. In this session we'll explore some of the things that teams implementing AX need to consider now, including:

• A brief overview of new SQL 2012 BI features
• BI options and how these relate to an ERP project
• Who wants self-service BI?
• Individual, Team, and Corporate BI
• Unique AX features that shouldn't be overlooked when considering BI solutions

I recommend this session, for anyone that agrees with me, Business Intelligence is a high value add for Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012. Further, thinking in terms of the BI Semantic Model for Microsoft, and how to apply that today, and with the upcoming release of AX 2012 R2 is critical for deriving the most value for a customer, and truly creating a System of Engagement with AX 2012.

You can join the conversation about MSDW Spring Decisions 2012, now with following and using the twitter hash tag: #MSDWDecisions

Well that’s all for this post, and this week! Check back soon, as I have a whole host of post coming out including product highlights, continued dive into EP, as well as taking forward the conversation around Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 as a System of Engagement vs. just a System of Record. Till Next Time!
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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

AX 2012 - New High Avalability Options with SQL Server 2012

With the release of Microsoft SQL Server 2012, came a lot of great new features. Microsoft really listened to its client base, on many fronts for this major version refresh. Now that SQL Server 2012 is here, and we are a few months beyond it's release-to-manufacturing, its time we talk about all the great features it brings to Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 today!.

One of the topics that I think deserves a lot of focus, is the new AlwaysOn technology for SQL Server 2012. You can find out more general information about this topic from MSDN, from the following resource pages.:

Having an understanding of the purpose for this new technology, lets look at how this can be used to benefit those customers who have decided to use Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012.

The focus for value, in what AlwaysOn for SQL Server 2012, brings to AX 2012 is around High Avalability. In the past, customers when wanting to speak in terms of High Availability, typically focused around active / passive SQL Cluster.

This is still a valid solution, even with SQL Server 2012. However, now it's not the only option, thanks to AlwaysOn technology with SQL Server 2012. This brings us new options around the concept and setup of Database Availability groups.

Now we can have two SQL Server 2012 instances, helping us run, both active, the total solution for a Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 customer. This means, instead of having a full powerhouse server, just waiting for it's active cousin to crash - both can be used, and each being the target of AlwaysOn failover for specific database.

As the above image suggest, part of the design is deciding which databases will reside on which production SQL Server instance. Both having be the target of AlwaysOn fail overs for each other's availability groups. This is a high value point in terms of SQL Server usage, and something that Microsoft really did right with this release. This means that, as the example shows, Microsoft Dynamics AX Databases can be loaded on one target production instance of SQL Server 2012, while the rest of the production databases can be loaded on another. Both being equal boxes, per resources, and both having each other as their target fail over.

Having this now as a design option for a customer's total solution, means taking full advantage - and deriving the most value - from having chose Microsoft Dynamics AX and the Microsoft stack it resides on.

That's all for today's post, I will do a follow up post to this one, shortly, speaking to the exact experience for having this concept in action. I will end with there is so much going on in the Ecosystem right now, including the upcoming Spring Decisions 2012. I will be attending, are you? Till Next Time!

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Monday, June 11, 2012

AX 2012 - EP Warranty Management - AOT, Package & Deploy

I hope everyone is off to a great start. I wanted to continue our series today, on Enterprise Portal Design & Development, with the functional scope of Warranty Management. So far, we have had two post that has really started this EP dive. First, we focused around creating a new page on our EP instance for warranty management. From there, we were able to move forward, and add the warranty page to the navigation of our EP instance.

So far we have focused our efforts on specific task around SharePoint for page management, as well as task within the AOT for adding our Warranty Page to the Home Web Module, as a sub-Web module. This had both SharePoint and AOT specific task to complete. It's important to understand as we press forward with the focus around our EP journey that management of different aspects happen either within SharePoint or the AOT. What's also important, is that we always try to do whatever we can within AOT. This allows for correct placement of things like business logic, and further allows for us to focus on management and deployment of such created artifacts.

With that in mind, the first part of today's post will focus on adding our EP page, to the AOT itself. The biggest reason for doing such a task, is to enable promotion, version control and deployment options of EP custom artifacts from Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012.

I always like to point out existing resources that help us build upon a topic of focus, and this specific one is not different. We have, on MSDN a nice walk through of adding custom pages for EP to the AOT. How to: Import Pages into the AOT [AX 2012].

From the article.:
"If a page in Enterprise Portal will be packaged and distributed to other Enterprise Portal installations, a copy of the page definition must be imported from SharePoint into the AOT. From the AOT, the page can be packaged for distribution to other Enterprise Portal installations."

As the above states, and why we care to focus on this point, in order to package and deploy a custom page from one instance of AX 2012 to another, we need to have the page's definition living as a part of the AOT. This is a paint point that existed before with EP, and now with AX 2012 - packaging and deployment of EP pages has become easier. Lets now take the time, and do a walk through for adding our custom idbWarrantyManagement page definition into the AOT.

This is a very straight forward task, and it builds upon having successfully tied a URL Web Menu Item, to our custom page. Having done this, we simply need to highlight our URL Web Menu item, right click and then left click on import page.

Having done this, we should now see our page living under the AOT / Web / Web Files / Page Definitions. Keeping with best practice's for Microsoft Dynamics AX we need to make sure and create a new project group, and place our page definition within our idb project, as shown below.

From this point, we are now able to promote the page, along with any other scope we create for our Warranty Management Enterprise Portal Solution. This allows for ease of deployment, to help close our this post we have another MSDN walk through.: How to: Deploy Pages from the AOT [AX 2012]

To finish this then, once we moved our project, via Model File, Model Store or XPO - to a target instance of AX 2012, we can simply highlight the page definition, right click and left click on deploy. It will use the web site information we have setup for Enterprise Portal, contained within the System Administration module.

That's all I wanted to cover on this part of the Enterprise Portal post. We will continue with this series, as we move forward and add tables, classes, and web forms in a View-Edit design pattern choice. This will be to manage our Warranty Management master & reference data. I hope everyone has a great and productive week. Check back soon as more to come! Till Next Time!
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Thursday, June 07, 2012

Free ebook: Introducing Windows Server 2012

I hope everyone is doing well today! I wanted to highlight a recently released, free eBook from Microsoft Press. A Direct link to download the eBook can be found here.: Microsoft Press- Free ebook: Introducing Windows Server 2012.

Like I stated in my big fat book review post, this time of year brings a lot of reading and studying. If I'm honest, you never really stop reading or studying, but we are in a release cycle of technology for Microsoft that is causing such a statement to really be true. With that in mind, I've started reading the above mentioned free eBook that gives a great introduction for Windows Server 2012. From the blog.:

"Chapter 1 The business need for Windows Server 2012
The rationale behind cloud computing Making the transition
Technical requirements for successful cloud computing
Four ways Windows Server 2012 delivers value for cloud computing Foundation for building your private cloud

Chapter 2 Foundation for building your private cloud
A complete virtualization platform
Increase scalability and performance Business continuity for virtualized workloads

Chapter 3 Highly available, easy-to-manage multi-server platform
Continuous availability
Cost efficiency
Management efficiency

Chapter 4 Deploy web applications on premises and in the cloud
Scalable and elastic web platform
Support for open standards

Chapter 5 Enabling the modern workstyle
Access virtually anywhere, from any device
Full Windows experience
Enhanced security and compliance"

This is a very important topic to understand, for a lot of different reason's that are highlighted in the above chapter notes. Windows Server 2012 will be a foundation piece or layer, that true Hybrid Clouds will be enabled via. Further, Microsoft is focused on HTML5 and hence the nod to "Support for open stanards" (See page's 185 & 199)

What is the impact of this for Microsoft Dynamics AX? As we continue to push forward into a true Hybrid world, and details around 'AX 7' come into light, we will see the technology in Windows Server 2012, leveraged that will truly allow for elastic scalablity, and in my "crystal ball" - workload specific scaling for Microsoft Dynamics AX Processes. I've not focused much on the cloud, as of late - however with technologies like Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012, SQL Server 2012 and now Windows Server 2012 - the cloud will continue to be ever present in the minds of Architects & developers for AX, and will be expected as an "Always On" utility.

That's all for this highlight, I do think it's very relevant for the Microsoft Dynamics Community at large. Further, check back tomorrow as I continue my series of post on Microsoft Dynamics AX ERP Design & Development. Till Next Time!
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