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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

AXUG - From A Nice-Have To Must-Have: Social Media For Microsoft Dynamics Community Members

I wanted to take the time and highlight a specific AXUG Webinar event taking place next week. AXUG From A Nice-Have To Must-Have: Social Media For Microsoft Dynamics Community Members.

This event is being headlined by none other than Dynamics Social Media King, Jon Rivers! You can connect with Jon Rivers, via the following ways:
LinkedIn: Jon Rivers Profile
Twitter: @Jon_Rivers
Blog: Datamson's blog

From the event details:
"Don’t miss out and join this session to learn from a known expert in the Dynamics social space. Jon Rivers of Data Masons Software will share his insight into social media trends and explain why his company made the decision to integrate social media as a major part of their business strategy. Jon will discuss how Dynamics community members can leverage social media to network 24/7/365, gain knowledge from other professionals and stay in-the-know on Microsoft's latest announcements and initiatives."

I recommend anyone wanting to leverage Jon's social media expertise sign up for the event. It's perfect timing as well, just before Convergence 2012!

That' all for now, Till Next Time!

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SQL Server 2012 - SSAS Tabular Modeling

In my last post about SQL Server 2012 & the Future of BI with Dynamics AX, I mentioned that we would start with the introduction of concepts and continue to dive deeper. With that in mind, lets dive a little further into Tabular Modeling with SQL Server 2012 - SQL Server Analysis Services.

I have referenced several times, the above image, and what it shows is the current AX 2012 Analysis Services Architecture and how OLAP Cubes are consumed and made use of within an AX instance.

It's very important to understand how the out-of-the-box AX 2012 OLAP Cubes are created, and consumed, to help understand how the new offerings coming with SQL Server 2012 might be enabled by Microsoft. Keep in mind the current target for the use of SQL Server 2012 with Dynamics AX is 2013 with the release of Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 RC2.

The purpose of the following post, was to point out how BI Analytics for AX 2012 currently works and can be used: AX 2012 - Diving into BI Analytics

With this understanding, we can move forward with looking at what's going to be new for SQL Server 2012, specifically relating to Analysis Services - Tabular Modeling. To help us understand these concepts a little better, we have a few resources already out there. First off, lets get connected to the Microsoft Published resources for this topic.

The current resource we have from Microsoft, which we can use with the download of SQL Server 2012 RC0, is the following: Tabular Modeling (Adventure Works Tutorial).

From the Tutorial:
"To better support the data analysis needs of sales and marketing teams and of senior management, you are tasked with creating a tabular model for users to analyze internet sales data in the AdventureWorksDWDenali sample database."

Taking this, there are a good bit of key concepts that you can start to understand for the use of Tabular Modeling, with a realistic scenario. The big picture parts that should have special attention applied during this exercise is around the parts that make up a Tabular Modeling Project.

Applying this understanding of SQL Server 2012 Tabular Modeling Projects, along with how OLAP Cubes are created and consumed in AX 2012 today, we can piece together how Microsoft might take advantage of this technology with Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 RC2. Further we also can get a glimpse into PowerPivotV2 which plays a critical part in the consumption of Tabular Models from SQL Server 2012.

Finally, I will point out on this topic a book that was recommend to me, and one that I personally ordered yesterday: Applied Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Analysis Services: Tabular Modeling

The Author of this book, Teo Lachev, by far, has the most exposure and expertise on this topic right now that I can find. I expect this book to get high ratings for myself personally once I'm done with it.

Well that's all for this post, but continue to check back as we look into the future of BI with Dynamics AX, along with many, many other topics. Till Next Time!

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Monday, February 27, 2012

SQL Server 2012 & the Future of BI with Dynamics AX

Recently I wrote about diving into analytics with Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012. In that post, I pointed to the aspect of driving value for AX customers by getting the most out of their investment. As I pointed out, all to often BI is overlooked with an AX project, specifically what can be done out-of-the-box.

Well to continue down this path of focusing around Business Intelligence for Microsoft Dynamics AX, I feel it's very important to understand what is coming for us all in SQL Server 2012, in regards to the topic of BI.

First off, we have to point to the great new tool that has been shown off a decent amount, even at recent Microsoft conferences starting last year. I'm speaking to what was known as project crescent which is now known as Microsoft Power View.

Power View, is tagged with being able to offer "Highly Interactive Data Visualizations" that empower users, along with PowerPivot, to create self-service BI artifacts, and discovery critical data for making informed business decisions.

The ability that these two combined reporting tools bring, to power users, will offer a new level of self service BI, that has never before been possible within the Microsoft Stack itself. I recommend to help better understand what Microsoft is doing from an overall BI concept with SQL Server 2012, that you go and download the following whitepaper: SQL Server 2012: Managed Self-Service Business Intelligence

Highlights from the Whitepaper:
"Managed self-service business intelligence from Microsoft delivers breakthrough insights to organizations by empowering users of all levels to:
  • Access and integrate data from virtually any source.

  • Create compelling reports and analytical applications.

  • Visualize and interact with data in bold news ways.

  • Easily collaborate and share insights using familiar tools in Microsoft® Excel® and Microsoft SharePoint®.

These reporting tools, will be natively supported with Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 when RC2 for AX 2012 is released in 2013. Getting prepared for this great new offering, and being able to take advantage of it for new and existing customers, means studying and prepping now.

To help do this, Microsoft is has RC0 for SQL Server 2012, in which you can download here.: Download Microsoft SQL Server 2012 RC0. This will be the first step in discovering all the great new BI capabilities that Microsoft's next major version of SQL Server brings to the game.

For this post, I will end on that download, however this is just barely scratching the surface of what we will cover, specifically related to SQL Server 2012 and it's new BI capabilities. Since Self-Service BI is a dream that most companies still battle with even trying to piece together I wanted to start the introduction from that level. As I progress this series, we will move deeper into the core of SQL Server 2012, and how it's new BI capabilities can be used, to drive value for your AX investment.

That's all for now, but check back soon as a whole lot more to come! Till Next Time!

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Friday, February 24, 2012

Community Article: Project Success: From the As Is, To Be and on to deployment

I hope everyone is having a great Friday! I know it's been a crazy week, and frankly I can't believe that it's already over. I wanted to write this Friday on my monthly column for the Microsoft Dynamics Community Site. The focus for this month for that column, is around Project Success.

You can find a direct link to the article here.: Project Success: From the As Is, To Be and on to deployment

From the article:
"What we must understand, from a higher level, still needs to be clear at this point. This is being able to map correctly, with the customer their 'As-Is' story, to help set where they are and how they achieve their current process. Moving from that Analysis / Discovery set of processes, the next step from a business process modeling point of view, is creating the 'To-Be' story. This 'To-Be' story should align with higher level value points, that the customer lays out, from the single question, of: 'What exactly are you trying to do?'"

I believe, as I stated in my article, this is a worthy topic, and one that I plan on bringing a host of Dynamics Community professionals, for helping shape and talk to the points around project success.

I hope your enjoy the read, and as always please send along your thoughts, information, feedback and even stories that you feel might could help in the telling of such a story as Project Success. If you do, and wish it, you will receive credit of course, and so make sure to include your information, LinkedIn, etc.

That's all for this week, may you all have a great and blessed weekend! Till Next Time!

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

AX 2012 - Report Layout and Style Templates

In a recent post, I talked about AX 2012 and Diving into BI Analytics as a starting point back into a series of post around The BI Story for AX 2012. The point of this series of post, is to drive understanding of the BI options in Dynamics AX, and therefore driving value around making the most use out of your investment.

To help continue this series, I will start to dive into more and more specifics around AX 2012 & BI, specifically around creating BI artifacts with the out-of-the-box tools.

To that end, recently I was working with a long time client, and one of the things that was brought up was the use of Report Templates, in reference to how these could be used in Microsoft Dynamics AX MorphX reports in the past.

Just to be clear on this point, you have the ability to have Layout Templates as well as Style Templates. As I've done in the past with such articles, I would like to start this deeper dive, with referencing what Microsoft has provided for us on MDSN. As I've also stated in the past, Microsoft has been doing a great job with the release of AX 2012 around documentation and this topic is covered with some nice resources.

The following is that resource list:

Now with these resources in hand, we have the ability to start making use of layout & style templates, understand the value, and create our very own if so desired.

To a point of use for these, for example, say in an Auto Design scenario you would like to have the Company Name, Page information, etc on the header of your auto design reports. This was very common need with MorphX reports. Well in order to do this, you could follow the how to on applying Layout & Style templates, and use that to apply the ReportLayoutStyleTemplate which has said information as part of the header.

Further, you can create your own custom layout and style templates that might contain specific design elements, or parts of Header information that help create a specific an uniformed rendering of reports that can go very far with the user base.

The point to be taking, is it's still possible to achieve this same need as it was in AX MorphX reports, with the new reporting model of AX SSRS.

With that, I will end this post and thought process for now. I hope that as we continue down this path, you will see more and more the flexibility and depth of Reporting and BI artifact creation that exists out-of-the-box for AX 2012. Till Next Time!

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Monday, February 20, 2012

The Power of the Dynamics Community

I wanted to kick off this weeks series of post, with a focus around the Microsoft Dynamics Community and the power and value it brings. We have a really awesome example of how all of us involved in the community, work together to drive value that helps us all.

Recently I took a lead, from Palle Agermark with his post that focused on the new ability in AX 2012 X++, in which certain keywords, while coding, can have code snippets added. In that highlight post, in which I exposed the xppSource class and it's use, I built upon what Palle had started in his post.

This, then having a specific topic, had two bloggers and active Dynamics Community members in helping give a combined value that the two articles, by themselves, could not achieve. Well taking this a step further, fellow peer and blogger Joris de Gruyter continued to add to the value of this topic by diving deeper into a great example of using code snippets: Code Snippets in AX 2012

Joris gives us a great example, in his further dive into this topic, with adding real value in creating your own code templates that can speed up your development needs an process. He further, correctly explains, that the concept is not new to AX, but the use of xppSource for enabling this is.

I just thought this was a perfect time to point out, that working together in the Dynamics Ecosystem like this, building upon each others knowledge is what sets us apart from other communities. Being able to work towards a common goal and helping the general Dynamics users, be that Partner or Customer, is just really awesome. Many thanks for Palle and Joris in helping show of we all add, and can work together to build out this Dynamics community that belongs to each of us.

That's all for this post, but check back soon as I have a lot of post ready to be released, covering Conv12, BI, AX 2012 Upgrades and of course looking towards that bright Dynamics future! Till next time!

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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

AX 2012 - Leveraging EDI Technology to Eliminate Unnecessary Platform Customizations

Here we are coming up on Convergence 2012, nearly a year since Steve Ballmer and Kiril Tatarinov delivered the message loud and clear that Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 is the ERP for everyone with its commitment to "simplicity". From installation through deployment, implementation, customization, user experience, and upgrade, this release’s design bares the mark of simplicity. And with Microsoft’s theme of power, agility and simplicity around this release, doesn’t it make perfect sense that Microsoft’s ISV partners follow suit?

When considering an upgrade to Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012, it’s best practice to work with your VAR and ISVs to analyze all customizations and create a precise plan to manage your code and data upgrades. It’s a given that some customizations will still be required in AX 2012, but when it comes to accommodating EDI, you can forget about customizations – it’s that simple. Customizations to handle EDI requirements are an unnecessary hassle and without them you can avoid EDI roadblocks that can potentially disrupt your business and delay your AX 2012 upgrade project.
While evaluating the code customizations currently required to accommodate your EDI mandates, it’s important to understand the three most frequent approaches to integrating EDI with Microsoft Dynamics AX:

  • Customization – the client / partner has decided to develop a one-off, non-commercial solution using a tool such as BizTalk or Gentran with custom ERP code;

  • Commercial solution within Microsoft Dynamics – (i.e. built inside Dynamics via customization by an Independent Software Vendor) – EDI solution is built within inside Microsoft Dynamics AX;

  • ISV built outside Microsoft Dynamics – solution is built outside of Microsoft Dynamics but augments the native functionality and integration framework of the Dynamics AX platform.

The first approach has its challenges: understanding how to construct the solution to meet the challenges of an unpredictable environment; how you’ll cope with future service packs or even upgrades beyond AX 2012; who writes and manages the customization when trading partners change their requirements; and where is all the EDI information held that is passed back and forth, even if that information is not needed for internal requirements?

The second option – using a commercial ISV solution that is fully-built inside Microsoft Dynamics – can also run into challenges: how do you and the ISV manage patches, service packs, external mandates and AX version upgrades; how do they coexist with other solutions or customizations that are vital to your business?
Neither option provides a simple approach. By using a well architected solution that tightly integrates EDI without customization – you don’t have to worry about unpredictable costs in development and updating from one Microsoft Dynamics AX version to another. But beware – many companies claim integration without customization but very few actually deliver.

An EDI solution that seamlessly integrates with Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012, offers a non-embedded design and has XML data storage within SQL will deliver integration without customization, keeping EDI simple. As a result, organizations can be EDI-ready with AX 2012 in a matter of days, not weeks or months, with the ability to implement virtually any new compliance initiative without the need for costly AX customizations.

You can also check out a 3-minute demo video of their Vantage Point EDI solution.:

Microsoft has committed to simplifying their Dynamics AX platform and, in planning your upgrade, continue the simplification process by applying business case justification to customizations, applying them only when absolutely necessary. In the case of integrated EDI, AX code customizations can be eliminated when applying the right technology – one that supports EDI Made Simple®, from Data Masons, a proud sponsor of this blog.

That's all for this post, but check back soon as more to come! Till Next Time!

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Friday, February 10, 2012

AX 2012 - xppSource Exposed: Inserting code snippets

Today, a peer of mine and fellow blogger Palle Agermark wrote a very interesting post, in which he reviews the new ability in AX 2012 X++, in which certain keywords, while coding, can have code snippets added. The purpose is to decrease the amount of typing needed to complete some code block.

His example shows that if switch is entered into the X++ editor and right after, you hit the Tab key, a code block similar to the following screen shot is automatically added for you.

This is pretty handy, and you can see that it places the cursor right to the next point in the code block in which you would want to start completing it. Palle finishes his post off, with the fact that in visual studio, you can add your own, but was not sure how to do this in AX 2012?

Well, let me explain, how this can be done! The secret to this, is contained within a little known AX 2012 class, called: xppSource

Here we see that we have our cases in which xppSource completion through the use of such code snippets is fired, and also, where you could possibly change this, and / or add your own.

For example, lets change the switch method, within the xppSource class, so that we see really easily that we can make use of this. As you can see below, I've added "IDB" to the first case, in the code snippet block.

In saving this, and compiling it, I went back to my previous method, that we see the output from the first screen shot in this post, and performed the switch + tab action. In doing so we now get what you see below.

That's it! For sure the tag line powerfully simple shows in such a neat little find, which shows giving the ability and flexibility of AX 2012, even for developer needs.

I would like to thank Palle Agermark for the challenge and post, as I think other might find this very useful and helpful. Till Next Time!

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