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Friday, December 21, 2012

Merry Christmas!

I wanted to take the time and wish everyone a very, Merry Christmas! Further Happy Holiday's for everyone throughout the different days we take time with our faith's and families. May you all be equally blessed!

This time of year, is a special time of year for many of us. Let us keep in our thoughts and prayers all those that are hurting, and be thankful for the time we have with our friends & families. Faith, Hope & Love are the three things we can all have, and can all use to battle the negative sides of life.

My Grandmother, may she rest in peace, use to always tell me when I was a kid to find ways to turn life's lemon's into lemonade! So here to many, many sweet glasses of lemonade this coming year!

We have an exciting year ahead of us in the Dynamics Ecosystem. With Microsoft Convergence 2013 just around the corner. We have now Dynamics AX 2012 R2 alive, and well, with support for SharePoint 2013 & Office 2013.

With that, be safe, have fun, enjoy & laugh! Finally, let me say it one more time Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays!

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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Dynamics AX Users Changing Course in How They Manage EDI Requirements

With most any Microsoft Dynamics AX project, a focus around EDI needs for such projects is always a hot topic. In the past, there have been a slew of ways to solve the challenges that EDI represents for customers. Like most things, the entire drive is towards value and the act of reducing time to value for customers.

With this in mind, I thought it was time we visited back with Data Mason's own Glenn McPeak, to get their feedback on the trends they are seeing in the market place. Being the leader for EDI within the Dynamics Ecosystem, it would make sense that they have the most to share around this topic. With that, the following is the information Glenn sent me on the matter.

Glenn McPeak - Principal of Data Mason's

We’ve been seeing a rapidly growing trend in the Dynamics community when it comes to how companies want to manage EDI. Up until now, it seemed that companies were selecting one of numerous options to meet their EDI mandates, but now we’re seeing a shift in what they are looking for when it comes to EDI for Dynamics AX.

Here’s What’s Trending:

#1 – End to end automation
Pushing a button to integrate a transaction used to be great as it saved time over manual entry. But now users are asking, “Why do I have to push a button and who is going to do it at 2am?” They want automation of key EDI process that gives them the flexibility and security they’re looking for.

#2 – Manage EDI by exception
Dynamics users don’t want to deal with every transaction, only the issues that need attention. Managing by exception lets the transactions without discrepancies continue without interruption and eliminates unnecessary manual touch points.

#3 – Leverage standard Microsoft integration framework
Writing directly to tables and bypassing business logic is not best practice. By leveraging integration tools such as Microsoft’s e-Connect, Application Integration Framework(AIF) and XMLports/Web Services, users can avoid custom routines that populate data and bypass standard business logic.

#4 – Deeper and broader integrations
Users need more advanced logic, such as touching specific values in a sales order or handling advanced three-way matching logic. They also need broader document integrations so they can get new documents integrated quickly and easily to avoid jeopardizing trading partners relationships.

#5 – Avoid transaction fees
EDI data is a lot like email – would you pay to send an email? Right, then why pay for transactions when you don’t need to, especially when your trading partners support direct connect?

#6 – Audit the transactions
Too many companies complain about the lack of tools available that can identify issues before they become problems. They wonder why they can’t find out that an invoice was not transmitted and/or received by a partner before it is overdue. They would rather receive an email alerting them when a document has failed.

#7 – Guaranteed support turn-around times
In the world of EDI where delays and errors in transacting data can result in unnecessary and costly expense, organizations don’t have the flexibility of waiting for support responses.

Answering the Trends Responding to these trends is an innovative EDI technology model that Dynamics users are rapidly adopting. Users are looking to an EDI solution that is based on leveraging the native integration framework of the ERP platform while providing all of the EDI transaction functionality outside the application¸ not inside like other EDI technologies. With this approach, companies can:

• Implement a plug-and-play, truly integrated solution that doesn’t utilize 3rd party translator tools;
• Leverage a fully-automated EDI solution with predictable ownership costs; and
• Benefit from a non-embedded design and XML data storage within SQL that avoids ERP requirements and customizations, simplifying daily use and providing flexibility when managing ERP update/upgrade projects.

The Next Step with EDI Learn more about this growing trend in Dynamics EDI and what your EDI solution should deliver. Read how other companies have successfully implemented a new strategy to increase the impact EDI has on their business and how they have exceeded their expectations in simplifying EDI integration and compliance.

I would like to thank Glenn, and the Data Mason's team for being sponsor's of this blog and for always helping add great value added information, content & solutions around EDI to the Dynamics Ecosystem at Large.

That's all I have for this post, make sure and check back soon as we continue our dive into the Dynamics filled world, and further drive towards value! Till Next Time!

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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Why all the fuss around BI? - Data Ownership

I wanted to write today, and address a question that I think needs to be well understood. That is, Why all the fuss around BI? I mean, what is the big deal about business intelligence anyway? To start, there is a real need, for true business & enterprise intelligence that empowers users in their jobs. This goes from the Day-to-Day roles, through middle management & all the way to C-level executives.

To many people however, equate business intelligence to a tool-set, when in reality business intelligence is all about putting your data to work for you! The tool-set is not as important, is understanding the data model, understanding the business, and creating things like learning loops based on lag & lead data that can help drive companies through to their corporate strategy.

There are two big problems that customers face today with most ERP implementations, and relating to business intelligence. First, perceived overload of data. Second, the right tool for the right representation of data in order to glean intelligence from. With that said, there are a number of other specific issues & myths that cloud the path to true business insight - all which should be addressed when thinking about creating a BI story for a company. Ultimately however, these two questions seem to pop-up whenever thinking in terms of BI, from big data, to the personal self-service landscape.

These issues exist for companies small and large, and further what adds dimensions - excuse the pun - to these issues are how companies & their culture perceive BI. So in order to help address some of this, we need to understand a few fundamentals.

1. Data Ownership & Stewardship

If you don't think this topic is the most important to grasp, then your not understanding the goal of business intelligence. It's important for those users who need business insights, to understand who really own's said data, and who are stewards of that data. To many times, customers believe that IT owns the data, which is not reality at all. In fact your IT department, at most classify's as stewards of data. IT is not a cost center, blocking you from your data needs. Instead your IT department is meant to empower you, the user, with secure access to one version of the truth, for your reporting needs.

Users are the true owners of data, with different levels of responsibilities for that ownership. Further some users are data stewards, just like your IT, but with different roles and focus. This must be clearly understood, to help start down the path of addressing the perceive overload of data issue I mention above. The way to address this, is having users feel like they do own their data. This is, of course from the processes that create it, but also from the power in reporting on it. Giving them true Personal BI tools, that allow them access to help form the questions that lead to business insights.

Other myths, and issues that help lead to this confusion - and over worked, stretched IT budgets on report creation and never ending change request is that BI is a separate tool, than that of your ERP system. With out-dated ERP design's this use to be the case, however now exists only as a myth for those customers of Microsoft Dynamics AX.

With Microsoft Dynamics AX, and the stack that it lives on, full BI capabilities exist from the Personal, on to Team and straight through to Organizational BI needs. To help get people talking the same vocabulary, and language, we have the BI Semantic Model or BISM, that helps put some semantics in how we reference and talk about BI artifacts.

Going back to the point now, we have the ability to give users the power to fully grasp their roles as owners of their data - and understand the point of IT and IS departments as being the stewards of the systems, and data that lives within them. Having this clearly understood, means that Users can be turned into fans and a System of Engagement can start to form. Ultimately helping address one of the major issues we see with all this BI fuss, that of perceived data overload. It starts with owning the data, and therefore owning the processes that feed such data. Further, this means understanding the impacts of things like Master Data Management concepts for correct modeling of global data attributes, organization wide.

In order for users to own, and becomes fan's of their data, solid functional modeling & design must exist during the implementation process. Finally, understanding that real business insights, that create things like learning loops, starts with data ownership.

That's all for now, but check back soon as I continue this series and we can turn this BI fuss, into value added business & enterprise insights. Next we will continue our focus, with looking into wading through the onslaught of choices, and help end with classification of BI artifacts for those Usersfans of your organization or customers! Till Next Time!

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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

RF-SMART Leading the way in Role Based Dynamics User Experiences

One of the things I like to do with my blog from time-to-time, is a spot light or feature post. With that, I virtually sat down with RF-SMART’S own Sherry Paul to pick her brain a bit. My goal with talking with Sherry was to find out, what RF-SMART was doing, to help enable Role Based user experiences for Dynamics AX customers. The following is the result of that interview.

Sherry Paul, Business Solutions Advisor – RF-SMART

1.) How does RF-SMART help create a role based, system of engagement for Dynamics AX Customers?

"RF-SMART provides the ability to setup roles for workers so they can clearly see their daily tasks on mobile devices. The worker can clearly determine which tasks need to be performed and in which order. These roles can be setup narrowly for specific business processes or roles can be defined more broadly to be use by managers in the warehouse and manufacturing plant."

2.) What are some of the unique workflows that RF-SMART helps enable "RF-SMART customers mobilize their workers to do important tasks such as receiving incoming goods, inventory management, recording progress for production order operation and completing product which can be paperless picked with RF-SMART.

RF-SMART provides dashboards, designed with modern tablets and smartphones in mind. The dashboards allow managers, regardless of where they are, to take action on current picking activity in their warehouse.

With the RF-SMART Production Activity billboard, plant production can be monitored at a glance while being displayed on a large monitor, potentially hanging on a wall in the production area."

3.) For these workflow's, what kind of ROI, with time saving, and efficient processes do customer's see when making the choice of RF-SMART?

"When choosing RF-SMART, customers will have increased visibility and tighter control, measurable gains and easy ownership. Having visibility into their inventory levels, picking, people/activity, deliveries and much more, this therefore enables them to reduce physical inventory counts, labor costs and provides them with superior operational and financial performance. Some examples of our customer successes’ include:

• Automated process for receiving and transfers has reduced CMC’s manual inventory movement processes by 97 percent - saving CMC 173 labor hours per month!

• Physical inventory counts have dropped from twice a year to once a year and only half the amount of staff is needed!

• Increased receiving accuracy to 99.97%"

4.) Looking into the future, what can you tell the readers about exciting, upcoming offers that will continue to make RF-SMART a great value add for Microsoft Dynamics AX customers?

"It’s an exciting time for the RF-SMART team. We’re wrapping up our best year ever and 2013 looks even brighter.

From a product perspective, we’re going well beyond supporting core AX 2012 functionality while, true to our mantra, make it easier and easier for people to manage and execute critical inventory functions throughout the warehouse, shop floor and retail store. That’s really what we do: make inventory execution easy by delivering the right information, at the right time, on the right device to prompt the right action.

What helps us identify new functional opportunities is our unique level of industry and Dynamics AX experience. Our people are the best at developing easy-to-use software that solves real problems by taking into account AX, business requirements, mobile UI capabilities and knowledge of how people actually work. As a result, RF-SMART helps companies be more efficient and responsive by helping their people do their jobs better.

Looking forward to 2013!"

I would like to thank Sherry for taking the time to answer’s my questions. One of the major focuses of mine is around Role Based user experiences, specifically in how that can foster the creation of a System of Engagement for Dynamics AX Customers. I know RF-SMART, a sponsor of this blog, is doing the right things focusing their efforts on this goal as well!

To find out more, visit the following resource, fill out the form and download RF-SMART’S AX 2012 Role Base Brochure.

Till next time!

About Sherry Paul: “I have been working with ERP software for my entire career which started in 1984. Spanning my career I have worked with many manufacturing companies to implement ERP and Mobile application, for their discreet, process and lean manufacturing environments. An MBA and years of experience in the industry enable me to offer unique solutions to help clients develop best in class business processes for their organization.”

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Sunday, December 09, 2012

Workflow Wizard's for Dynamics AX 2012

I wanted to write today about Workflows in Microsoft Dynamics AX. Specifically around the Wizard's that now exists for Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 Feature Pack and beyond. There are several wizard's that help you create the needed artifacts and elements that make up a workflow.

Before getting into the Wizard's, I think it's very important that we look into some very good resources on this topic. So the following is my hot list of resources, I make use of when looking to work with workflow's and create custom workflow's for Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012.

Now with those resource's one should have plenty of information to focus in and get started with the wonderful concept and power workflows bring's to a Dynamics AX 2012 instance.

One area that is new with the release of the Feature Pack for Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 and beyond is the amount of Wizard's that Microsoft has delivered. We have several actually, and each has their own value point. The idea is around to help decrease your time to value for enabling workflows.

The focus for the wizard's that are delivered is around.: Approvals, Task & Workflow Types. These are each accessed by highlighting the specific type of artifact desired, right clicking, highlighting add-in's, and then selecting the Wizard option from there.

Each will ask a series of question's that will then be used to generate workflow artifacts that relate to specific workflow document classes, and types. This means having the workflow types & categories in place is a must. After understanding this, one can then jump start creating artifacts that fully help model and instance of Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 for their specific needs.

I will end with this fact, don't under estimate the amount of work that might be required to fully enable a workflow. Depending on the nature of the workflow, and what is required. What should always be the first thing that is done to help with this fact? Solid Functional Design Documents that clearly give finalize & finite scope to the deliverable's that are being targeted.

Well that's all for this post. Check back soon as more to come! Till Next Time!

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Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Microsoft Opens the Door on Socl - Why I'm using it!

From time to time, I like to post and write about things that aren't specifically related to processes, and post that give you how-to's. Still these topics do have direct & indirect impact on the Dynamics Ecosystem at large. With this in mind, and understanding, I wanted to write about Microsoft Socl.

It's Microsoft's new social platform, that really engages and blends well with the other platforms out there. It's easy to create post, follow specific interest, and blend your other outlets. Obvious, there can be plenty of time looking at picture's, but my focus is more purely on the aspect of gaining valuable knowledge.

I see this as a social learning platform, and one where things can be easily pinned, and revisited later. If you like me, you read a lot! At times there are plenty of things that you would like to read, but don't have time for. With Socl, I'm finding it the best way to tag, and collect content that is important to me.

It is a place where I can pin & place the interest I have, and come back to an uncluttered view of the topics I care about. It's specific, and content focused with out a lot of noise that exists now within certain popular social platforms.

Creating a new post is easy, as you can see from the above image and my first post. Of course, I'm talking about what's hot on my mind for Dynamics, that being BI and more specifically Personal BI with OData Feeds from AX 2012 consumed in PowerPivot!

Sharing is easy as well, being able to tweet or post back to facebook. Further, linking your profiles across multiple platforms is easy as well with the settings for Socl.

I do think that Socl has a spot within the Social landscape, specifically for me around the use of learning, and managing my sources of information into a clean and easy to understand and useful space. The nature of how things are stored, tagged and collected seems like I'm creating little learning portals about specific topics. Further through tags and interest I'm able to find others who are posting and sharing about specific topics.

Some come along and make sure to join me on Socl, and start creating your learning portal's and post, or topics of interest that you care most about!

That's all for this post! I'm interesting to see how this can be used further when thinking in terms of engagement. That is a theme I focus on a lot, System's of Engagement - where user's become fans! I can see a lot of potential with Socl in this aspect. Maybe even being used in Gamification platforms? Till Next Time!
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