Happy New Year 2016/2017

With the release of AX 7, the increased industry focus on IoT, AI and automation, release of Power Apps and Flow and the launch of Dynamics 365 it is probably safe to say that this is one of the most eventful years in Dynamics AXs history. Let us take a closer look at the events.

Launch of Dynamics AX

AX7_DD

On March 9th we had the official launch of Dynamics AX. Branding wise we should only refer to it as AX and drop any type of version reference like iPad once did with. It is to be a service that will be updated continuously with both platform and functional updates.

The solution was redesigned from the ground up to work as a web first application based on the proven AX business logic. A big leap in the application concept and put AX on the bleeding edge of technology. Exciting times for those of us loving technology, but daunting for those with a more traditional viewpoint on business applications.

It was launced as a SSaS only solution, hosted and managed by Microsoft and had a 50 Enterprise users minimum. The on-prem story was in development awaiting the general availability of Azure stack. It was on the roadmap to be available in Q3 of 2016.

Rapid updates

After the launch in March we had multiple platform updates. Update 1 released in May, Update 2 released in August and Update 3 released in November. The most profound change was probably the separation of the platform and application making it possible to  do updates to the one without the other. This also hints to the separation of multiple applications running on a unified AX7 platform.

We also saw a lot of features and general application upgrades being added and also implemented on AX 2012. Two Cumulative updates where released for AX2012; CU11 in June and CU12 in November.

Time Event
2016 March AX7 – Launch
2016 May AX7 – Application update 7.01
AX7 – Platform update 1
2016 June AX 2012 – Cumulative Update 11
2016 August AX7 – Platform update 2
2016 November AX7 – Application version 1611
AX7 – Platform update 3
AX 2012 – Cumulative Update 12

Dynamics 365 for Operations

dynamics365logo

The next chapter in Microsoft Business Solutions saw a unification of ERP and CRM solutions. Merging them together in a “marketing package” called Dynamics 365. Mostly being a rebranding and refocusing of their business application suite to focus on business processes rather then the different platforms. The idea is to integrate the different applications into a common navigation and let the data flow between the solutions through the master data managment service named “Common data service”.

Though it is a mouthful, the new designation for the ERP system formerly know as Dynamics AX formerly known as Axapta, is a pretty understandable direction if you look at the success that they had with Office 365 and that Microsofts “365-brand” is a synonym with cloud. Off cause the issue of calling the SMB suite “Financials” and the Enterprise suite “Operations” is kind of confusing. I would hope they would call it “Business” and “Enterprise” instead.

It is early days, but I thing that it is a change of mindset that Microsoft is looking to achieve with this rebranding. I’m looking forward to see what they have in store for 2017.

On-prem story changed

AXRoadmap.pngDuring the summer months the on-prem solution was silently removed from the roadmap and we were waiting for an explanation to what the alternative was to be. We had to wait until November and the launch of Dynamics 365.

The second day of AXUG Summit 2016, Christian Pettersen and Sri Srinivasan showed us the hybrid solution for Dynamics 365 for Operations. It would be adding new possibilities with multiple on-prem installations for specific workloads and a synchronization to a cloud hosted main application. Some partners and customers expected a 100% on-prem solution and understandably was disappointed, but in my opinion this does bring the best of both worlds and is a much more versatile solution.

Dynamics 365 was released with support for retail workload on-prem, but other features will be available during 2017.

Flow and Power Apps

A multitude of business power applications was released and made GA in November along side the Dynamics 365 launch. They are still early applications, but introduce the same conceptual user story that Power BI did for reporting.

This empowers the power- and end users to create solutions based on published data sources. Flow is an “if-this-then-that” solutions for automating processes while Power Apps is a solution to create applications and user interfaces in a very simplified way that should be available to end users.

AppSource

Along side the Dynamics 365 release, Microsoft also introduced the AppSource. This is a market place that contains custom applications developed by third party vendors on the individual platforms; Azure, Office 365, Power BI, Dynamics NAV and Dynamics 365.

This gives the customers the possibility to find and try out third party applications available to them without going through their partners. This will empower users, but also could give some partners headache. It is also important to note that this is a combination of VAR and ISV solutions. All partners should make sure to have their standard solutions available in this store as soon as possible.

LinkedIn and Microsoft

microsoft-linkedin.jpg

In the last months of 2016 the EU finally approved the LinkedIn purchase and this will be a great asset to many different applications in the Microsoft Suite as this network contains most of peoples business relations and professional resumes.

I’m looking forward to see what Microsoft will do with the LinkedIn data and how they will differentiate, insight and automation of the CRM and HRM processes.

IoT and AI

internet-of-things

In 2016 there was a great deal of leaps done within the IoT and AI scene. Most of the big conferences had large focus on the area and they introduced some very nice solutions on the CRM platform at the end of the year.

A lot of IoT stories are coming to life at the end of 2016 and I think that this will be the number 1 focus area in 2017.

On a personal note…

2017worldmap

This has been a very hectic year with the MVP title received in the very beginning, a newborn girl in February and A LOT of things happening on the Dynamics AX scene.

I achieved my goal to get a larger series of blog posts in March with one post each day. I also got a lot of things to write about with the new AX solution being released. Between my activity and probably most because of the MVP title I saw a 10x increase of hits on my blog.

I started a podcast together with co-worker and fellow MVP Tommy Skaue in November. Only a couple of hundred views for each episode at the time, but I hope that this will increase and grow over time. We have a great deal lined up for the next year.

I start my year with 10 weeks of paternity leave which I’m really looking forward to. I’m hoping my MVP status to be renewed in 2017, but it is a tough competition and a lot of VERY competent people contributing… Mostly because it is a great honor, but also because I want to go to the MVP summit which was not easy to do this year with a newborn in the family. Fingers crossed! Have a great new year.

E-mail invoices with a smarter dynamic Print management setup

Setting up the Print management for sending documents by e-mail is a very manual process in most implementations I’ve seen. It takes a user quite a lot of steps to set up a the system for sending documents on e-mail and getting it wrong has grave consequences (It actually stops your sending the invoice process, while still having the invoice posted!). I’ve dove down in to some data and found a smart way to dynamically set this up so that you only have to tag a e-mail address on the customer with a role and you’re done. This will also work with other documents like packing slip or customer statement and should eliminate the setup issue.

Let me show you how to do it!

Step 1: Set up a new contact purpose for the document.

You could use the default ones, but in my experience you should differentiate pr. document type.
Go to: Organization administration > Setup > Global address book > Address and contact information purpose

Add a new type and tick both Contact information and Postal address check boxes.

einvoice_newPurpose.png

Step 2: Set up the Print Management

So selecting what customers should receive require you to specifically trigger the customer either by filtering by a parameter or setting it up by hardcoding the customer level print management setup. My idea is to dive down to see if the customer has a contact e-mail that is tagged with the “Invoice” role (Step 1) and trigger based on that.

To set up general print management settings, go to:
Accounts receivable > Setup > Forms > Form setup | Print Management

Create a new print setup

Click the original node and setup the default printer settings and then add a new node on the original node.

einvoice_newProperty

Give the node a name (Like “E-mail”) and set up a condition for the query/filter. When the filter is true the invoice follows this setup. If not it will default back to “Original” setting.

einvoice_selectConditions

The query needs to be extended to get the required data available. You extend the query by right clicking the node and select a 1:n or n:1 relations.

einvoice_extendQuery

  1. n:1 > Customer
  2. n:1 > Global address book
  3. 1:n > Party location relationship
  4. 1:n > Locations
  5. 1:n > Communication details
  6. 1:n > Contact information and role relationship
  7. n:1 > Roles

That should give you a query like this.

einvoice_Query

Then add the “Roles” table, “Type” field and select the desired Criteria (Like “Invoice”). Click OK to close the criteria dialogue.

Setup the print to e-mail

Now set up the printing settings by selecting the arrow at the end of the “Destination” and select “Printer setup”.

einvoice_setupPrinter.png

Notice that you can add a preferred footer for the invoice.

Select “E-mail” in the left column. Then on the “To” line select the “Edit” and in the Customer purpose field select the role you created in Step 1 (Like “Invoice”).

einvoice_printSetting

Now add a subject and select the desired format (I prefer PDF).

Click OK on the Print destination setting and close the Print management form.

Step 3: Setting up a customer

This is the final step and the only one you need to repeat when you now want to add a new customer to be emailed the invoices.

Create a new email address or use an existing one on a customer.

einvoice_email1

Now select the “More options” menu and select “Advanced”.

einvoice_email2Select the “Invoice” role (or another if you created a different one in step 1) on the “Purpose” drop down. You can even have multiple roles selected if you want, so if you do a multiple setup with different documents you can add multiple roles/documents to one e-mail address.

einvoice_email3

Setup is done!


So now all you have to do is to remember to tick the “Use print management destination” check box when posting an invoice and all customers with this role on an email will get an email instead of going to print.

einvoice_posting.png

Oh… You’re welcome!

 

 

Presenting relative budget reports

A quick idea on how to present sales targets to your sellers or any type of budgeted data.

As a sales representative in my early career I always dreaded the first sales report I got each month. The issue was that I was presented with a report showing my current monthly sales according to the monthly budget. It looked like this:

SalesVsBudget1

 

It was discouraging because it looked like a MASSIVE effort to reach that goal. I just hated the look of this graph, so I made a small amendment to the report to better inform myself:

SalesVsBudget2

Suddenly a very negative report is turned into a positive one. I was ahead! I’m on track! Great!

It is pretty simple…
Just find the number of days for the budget interval and find out how many days into the period you currently are. Then create two columns of the budget with elapsed and remaining budget based on that. Take a look at the spreadsheet I’ve made as an example.

excel_2013-3e7309ea2dbd8944be164009d840feae

How To Present A Budget.xslx

Make it perfect:
If you only do monthly budgets you could divide the number of days in the month as is done in this spreadsheet. Doing it right, you could would look for open days in your Calendars in AX and use that as your base for progression and quantity. The difference is that the chart would jump over the weekend by cycling through two additional days giving you a worse status on Monday then on the Friday.

Power BI:
Now I have no example of this in Power BI yet, but I know you can create this with not that much effort and I’ll amend this post when I’ve done one with a more detailed guide.

General take-away:
Try building as much context into a report without making it messy and make that data as correct and full-featured as possible.

Revise your AX strategy now

The new AX version (AX 7) is getting close to release and most of the cards are on the table. There are some changes, so if you are on AX 2012 or earlier versions there are some things you should take in to account right now to not go down or continue down a path of now return. So here are some coarse changes I suggest you take in to account.

Role centers and Business intelligence

Enterprise Portal
The role center is deprecated.
The Role center is deprecated and Work spaces are introduced as a replacement. Work spaces are high level forms tailored to a specific task like Production floor management, Budget planning, Customer invoicing and so forth.
If you’ve done work on your role centers, you should pivot your focus to Power BI. You should still be able to use your SSRS reports in the new Work centers, but they are vastly inferiour to the powerfull Power BI.
I’m not saying you should stop working on BI, but just take a look at the solution that will give you greater ROI later on.

Enterprise Portal or other web portal solutions

CSS

Most of Enterprise portal is deprecated in AX7. The good thing is that Microsoft is throwing it in the trash, but I do not know of any alternative to Customer Portal or Vendor Portal yet. I will be surprised if something isn’t brewing in the R&D team to replace this as well. We’re on a web platform already, so it shouldn’t be too far fetched to imagine a solution. When it comes it will be awesome and in tune with the default development of the rest of AX.
Employee self services has an alternative that is much better in the Employee self service Work space.
If you’re thinking of implementing the AX Enterprise Portal or further enhancing it, I would suggest you wait until the replacement solution known before you do more work. Of cause if it gives you great benefit in a short term then go ahead, but just don’t expect to get future value for your investments in that area.
If you have plans or have already created a separate web portal solution for customer or vendor interaction. I would also suggest waiting before taking on a greater project before the solution in AX is revealed.

Infrastructure

This is a pretty much an echo by everyone associated with Microsoft is saying, but here goes. Planning on scaling up your servers any time soon? Even if you’re doing minor hardware upgrade, you should strongly consider Azure. Through Life cycle services you can prevision servers that can reduce your infrastructure installation by weeks.

Need an on-premise solution? Take a look at Azure Stack. If that is over-kill, then you can use a hybrid cloud solution with your old equipment.

Bottom line is that if you start moving to the cloud today, you will be better prepared when upgrading to AX7.

AX7 – Task Recorder

I am not a big fan of the previous versions of Task Recorders. A big deal for me is that you have to have a perfect run through for the task to be valid. You get a lot of nice screenshots, but there are better tools to do that with then Task recorder 1 or 2.

The new AX has a great task recorder that is very easy to work with brings a very easy way to create interactive user guides called “task guide”.

1. You find the task recorder in the settings menu (the gear icon) to the right on the top menu bar.

AX7_Task1

The task guide pops up a bar to the right in the window.

2. Give the new task a name an description.

AX7_Task2

A bar on the top is shown and the bar on the right is ready for your input.

AX7_Task3

3. Go click around and the list starts filling up.

AX7_Task4

4. Click add sub task if you need it.

You can add multiple sub tasks, but only in one level.

AX7_Task5

5. You can also delete steps that are unnecessary.

This is for me probably the biggest improvement. You can also undelete them until you save it.

AX7_Task6.PNG

6. You end your recording by clicking “Stop” in the top menu bar.

AX7_Task7

You can then download the task, save it to LCS, export as a word document or save it as a developer recording.

Post editing

After recording and saving a task, you can go and edit the task by clicking “Change recording text” from the main task recorder menu.

You can also download the file to your PC and I guess there is an editor there somewhere. The file format is “.AXTR”, so you can probably do some type of transformation and then upload it back onto the server.

Exports

Developer recording

During the recording you can put in developer place holders. I’m unsure what the developers process will be, but I believe that you can download the xml file after completed recording and send it to your developer to run through it. Nice!

Word export

Export of the word document is still here, and it is much simpler then the former task recorders. It does not contain the screenshots that it did earlier and some of you might miss that, but this task recorder is much more generic and using screenshots is kind of not generic if you do the recording on non demo data. The task guide weigh up for that anyways…

AX7_Task8

Task guide

The task guide is an interactive user guide where the user is guided in the interface to run through the process. It shows a step by step process. You’re prompted with an overlay task. When complete, the box wobble and then move/transform to the next action. AWESOME!

AX7_Task9

Summary

All in all the task guide is vastly improved.

You can edit, delete steps, download, upload and do developer commentary.

The task guide is awesome and brings a whole new paradigme to end user training.

The word export has now actual numbered list which bothered me endlessly in previous versions, but you don’t get the screenshots.

I can live with that. Two thumbs up!

Trigger workflow manually

Ever been in the situation where you’re running a demo and suddenly you run in to a workflow that is required and you have no idea if the workflow batch processing is running or how to move?

Well I’ve got the answer for you!

  1. Go to development by clicking CTRL + D.
  2. Go to the forms node and expand
  3. Find the tutorial_WorkflowProcessor
  4. Right click on it and select “Open”
  5. Click “Start” in the dialogue.

WorkflowProcessor.PNG

Tada! Workflow processed!

AX7 – Default dashboard

The default dashboard is what you end up on when you click the Dynamics AX icon in the top right corner or go to Common > Common > Default dashboard.

AX7_DefaultDashboard.PNG

It has a banner on top that is set for configurable for each company with the company name printed on it.

There are three subsections: Left, middle (biggest) and right.


The left section contains a calendar with todays date circled and your session date showing. By selecting a date you’re prompted with a dialogue to change session dates.

AX7_SessionDate

Below the calendar are two groups with your menu favorites and recent menu items showing.


The center section is a view of the Work spaces. Each work space has a very nice little picture next to it to make it easier to find what you want.

AX7_DiffWorkSpaces.PNG


The right section has a list of your work tasks.

I believe that this is a configurable dashboard and can be configured. But I like the ease of use and overview it gives.

AX7 – The Menu

Microsoft is redesigning the menus. The Hamburger-menu is now the key to open all menu items.

From the top in the main menu you’ll see All workspaces, Favorites and Recent. The latter (Recent) being a welcome addition as this is kind of a “free” favorites menu that you don’t have to maintain.

Under that you’ll see all the grouping that you’re confortable with like Accounts Payable or General ledger.

The new menus in Microsoft Dynamics AX “7” has been transformed and is moving away from the old static paradigme with Common, Journals, Reports, Inquiries, Periodic, Setup and is redesigning them to fit more with actual processes within the different “Modules”/Top menus. Grouping and dividing the old menu items into new menu groupings like multiple setup menus.

AX7_Menu_AP.PNG

Even if it is all moved around I found it very simple to work with and if I ever missed something or wondered where it had all gone; I simply used the metadata search in the top of the menu which works perfectly.

AX7_Menu_Metadata

Sweet!

Miscellaneous items and correct cost allocation

Using one generic item to represent miscellaneous purchased items is a common thing and I believe it is a smart thing to do in some cases. Some companies buy a lot of different items one time based on customer requests. With many people in an organization purchasing these items you still want to have strickt controll over your product registry. Using these items make sence.

However making sure your costing is correct is important. You can do this by marking your purchase to your sales orders or BOM lines. This is tedious work and some might slip through the cracks, falling back on your costing principle to take controll resulting in some serious costing issues.

A smart way to get this correct every of the time and use tracking dimensions that are financial stock active.

Here’s how to configure your item:

  • Tracking group dimension with financial stock active
    In this example we use serial number.

AX2012_TrackDim_FinancialInventory

  • Serial/Batch number with a number sequence
    This example is has one serial number created for each, but also has information about receipt date and lotID.
    AX2012_SerialAuto

Serial numbers are normally used 1:1. I don’t use the controll since the number group determin the serial number creation. Remember that you can use batch numbers to group receipts together and give them a common tracking ID. In that case you don’t have/want to use the number sequence on the tracking dimension group.

You can configure the rest of the item at your own accord.


After receipt on a purchase order with a quantity of 5, the serial numbers are automatically created.
AX2012_SerialNumbersCreated

Barcodes:
You can create a label that is printed at receipt to mark your items with a barcode. This barcode can be used when picking the item to identify it.

Picking:
Now when creating a sales order or production picking, you would be required to select one of these serial numbers effectively connecting the purchase order to the sales order and also the correct price. So even if you have a miscellaneous item you would still be sure that the cost is correct.

So instead of being required to mark the purchase order to the inventory issue, this is now automtically handled through the inventory process.

Have fun!

AX HTML 5 client showed at WPC

During the AX session with Christian Pedersen the new AX HTML client was showcased and it looks amazing!

The video is titled “Creating amazing success with Microsoft Dynamics AX”. At 54:00 the new interface is showed.

There will be “tracks” of business processes that quickly takes the user to the required forms and reports, but you can still access all the area pages that you know from the existing desktop client.

There will be personalization options with themes and grid size.

All in all it looks fantastic, and I can’t wait until it is released.

I also think this will be available for the 2012 R3 as well, and not just the paradigm shift for the AX7 release.