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Sunday, January 29, 2012

AX 2012 - Diving into BI Analytics

A major focus for my self, and my work is around driving value for customers, with their AX investments. It's so easy to get caught up in the implementation, and getting the transaction side of a project up and running, that too many times the full solution, and total value that AX as a whole can bring is not fully realized.

To often, the value of out-of-the-box offerings around Business Intelligence (BI), is apart of that overlooked area of AX. This is sometimes, a major part of why, during the sales cycle a company made the choice of going with AX over some other brand of ERP software. At least to a large degree, it is usually a major deciding factor. Why shouldn't it be, with all the wonderful BI concepts built into AX as a product, not just in the formed of typical reports either, but even with contextual BI elements and beyond.

With this in mind, I wanted continue my focus that I started last year, around the BI capabilities for AX 2012, and what it can bring, helping you complete your total solution, and driving further value from what you have already invested in. The next focus, in this BI journey for AX 2012, at least for me and this blog, is around AX 2012 Analytics.

We see the above image, comes from the following section on Microsoft TechNet, talking through the architecture that makes up Analytics side of AX 2012, out-of-the-box offering. Its important to understand the full picture, including how this architecture actually works. As you can see, like the other technologies, used in the Microsoft stack for AX, SQL Server Analysis Services is a key technology to enabling OLAP cubes in AX.

Taking this architecture forward, I think it's important to also see the great resources that Microsoft has given us in this release for AX 2012, around this topic, specifically for the developer in mind, and the development task that are needed to enable, customize and complete a customers BI story, from the Analytics point of view.

These resources I'm speaking to, start with Development Tasks for Analytics [AX 2012]. Going to that resource, you can see several walkthrough's from Creating Cubes within the AOT, to Creating and Displaying new KPI's.

Having this resource, as our starting point, I plan to take this focus on BI further, with using the Contoso database, and showing this offering that is a part of AX 2012, and how it can be used, by you or your customers, the right way - with the goal of driving value.

That's all for today, I hope that you have a great start to the week, and check back soon as a whole lot more to come! Till Next Time!

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Friday, January 27, 2012

Blog Spotlight: SumitsAXfactor dive into AX 2012 & The Financial Dimension Framework

Well happy Friday to everyone! Followers of my blog know, that I love to point out other bloggers, and people out in the Dynamics Community that help drive and add value to Ecosystem as a whole. Today's post, I wanted to do just that, and highlight: Sumit Loya's - SumitsAXfactor Blog.

Recently, I wrote about Using Financial Dimensions when Creating Products. This topic was building upon creating products, and releasing products through the Document Services framework for AX 2012, specifically highlighting the use of the EcoResProductService.

In this post, I covered the use of InventItem_InventTable object, and it's ability to work with Aif class structures for creating Default Dimensions for released products.

Well Sumit Loya has taking the dive into working with the new Financial Dimensions Framework to a much needed, and really, missing level within the community. The topics that he covers, and concepts are timely, and needed, and are not covered really in any current released documentation.

Because of this fact, I've compiled the following list, that helps highlight the effort Sumit has put into covering these topics, that everyone will find very, very useful in your AX 2012 project work.:

By far, Sumit has really given us all some great post here, and has a great resource for Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 and the use of the Financial Dimensions Framework in AX 2012. I would like to thank him for taking the time and sharing with the community at large, his examples, and his how-to's. On projects that I've personally been on, these are most useful, and so again Thanks Sumit for your contributions, please keep it up!

Well that's all for this Friday, I hope you all have a blessed weekend, and a wonderful start to next week! Till Next Time!

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

AX 2012 - Security Tools Review

I hope everyone is doing well this week, and finding yourself in a very productive mood, diving deeper and deeper into your AX projects. I wanted to take the time, and highlight an Context Menu Add-in, for AX 2012, specifically the Security Tools that appear when highlighting certain objects in the AOT.

When talking about security in AX 2012, it's important to understand what securable objects within the application are related to what Duties, Roles and more.

To help us understand how the secureable objects in AX 2012, are related to specific privileges, through duties and roles, Microsoft comes with out-of-the-box offerings, that help us in this effort. This is what we see in the first image of this post, showing where, highlighting for example, the SalesTable table object, right clicking and then highlighting security tools, and finally clicking on the View related security roles. In doing this action, a similar screen as shown below is displayed.

There are many fields in this, for helping us understand how the specific element we have highlighted, related back up through the security model in AX 2012. As the following screen shot, further shows even more of the helpful information, for understanding the securable objects relations.

You can see, that like any other form in AX, that has a grid control, you can filter by grid, to get to needed specific information, like type of security, if it's related to form controls, etc. What's also great, and this is again throughout the AX application, the ability to take the data within the specific grid control, and easily export that to Excel, for further analysis and reporting.

Clicking on the export to excel, and we can see quickly and start working with the security related information for the element.

This then, helps in the design phases, as well as post development, within the operation of AX, to understand and glimpse into the current setup from the Role, down to the duty level of the security artifacts that exsit now as part of any AX 2012 instance. This again is powered, out-of-the-box, through the content menu. You can better understand what other functions exists as part of these Security Tools context menu in AX 2012, by going to the Menu's node, in the AOT tree. From there navigate to the SysContextMenu element, and expand the Security Tools node.

With this information, understanding what exist around security for specific elements of AX, be that out-of-the-box or custom, becomes a lot easier. This translate further, into helping make the term, powerfully simple, a true one. To add more value to this topic, if your interested in understanding more about how to work, and add your own scope to the context menu in AX, I recommend checking out the following resource page on MSDN: How to: Add Items to the AOT Add-Ins Menu [AX 2012]

Well, that's all for this post, check back soon as I have a lot more coming, including the continue dive into AX 2012, BI, Data Management, Services, Ecosystem and a whole lot more! Till next time!

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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Spotlight: A look at the Dynamics Ecosystem with Dynamics Hires

Starting this week, I will be working with a new sponsor of this blog, Dynamics Hires, with a focus on talking about the Dynamics Ecosystem. The idea, is to spur thought and talk around the state of the Dynamics Ecosystem, and gives some focus to current, hot and open positions that Dynamics Hires is trying to fill for it's clients.

To get this started off, I virtually sat down with Kimberly Jones, of Dynamics Hires to get her thoughts on the Ecosystem, some forward looking points, as well as asked her to share with us some current open positions that help show off the current state of the Ecosystem as a whole.

(1) Kim, the Dynamics Ecosystem seems red hot right now, with good resources hard to find. How does Dynamics Hires, help it's client, and prospects find the right match for them?

"We listen – both to what companies say they're looking for in their next hire, and what professionals say they're looking for, when they feel that they're ready to take the next step in their careers.

It's sometimes difficult for a professional to pinpoint what they feel they're lacking in their current role when they're put on the spot. Some things are endemic to the industry and may not be fixed by a company change: travel, long hours of a go-live, stress of an implementation not going well, whereas, other things business culture, compensation, career path, etc. So we ask other things, like where the best/most fulfilled consultant they know works?

We also pay attention to the organizations that people with particular skill-sets gravitate, read The Partner Channel, stay abreast of companies that are growing, watch the careers of people when they enter the Channel, etc. With companies, we ask about the characteristics of the best hire they made this/last year? What were the traits of the one you would consider the worse? Then move forward, accordingly."

(2) With the Dynamics Ecosystem being hot, and professionals with the right experience in such high demand, what do you feel are some critical points for employers to understand, to help them get at the right candidates for their needs?

"Finding good people in a niche field will always prove challenging. However, if there was one bit of advice I could give potential employers to consider when they're looking for good people, it would be to consider what it is about their company that will help them keep good people. Work/life balance is important and it matters.

Word of mouth will sell a job. How your company is viewed in the market place, matters. If potential employees see your company as a place that meets their needs, being it professional, having a career path, or more personal. Low travel, or client and employee commitment; allowing the consultant to see a project through the best professionals will want to work with you. Consider what makes your company different, and stress that. We work with a CRM company that boasts a 4 year period where no one has left their company. No one. People read that in our Hot Jobs, newsletter, and we had more talent applying than for any other position that month."

(3) Kim, what makes working in the Dynamics Ecosystem exicting for you, and what are a few "crystal ball" thoughts about the future, over the next 24-36 months?

"The Dynamics Ecosystem is constantly changing, full of diversity of background, personality, etc. So it's going to be exciting by default. But more than anything else, I think I enjoy the David and Goliath feel to it. With Dynamics changing and growing, willing itself into a place whereas it can stand toe-to-toe with the long established ERPs. That's an exciting thing to watch, and to be a part of, in any capacity.

As for my 24-36 month crystal ball...

I agree with you, the market's red-hot, not just in AX. MS CRM is doing well, SharePoint, though not officially a Dynamics product, is carving out it's own space. With SQL expanding, there has been an increased demand for professionals with strong SSAS, SSIS, and SSRS, skills. Dynamics NAV, Dynamics GP, and Dynamics SL all appear to be on the precipice of making some pretty exciting changes.

I think that if The Channel can keep up and build upon the momentum of AX and MS CRM, while NAV, SL, and GP continue to move forward, delivering quality solutions and crafting products that appeal specifically to the customers that they serve, and the markets that they're penetrating… When you look at all of that, and throw in The Cloud, then literally, it really does feel as though the sky is the limit."

(4) Finally, Kim, can you give me some examples of current open positions that your trying to fill for your clients?
  • Senior AX Developer/Technical Architect / Trainer - Planned and strategic growth has made it necessary for this unique Microsoft Gold Partner to add a Senior Level Developer/Technical Architect, to their team.

    This organization provides the benchmark for DAX technical and functional architecture processes, as well as, unrivaled contributions in best practices, and leadership for their clients, Microsoft Customers, emerging ISVs, and their Partners.

    Geat Salary, Great Company, Excellent Opportunity for a professional focused ready to take their career to the next level
  • AX Developer / Large International Customer - Large Microsoft Customer looking for Mid-Senior Level AX Developer/Applications Analyst

    Solid, fiscally stable international Dynamics AX Customer is looking for 2 ambitious AX developers, ideally, with at least 2 years Dynamics AX development experience, but will accept 1 year, provided that professional has development experience in other key software languages, to become a part of this cutting edge organization.
  • AX Analyst T&L and Finance - Solid MS Dynamics Partner, that has exceeded profitability expectations for the last 3 years, is looking for solid AX professionals to grow with them. This organization is committed to growing organically, and motivated to speaking with professionals currently in the Channel, and those who are ready to move their careers in that direction.

    This is a great opportunity for AX professional with previous customer experience that is looking for a path into consulting.

Well I would like to thank Kim, and Dynamics Hires, for taking the time to talk with me. We have a few of these post planned, over the next several weeks, as we cover the Dynamics Ecosystem together. That's all for now, but check back soon as more to come! Till Next Time!

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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

AX 2012 - Using Financial Dimensions when Creating Products

I hope everyone is having a great week so far, and your knee deep into your Dynamics AX projects. I wanted to take a little time this morning, and post a bit about the use of Financial Dimensions when creating products in AX 2012.

I covered the creation of products, using the EcoResProductService, in the following post: Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 - A Dive into Services, Consuming Document Services

What I did not cover in this post, is around the filling of the DefaultDimension field, from the InventTable object, during the Releasing of a Product to a legal entity, via the InventItemService. Since the time of that posting, I've had a chance to work with this further, and wanted to share, how you would go about, still using these document services, to assign the Default Dimension for a Released Product.

With the understanding we have from the previous post, we need to know understand our starting point for being able to set the Default Dimension value, for a released product. There is a set of classes, that are apart of the AIF class framework within AX 2012, that enable us to build up the default dimension for a specific released products. These are: AifDimensionAttributeValueSet & AifDimensionAttributeValue.

Also as part of this Dimension value set creation process, there is a need to work with the AfStronglyTypedDataContainerList, which is a container for the AifDimensionAttributeValue objects we build up for setting our product dimension values.

So since this is our starting point, we would need to define these, in the header section of whatever method or job is performing the action of releasing creating products. We would then, have something that looked like the following code.:

// DefaultDimension variables:
AifDimensionAttributeValueSet DefaultDimSet;
AifDimensionAttributeValue dimensionAttributeValue;
AfStronglyTypedDataContainerList dimensionAttributeValues;

With this, we know have the variables needed, in which we can use, along with the InventItemService for setting our Default Dimensions. Moving forward then, within this concept, and assuming you've already got the code from the previous post, lets work with these objects and see the process of creating our Default Dimensions.

// Set DefaultDimension data
dimensionAttributeValues = new

dimensionAttributeValue = dimensionAttributeValues.addNew();

dimensionAttributeValue = dimensionAttributeValues.addNew();

dimensionAttributeValue = dimensionAttributeValues.addNew();


With the above code example, we can see that via the InvTable variable, which represents an InventItem_InventTable object, we can create our DefaultDimensions, as well as fill in the Financial dimension name as well as value. In doing this, we are now able to set default financial dimensions correctly, for products we are releasing to a specific legal entity.

To help with this topic further, Becky Newell, a super star support engineer for Microsoft, gave us an early Christmas Present this past Dec., in which she gives us code example of working with Financial dimensions, for Journal Entries. You can find that post, at the following: Creating General Journals in AX 2012 in X++.

Well thats all I have time for this post, I hope this helps you out, and futher shows the powerfully simple nature of AX 2012, and the ability to work with the infinitely possible financial dimensions that can exists. Till Next time!

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Sunday, January 15, 2012

AX 2012 and the value of Microsoft's Visual Studio LightSwitch

Recently, I posted an article on my column, for the Microsoft Dynamics Community site, in which I focused in on the Any Device ERP concept. The push towards this concept, enabling true mobile ERP, as I stated in the article, will actually help drive adoption of the Microsoft Windows 8 powered devices.

Also, including in this post, I highlighted and pointed to the use of Microsoft Visual Studio LightSwitch. I'm really stoked about this product, and the more and more I look at it, the more value I see it can bring to companies. The value, in which I'm referring to here is all about giving companies the ability to simply, and in a fast nature, create Line-Of-Business Applications quickly and easily. This means faster Time-to-Value for such solutions, that are needed by companies, which can extend from Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012.

We see, with AX 2012, a push for it being the central hub of business logic, operations, data and delivery of business intelligence. With this, we also see the move for exposing data, API's and business logic internal and external of AX 2012, via Services. Because of this, companies can use LightSwitch, and it's ability to quickly and easily create apps that extend AX for a company, and help create a more total solution.

This is done, via AX services, be that Document Services, or Custom Services and Service Operations. Taking this design approach then, of exposing Data and Business logic from AX via services, these services then themselves can be consumed within a LightSwitch Application. A great resource for walking through this, by example can be seen at the following location: MSDN: LightSwitch - Consuming Web Services

From the post: "The aim of this document is to show developers how you can easily configure LightSwitch to consume Web Services. This walk-through assumes you have a background knowledge of creating basic applications with LightSwitch."

Having this example, we can now extend AX 2012, with LightSwitch for internally hosted Line-Of-Business (LOB) applications, on IIS, and even quickly scale and create applications that are deployed to Microsoft's Cloud Offering, Azure. In order to enable the scaling to the cloud, we do need to deploy the AX 2012 Services, via IIS, so that they can be consumed externally by the outside world. Doing this, means then, that quickly and easily we can create a Hybrid cloud story, for AX customers, and quickly bring the value to a customer that the cloud brings with scale, agility, and exposing AX business logic and data for consumption through such LightSwitch created apps.

For those customers, that have invested in AX, working with LightSwitch from Visual Studio 2010, will seem familiar, in how it's ability to work with Entity Data Framework, ease of creating and working with services, as well as the Tree Style design of forms, and buttons, that feels similar to AX and how it's forms and UI elements are designed.

So, if your a Microsoft Dynamics AX Customer, I highly recommend looking into either having your Partner, or your staff work with Microsoft Visual Studio LightSwitch, and how it can be used to extend your AX investment, quickly, efficiently and fast. That's always the goal, and keep in mind Simple is King of value, and let me tell you LightSwitch is one heck of a product that truly simplifies the creation of Line-Of-Business (LOB) applications. It's all about Time-to-Value, and that is why LightSwitch is a tool that should be considered, for completing your companies / customers total solution.

These applications, can then be made a part of the AX story, either hosted externally in the cloud, or internally. After creating and deploying a LightSwitch App, it can be incorporated directly into the user experience, via links hosted within Role Center Pages, to the LightSwitch App UI, or hosted within the AX 2012 Rich Client Forms and UI.

Bringing this full circle and to have a little forward looking exercise here, I personally believe LightSwitch, which currently delivers it's UI via SilverLight, will quickly be updated, once Windows 8 comes out. I believe, that Microsoft will enable you the ability to choose your target UI, be that SilverLight, or XAML+HTML5+JavaScript. The idea, is that LightSwitch will still create the UI for you, and enable fast and easy creation of Apps, that target even the Metro Style UI of Windows 8, and therefore having company specific Win8 Metro Style Apps, that work directly with & extend a companies AX 2012 ERP investment.

The following links, are useful resources that are used throughout this blog post. I would strongly encourage spending time researching and learning from these resources, and others to see how Microsoft Visual Studio LightSwitch can help you drive the most value out of your AX 2012 investment.:

Well that's all for now, I hope everyone has a great productive week. Check back soon as I have a lot of good post coming out, all around AX, the Ecosystem, Spotlights, Interviews and more! Till Next time!

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