Implementing Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations – Book review

It has been very busy times in the past couple of weeks, by doing the preparation steps for our upgrade to Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations at JJ Food Service. As you can imagine it is not an easy task with an AX system that has been running for 11+ years, upgraded for every major version since 3.0 with a 2TB+ database size. As the Technical architect and with no partner involved I needed to understand all the components, challenges to be expected, processes to be completed in order to carry out a successful move to the cloud. Fortunately I have received an editorial copy of Implementing Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations.

Implementing Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations

Implementing Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations

First of all I really like the idea that the book starts with an introduction of the various Dynamics 365 products and reporting/data management tools, since Microsoft’s intention is to bundle together different applications in the cloud via a subscription-model. This gives a great overview of the available tools. One point to mention here is that CRM has been split up and compartmentalized as different, smaller applications. This is the direction where Dynamics AX is heading as well eventually.

The Implementing Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations book is also touching up on Application Lifecycle Management (ALM), through the utilization of LifeCycle Services (LCS) portal. This is what we use for managing and architecting our environments, going through the project implementation, mapping our business processes, deploying data packages and releasing code.

Since the book is aimed at audience like myself, technical architects with a strong development background, I have found this book to be an excellent resource for getting into the nooks and crannies of using Visual Studio for development, VSTS for version control, walking through the various major changes like ditching AIF for RESTful API, JSON and OData.

I also really like that the book touches up on the automated testing part, which is very much neglected in most implementation projects. I would expect that it would change in the future, forcing customers and partners to provide testing in some form before code could be applied in a Production instance with a certain code coverage threshold met.

All-in-all I found the details very well summarized in the book, and is a great starting point to build essential knowledge for a new AX 7 implementation project. The rest could be filled in by reaching out to the extensive Microsoft Docs site as a detailed technical and user manual, if you need more insight into the various areas.

 

 

DAXRunBase / 2018-02-27 / AX 7, Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations / 0 Comments

Technical Conference Day 2

As the day is passing by more details are being revealed on the Technical Conference break-out sessions. Here is a summary of the keynote and some topics for Solution architects and Developers:

  • Various models will be available for deploying AX. Current version is the Ready-To-Web release, which is in line with Microsoft’s Cloud First strategy for brand new implementations. Later on Azure Private Cloud deployments will be the next step down the ladder, after which the On-premise deployments will follow. This needs to be synchronized with other technologies to be available, namely Windows Server 2016, SQL Server 2016 and Azure Stack on-prem
  • The main goals with the Cloud First strategy are to offload responsibilities from Partners for infrastructure sizing and maintenance, application platform patching and seamless deployment of new functionality, and lastly sealing down modules to make it more configuration-based rather than doing bespoke changes to go for an SaaS structure
  • Form styles are now referred as Patterns and they became mandatory. The number of pattern templates have been greatly increased, and they fall into the categories of Form Pattern (top level) and Subpattern (lower levels). Special cases are supported as Custom Patterns, however the performance, responsiveness and upgradeability are up to the implementor
  • A developer box now requires minimum 16 GB of RAM due to the highly optimized compiler (xppc), which can do a full compilation including cross-reference updates in 9 minutes on a VM which meets the system requirements
  • The X++ Language Toolkit (XLNT) is completely rewritten in C#, and produces native MSIL managed code that executes server-side. The source code is now stored in a file structure using XML format
  • Ignorelist could be used to partly skip code with problems during the migration, to be able to generate the assembly for the pieces that can compile and are ready for testing
  • Packages/models are now making the traditional layering obsolete, we could think of it like there are unlimited number of layers
  • The overlayed code only stores a differential delta compared to the model below, and layering is now much granular (i.e. Form datasources are no longer a single object that we cannot even compare)
  • Code changed on the Application suite or any other models flag them for code conflict, which we could merge in Visual Studio very intuitively
  • xRef is now sitting in it’s own database
  • Different Best Practice rules could be applied per model, and they could also be extended with our own rules
  • A lot of interesting features came in from the .Net framework, just to name a few: variable declaration without type using VAR keyword, CONST and READONLY keywords for static variables, access restrictions on variables using PUBLIC/PRIVATE/PROTECTED, THIS.method/variable calls for clarifying scope, TRY-CATCH-FINALLY, USING statements and clauses, _Extension methods, code-based and declarative event handlers

Many points above are already available on the AX wiki, here is an overview for the development environment feature changes:

https://ax.help.dynamics.com/en/wiki/using-new-x-and-debugger-features-in-ax7/

DAXRunBase / 2016-02-25 / AX 7 / 1 Comment

Technical Conference Day 1

Just a day before kicking off the Microsoft Dynamics AX Technical Conference AX 7 has matured to RTW stage and has finally been shipped. During the Keynote session Dan Brown and Sri Srinivasan has revealed a couple of interesting topics, which later on will get expanded in the various breakout session.

Here is a quick re-cap for Day 1 for the sessions I have been able to attend:

  • Business Process Transformation and Business Process Platform are now the key phrases to memorize when we want to summarize what the changes are about for AX 7, where Azure cloud is acting as Platform as a Service (PaaS) to host the whole VM package including SQL Server
  • AX will not just be an ERP, but will be the foundation core of many components within the Microsoft stack, eventually becoming a Software as a Service (SaaS) model with modules being sealed and becoming more stand-alone
  • A continuous release- and hotfix model will be used from now on, with having an Update 1 and Update 2 package released later in 2016
  • The User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX) are now very customizable which are referred as Workspaces and Personas for a 360-degree view of individual business areas and processes, where the user can create and arrange their frequently used areas as Tiles, Tabs and Lists (grids) either in their own workspace, or on the standard dashboard
  • Global search functionality is available to find data, or specific AX functionality within the current screen context
  • The UI has a responsive design which resizes automatically to the available window space and even utilizes zooming within the browser window
  • Help is pulling context-sensitive, relevant information from the Wiki page and Knowledgebase
  • AX Entity Store will be a new technology which provides a better interface for external connectivity, i.e. PowerBI can feed from this source where we could use natural language queries to pull data back and render it on a dynamically filtered chart
  • The LifeCycle Services Business Process Modeler (BPM) has been considerably extended functionality-wise. We can now attach a Task guide created by the Task recorder tool against a BPM node. Also Visual Studio is able to integrate and attach development projects against a specific Business Process, to structure coding more intelligently
  • The Task guide can be exported into an XML file, which we could use to generate a Test script code in Visual Studio utilizing the SysTest framework with automatically generating the test case for a developer. If we include that in a Version Control check-in, the Build process will automatically pick it up and run the test case against the modified codebase and flag up the success or failure within the build log according to the outcome
  • Visual Studio Team Services (VSTS) is now the foundation for tracking development progress, and utilizes many of the additional features through LCS, for example Gated check-ins and Code review features with shelvesets

Very exciting changes and improvements indeed. Tune in for more later today in the Technical Conference Day 2 article.

DAXRunBase / 2016-02-24 / AX 7 / 2 Comments

AX 7 Technical Conference and Virtual Launch Event

We are approaching two important dates within the next couple of weeks to introduce the new major version, namely the AX 7 Technical Conference and Virtual Launch Event for the actual release highlights. Project Rainier is now stepping out from behind the curtains to reveal a new era of what an ERP system of the future looks like, bringing a lot of new technologies to the table, while building on the existing functionality of Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 R3 CU9.

The Virtual Launch Event will not probably reveal too many additional details on top of what we have already learned at Convergence and various early release channels, but could be interesting to see how the first customers are using it as their current Production environment.

On a side note keep in mind that wave 1 is only for new implementations, since there is no data conversion upgrade path yet for existing AX implementations. It will come second half of 2016, hopefully they will announce the wave 2 release date too.

Make sure you register for the launch event in time using the following link:
https://presentations.inxpo.com/Shows/microsoft/Dynamics/AX/Launch2016/Registration/Registration.html

Keep an eye out for the Technical conference app too, it should be downloadable soon. You do not want to miss any important break-out sessions whether your are doing a new implementation, or upgrading an existing one.

https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/dynamics/techconference/Session-Catalog.aspx

See you in person in Seattle at the AX 7 Technical conference and at the Virtual Launch Event two weeks later!

DAXRunBase / 2016-02-05 / AX 7 / 1 Comment

Convergence 2015 EMEA additional AX 7 details, Visionary award

First of all I would like to congratulate Mushtaque Ahmed, COO @ JJ Food Service for winning the Microsoft Visionary Award at Convergence 2015 in the Big Data & Insights category. I am very excited to be part of the team, which could deliver such innovative solutions under his strong leadership.

https://community.dynamics.com/b/msftdynamicsblog/archive/2015/12/01/jj-food-service-wins-convergence-emea-2015-visionary-award-for-big-data-amp-insights

Also I would like to share some other interesting details on the upcoming Microsoft Dynamics AX 7 product:

  • There is a Windows 10 app, which can provide the AX 7 client experience natively, without using a Web browser
  • Task recorder is enhanced with a Task guide tool, which can be used to drive through employees in the application step-by-step, ie. on how to create a new Sales order
  • Testing framework integration in Visual Studio for recorded tasks gives the ability for developers to test how newly deployed changes affect the existing application in a simple way
  • Speech-driven AX 7 application experience with Cortana gives the ability of hands-free operation of the system
  • Native Environment health monitoring and user behavior tracking capabilities to spot any potential problems with AX in time
  • Vendor/partner-assisted demo for ISV solutions and apps in the Azure marketplace can bring value for customers

Doesn’t it sound exciting?!

DAXRunBase / 2015-12-02 / AX 7 / 3 Comments