Archive for February, 2011

Performance Review and Audit for Microsoft Dynamics AX

February 3rd, 2011

Synergy believes in formal post project reviews to benchmark whether your implementation is delivering the kpis  and objectives for the implementation and whether it will continue to meet the objectives and kpis for the future.

We have several times been asked by major companies to do audit struggling implementations, of Microsoft Dynamics Ax  often done in house or with freelance consultants that have not stayed around to complete the work, or to provide on-going support. Often some minor helop can delieer dramatic improvements.

Typical findings include:

  • Managers lack timely, accurate  information
  • Month ends are painful
  • No sales and operations planning
  • Multiple unaddressed issues
  • applications running on old, unsupported versions of Windows and SQL
  • no documentation of functional requirements, system build, security set up, test results, code, workflows, or system build
  • no code best practice checks
  • no back ups, or untested back ups
  • security gaps
  • poor system resoonse times
  • inventory not properly closed
  • accounts don’t reconcile- even for the opening balances
  • opening balances not aged, or without supporitng detail
  • users lack basic skiils and confidence
  • much of the funcitonality is unused
  • users rely on spreadsheets and manual processes

It doesn’t have to be like this.  Nor is a  good system implementation  a reason for complacency . There is a constant need to continuously improve to stay competitive and abreast of changing requirements, technology, threats and opportunities.

After Microsoft Dynamics AX, all application parameters are set, roles, security set ups, the infrastructure and system management policies and processes are defined . Over time your business changes:

  •  to adapt to your customers needs – consignment stock, drop ship, vendor replenishment, RFID, Self service, new delivery or compliance requirements
  • to adapt to your employees needs  - e.g self service mobile or home working, more use of sub contractors
  • new products – different routes, QA processes, new batch trace, costing, or itme information etc
  • new business units -multi company planning, inter-company processes
  • new strategies- (lean, change of costing policy, warehouse automation )
  • new verticals – retail, construction, process etc
  •  new statutory compliance -  tax changes, energy, green, SOX, Basel 11, ITIL, ISO standards etc
  • new head office policies  -consolidation, workflow approvals, asset depreciation
  • different volumes of data and transactions
  • use of different technology  – vistualisation, cloud,
  • new requirements  -  integration to MS CRM, SharePoint, EPM, BI,
  • increased competition
  • As a result, work on performance is a continuous process and it constitutes a constant component of the service and maintenance of the system. An efficient system, after many months of registering of transactions can, in the opinion of users, fail to meet expectations in this respect.

In the architecture of the system Microsoft Dynamics AX, performance depends on many factors. Some of the major ones are:

  • application code – whether the software for handling processes or screen forms meets the performance requirements specific for the data collected in the database,
  • performance of AOS application servers,
  • performance of database servers – processors, available memory,
  • network capacity,
  • database configuration,
  • application configuration,
  • work organization – e.g. launching of the so-called “large runs” outside the normal working hours of the largest group of users.

The performance audit of the system Microsoft Dynamics AX is aimed to find any bottlenecks in the performance of the working installation of the system.

Typically it may comprise:

  • preliminary review of the environment,
  • monitoring of on-line work from the point of view of the database,
  • monitoring of on-line work from the point of view of the application Microsoft Dynamics AX,
  • verification of the configuration of system’s parameters with the help of dedicated tools ,
  • producing of a report from the audit and pointing out to any places and parameters in the system which should be optimized.
  • documenting systems set ups, and code
  • whether hotfixes, patches etc are up to date
  • whether operating systemms, database etc are up to date and still supported
  • whether data reconiles between sub ledgers and GL
  • user competence – labour tunrover often means basic skills are diluted
  • user frustrations – ineffiicent use of system
  • are reports adequate
  • is month end close timely
  • are data retention and purge policies defined
  • changed business needs
  • unused features – CRM, QA, Service, Global search, advanced fiters, Role based portal set up, alerts,worklows , budgets, consolidation, advanced foecasting and master scheduling, ABC analysis, inter-company, RFQs, EFT,  are typical areas that are left to a phase 2 implementation that never happens
  • essential missing functionality – Letter of credit, post dated cheques,  PO budget and funds control by item account or project, expiry date management,etc

Whether you are concerned about your Microsoft Dynamics Ax implementation, or whether you are ready  to take your business  to the next level,  a discusion with one of our acknowledged experts may help ensure your investment in the system really pays back.

Microsoft Dynamics Ax 2012 is coming

February 2nd, 2011

This is going to be a major step forward in erp systems. 1200+ what’s new features

Here are some to whet your appetite:

  • redesigned forms – a brand new look.
  • a form developed for the rich client can be used in EP just by publishing it.
  • migrates all reports to SSRS reports
  • forms can be reused.
  • aot can be accessed from Visual Studio.
  • new security structure is role based
  •  trace can be invoked from the client
  • the new tfs integration also supports work item
  •  as and is key words are supported by x++
  • more smoother integration between x++ and c#.  objects can be just passed between both the languages.
  • different environments for development and application. 
  •  tables can be inherited
  •  a lot of properties has been added to reduce setup through code.
  •  rich use of powershell
  • a new command line utility called axutill is introduced

Note:

  • the new version supports only vs2010
  • Oracle db is no longer supported
  •  the rich client doesn’t supports windows xp 
  •  though the new version doesn’t have aod you can still import xpo’s but you can’t export them.
  •  portions of x++ runs in the clr

So Ax archtiecture has moved into the 21st century

  • Model driven  AX dev in VS. Enriched data abstractions, dramatic improvements with .net interop
  • A strong statement that the model driven dev starts in VS rather than AX
  • Metadata native access with AOT with the VS application explorer
  •  models live in the database and multiple models within a given layer
  • Full web services integration shown with zones and integration with external site. SOA.
  • Modeling -from database, to development, BPM and org setup.
  • Global Address Book is  used throughout AX2012. Reduction of duplicate data, and secure access and use to this data
  • Managed code dev is now possible, eventing etc.
  •  However X++ still  has it place and will continue
  • Hierarchy browser for tables (extend tables)
  • Table inheritance will simplify complex data models

SECURITY

Security roles form, is central place for management of role, record and external security. Managing security in AX 2012 is totally different than in previous AX versions. The points being addressed for AX 2012 is the make security administration rescues is a big way in complexity.

Role based approach is a pyramid: roles, duties, privileges, permissions from top to bottom. 

Duties also map out in a functional way to the “process cycles” that a person or job function perform. Process cycle and duties is where segregation of duties are enabled and managed within AX 2012

Three types of users in AX 2012. Claims user, active directory user and group. AD is not required for user access anymore.  Claims based authentication, based on share point 14 and it’s ability to support this security context model. The idea is not to require vendors or customers as AD users, but instead to ahve a claims based context user

Share point uses secure open service, to take the claims based user Id, and share point keeps the context for the user for user UX. This is key for federated access and trust. Ie, cloud enablement for secure access to AX and cloud objects.Federated support for security ismeans not just azure with live Id, but also google accounts or others. This  provides secure mobile access to data and business logic within AX, managed in the the same way

MSDYNAX 2012 wil leverage SharePoint Claims based security for non-AD users. Welcome ADFS, Live-ID, SAML tokens ! Improvements are impressive: role based security, external users and automatic role assignment!

**SETUPS AND SCOM MONITORING

Install of ax 2012 is easier than ever . Scom pack for those that invest in systems center.  Scom pack has bp configuration check.  The  scom pack for Ax 2009 is limited to the AOS. AX 2012 expands its scope, and contains key concepts of discovery, monitor and task. Scom wil be  key for enabling Ax admin for a company a  big investment that companies should plan.

Install checklist does not need to run multiple times. Done once and then done! Decouples the install and initialization

In Ax 2012 the biztalk adapter is replaced by the wcf adapter

Service packs and updates can be dropped in install share

Models folder is key to enable custom installs. Models, labels and updates folder make installs dynamic and simple. Always publish and sign models as part of axmodel file creation

PERFORMANCE

Rmote procedure call in no longer the only protocol for web based or SharePoint communication with the AOS. Now with services, WCF so  you don’t have to go through the BC.Net and that removes a layer and therefore helps performance

AOS for the first time has large box awareness and can scale up! No longer just a scale out – True parallel and asynchronous processing with AX 2012

Table inheritance means taking one table and making it 8. This is part of the perf of AX 2012.

Hexcore and beyond support for cores in AX 2012.

Sys operations framework is the key that enabled more parallel processing.

Data caching has been 100% reengineered.

Included columns as part of indexes as well as full text index. Along with true temp table usage!

Join caching, date effective caching, sysglobslconfiguration class… All great improvements in AX 2012.

Sysglobalobjectcache…

Unique index caching for joins. This means  unique records, are cached and therefore cuts down on io round trips. Caching support for super type and subtype for across the board, even with  a legacy table.

Batch framework highlights how threaded processing works and will continue to work with improvements!

DMVs highlighted and shown with the Intelligent Data management Framewoirk IDMF for AX 2012

Event trace parser for Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 lives right out of the client, easy to get going and work with! Making trace for AX 2012 easy to run and report on, is a key factor is having more people use it as a tool for performance.

OS can scale and tested on 32 cores! Again first time the scale up is really for the AOS

Performance gain for using CIL execution is around garbage collection. Test took 90k lines down from 24h to 2h.

 EP

Single click process for taking a rich client form to make it a web protal page! Very powerful. Portal, rich client and office are truly a blurred UX and it looks the same across these products

WORKFLOW

In AX2012, workflow is integrated in the AOS. No more messy installs

Great workflow development wizard 

Tracking details show workflow events and show in the branched out way they took place

Common workflow UI controls.

Vision: every process should be modeled with a workflow – i.e. any vertical add on or customisation should designed with workflows

Workflow runtime integrated into AOS, which helps with lowered TCO and manageability of workflows. Modeling the business process, documents actual workflow of process that at the same time “configures” the solution

Key focus is model “real life” business process in AX with new workflow. The workflow editor is  the same as in VS2010 and shows multiple branching workflow that works out of the box. Shows great flexibility but needs to be  designed properly

Companies when they upgrade will want to consider removing worklfow code code approaches to replace with WF.

POWERSHELL MANAGEMENT

 PowerShell will be  a key tool for management of AX

  • UsePowerShell, to dynamically deploy the latest touched reports, based on modified date there will be a huge focus on PowerShell for report deployment, configuration and management among multiple instances
  • Three ways to deploy, client, VS2010 or the A x management shell, (which is PowerShell with other things loaded )
  • Standard tooling is based on PowerShell and PS cmdlets
  • Standard box, 10 mins to deploy 800 reports in AX 2012AIF
  • When upgrading from AX 2009 to 2012 for AIF service contracts have changed. There is some manual reconfiguration
  • Big schema change, and will be some rework based on this.
  • All excel import and exports for office addin happen through AIF.
  • Performance  increase of 37 percent benchmarked for new AIF improvements
  • The AIF is fully built on services which will run on the AOS. All integration through WCF services. Standardizes integrations! The improved AIF framework will  open up AX for mobile platforms (whcih soe xpressed to grow massively in the next 5 years) .
  • Transformations truly enable any file format support based on the stream in and out for AIF.
  •  AIF awill be much easier to setup and manage.
  •  SQL server will to enable change tracking at the table level
  • Going through several demos, a lot of work to make AIF configuration a lot easier. No more 10 mb file limit!
  • New system services: query service, metadata service and user session service.  These new system services expose AX in a new way

Another highlighted aspect is support for non-XML formats.

80 percent reduction in top level AIF concepts! Less complexity!

90+ out of the box document services that come with AX 2012.

Bulk import support! Opens door for using this in massive data loads!

DATAUPGRADE

Preprocessing data upgrade before the ACTUAL upgrade to minimize down time

AX2012 will be shipped with a new and enhanced upgrade model

SSRS REPORTS

The Ax reports as we know them from previous versions are still there in Ax2012, but no new development is to be done on those. The ‘old’ Ax reports are supported in the sense that they still exist and can be used, but are not supported in the sense that all Ax reports are converted to SRSS

The SSRS reports node is the new location of report elements and is no longer held in the reportlibs node of the AOT

Since the security framework and the datamodel has had some serious redesigning in Ax2012, your reports will probably be broken anyway. Upgrading those would not be a good investment. The better decision is from now on to  create new SSRS reports right away.

 SSRS integration struggled in previous versions. SSRS integration in Ax2012 is seriously improved  and offers in combination with the latest 2008 version of SSRS a decent performance gain.

SSRS is totally aware of Ax2012 metadata and new concepts such as the org model and security model.  It has batch integration and archive support

 Besides that, SSRS offers cool graphics and layoot possibilities that just were not possible in Ax reporting. Let’s face it: Ax reports were not eye-catchers.

The SSRS-Ax reporting framework allows creating basic reports (that need no coding at all). Even more complex reports such as the projInvoice or salesInvoice are all converted to SSRS!

The new reporting framework gives developers different types of classes to customize reports as required: data provider classes, data contract classes and controller classes. These give the developer the same possibilities as with the Ax reports.

What does SSRS offer  over traditional Ax reports?
- Awareness of Ax2012 metadata and concepts
- Correct PDF output
- Support for images in batch

What does Ax reporting framework offer that is not in SSRS?
 Ax reports allow the user to define sorting, subtotals, grouptotals, print ranges, … SSRS does not offer this .

EXCEL INTEGRATION

Copying data from Ax to Excel is not new, but it wouldn’t be Ax2012 if it wasn’t improved: now only the actual columns you’re seeing on the screen are copied. But that’s nothing compared to the fact that you can now create, change and delete Ax data from within Excel. In an Excel workbook, you can ‘add data’ and pick one of the available services (these are webservices). In design mode and  bind the fields from your datasource to the cells in your worksheet.

AX data changes while using Excel to edit, optimistic concurrency is used. Data cannot be published. No merging logic in place.

Allowing the users to create data in Excel and publish it when complete will be a big talking point in getting data into AX.

Two types of AX exports to Excel: static (like in a 2009) and refreshable export (active connection to AX). Excel junkies will rejoice

AX ribbon in Excel, to securely publish data back to AX  Security roles mean you can take the budget template in Excel and load it to Ax. You can :
- Add new records (of course all mandatory fields need to be in place)
- Even create new linked header/line records
- Update existing values (data is validated!)
- Delete records
- Add (non-bound) calculated columns
- Format your data as you want
- Use lookup-values (just as with the drop-downs in the Ax client)
- Add ‘matrix fields’ to create aggregate views
- Changing the value of an aggregated field automatically updates the original values (proportionally)

All modifications that you do on bound data stays within Excel until you hit the ‘publish’ button, this sends the data back to Ax.Actually this can be used as a new way to bulk-insert data (think data conversion).

Is it limited to MS Excel?
No it is not: you can use MS Word to create nice looking documents based on Ax data. A  design mode in Word for reporting data from AX with  simple, very intuitive
dragging and dropping of the fields  and formatting can be applied, columns/tables can be created and populated, calculated columns can be added, support for multi-language using the Ax labels, the document handling feature can pick up templates from a SharePoint library and use these to produce customized documents, …�

Can I replace the reporting in Ax by Word documents t?
That’s not the intention since you will be missing features like batch support , your hardcoded template texts will not be language-sensitive, the paging of the generated documents is not guaranteed, …

Word, Excel and SSRS to create mashups for information workers is very powerful

BIM – 10 reasons to discuss Vico Software with Synergy Software Systems

February 1st, 2011

 Number Ten: Your competitors  are using it. (Page 33 of McGraw-Hill’s BIM SmartMarket Report cites that the most important benefit for Contractors is to market BIM capabilities to win new clients.)

 Number Nine: Certainly the owners are asking for it. (Page 34 of the same report states that “Owners who use BIM see a very high rate of ROI.” Watch the recorded McGraw-Hill SmartMarket Report webinar and see all the stats for yourself.) And yes tenders in the UAE are now specifying BIM models.

 Number Eight: The young smart personnel that run your projects want to use it

 Number Seven: The subs want to use it; they want a better and more organized piece of the pie. (Research shows that optimizing your schedule with Vico Control decreases schedule duration by 10% without exposing the project to any additional risk.)

 Number Six: The CEO of your company wants you to use it  to win more business. Period. With most GCs putting together a model for the bid, your firm can stand out from the pack when you explain to the owner that your model is not just for marketing – it will drive the schedule and keep the project on budget.)

 Number Five: It would be really great to know if the subs’ quantities are actually correct. (Vico Office Takeoff Manager extracts the construction-caliber quantities from the model geometry from which the schedule and estimate are derived. When a subcontractor submits a bid, you can check their quantities against yours so that you cna validate that  the labor assumptions and productivity rates are correct.

Number Four: Use unit prices from your subs that are loaded and  fill in the quantities forma great and very exact model and quantity takeoff from it. (See above!)

 Number Three: Use  a Trimble Total Station to layout your MEP, as well as your concrete, formwork, and anything else using the robotic Total Station and LM80. (Seismic bracings and hanger placement can be modeled, transferred to the LM80, and shot on-site with the Trimble Total Station.  

Number Two: Use a flowline. location-based, schedule to help you finish early. Very large construction firms are completely standardized on Vico Control.

 Number One: The number one reason is you’ve got to win the project. There are many companies bidding for every single project and it’s very clear that companies that deeply understand BIM and can explain to the owner how they can remove risk time and cost , and better manage the project, will win. Vico Software is now in use on some   projects in excess of $100,000,000 that were  won recently because of this very reason. The selection committees said that the difference between the winner and the loser was not all the other items they considered, but it was their ability to use and to bring to bear this 5D methodology to de-risk the project.