Thursday, March 17, 2016

My take on the Data migration

Data is the key to a successful implementation which can make the implementation as painless as possible for Customer to transition from their legacy systems to the new Dynamics AX application. The data gives them an unparalleled familiarity to use and embrace the new application even though they are in the midst of transition. The end users have nothing more joy in viewing the results in Reports or Inquiries with their data when they achieve their objective using AX Business Process. So Data Migration phase is an important area which needs to be planned and analyzed with importance right from the requirements stages with just the level of priority as the business processes.

Data migration requirements planning allows the Consultant to estimate and analyze the data maintained or archived in the legacy system. The data analysis estimation involves both size and quality of data that can be migrated to AX. Most importantly estimate the efforts required if there are complications and can be flagged early to the Customer. There are possibilities to pick up some functionality that may be required based on the data available in legacy but which has not been discussed or identified during the requirements workshops. Overall the effective Data migration strategy is crucial for getting the application ready for Training and UAT milestones. This in turn is the precursor signoffs for the Production cutover finalization and rollouts.

The workshops for data migration will involve all the key users spanning across modules but related business processes to ensure smooth decision making with consensus and settle any clarifications that may arise immediately. The workshops also allows the Consultant to identify who owns the data. For the session to be effective, key users may share their module data by showcasing reports, screenshots, etc ahead so Consultant can do a simple analysis and prepare any questions ahead of the data migration workshops. Based on the business requirement sessions conducted earlier, the Consultant should be able to identify and narrow down on the entities to be migrated and classify them as Configuration setup (Ledger accounts, GST, Payment terms, Module Parameters, etc), Master data (Customers, Vendors, Products, etc), Orders (Sales quotations, SO, PO etc) and Opening balances (FA, Ledger, Inventory, Cust/Vend, etc). Few more workshop sessions can be conducted in this format to ensure buy in from all the stakeholders and finalize the templates along with the conversion values required for AX.

Customers IT team or the key users will normally prepare a first round extraction as per the template provided for the entity along with the conversion values provided by the Consultant. There may be more extractions based on the feedback from consultant and the data migration templates will locked. Around the same time more planning will be done for firming up the dates for the real extraction for UAT based on the project schedule, considering if there are any other developments that is required for the data entity import. Generally an accepted 2 rounds of import is done to ensure the efficacy of the data and estimate timelines for the actual migration in production.

To summarize the data migration strategy, you would need to do;

Objectives

  • Identify What to migrate, Source of data and How to migrate
  • Classify and communicate clearly so there is no misunderstandings
  • Ensure what’s in scope and out of scope


Stakeholders

  • Key users who own their respective module data
  • IT team who deliver the data as per template agreed
  • Consultant who plans from strategy to execution
  • Anyone else who is part of Sign off


Templates or Scripts

  • Proper definition of what qualifies as a clean data expected for AX
  • Columns with Legacy data conversion requirements to AX data
  • Sign off both Migration strategy and Templates/Scripts


Simulate

  • Ensure at least two rounds of testing including with Customizations, if any
  • Sign off to ensure data imported is as per expected format


The key ingredient for a successful and a smooth migration is adequate planning, proper understanding, and do it early! Now that we have got the strategy part over (my understanding J), let’s do some import to AX 7 using Data Entities!!!


Disclaimer: Views expressed are entirely my own! please follow rigorous processes and project methodology for Actual Customer Implementations.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Dynamics AX 7 RTW and Activation of Cloud POS

Dynamics community is abuzz now after the Virtual launch of the Dynamics AX RTW which was promoted to GA. You should be able to deploy your demo, production or dev/test environments from LCS. A lot has been written over the importance of LCS and cloud deployments, so am not going to waste time on them but going to dig right in with the deployment of Cloud POS from RTW version. There are some pre-requisites that need to be done to ensure the Cloud POS is up and running in no time.
  • Dynamics AX Batch management service
Dynamics AX Batch management service is responsible for executing all the batch jobs in AX. Consider it as a legacy [limited] AOS service which is stripped of all the rich client UX elements with just the business logic execution component. It is set as Automatic by default but sometimes I've found it doesn't start properly. Push it to Delayed Automatic to ensure it starts after the Server has completely booted up. You can find it under the Services, 
  • Employee AAD entity
AX user is automatically associated with the AAD identity(office 365 poral user id aka @onmicrosoft.com account) but you would need to do a double check for the Workers to ensure the correct AAD entity is associated properly. Find out the Employee name from the User id and then go to the Employee record, link it from the Retail ribbon bar > External identity section > Associate existing identity,
  • Employee address book
Add a proper addressbook for the Employee, this is crucial to ensure the Cloud POS activation wizard will allow you to choose the store. I choose everything just in case;


  • Employee Job
Employee Julia's job scope in Marketing Executive was not part of retail, so had to choose the POS permission group as Manager to let her activate and use the Retail Cloud POS,

  • Screen layout
The RTW that I deployed did not have a Cloud POS screen layout profile for Houston store, so had to link one to the Store or Employee. So make sure you save the hassle by checking the profile to the Store,


  • Distribution schedule - Staff
Push it to the Channels, don't wonder if you don't find a separate Channel DB on the RTW demo. It is a topic for a separate post by itself. Run the Distribution Schedule for Staff. 


Activation of Cloud POS

Cloud POS activation is a breeze now in RTW, with the introduction of a wizard it makes it as painless as possible for the Customers and Partners. Go to the LCS, you should be able to see the Cloud POS url or if you are in server you can access the Cloud POS from IIS manager to view the URL. The first step would be to provide the Retail Server URL to the activation wizard. You can get it from the channel profile settings too.



Click Next and it will bring out all the stores that is accessible for the Employee,

Choose the Store and click Next, in my case I used Houston,

The wizard will pick up all the Registers with their Device activation status, go ahead and pick one. I chose Houston-14


Let the wizard cook up some magic by completing the 10 step which includes creating device token, gathering device configurations, hardware profiles, number sequences, etc


Viola, you get the message as Device successfully activated and Cloud POS ready to log in. Use Julia's employee id as 000020 and password as 123


Play with your cloud POS!







Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Life Cycle Services(LCS) and Deployment of AX 7 instance

As by now everyone should be aware that the direction for manageability of AX services will be handled from LCS (Life Cycle Services), in fact you can maintain your complete project repository including the infrastructure details from within the LCS. To the extent you can even raise a support request and Microsoft support will be able to effectively collaborate with the Partners and Customers to resolve the issues. Microsoft has done a significant amount of investment in this area and is now started reaping the rewards as more and more partners are engaging LCS for the Project activities.
  
LCS Project tools with cloud environments
I recently deployed a CTP8 demo instance via LCS and they have made the user interface so friendly that you can get your demo instance up and running on Azure in just a couple of hours. You will know the deployment is complete once the LCS status changes from Deploying to Deployed. At this moment you will be able to view all the services of the Demo instance, like the access URL for AX 7, Cloud POS, Storefront site and AX 7 trial experience page. The trial experience is basically a guided walkthrough for new AX 7 users on the different UX features introduced in the new version.

AX7CTP8 Cloud instance deployed


Scroll further down on the LCS page, you should be able to see all the user accounts created and deployed by LCS for the services. Click on the Login to AX7 using the office 365 account and you are good to go start browsing and accessing the AX 7 functionalities from the web. If it is your first time logging in to AX 7, just remember to use the trail experience to understand the Module menu’s and search functions. Finally start exploring, my next post will focus on the Retail part where I’ll be deploying a Cloud POS device. Stay tuned!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

New beginning - Microsoft Dynamics AX 7 Reloaded

Dynamics AX 7 public preview has already been launched recently and right now all Partners and Customers should be able to start getting the feel of the next generation cloud powered ERP. The direction from Microsoft after the leadership change has been quite apparent, that there is going to be a very VERY BIG focus on the cloud aka Azure based services and applications. And the apparent change in removal of the rich client is a game changer in the ERP. Everything now runs on the internet explorer(or Chrome if you like it)! Hell yeah, now the sales team has much more to wow the customer about the ease of web use and truly a cross platform UX experience. The AX 7 ERP solution should be able to cater to a varied and most industries from Finance to Manufacturing , Supply chain to Retail and almost every other industry that is in between or probably even a hybrid.
Everyone goes gaga on the cloud, what is it all about? What this means for the customers and partners is, they can start deploying the environments on Azure and this completely eliminates the need for a disaster recovery solution. Microsoft will be responsible for the data centers and customers can have high availability service agreements depending on the business continuity recovery times.
Will Microsoft not release an On Premise version of AX 7? Nope, it means Microsoft just wants to prioritize in getting it right for the cloud customers first before the launch of next release which will be On Premise version. Another factor that's tied to the release of an on premise version is the general availability of Windows server 2016 which has native features on ADFS(Active Directory Federation Services) which simply means that you can use this component to authenticate non active directory users within the server. The current Windows Server will support if you download an add-on for ADFS to enable this feature.
There is a mammoth of goodies on the features for the new release, I am not sure where to start but some of them are HTML5 based UX, LCS manageability, cross platform support on web/mobile, full visual studio integration and many more.
General availability of AX 7 is still in the Q1 2016 and going by the momentum it should be out in a a few more weeks, The current version which the public release is made for the partners and customers is based on the CTP 8 which has the version(7.0.1186.16043)


PS: All versions indicated are correct at the time of publishing of post, Microsoft may change version numbers as and when kernel updates are made available or after GA.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Dynamics AX 7 expected to be released in Q1 2016

Microsoft has announced that the next version of the AX 7, which is completely hosted as a web application is proposed to be released in first quarter of 2016. The best news yet that has been from the Dynamics AX release team is it would be available for public preview exclusively for Partners and Customers from early December 2015.
Checkout the press release reports to get to know more about what coming in the next release!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Dynamics AX 2012 R3 CU10 released

The latest cumulative update of hotfixes for the AX 2012 R3 has been released from LCS, the original release post from the Dynamics AX in Market Engineering team can be found here. The latest build has been updated to 6.3.3000.110 but if you use slip stream option for a full installation the build number will be shown as 6.3.3000.111.
Coming back to the post what's updated in the latest hotfix basket in Retail, probably the most important is the POS performance. The biggest strength in the Retail POS is its ability to automatically calculate the best discount that can be applied to the transaction based on the products/store/customer/period combinations. But it turns out to be the biggest performance backdrop if the discounts/products increases more than tens of thousands of records. It seems there has been some issues addressed for these scenarios by adding a maximum number of steps/loops before the best price has been picked up for the product within the shopping cart. And this has been implemented as a configuration in the Retail parameters. The functionality should have come long time back, even though too late but better now than never.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Retail Time Clock Entries

If you have been using the Retail Module, you might have noticed there are couple of operations called Time Clock and View Time Clock.



The time clock operations enable the Store to capture the Cashier/Supervisors working shift schedule by capturing their clock in/out information. The functionalities enables HQ to capture the exact times that a cashier has come for work, duration of breaks and when he signed off for the day. This is not linked to the Login/Log off details of the cashiers but built as a decoupled functionality to store the time registrations for employees.
The huge potential that we can see it is fully integrated with the Retail and HR module, enabling you to generate working time reports or send this data to payroll systems to process the cashiers salary. Please do note the operations performed in the Time clock entries are all real time meaning the Terminal should be fully online and active connection available to make the time clock entries. Before you can start using the Time registration for Employees, make sure to activate Time registration in terminals for those employees.
After you have made some Clock in/Break For Lunch/Clock out, you can immediately start seeing the Time registration transactions under the Worker > Time Registration Tab > Journal Registrations.