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Friday, March 29, 2013

AX 2012 R2 and PowerView - Part II Extending

What a great day to be alive! I know for a lot of people, including myself, today has special meaning. It's about faith, and remembering that we are finite and need our Creators grace & mercy. So I must first hope that everyone has a blessed good Friday, and you find yourselves doing well. Further, today I wanted to continue the series I started yesterday around Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 R2 & PowerView.

For those that are just reading this post, you can go to Part I of this series located here.: AX 2012 R2 and PowerView - Part I. Having the knowledge gained from that post, we can now continue with extending PowerView for AX 2012 R2 with our own custom cube!.

We start this journey by focusing on where the PowerView data connections and artifacts are stored within Enterprise Portal. You can see this location in the above screen shot from the demo image I'm using as my target. This is located in.: 'http://[site]/sites/DynamicsAX/Power View Reports/'.

Having the location open, we can then target creating a new data source that we will want PowerView to consume. As we can see in the above image, we target a new data source by simply adding one to the document library. Further what's important to not, as seen in the below image, is the connection type and the connection string.

You will not that we have a connection type that is very specific to enabling PowerView artifact creation. This type is called.: Microsoft BI Semantic Model for Power View. Further the connection string is very important as well. This happens to be pointing to a custom SSAS Cube Database and further a custom SSAS cube.

These where both created from the BI Project wizard within Dynamics AX 2012 R2, from a perspective representing the Measures & Dimensions desired. The following is an example connection string that is valid, that you can easily adjust for your own needs.

Provider=MSOLAP.5;Integrated Security=SSPI;Persist Security Info=True;Data Source=localhost;Initial Catalog=sunSalesAnalysis initial;Cube=Sales Analysis

Now having this in place, we can test our connection and save the new data source for PowerView usage. This is the default library where the PowerView managed code looks for data sources to make use of. Going back to the information in the first post on this topic, that means that when an action menu item passing in a data source name as the parameter, it is in reference to the data sources living in this specific document library on Enterprise Portal.

Having done a successful save of the data source, you should see something very similar to the above screen shot. This means that we are ready to move back into Dynamics AX 2012 R2 for completing our extending of PowerView. Like all things in Dynamics AX, this extension should remain within an AOT project.

What we see in the above screen shot is that project, including having highlighted the custom action menu item that will launch our PowerView design process. You will notice that I'm targeting the name given to the data source that lives in the document library on EP. That is the parameter value that will launch PowerView to target the specific custom cube.

Having created the menu item, and launching it, we see in the above image a field list from the custom cube I created from the above mentioned perspective.

This literally took under two hours to complete, from cube to launching into the design space. To further bring home the point that this is a separate cube database, and cube, please reference the below image.

You can see that I have a new cube catalog, or database as well as a custom cube called Sales Analysis. Further you can see in the above image the dimension structure in which we can slice our measure via. Again, this was 100% generated from a perspective within the AOT. Having completed this, we can now create compelling visualizations with PowerView based on the custom cube.

Further having completing such visualizations, saving these to the 'Power View Reports' document library we can surface these and execute them as web parts, or full screen mode.

The above knowledge, mixed with the first post of this series, should enable you to start easily taking full advantage of Power View, well beyond the out-of-the-box cubes. Having these powerful visualizations that allow power users to help complete a BI story for a customer is the icing on-top of the BI cake represented by the Microsoft Stack. This will truly help you to engage your user base and help you down the continue journey of Creating a System of Engagement!

That's all I have for this post. Feel free to comment or leave me any questions you might have. Further, I will back into the cube creation process behind this in a new post, so that there is a complete story from end-to-end for you. Keep in mind, this would work for *any* cube. This does not have to be just the Dynamics AX cubes. Further you can start to see how this can be placed throughout the Dynamics AX forms and user experience. Til Next Time!
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Thursday, March 28, 2013

AX 2012 R2 and PowerView - Part I

Well here we find ourselves well into spring and I must say it's a cold one thus far. I'm for sure ready for long, warm sunny days and all the fun that comes with it. That being said, and my battle with the norovirus behind me I wanted to start my writings back to you with a focus around Dynamics AX 2012 & PowerView.

PowerView Design Surface

Without a doubt this topic deserves a good bit of coverage as this truly is a powerful, personal BI enabling technology. Let me states now, as I have in the past, BI is not about a tool. True business insights & intelligence is about owning your data and turning into a true asset. That stated, we must understand the tools that help us yield forth value added insights. Enter now, the focus on Microsoft PowerView and how's it's fired, used and managed within the context of Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 R2.

For starters, let me give you a great reference resource. It's the official home page for PowerView.: Microsoft Business Intelligence - PowerView.

I think without a doubt, the above referenced resource page has some really interesting demos that showcase the power or PowerView. Further there are plenty of resources on the web, that can take one through the design and usage of PowerView. Before getting into some real examples of how this can be used, I think it's very important to understand how PowerView is targeted to be fired and consume data from Dynamics AX 2012 R2. Therefore, the goal of this post is to do just that. Infer the knowledge of how PowerView works with Dynamics AX, and how it's fired out-of-the-box. After having this knowledge we can then proceed together down a path of examples for how this can be used, and further extended.

The first thing to learn is how to fire PowerView from within Dynamics AX 2012 R2. Throughout different sections of the product, you will find a new icon as pictured above called "Analyze Data - Reporting". This button, is tied to specific action menu items, depending on what focused module of Dynamics AX you happen to be in. As-is, there are three focuses for such PowerView artifact creation, based on these action menu items of.: CreatePowerViewReport *CustCube, *LedgerCube, *VendCube.

Each of these action menu items points to a single class within the AOT named PowerViewReporting. This class takes specific parameters for which targeted OLAP cube should be used for creating ad-hoc or personal BI artifacts.

Looking into the main method of the PowerViewReporting class, we find that this further calls into another class, passing in the datasource of focus. The cube for the specific area of Dynamics AX that you happen to be in. This other class is the SrsReportHelper class. It has a brand new method called: getPowerViewDataSourceUrlClient().

Within the call of this method, exists a new managed code element understood as: Microsoft.Dynamics.Framework.Portal.Deployment.PowerViewDeploymentHelper

Now we understand when we are on the Purchase Orders form, and we see the Analyze Data icon that the data we are about to tackle is based on the VendCube. The VendCube field list of measures & dimensions is then what you see rendered in the right hand screen of the PowerView design space.

VendCube Field List in PowerView

Well that's all for this first post around PowerView. I hope this helps the understanding of this great new tool and how it interacts with Dynamics AX 2012 R2 out-of-the-box. Next post, I will create a brand new cube with Dynamics AX 2012 R2, and show you how to extend the PowerView framework for Dynamics AX to target that cube for Analysis. Thanks for reading, and check back soon! Til Next Time!
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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Spotlight: Is EDI Driving your business up or downhill?

Recently I had the change to virtually sit down with Glenn McPeak - Principal Architect for Data Masons. The focus of this spotlight could not come at a better time, with Convergence 2013 kicking off for some of us this weekend! Glenn takes us into a valuable point, one that Data Masons can truly help answer. To their credit Data Masons is the only Certified for Microsoft Dynamics (CFMD) EDI solution within the Dynamics Ecosystem. This is an attribute to their expertise in the field.

Glenn McPeak - Principal of Data Mason's

Now that Dynamics AX 2012 and AX 2012 R2 have hit the road, we’re engaging with more and more customers who are making the move to these latest versions, whether it’s an upgrade or a new implementation. Selecting the ERP is the hard part, but from an ISV viewpoint, we hope that AX customers apply the same level of evaluation they used when considering the ERP to selecting their add-on solutions. Microsoft put a tremendous amount of resources into creating a product that stood behind its strategy, and to insure your investment, it’s critical that the ISVs you engage share the same strategy.

Making quick decisions, or cost-based selections, or even just applying the “it gets the job done” attitude to choosing ISV solutions can lead your business downhill, causing you to lose the competitive ground for which Dynamics AX sets you up. To fully-leverage your Dynamics AX investment and to move your business forward, we encourage AX customers to take the time needed to put their ISV solution providers to the test.

How You Can Determine the Uphill Drivers When it Comes to EDI?

Have you ever met an EDI solution provider who did not claim to offer “tight integration” and “ease-of-use” among other commonly claimed capabilities? When it comes to selecting a Microsoft Dynamics EDI solution you have to know what questions to ask in order to differentiate between all of the available technology options. If talking with a salesperson, you can easily get confused as to which solution is the right choice for your business when they all seem to claim the same capabilities. But this perception could not be farther from the truth, as there is a wide gap between Dynamics EDI offerings, from the technology model through to the customer support guarantee.

The EDI for Microsoft Dynamics Evaluation Check List is designed to take you beyond the product data sheet and software demonstration to uncover the distinguishing factors between various Dynamics EDI options. For example, do you know if the solution is flexible enough to be deployed in the cloud or on-premise? If deployed in the cloud, is there any local software component? Does the solution provider offer a fully- outsourced compliance management service and the ability for you to manage your own mapping and compliance?

Is EDI Driving Your Business Uphill or Downhill?

No matter where you are with EDI – currently using a solution, evaluating different options, or considering an EDI implementation – we challenge you to put EDI solution providers to the test. By asking the right questions, you can save yourself time and resources in making the right choice for your business and set your business up for long-term, uphill success with Dynamics AX EDI.

I would like to take this time to thank Glenn as well as Data Masons as a whole. Thank them for the great value they bring to the Dynamics Ecosystem and for being a sponsor of this blog.

Well that is all I have for this post. Check back soon and often as I cover the upcoming Convergence 2013 event. I will be heading towards NOLA this Sunday morning, so I wish all of you that are going safe travels. Til Next Time!
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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A Sunrise over Convergence 2013

Well it's a fine sunny, near spring day where I am. The birds and trees are starting to awaken, beckoning on the warmth as our world for the northern hemisphere tilts towards our solar system's star. This also is the time of year in which a lot of us within the Dynamics Solar system collide with one another at the annual Microsoft Dynamics Convergence Conference. This year it's being held in beautiful New Orleans!

While there will be plenty of chances for bonified beignets & beads - the real focus and value is around the connections and networking that is gained from attending this grand event. Thus beings another annual tradition of mine, an interview with President & Owner of Sunrise Technologies, John Pence.

Like all traditions, things are meant to adapt, change, and grow giving new life to new projects. This tradition is no different, and so for the first time this interview was captured on our company blog .: Implementing Great Ideas (Sunrise Technologies Company Blog).

To read the full interview, please make use of the following resource.: Brandon George Interviews Sunrise Technologies President, John Pence, about the Upcoming Microsoft Convergence Event.

There are some great nuggets of information contained within this interview, looking at this event from one of the leading VARs and from its President & Owners perspective. For example, I asked John to share about what he is looking forward to attending from a session point of view. John list a few great one's, but then finally states.: "The most important session is of course 'general networking' which I will be doing all day, every day. That is really the best reason to attend Convergence"

Some further tidbits of information are around Sunrise's efforts in hosting live demo's of the retail functionality that now comes as part of Dynamics AX 2012 R2. Further what is near and dear to my heart, John's take on what to look for around Business Intelligence.

It's a great read, and I hope it get you into the mood and ready to Geaux Dynamics Style at Convergence 2013. Make sure to stay tuned and follow my tweets and blog post. This year enlist the MVP's that are attending in a more formal way for coverage of the event. So there will be more than you can handle in one day. If your attending great, if not - you should be able to keep up and stay excited still.

Well that's all for this post, I hope each and every one of you have a blessed Dynamics filled day! Til Next Time!
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Monday, March 11, 2013

AX 2012 - Going Mobile!

Everyone is talking mobile these days. It's not new really, but if you think about the amount of devices that someone interacts with on a daily basis, it's easy to understand why mobile has such a huge focus. This includes having mobile ERP & BI needs for companies of all sizes. With this topic in mind, fellow blogger & peer Dilip wrote about the release of a new white paper.: Configure Dynamics AX 2012 Mobile Connector - Dilip's Blog.

Now, I do believe that Dilip will give us some great insight as he is able to play with what the new white paper talks about. You can download the white paper, from the following location.: Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 White Paper: Configure Microsoft Dynamics AX Connector for Mobile Applications. I would like to highlight this a bit more myself, and so this is the point and goal of my post today. First lets look at the summary of this white paper.:

"This paper describes how to configure an environment that is running Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012, so that users can connect the Microsoft Dynamics AX mobile phone application. The initial version of the Microsoft Dynamics AX mobile phone application enables mobile expense capture."

Now we can see that initial scope is to enable the mobile expense capture for travel & expense focused needs. It's clear that this is a framework and that Microsoft will continue to invest into this framework for enabling more mobility through this approach. That stated, there is a good bit that needs to be configured, and technical assets managed.

The above is a diagram that shows the specific elements involved in this framework. Further it shows the flows of message and authentication. This represents: Active Directory Federation Services (AD FS), Mobile phone application, Microsoft Windows Azure Service Bus and Access Control Service (ACS), Microsoft Dynamics AX Connector for Mobile Applications & Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012.

It's also important to understand the functional scope that is needed to be configured within Dynamics AX 2012 for this to be properly enabled and add value. It's listed out as.: Users, Expense Management and finally Human Resources. Now that is a possibly a wide & deep functional foot print, specifically when you mention the term human resources. This I believe is the most important part really to understand and what needs coverage. This is actually missing from the white paper. What specific configuration and modeling is completed within expense management & human resources to truly enable this. Further, I can image that workflow and other types of focus are needed as well.

Beyond this, the white paper has very detailed specifics on how to configure the needed technical aspects for enabling this expense capture mobile application. It is a great example of a hybrid cloud scenario that makes use of phone device end points, cloud assets and on-prim instance of Dynamics AX 2012. This is a great step in the right direction for seeing true value for such hybrid cloud scenario's with AX 2012 today, however there is plenty more to do in order to drive real value from such scenario's.

I would like to see the functional depth, the minimal functional depth, that is really required to achieve this setup. Having that paired with this very technical document, would help give and understanding to the functional & technical footprint needed, in order for a company to weight the true cost for the value this can bring.

That's all for this post, check back soon as we continue our Dynamics Journey including Convergence 2013 starting this coming Sunday! Till Next Time!
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