Today's business environment is a very competitive, dynamic, and turbulent place where the key for business survival is being closer to the customer and delivering value-added products and services in the shortest possible time.
Therefore, the following things should be eliminated:
Unknown or inaccurate job costs
Inventories that do not meet or far exceed production requirements
Duplication of effort to capture vital data that impacts employee efficiency
Commonly setting inaccurate customer expectations
Missing promised delivery dates regularly
Operations performance not being achieved to an economical level
Little or no ability to forecast and plan production requirements with any degree of accuracy
This in turn demands:
Coherent working of various organs of a business
Enhanced operating efficiency by calculating and forecasting various business parameters
Efficient resource utilizations through better planning
Better customer relations, meeting deadlines, resolving issues promptly, and meeting quality standards with reasonable cost
Dynamics AX is an ERP solution from Microsoft, which is becoming very popular due to its characteristics. We will discuss the key characteristics of an ERP solution and Dynamics AX. During customization all these characteristics should be retained, hence we will also discuss how we can preserve these qualities during customization by studying the various best practices related to Graphical User Interface, technical design, trustworthy computing, and defect management. These also consist of most of the IBI specifications related to quality control in Dynamics AX IBI-compliant projects.
We will also discuss verifying different kind of characteristics through various kinds of testing. Lastly, we will discuss some Dynamic AX built-in tools that could be useful for testing activities.
In this chapter we will discuss:
Key characteristics of an ERP solution
Advantages and disadvantages of an ERP solution
Dynamics AX as an ideal ERP system
An overview of Dynamics AX customization, IDE, files system, and layer system
An ERP system is a strategic tool, which can help businesses to achieve the previously listed goals. It is a collection of various business processes in an integrated fashion, which simulates the real-world business functions and provides seamless integrated information at all the required places in an appropriate form. It helps the enterprise link, utilize, and allocate its resources in the best possible manner, and control them on a realâtime basis. It enables the enterprise to achieve world-class performance by streamlining its processes, optimizing the resources, and taking quick, accurate, and consistent decisions.
Now it is obvious that an ERP solution should have one essential characteristicâability to integrate various business functions. However, there are greater expectations from a usable ERP system. The following list summarizes the business needs and expected characteristics of an ERP solution.
Total Cost of Ownership (TCO): An ERP solution is not just a tool; it is an organization-wide synchronization of business processes and hence is a very large size software application, which could take several years to implement. The TCO does not only consist of ERP product cost and customization cost, it also includes the cost to bring about cultural changes in the organization (training, etc.). In such a large size project, TCO is one of the critical decision criteria.
Flexibility: An ERP solution may have to be modified (both in configuration and coding) as per the needs of the business organization, which may change with time due to changes in business size, strategy, or legal system. It should be able to run on different hardware and databases to use the company's heterogeneous collection of systems. The ERP should be customizable so that ERP business processes can be modified as per the unique business processes of the organization.
Usability: The solution must be useful to the end user to fulfill his or her mission, and enable "Joy of Work" at the same time. This can be turned into reality by adopting known standards, consistency, and intuitive UI design.
Coherence of business processes: The advantages of an ERP solution can be unleashed only when it offers coherence of business processes, i.e. information is available at all required places, it is not necessary to enter the same data twice, and the existing information is reused wherever relevant and possible.ï»¿
Integration: Enterprises may already be using some IT infrastructure and might not want the complete infrastructure to change for some reason (such as cost, strategic reasons, etc.). It should be easy to integrate new modules or external applications to the existing solutions.
Security: To ensure that information and data are safe and confidential.
Privacy: Information security is essential else competitors could reap the benefits of business-critical data as well as the methodology for various business processes. Hence privacy is a critical element.
Reliability: In today's extremely complex IT applications such as ERP solutions, end-to-end reliability is a key challenge for meeting customers' expectations and making an ERP application trustworthy.
Responsiveness: An ERP system should not only handle normal load conditions but also abnormal conditions, such as heavy workloads at the end of financial year due to closing reports and projection reports.
Different languages and character sets.
Ability to present data in a format used in each locale.
Localization: Whenever an ERP system is implemented, the major cost of customization occurs for two things, localization as per local needs and adaptation as per industry or sector-specific needs. The following need to be considered to localize an ERP system:
Governmental, legal, and market requirements: e.g. social medical benefits in payroll, weekdays for a business (as they are different in different parts of the world).
Cultures: e.g. in some places the name of a person may consists of two partsâthe first and lastâwhile in other parts of the world, it may be composed of five parts.
Standards: e.g. financial reporting standards.
Formats: e.g. date, time.
Code documentation: Once an ERP system is implemented, it may be used for several years and hence may be maintained by several developers or companies. During its life span it may require modification due to changes in the business needs and hence it is necessary to understand the code written by various developers in order to modify it. Hence code documentation is needed. Code should be well documented from different perspectives such as code changes, features related to code changes, etc.
Now we will discuss all the benefits of these categories.
Reduced operating costs by better planning (and hence improved resource utilization)
Lower inventory control cost due to better visibility and efficiency
Cost savings due to reduction in duplicated efforts
Reduction in non-value added activities (lean processing)
Improved capacity utilization due to efficient operations
Lower CRM cost due to better customer expectation management i.e. meeting timeline and cost savings due to improved operational control
Adherence to defined process
Another critical advantage of an ERP system is improved management control. ERP systems offer better accessibility to data so that management can have up-to-the-minute access to information for decision making and managerial control. An ERP system helps track actual costs of activities and performs activity-based costing.
Improvement in decision making through more accurate and real-time data as well as historic data
Availability of instant information to all concerned organs of the business
Data standardization and accuracy across the enterprise as it allows Single Point of Entry (i.e. at the source of that data), and hence single source of truth
Reduced Lead and Cycle Times and hence ease in meeting customer expectations regarding timelines
An ERP system enables top management for strategic planning i.e. planning future goals and objectives and formulating strategies to achieve those goals and objectives keeping historical data in consideration.
Improved planning and forecasting due to availability of historical data and analysis data
Better financial control through extended capabilities for financial estimations, analysis of cash flow, and monitoring of various transactions
Customization is limited in many situations: Many of the ERP solutions don't allow customization in other than reporting i.e. the information contained in a report and presentation of information. It poses serious limitations on the advantages of an ERP system, since businesses differ from one another for sure. No two businesses are exactly the same. So a true well designed global ERP system should readily allow partners and customers to customize and get the most out of the system to realize their full potential. Unfortunately, except Dynamics AX, almost all other ERP solutions have too many limitations on customization.
The need to reengineer business processes: As mentioned earlier almost all ERP solutions don't allow much customization, and hence businesses are compelled to adopt the business processes suggested by that ERP system, which may involve risk. Businesses may not be willing to reengineer their business processes as they are using time-proven processes suitable for their custom needs and conditions. Since Dynamics AX allows customization in almost all areas, this risk is not involved as there is minimal need for business process reengineering.
Microsoft Dynamics AX is an integrated, adaptable business management solution that offers great flexibility and easily adapts itself to ever-changing business needs. In other words it offers competitive advantage by delivering a complete easy-to-use, scalable enterprise resource planning (ERP) package to automate and streamline processes across your financials, customer relationships, business services, human resources, and supply chain.
Traditional ERP vendors appealed customers not to customize the software for ease of upgrade, etc. As we discussed earlier, every business has some uniqueness, which gives that business organization a leading edge. Such unique features can only be implemented in an ERP system by customizing it. If an ERP system prevents businesses from following unique business processes that provide them a competitive advantage, nobody will be interested in deploying such a system. Hence an ERP system should be easily customizable. It will definitely enable businesses to get most out of the system to realize their full potential.
Microsoft Dynamics AX is an adaptable business management solution useful especially if you're in the manufacturing/distribution, e-business, wholesale, or service industry. It offers manufacturers a broad functionality that supports build-to-order, engineer-to-order, and build-to-forecast supply chain models across both discrete and batch-process manufacturing modes.
Dynamics AX also delivers a range of financial capabilities including the ability to consolidate accounts with subsidiaries or distribution centers and give employees access to accounting, reporting, and extensive analysis tools at levels appropriate to their positions. Dynamics AX gives you everything you need for fast and reliable data intake and processing, and enables you to make informed decisions and achieve business goals.
Microsoft Dynamics AX will allow us to efficiently and effectively manage our business going forward. It allows us to continue to develop an environment that is cost effective without the functional limitations we had to contend with previously. â Pascal Kouknas, IT Director Dynamics AX and Asia Pacific, Esselte (http://www.esselte.com) (Source:http://www.microsoft.com/casestudies/casestudy.aspx?casestudyid=1000003878).
Dynamics AX provides the same version of code for Web and Microsoft Windows clients, which leads to simpler, less expensive development and IT costs, and provides a great degree of ease for businesses that are either distributed or have a mobile workforce.
Separate layers for industry-specific verticals and country-specific localization not only offer cost savings but also reduce efforts required to implement the Dynamics AX.
Due to the layered technology of Microsoft Dynamics AX, customizations can be easier to build and maintain. You can customize one layer without affecting the functionality of the other layers. This means that you can adapt and upgrade your solution over time with less disruption to business, risk, and expense.
Because of feature keys, any functionality can be enabled or disabled for an individual user or user group. This not only gives flexibility but also reduces the total cost of ownership.
Flexibility is another important aspect in an ERP solution, but unfortunately most of the current ERP solutions lack it. For example, with an ERP package like SAP, you have to adhere to SAP's ideas about your business, what they think about uniqueness of your business and strategy. Dynamics AX has an edge due to the following features:
Customization flexibility: Dynamics AX allows changing anything you need. Businesses see this as a wonderful feature. This is the key for the ERP you implement, to grow as your business grows. Going with an ERP package like SAP, you have to adhere to SAP's thoughts about your business, how they think it is best for your business run. With Dynamics AX, you are in control, and, granted best business practices should be sought after, those best practices can be applied to your custom needs. This helps businesses to reduce the total cost of ownership.
Layered programming: Microsoft Dynamics AX offers a layered technology of customizations to facilitate building and maintenance. You can customize one layer without affecting the functionality of other layers. This means that you can adapt and upgrade your solution over time with less disruption to business, risk, and expense.
Feature key: Feature key code is a wonderful system. Using feature keys, features can be disabled or enabled for an individual or a user group.
Microsoft Dynamics AX combines rich out-of-the-box functionality with added flexibility, giving The Systems Depot the ability to adjust capabilities to meet its exact business needs.â Jan Sorensen, Senior Managing Consultant, BKD Technologies (http://www.sdepot.com). (Source: http://www.microsoft.com/casestudies/casestudy.aspx?casestudyid=1000003831.)
Microsoft Product: Dynamics AX is owned and developed by Microsoft. Currently Dynamics AX 4.0 is highly integrated with the different product lines of Microsoft, and with the release of Vista, DotNet 3.0, Commerce Server 2007, SharePoint Server 2007, Exchange 2007, and Office 2007, all these product lines will become even more tightly integrated into the Dynamics AX product. This means that you will be able to work from SharePoint Excel Services, and create a Spreadsheet that could work directly with Dynamics AX ERP data; and it could all be centrally managed in a decentralized controlled fashion by an information worker. Besides this Microsoft has a long-term vision for integrating various Microsoft products, for example, Microsoft is planning to support full integration of Microsoft Office PerformancePoint server and Dynamics CRM will support full integration with Dynamics AX 5.0.
Familiarity with Microsoft: The best way to make a company productive is to make the people in it more productive. To accomplish this goal, people need business software tools like Microsoft Dynamics that enable them to work the way they like. When you implement Microsoft Dynamics, you support and enhance the work your people do, and the way they do it. Microsoft Dynamics AX works like familiar Microsoft software such as Microsoft SQL Server, Microsoft SharePoint products and technologies, and Microsoft Office products, which means a reduced learning curve for your employees, so that they can focus on their jobs.
We also wanted the system to provide our business users with the information they needed, in an intuitive, easy-to-use environment. That's what Microsoft Dynamics AX has given us.â Tomasz Gesiarz, Director of Finance and IT, LantmÃ¤nnen Unibake Poland. (http://www.lantmannen.com) (Source: http://www.microsoft.com/casestudies/casestudy.aspx?casestudyid=1000003869)
Dynamics AX 4.0 has some advanced concepts to optimize its performance. A few are listed below:
Data Compression: This ensures minimum time for data traveling through the network and hence performance is improved and added security is a bonus.
Axapta Object Server (AOS) Thread Pooling: This allows AOS to have a lower number of threads (less than the number of logged in users) and hence performance is improved.
Software applications like Payroll, Accounting, Purchase management, etc. have been available for a long time, but these individual applications could not be integrated with each other and hence communication between various business processes/departments was manual, which put serious limitations on the benefits of information technology. An ERP system offers coherent working of various business processes and hence is the solution to this integration problem.
Dynamics AX 4.0 also includes roles-based features so that users can gain easy access to the business data relevant to their position within an organization.
With comprehensive features that help to automate and streamline financials, customer relationships, business services, human resource management, and supply chain processes, Microsoft Dynamics AX 4.0 brings together people, processes, and technologies located worldwide. In this way, Microsoft Dynamics AX 4.0 helps to increase the productivity and effectiveness of your business.
Through sales and purchase procedures we have minimized multiple data input and optimized workflow between the offices. Now, fewer people need to be involved in these processes.â Alexander Sharafutdinov, Chief Information Officer, UCC Shchekinoazot (http://www.n-azot.ru) (Source: http://www.microsoft.com/casestudies/casestudy.aspx?casestudyid=200916.)
In an organization there may be a need to preserve old investment in different software application or some specialized software needs to work with an ERP system. In such cases it is necessary that an ERP system offers various industry-standard methods of integration. Microsoft has a long-term strategy to integrate various applications such as MS Office, Microsoft Office PerformancePoint server, etc. Dynamics AX can be integrated using the following technologies:
Microsoft Dynamics AX 4.0 includes the Application Integration Framework (AIF), which lets organizations extend the solution by easily inserting business logic from other vendors' applications with no dependencies created within the core solution. In addition, AIF acts as a web services toolbox by exposing all the application components and gives developers a head start by publishing an extensive set of web services for core business processes such as receiving and fulfilling orders.ï»¿
Biztalk is a compatible integration adapter for Dynamics AX, which offers many advantages such as real-time visibility across the extended organization, flexibility, ease of deployment, and improved ROI.
Dynamics AX can be connected with external data sources using web services as well as industry-standard technologies such as Microsoft BizTalk Server, Component Object Model (COM) integration, Microsoft Message Queuing (MSMQ), Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP), Microsoft .NET Framework, XBRL, and XML.
Microsoft Dynamics AX is designed with common standards shared with other Microsoft applications; it enables tighter integration and more seamless connectivity with products such as Microsoft Windows, Microsoft Office programs, and Microsoft SQL Server 2005.
Dynamics AX supports different Microsoft-developed document formats used by Microsoft Office Outlook messaging and collaboration client, Microsoft Office Word, and Microsoft Office Excel spreadsheet software and interoperability can be assured.
Unlike some business management systems that force you to use specialized tool sets, Microsoft Dynamics AX uses standard adapters based on SQL Server Reporting Services and the Microsoft Visual Studio. NET development system. This instantly enables you to access a wide variety of industry-standard integration protocols and trained integration partners that you can use to connect to the business management solutions of your business partners.
We chose Microsoft Business Solutions Dynamics AX because of the possibility of integrating it with office software suites, flexible reporting, the ability to display information in two currencies, the multilingual user interface and the functionality of the Project Module, all giving us an advanced project management system.â Agnieszka Burak, Chief Accountant ZWIK. (http://www.zwik.lodz.pl/) (Source: http://www.microsoft.com/casestudies/casestudy.aspx?casestudyid=200554.)
Dynamic AX is Unicode compliant. Today Unicode is the largest industry standard character set; compliance to Unicode means that you can access new regions and transport data through many different systems with least risk of data corruption. Unicode compliance enables you to integrate with subsidiaries where the language might use a multi-bit character set such as China, Japan, and other East Asian countries.
Dynamics AX supports the linkage of date/currency format with locales, which enables Dynamics AX to automatically change the date format as per the standards of the locale. Dynamics AX supports multiple languages and multiple currencies (more than 36 languages and 40 currencies).
The business processes cannot be identical in different countries as there may be differences in the regulatory system, tax structure, language, currency, and locale. IntelliMorph is a feature that provides the capability to Dynamics AX to realign its Graphical User Interface according to difference in business processes. Besides that, the following features are very helpful to localize the Dynamics AX ERP package.
Microsoft Dynamics AX is featured to support built-in multi-site, multi-language, and multi-currency capabilities in 36 countries and 40 languages.
One can get local tax, regulatory, and market requirements from the localization layer of Dynamics AX.
The label file system is a powerful feature in Dynamics AX, which enables Dynamics AX to automatically change labels as per the locale settings.
Because of the multi-language tool in Microsoft Dynamics AX, our employees can work more productively in their local language.â Patrik Dannehall, IT Director, Haldex Europe. (http://www.haldex.com) (Source: http://www.microsoft.com/casestudies/casestudy.aspx?casestudyid=200926.)
Businesses grow with time; a small business may turn to a multimillion dollar business tomorrow. In such cases it is necessary that an ERP solution is highly scalable, i.e. it should be able to change according to the growing business needs. The following features make Dynamics AX a highly scalable solution:
Dynamics AX is truly modular in structure and various modules can be added or removed easily if the core of Dynamics AX is not touched. You can use the functions you need now and unlock additional capabilities as needs arise. Dynamics AX is modular up to the second degree i.e. it is not only modular up to department level but it goes further; e.g. HR has HR 1, HR 2, HR 3.
With the MorphX development environment, developers can design, edit, compile, and view the changes within minutes using a single screen.
Microsoft Dynamics AX can easily adapt to market changes, which helps your people and business follow the market and work more effectively. Furthermore, you can extend the already powerful core solution by adding industry-specific solutions provided by a wide variety of partners and independent software vendors.
Dynamics AX supports the three-tier, object-oriented architecture of Microsoft. Dynamics AX integrates with other Microsoft technologies such as Microsoft SQL Server, offering you high-speed server-side performance and the capability to scale your IT infrastructure easily, so the solution can grow with the company.
Microsoft Dynamics AX is a scalable, flexible solution that is capable of supporting our technology requirements, both now and in the future.â SÃ©bastien Batt, Manager of Microsoft Dynamics AX E-Commerce and Back-Office Systems, Stock FenÃªtre. (http://www.stock-fenetre.com) (Source: http://www.microsoft.com/casestudies/casestudy.aspx?casestudyid= 1000003854.)
During the life span of an ERP system, other developers might need to understand the code written by the developer, and hence it is necessary that any modification made to the standard Dynamics AX is documented. Dynamics AX facilitates documenting why and what customizations were made by various developers, which would help a new developer to understand and customize new functionalities.
Last but not least, an ERP system should be functionally rich to accommodate business processes with minimal changes in the standard ERP package. This not only enables rapid implementation, but also reduces the total cost of ownership.
Dynamics AX offers a wide range of industry-specific verticals developed in compliance with Microsoft Industry Builder Initiative (IBI) specifications. Compliance with IBI specifications not only ensures the quality in these verticals, but also goes beyond that (such as prompt support services, etc.). The high adaptability of Dynamics AX ensures that it can be implemented as a feature-rich ERP where all business processes are customized as per the custom need.
Microsoft Dynamics AX is designed to provide your customers/vendors security-enhanced access to the business information they want over the Internet. Secured Internet access helps your customers/vendors enter sales orders and find shipment status, account balances, inventory stock levels, and purchase order statusâ24 hours a day, 7 days a weekâfrom anywhere in the world.
Built-in business models are the true power of Dynamics AX. It supports a wide types of functionality, e.g. it not only supports the various supply chain models such as build-to-order, engineer-to-order, and build-to-forecast, but also works well in mixed-mode environments.
It is now possible for us to get the data we need to react to changes and effectively manage the business in a timely fashion. The system allows us to track an individual item by group or by its specific part number. This gives us the visibility we need over the global operations,â Joe Horvath, Vice President of the Apollo Program Office, Esselte. (http://www.esselte.com) (Source: http://www.microsoft.com/casestudies/casestudy.aspx?casestudyid=1000003878.)
Virtually all business owners strive to do something to stand out from their competitors; the same cannot always be said for their choice of off-the-shelf software. As a result, the unique aspects of a business are often lost in a "plain vanilla" integrated enterprise application. However, the Dynamics AX solution allows businesses to integrate their unique terminology, formulas, processes, and business strategy totally and seamlessly into the software. Now we will briefly discuss some of the useful features in Dynamics AX, which are very useful for Dynamics AX customization.
Microsoft Dynamics AX provides an integrated development environment called MorphX. It is very intuitive and enables developers to graphically design, develop, and report for both types of interfaces, i.e. Windows client and web browser interfaces. The MorphX development tools are available at the Tools | Development tools menu. This tool helps developers extensively by offering designing, editing, and compiling through a single screen. Once the changes are compiled, all changes will be reflected by the application.
The MorphX development suite is a collection of a wide range of features. which enables fast pace customization, with affordable cost, without affecting the reliability, integrity, and security of the original solution, i.e. with minimal risk involved. Another useful tool, which provides the wonderful capability to align the GUI as per the context of location, language, currency, regulatory requirements, etc. is IntelliMorph. We will discuss it in the following section.
Usually the major concern for the solution designers or developers is that a GUI entity (form, report, etc.) works well in all the languages supported. It is easy to translate different labels by using label file systems. However, the length may vary greatly, which could spoil the entire GUI design and the usability of such systems would be compromised.
In different countries, functionality may be used in a different way or some of the fields may be hidden or extra ones required. This may also be the case with different companies.
Consider a scenario where some business processes may not be implemented, and hence all connections from other business processes to this business process have to be removed. Therefore, some fields may need to be added and some removed from all the relevant business processes. Due to such addition or deletion of fields the GUI may change, which will be highly inconvenient for the user.
MorphX has a solution for the above mentioned scenarios, i.e. IntelliMorph technology. The IntelliMorph technology allows forms and reports to automatically resize the display widths to accommodate the word length, and hence the GUI remains in a presentable or useable shape.
In any ERP solution we can classify three kinds of features:
Standard features that fit the need of the customer
Standard extra features that are not to be used in an implementation
Customization to fit the ERP to a business scenario
Isolation of unwanted features, i.e. making a subset of standard functionality by disabling a few features, can be easily done by enabling or disabling feature key codes. Using feature keys, one can create a subset of the standard functionality for an installation. The feature key system can work for a single user or a user group. This feature is another tool that makes Dynamics AX a highly adaptable ERP.
The language that is used for development and writing classes and methods in Microsoft Dynamics AX's integrated development environment is an Object-Oriented language similar to Sun Microsystems JAVA and C++. It is based on JAVA with SQL embedded into the code. The language has extensive checking system for object references both at the time of compiling and also at run time. If any object in the system is found without reference then its storage is reclaimed.
The X++ language follows OOPS concepts and the concept of inheritance is valid as in any other Object-Oriented language. It offers a great advantage as the changes made in the properties at one place in Microsoft Dynamics AX should be reflected/inherited at all the places where that object is being used within Microsoft Dynamics AX. If, for example, the display property of a database field is changed from a length of 10 to a length 15 characters then it gets changed in all the forms where this field is shown or used.
A statement written in any language may be syntactically correct but it is not an assurance that it is as per the recommended best practices of programming. Dynamics AX has a built-in tool known as Dynamics AX Best Practice Check Tool.
Reviewing code is very time consuming as it requires reviewing each statement against a large number of checkpoints. Manual reviewing of code against such a large number of quality checkpoints is almost impossible due to cost reasons. Dynamics AX has an inbuilt tool for code scanning. It is named Dynamics AX Best Practices Check tool or ABC tool. It validates the code against over 200 checkpoints.
The components are locked and checked out of the system when they are being worked upon. After the developer has finished working, the components are unlocked and checked into the system.
Dynamics AX offers complete flexibility to customize every aspect of it (functionality and Graphical User Interface, etc.) and elegantly preserve the various changes made by different parties in its own containers i.e. layers.
The Dynamics AX application layers are a hierarchy of levels in the Dynamics AX application source code, which ensures that you can make modifications and additions without interfering with the application objects on the level below your own.
Microsoft Dynamics AX customizations are easier to build and maintain due to the layered technology, which facilitates customizations by different partners in different layers. You can customize the features coded in one without affecting the features coded in other layers. This means that you can adapt and upgrade your solution over time with less disruption to business, risk, and expense (i.e. less risk, high adaptability, and lower TCO). For example you could choose to add a field to a standard form. The addition would be saved in your current level; the revised form would replace the standard form, but you would always be able to go back to the original one on the level below your own by simply removing the new form, and hence you can work with minimal risk of business disruption as you can always work with already working functionality.
The Dynamics AX application layer hierarchy consists of sixteen layers, which are divided into groups with two layers in each group, i.e. eight different layer categories. Each of them has a patch layer also, which is for handling patches, minor updates, service packs, hot fixes, and additional functionality. This layer design is a clear indication that Dynamics AX is built to accommodate changes by multiple parties elegantly and encourages customization. The Dynamics AX layers are designed for different Dynamics AX groups as well as for use in different types of customization, as described in following table. Layers are mentioned in the order from bottom to top:
GLS (Global Solutions)
MBS Certified third partiesï»¿
LOS (Local Solution)
Local MBS officesï»¿
BUS (Business Solution)
VAR (Value Added Reseller)
Besides these main application layers, there are patch layers, which can be distinguished from the other application layers by the use of the letter P in the end of the layer name. The layers are: SYP, GLP, DIP, LIP, BUP, VAP, CUP, and USP. The utilization of the patch layers is not subject to any predefined MBS rules, and hence they can be used to support the customers/business partners in any way suitable. This procedure provides the option of sending out corrections without interfering with the existing layers.
All application layers are able to utilize all the tools available in the Dynamics AX MorphX Development Suite as well as all object types, tables, classes, macros, extended data types, forms, reports, and so forth. The online help is also included in the Layers technology, as well as the utilization of the label system.
Having all the object types available in every application layer makes the application layer technology very flexible and dynamic
Each layer is technically saved in a separate file called
Ax<layer>.aod, for example
Axsys.aod for the SYS layer,
Axdis.aod for the DIS layer, and so on. The
.aod extension is an acronym for Application Object Data file. The files are stored in the
Dynamics AX Standard folder under
Ax<layer>.aod there are a few other files that hold different kinds of data for a layer as described in the following table.
It should be noted that no user should be connected when the above files are directly copied, deleted, etc.
In this chapter we studied the challenges of business that are solved by ERP packages. To address these challenges the following key qualities are required in an ERP package:
Competitive and affordable cost of ownership
Flexibility in adaptability to business processes
Coherence of business processes
Ease of integration
We also discussed the features that make Dynamics AX an ideal ERP system and the built-in tools that are helpful in preserving the qualities of Dynamics during customization.