Fall 2016 Release of Microsoft Dynamics AX Retail To Offer In-Store Tools, Analytics, E-Commerce Improvements

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By:  Valerie Miller

Microsoft have plans to make the new Dynamics AX (AX 7) more appealing to the retail industry with improvements coming in its autumn 2016 update. Company officials reviewed several of the coming changes at last week’s Retail Realm 2016 event in Las Vegas

Microsoft Principal Group Program Manager for Dynamics Retail & Commerce Balaji Balasubramanian explained at the event that there was a desire among many retail users to have the safety net of an in-store (not the same as “on-premise”) option with AX 7.

“We are giving them a number of deployment options so they can be fully in the cloud, or [on] an in-store system,” Balasubramanian said of Microsoft’s future plans. “This gives them unprecedented flexibility.”

The update to the new AX later this year will include an updated modern point-of-sale (POS), which will be shipped as a Windows universal application. It can run on different platforms, such as PCs, tablets and phones.

“Our clients are cross platform,” Balaji explained. “They give you a choice to run as either an app or in a browser. They are online or offline. They can be hybrid or in a store.”

The modern POS will be able to be used by both employees and consumers, and can be used as part of an e-commerce deployment, he added.

Based on roadmap information shared at last week’s event, the fall release is expected (but not promised) to include, among other things:

  • AX 2009 upgrade tools,
  • Advanced warehouse support for retail.
  • Improvements to extensibility and development experience;
  • More payment integration;
  • Hardware station and peripheral improvements;
  • And e-commerce improvements.

The roadmap promises to “enable rich and immersive experiences for retailers anywhere, anytime, and on any device,” and be “based on flexible architecture that is designed to support multi-platform applications,” Balasubramanian said.

As we reported earlier, Dynamics AX will increase its use of Cortana Intelligence Suite’s Azure Machine Learning, which offers ready-to-use solution to for applying data to analytics in predictive models.

“Cortana (Intelligence) is included in AX. It’s a feature capability. It comes fully integrated,” Balasubramanian said.

Microsoft’s retail conference presence

This year’s Retail Realm drew a record 300-plus attendees. That’s up from some 210 attendees last year. The conference started six years ago with roughly 60 attendees. Microsoft has a much-more active role, which has spurred interest in the conference as the place to be if you want to discuss Dynamics in retail, said Retail Realm chairman Afshin Alikhani.

“I think the big thing that has happened is that this has become a Microsoft-focused conference,” he said. “We have a lot of Dynamics partners and ISVs coming here to meet with Microsoft and the whole retail environment.”

Retail Realm has developed a niche, Alikhani added: “Where else are they going to meet together to discuss just retail?”

The companies attending Retail Realm are changing, as well. Larger retailers, and those who cater to them, are becoming more the focus of the conference, but smaller businesses continue to have options.

“Part of the RMS community is still here, and we are replacing it with [Retail Management Hero],” he said about the small-and-medium-sized business-focused retail management system. Microsoft’s RMS customers are increasingly being serviced by Retail Management Hero’s RMS replacement product, RMH.

“But you have two floors of the full AX. Then, you have Retail Realm Essentials, which is AX without the fundamentals of manufacturing,” Alikhani explained. The Essentials offering allows retailers with more than 10 stores to get the benefits of AX without all the enterprise bells and whistles.

About Valerie Miller

Valerie Miller is an award-winning Las Vegas-based journalist who can be reached at (702) 683-3986 or valeriemusicmagic@yahoo.com.