Best of 2017: What Microsoft Dynamics 365/AX experts taught us about technology, process, and project management trends

We begin to wrap up the year in Microsoft Dynamics by looking back at the best expert insights of 2017, as published on MSDW. ¬†For Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations, Enterprise edition (D365FOE), formerly known as Dynamics AX, 2017 was a year in which Microsoft stressed its rapidly growing list of go-lives and the product team’s close connection to Microsoft broader cloud technology direction.

As the articles below illustrate, MSDW contributors who work on and write about AX and D365FOE continue to push their expertise forward, in step with the product, on a range of issues. Topics below range from supply chain and finance capabilities to project management, regulatory compliance, BI, and automation.

What’s to come in 2018? There has been plenty of uncertainty in the Dynamics ecosystem this year, but virtually none of it has touched on AX and D365FOE. The product continues to be seen as a bedrock component of Microsoft’s business applications strategy. And as Microsoft Commercial and Enterprise CVP and CFO Dave O’Hara told analysts recently, Dynamics is “our biggest opportunity for growth and I think it’s [our] biggest opportunity for good healthy gross margin.”

And from the MSDW editorial team, we want to wish our deepest thanks to those D365FOE and AX experts who took the time to share their ideas, experiences, and best practices with our readers in 2017. To our readers, we appreciate you making these articles our most well received contributed pieces of the year.

Why the Microsoft Dynamics AX community needs independent professionals

Microsoft MVP Don Riggs writes that Dynamics AX users shouldn’t forget about an important resource at their disposal before, during, and after major projects: the pool of independent experts and project expertise who stand ready to provide specialized services and a fresh perspective. He writes:

Some people would say these individuals took advantage of resources from past employers and then went off on their own. But the situation is never that simple. In most cases these individuals have excelled while working for a Microsoft partner, helping win projects and delivering bottom line value. Many of them have also been laid off. It is a common cycle for partners to hire resources to try to staff their projects only to lay them off in a sales down cycle. Independent consultants have often gone through this ride more than once and eventually decided to step away

How-to: Bring your own data warehouse to Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Operations

BYODw might not yet be an industry-standard acronym, but Real Dynamics’s Rahul Mohta believes the use case will continue to grow for customers adopting D365FOE .In this article, he steps through a scenario that could become quite common – setting up an Azure SQL database that a D365FOE administrator can then push

GDPR and Microsoft Dynamics 365: Understand your responsibilities

As deadlines for compliance with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) near, every organization in Microsoft’s ecosystem ought to be paying attention to what the new set of rules means for their IT landscape.

As Mark Polino of Fastpath writes, Microsoft is working to ensure their products are GDPR-ready, but “complying with GDPR is a joint requirement between the cloud provider and the user company…GDPR imposes requirements on organization controls, audits, and policies which live firmly with the company using Dynamics 365, not Microsoft.”

What Dynamics partners can expect from Microsoft Inspire 2017

The conference calendar typically serves as a useful checkpoint for Microsoft products and the partner channel. As in past years, Dynamics industry veteran Guus Krabbenborg provided us with a preview of what to expect at Microsoft Inspire 2017, the global partner event formerly known as WPC. Looking back on this June 2017 article, the recommendations reflect Microsoft’s guidance today as much as they did at the event. For example:

To be successful with Dynamics 365 in a Cloud First, Mobile First world, traditional Dynamics partners must expand their ERP- or CRM-only portfolio with solutions like Office 365, Azure, Power BI, Flow, and Cortana Intelligence. On top of that they need to differentiate their offerings more than ever before. And finally, they need to market, sell, deliver and support digitally. These are all huge changes for most the partner channel!

How to print a “vendor note” in Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations Enterprise for every shipment of subcontracted products

Microsoft Dynamics AX/365 supply chain expert Evert Bos of Sikich explains that:

To better manage the subcontracting process, some organizations find it helpful to create the standard vendor note in Dynamics AX or 365 Finance and Operations Enterprise. It provides a type of shipping document that can go with the product while no actual physical shipping is taking place.

The approach is a convenient way to produce that paperwork as it can be printed independent of any shipping transaction, he writes. But it requires several setup steps, which he explains.

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Implementing Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations: Requirements analysis best practices

Rahul Mohta and Yogesh Kasat of Real Dynamics wrote a new book this year on Implementing D365FOE. After defining a project charter and a project plan for implementing the product, the next step is to build the foundation of your project by collecting requirements and performing analysis, they write. In this article, they step through several key objectives of the requirement gathering and analysis phase. They also challenge project teams to answer tough questions before agreeing to a customization:

Poor analysis will add more time, effort, and cost to the project. Every time you get a requirement that needs customization, consider how the other Dynamics 365 customers are using it. Ask why Microsoft (the principal) did not build the feature, and you will find pointers to push back.

The new Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance & Operations vendor invoice automation feature: Does it pass the practice test?

Ludwig Reinhard of Sycor tells the story of his team’s first opportunity to deploy D365FOE’s standard and newly-released vendor invoice automation feature. As he explains, the technology is only one challenge of introducing new invoice automation. It also demands business process change that can create even bigger problems. For example:

[The technical team] were still not happy about our idea to use SharePoint as the DMS. Yet, after demonstrating that other products such as Delve could overcome the perceived weaknesses of SharePoint searches, we reached an agreement to present our idea to the customer and let him decide whether he wants to go with our standard solution or an external DMS.


Integration across Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Operations, Sales & PSA: Building a services industry solution

In March, Andy Yeomans of SAGlobal shared his vision for Dynamics AX/365 in the professional services space. Project-driven businesses demand integrated processes that support multiple systems in dynamic situations spanning locations, teams, and performance metrics.

Integration of the software systems is key, he explains. And in the near term, he believes, Dynamics partners will be tasked with using their own knowledge and experience – as opposed to firm Microsoft guidance – when proposing solutions that meet the needs of project-driven organizations.

Is in-memory BI technology a better reporting solution than traditional query-based?

Don Riggs explores the importance of in-memory reporting in a modern ERP deployment. In his words:

In-memory reporting is changing the way Microsoft approaches reporting Dynamics AX, and customers need to develop an understanding of this evolving technology and its implications for the future.

Riggs expects that in-memory reporting will eventually replace traditional report writing. Microsoft will offer solutions via Azure and Power BI that meet the needs of some Dynamics AX/365 customers, while third parties will continue to offer compelling solutions that take a different technical approach.