ATLANTA — April 11, 2011 — When it comes to building enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, developers face two primary challenges: How well does the software reflect the real world of business, and how quickly can it be made to fit the unique needs of an organization — even as that “real world” constantly changes?
Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 is being introduced today at the Convergence 2011 conference in Atlanta, Ga.
“If the fidelity between the software model and reality is high, then implementation is straightforward and the software is able to provide insight and empower the organization,” says Microsoft Technical Fellow Mike Ehrenberg.
Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012, which is being introduced today at the Convergence 2011 conference in Atlanta, was developed to maximize that fidelity between the way the software is designed and the way companies and people actually work, which, says Ehrenberg, “is the beginning of why Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 is different, and why we think it’s a breakthrough in ERP software.”
No More Workarounds: Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 Does It All
One of the most anticipated new components of Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 is that it contains pre-built capabilities for five industries: manufacturing, distribution, public sector, professional services and retail. Including this functionality directly in the solution offers customers a great deal of flexibility, and it isn’t something most ERP solutions can deliver.
“Most industry-specific solutions only cater to that industry,” says Ehrenberg. “Offering five in one answers a real need that customers have to integrate solutions across industries. It gets organizations up and running faster, saves integration costs, and it supports greater accuracy across the application — meaning users get a single version of the truth.”
Ehrenberg says companies can combine these capabilities to suit just about any unique business structure. Manufacturers, for example, often manage their own distribution and sometimes their own direct retail operations. Other companies have segments of their business that operate on a project basis, like services companies. Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 makes all of this functionality available in a single solution.
Real Insight Into the Business
Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 comes with built-in foundations for five industries.
Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 customers will benefit from the development team’s work to streamline every step in high-velocity processes such as order entry. But according to Ehrenberg, ERP solutions today need to be more than information repositories: “The value of a business system is not about putting transactions in; it is about turning those transactions into information that helps users make faster, better decisions.”
To that end, workflow automation brings a wealth of information back to the user, such as a central task pane that helps users quickly set priorities. And while Microsoft Dynamics AX has previously provided embedded business intelligence capabilities, Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 takes it a step further by making Microsoft SQL Server the default data management system throughout the application. This has the effect of unifying business data into a central system, and as a result companies can more easily spot trends that could lead to new investments or other changes.
According to Ehrenberg, that’s where Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 completes the circle with its ability to help companies adjust.
Streamlined and Simple
As business applications evolve, Ehrenberg says the natural tendency is for increased complexity with more features and functionality. This can lead to a long learning curve for users in navigating a disorienting array of screens and fields, as well as higher cost for the organization in paying a systems integrator to stitch various specialized applications together.
Microsoft Technical Fellow Mike Ehrenberg.
“For this release, Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 makes an intentional commitment to simplicity,” he says. “We’ve engineered to simplify every aspect of the system from installation through deployment, implementation, customization, user experience and upgrades.”
Wherever possible, processes were overhauled to remove steps, eliminate opportunities for error and streamline the interaction between technology and people.
“Simplicity drives adoption, lowers costs and ensures that customers truly get the benefit of the system’s power and agility,” says Ehrenberg.
This interaction is further improved by what Microsoft is calling RoleTailored enhancements, which include new role centers and ad-hoc, self-service business intelligence and reporting, as well as interoperability with other familiar Microsoft technologies. New to Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 is bi-directional integration with Microsoft Office 2010, and Enterprise Search functionality through connection with Microsoft SharePoint 2010 Business Connectivity Services. Collaboration tools such as Microsoft Lync 2010 also enable companies to collaborate more easily with peers, customers, suppliers and partners.
The Agility to Adapt and Evolve
Ehrenberg says the best businesses today are able to succeed because they do an outstanding job of integrating business process with technology to gather, manage and use information in a way that gives them a competitive advantage.
Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 works to simplify that process as well, through a set of unified, natural models that allow companies to visualize and measure their performance, and then adapt accordingly.
“These models enable a number of powerful new benefits,” he says. “For example, the organization model makes easy work of setting up functionality based on roles and organizational needs, and displays it in a graphical way. This approach makes setup fast and easy for a simple business, while providing the richness and flexibility to represent the most complex organizations.”
Ehrenberg says the approach also drives overall system agility — speeding the process of fitting the software to the business and, more important, enabling the system to evolve rapidly in the face of change.
“As more of the system is defined through models, unique requirements can be addressed without writing code,” Ehrenberg says. “Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 is simpler to set up and simpler to change, because the software reflects the real world in a natural way.”
With Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 there is no coding involved to assign users to roles and provide access to the tasks and technologies they are responsible for. The ability to make those decisions occurs with management — where policies about people, roles and responsibilities are naturally made — rather than with IT. Once the system is set up, users comfortable with Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office are able to quickly get to work.
“Interoperability with Microsoft Office and other applications brings the company’s data into the tools that employees expect,” Ehrenberg says. “So it’s a natural experience that enables employees to get up to speed quickly.”
Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 is also a truly global ERP solution that supports right out of the box the unique requirements for business systems in 38 countries, including multiple currencies, time zones and languages, as well as compliance with multiple banking and reporting standards and legislative codes.
“Before Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012, there was impedance from a fundamental mismatch between software and the real world, which forced customers to either work with multiple applications or create awkward workarounds so an application could represent a process outside its capabilities,” Ehrenberg says. “Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 breaks through this limitation — the software is able to represent each company’s real world with high fidelity, simplifying not only deployment but ongoing operations, and improving results.”