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An insight into Microsoft Dynamics AX R3 enhancements

Last week I was up in Seattle among a gathering of over 1300 partners and customers at the Dynamics AX Technical Conference. The conference reception on Sunday evening hosted a live screening of the Superbowl final, which saw Seattle’s home team, the Seahawks, win their first World championship title, and seemed to raise the excitement and winning tone for the next three days to come.

The conference has been well anticipated after it was delayed by three months in order to present a far more complete product update. The update is the AX2012 R3 release and is expected for general availability on May 1st 2014.

While an “Rn” release is generally referred to as a minor release, R3 is anything but minor. R3 is a significant update and was said to contain more code than all of AX2009. The huge investment Microsoft is investing in product development was clearly evident with R3 and through the conference its release was referred to the beginning of a new future – that future depicted by, speed to attaining innovative processes, product knowledge and support engagement, via the cloud. 

The impact of the cloud is phenomenal.  As cloud (Microsoft Azure) based AX deployments increase, Microsoft is able to derive rich statistical information (described as “telemetry”) from these, for example – usage patterns, common gap areas, performance metrics. This data will then be fed back into the R&D process to proactively improve the product – system self-learning and adaptation is a near reality. The next major release of AX (codenamed ‘Rainer’) will be fully cloud enabled.

Some of the key enhancements provided with the R3 release are:

Application Lifecycle Management – an Azure based set of tools, called Lifecycle Services (LCS), provided as the central point of engagement for customer and partner activities throughout the application lifecycle.  New LCS functions enable: creation and managing support cases with Microsoft, knowledge base issue search and install resolution updates. The LCS Business Process Modeller is improved, connecting business processes and design gaps with business goals and objectives, and requirements traceability.

Retail – a new “Modern Point-of-Sale” – metro-styled POS client designed for mobile clienteling activities.  A new set of functions for Call Centre sales and improved Catalogue features.  Loyalty Programs and Gift Card handling has been redesigned, enabling these to operate across all companies within the AX database, adding: earning loyalty points based on an activity and new redemption rules. Customer affiliations influencing price/discount.

Advanced Warehouse Management – a new module that improves operational excellence for warehouse processes, containing; license plate identification, wave picking, new inventory reservation hierarchy, transport load planning and rating, mobile/handheld support, and freight invoice matching. 

Demand Forecasting – a basic planning function to create an Item SKU level demand forecast, leveraging the broader Microsoft technology stack, SSAS time-series algorithms and Excel data visualisations.

Master Data Management – managing the synchronisation (push and pull) of master data changes from multiple environments, with conflict resolution, and batch scheduling and automation.

Additionally there are a vast number of technical enhancements around; data import/export, system performance, technical deployment, hotfix updates and upgrades.

The AX2012 R3 release offers a great opportunity for customers who are considering a new ERP system to attain a solution platform with deep industry processes and broad integrated functionality across online, shop floor, back off and operations.

For existing AX customers who are planning an upgrade, R3 should be your target platform, and will provide greater benefits through the rich functionality set and new accompanying tools and services.  And for us as implementation partners, this gives us reassurance of the innovation and progress the product continues to gain, and the improvement in the tools to help deliver the outcomes for customers.

Finally, I want to finish here with a quote from Mike Ehrenberg (CTO – Microsoft Business Solutions), “The future starts with AX2013 R3…”

Posted by: Tony Young, Solutions Specialist, Dynamics AX | 11 February 2014

Tags: Microsoft Dynamics AX

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