ERP implementation in enterprise projects are complex for many reasons, but one of the most common factors is addressing business requirements at all levels, from basic IT infrastructure through user interface technology. In a previous articles I have explored the planning of the Microsoft Dynamics AX implementation in terms of managing customer expectations and evaluating practical options to the proposed solution. I then moved on to the implementation team formation, understanding roles and responsibilities of the project team from both the customer side and partner side.
In this article I will explore reporting and data management in ERP from the perspective of the Management Information System technology platform, with its dependent layers.
The concept of a Management Information System is most relevant to a businesses’ IT manager or CIO; business owners likely don’t care as much about the specifics so long as these aspects of the solution deliver the needed results.
Infrastructure is obviously vital and should ensure the reliability of the solution, guaranteeing the availability of daily transaction entry tasks. It must also be able to support an agreed level of uptime.
Hardware sizing depends on factors including the number of transactions, number of users, number of locations, and the available connectivity for each location. The infrastructure must also meet the architectural requirements of servers that will run the application, database, and reporting.
Beyond the production environment planning, each project should account for building out of at least three different environments: a development environment for testing customizations and new functionality; a training environment that is a replication from the live environment and can accept tested updates from the development environment; and a production environment for live transactions. It is also important to consider clustering, and load balancing.
Having separate reporting servers improves reporting performance, whether with SQL BI reporting, or SQL Reporting Services (SSRS). In addition, there are automatic daily batch jobs for notifications, alerts, and running special processes that put more load on the application server, so it is preferred to separate batching out to a separate server. And depending on the industry, external access to AX can have a significant impact on server performance. For example, for external access from vendors and customers, a retail business should consider an integrated e-Commerce solutions with Dynamics AX.
The relational database (Microsoft SQL Server) that stores all ERP-related transactions is known as the OLTB (Online Transactional Database). And for the Business Intelligence (BI) reporting with SQL Server, the Microsoft SQL Server Analysis Services (SSAS) can store the aggregations, measures, and dimensions, resulting in higher performance in querying reports. Here it is also important to consider backup and restore strategies.
Microsoft Dynamics AX reports are based on SQL Reporting Services (SSRS), an approach that has been standardized with AX 2012.
The detailed business processes will reflect the data requirements and identify the its origin. The business process design should identify who owns the data, and where and when the data are captured.
The business processes are transformed into business functions in Dynamics AX. The applied access rights (security) ensure the segregation of duties, data ownership, and accuracy of data validation. Likewise, approval matrix in a workflow will determine the control mechanisms in the processes, such as required management approvals.
Identify the business logic of measures and dimensions. In addition to KPIs, it is often useful to analyze and measure your business against industry benchmarks and best practices as a way to help develop the most valuable reports and indicators.
The richness of Power View and Excel Services gives Dynamics AX 2012 Enterprise Portal significantly more power to do analysis and gain business insights than any previous release.
Identify the devices on which your organization will need access to business data. The most common device in many companies is still the laptop. More universal access from multiple locations over the public internet may require more planning for mobile devices (cellular phones, hand held devices, and tablets). As one example, Microsoft has introduced Microsoft Business Analyzer for Windows 8, which gives access the high level reports of charts for Dynamics AX, GP, and SL.
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