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Business Intelligence (BI) in Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012

Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 provides a flexible pre-built business intelligence (BI) solution for mid-market organizations. The use of built-in content—including Role Centers, analytic reports, and analysis cubes—eliminates the need to build a solution from the ground up, and therefore saves time and money. The Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 business intelligence solution can be configured and extended to suit your specific needs with the help of Microsoft Business Intelligence development tools.

The Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 business intelligence solution consists of the following built-in features:

  • Role Centers (dashboards). Thirty-two default home pages that pertain to the work needs of various user profiles in an organization.
  • Analysis cubes. Eleven analysis cubes that address the analytic requirements of the major functional areas within Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012—including finance, supply chain, manufacturing, professional services, and business processes.
  • Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). More than 60 of the most commonly used KPIs that help users evaluate the success of business activities.
  • Analytic reports. More than 150 analytic reports that provide insight into business data.

The pre-built BI solution can be deployed when you implement Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 in your organization. A new intuitive, wizard-driven interface guides the user through deployment of the solution without requiring the user to have expert business intelligence skills.

By deploying the pre-built business intelligence solution as you implement Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012, your organization can start using BI capabilities as soon as the new business functionality is operational.

Four IT Megatrends will Dominate the Next Decade

Based on reports from industry analysts and the many conversations that our team has with clients, we believe four megatrends will radically change how businesses view enterprise IT over the coming decade.

  • Mobility and social are the driving forces for change in business today, particularly as employees (and customers) increasingly expect to use mobile and social technology to interact in new ways. These two elements are becoming a competitive differentiator for business - for recruiting and retaining employees and for attracting and retaining customers.
  • The cloud and big data are quickly becoming enablers for business success. The tremendous scalability and agility enabled by the cloud and the new insights made possible with big data can help businesses today get ahead of the competition and tap into new sources of revenue.

These trends represent not only what is most important to our customers today, but also what we feel are likely to be the dominant forces of change in the coming decade.

  • The proliferation of new device types, along with the connectivity of the cloud, is making us more mobile and changing the way we work and play. Mobility answers the growing expectation from your employees to be able to work from anywhere, with the device that they choose. Mobile technology also delivers a great mobile experience to customers, bringing your business to them wherever they are through their mobile phone or tablet.
  • As technology becomes more immersive, we also expect it to help us develop more personal and social connections with our colleagues and customers. Social networks build strong work communities, enhancing collaboration, information sharing, and productivity.
  • The connectivity that the cloud offers is changing what we expect from technology. With an always-on connection, apps can provide innovative new services with instant scalability and attractive economics.
  • While business intelligence (BI) has been important for a great number of years, the explosion in connected devices and apps is generating an exponential growth in data and the need to get better insights from “big data.” The challenge for today’s businesses is to make that data useful—to put it into the hands of their people to drive informed, forward-thinking decisions.

We’re not alone in identifying these megatrends. According to IDC, “In 2012, the ICT industry's shift to its third major platform of growth—built on mobile, cloud, social, and big data technologies—will accelerate.” In contrast to what IDC refers to as the first (mainframe) and second (PC/server) platforms, they estimate that by 2020, “…enterprises’ highest-value leverage of IT will be driven by these third-platform technologies as well as an explosion of new solutions built on the new platform and rapidly expanding consumption of all of the above in emerging markets.”

It’s amazing just how fast our world is changing today. Just think…

  • Within 15 years, a little startup named Amazon has gone from transforming the book industry to changing the face of retail.
  • It took radio 38 years to reach 50 million users. In less than nine months, Facebook reached 100 million users. And in the space of just a few short years, social networking services have significantly changed people’s expectations of how we interact with each other and with businesses, particularly for the millennial generation.
  • Within just two months of its launch, Kinect for the Xbox 360 changed the face of gaming and became the world’s fastest-selling consumer electronics device ever.

Each of these examples reflects the tremendous impact that the megatrends are having on our world - and the pace at which it is all changing. As we enter this new era in the enterprise, the question is - what can your business do to make the most of it?

Of course, technology trends on their own aren’t going to revolutionize your business or help you stay competitive. How you adopt new technology and put it to work in your business will ultimately be the responsibility of IT. We know how important it is to ensure that your technology solutions truly empower your IT professionals to deliver what the business needs. What are those needs?

  • Integrate new devices and applications with their existing line-of-business apps, for a seamless experience that keeps people productive and connected to the business.
  • Help maximize end user productivity, with solutions that put the tools users need at their fingertips, wherever they happen to be working from, and that connect them with the people, information, and content they rely on to do their jobs well.
  • Ensure that corporate data and resources are protected and secure, even as access to those data and resources becomes possible from an increasing number of devices and apps.
  • Fully manage all devices on the network, both local and remote - a task that is becoming ever more complicated as users bring more and more devices into the enterprise and work from more and more locations.

At Merit Solutions, our goal is to deliver ground-breaking technology solutions that empower IT to take advantage of the latest trends without compromise. By achieving this goal, we are able to provide your IT professionals with the tools they need to help you innovate and compete while meeting the core needs of the business in all new ways.

Learn more about how Merit Solutions can help you transform your business!

Microsoft Dynamics AX is a Next Generation ERP Solution

A while back we discussed some global business and IT trends that are slowly but steadily reshaping the ERP landscape. With our emerging economic climate, these trends are posing additional challenges for business and IT professionals who are struggling to improve profitability and retain IT agility.

Global market trends are creating the need for businesses to:

At the same time, shifting IT trends are creating the need to:

  • Increase ERP adoption and access to ERP data across a broader subset of the workforce.
  • Reduce IT operational costs by investing in systems that are more flexible and scalable, and simpler to configure, maintain, and upgrade.
  • Put solutions in place that enable broad business strategies, and that enable IT to respond quickly to specific line-of-business (LOB) requests and industry needs.

When you frame this discussion with the research conducted by Forrester in 2010 detailed in our article, Key Challenges Companies Face with ERP Solutions, you can see how the needs produced by market and IT trends are affecting customers’ expectations of their ERP application.

Today’s world is increasingly flattened by technology, global complexity and new global competition - making it critical for a business to be able to rapidly see and react to signals, threats and opportunities. Going one step further, in this world where the pace of business accelerates, imagine being able to anticipate rather than react to those signals. Success today and tomorrow increasingly depends on information insight and efficient business processes.

So what would the next generation of ERP look like? See for yourself!

Adding Dimensions to Columns in Financial Reports

Did you know that it is possible to create statements with financial dimensions expressed in different columns?

I recently discovered this interesting feature of Microsoft Dynamics AX while I was trying to help a customer with financial reporting focused on different financial dimensions. In our situation, the client is a medical institution with multiple clinicians on staff. The client needed statements calculated per each clinician so they can compare financial results during certain periods of time. For this client, Clinicians are custom made financial dimensions.

As in every other statement, the date intervals and raw definition have to be defined prior to creating the statement. Once defined, we have to generate financial statements and define their basic structures (General ledger>Setup>Financial statement>Financial statement). In the upper pane of the screenshot below, you can see that we give the statement a name and description - and then we can connect it to primary and secondary dimension sets (in this example, we only used primary dimension sets).

In the lower part of the screen, we can create columns that are going to show up on the statement we print out. In this client case, we set the account number in the first column and the account definition in the secondary column. Now, in our next three columns (or more), we can add our clinicians (or dimensions). For each of those columns we choose “current” as “Column type” and setup desired time intervals in “setup” tab.

After the statement structure is created and the columns that will present dimension data are defined, we can go ahead and add dimensions to them (General ledger>Reports>Transactions>Financial statement). The first tab is “Financial statement” tab, and under “Identification” we chose the financial statement we created before, and add to it the dimension set and row definition.

Under the “columns” tab we choose one of the columns we setup before (in General ledger>Setup>Financial statement>Financial statement). Click on the "Select" button in the upper right corner.

A new window will open. The upper pane is a graphical representation of tables and their connections. In lower pane we can add the desired dimensions to the chosen column (in our case that was one of clinicians). First we have to pick the “Field” (custom made dimension - Clinician) and then the “Criteria” (desired clinician to be represented in that column).

This is a great feature to compare and review different dimensions and it can be a great resource when creating complex financial reports.

Merit Solutions Named to 2012 VAR Stars

Merit Solutions has been selected as a member of the Bob Scott’s VAR Stars for 2012, a group of 100 organizations honored for their accomplishments in the field of midmarket financial software.

Members of the VAR Stars were selected based on factors such growth, industry leadership and recognition, and innovation. Selection is not based on revenue and those firms chosen represent a wide range of size and many different software publishers of accounting software.

“Each year, 100 VAR Stars are picked from the best organizations that market financial software. It is always an honor to recognize those who contribute to the development of our business,” Bob Scott said.

How the Right BI Solution Can Help Drive Success

There’s plenty of incentive for overcoming today’s business information challenges. Although it can be difficult to put financial values on faster, smarter decisions, the ability to make them is still widely recognized as critical to success in the highly competitive global marketplace. Moreover, it’s not hard to identify organizational dissatisfaction with the relevance, availability, and accuracy of the information people currently do have at their disposal.

Fortunately, new solutions are emerging to help solve these problems. Today, the right BI solution can:

  • Provide self-service convenience for the average user, with immediate, out-of-the-box analysis capabilities, while still helping to maintain a secure environment and offer the depth and power necessary for sophisticated analysis.
  • Improve business agility with a range of flexible options for generating, viewing, analyzing, and distributing BI.
  • Integrate and connect disparate legacy systems and business applications, information sources, departments, and locations to provide comprehensive, one-stop BI for the entire organization that’s optimized for the capabilities of the ERP system.
  • Expand in reach and capabilities as the organization grows and its BI demand increases. Ideally, this growth can take place as an integral component of a scalable enterprise-wide solution that also adapts and extends readily as needed.
  • Offer a quick return on investment through initial cost efficiency, long-term scalability, and a low total cost of ownership.

The following steps provide a guideline for incorporating BI into your organization. By following these steps, you can identify key business considerations prior to deploying a new BI solution.

Step 1: Replace complex user interfaces with intuitive, convenient self-service

Ease of access is a primary consideration. An inquiry, analysis, or reporting solution that is too complicated may be powerful but sit mostly unused. On the other hand, a solution that’s too simple may not be robust enough to serve the business decision-makers who need it most. But when the BI solution is easy to use right out of the box and users can access information via familiar interfaces, applications, and tools, everyone in the organization can achieve greater insight without relying on costly IT resources to generate reports or run time-consuming analyses. The ideal solution works the way your people want to work. A self-service–focused user interface also minimizes training costs and startup times and enables team members to work with information in a collaborative environment. At the same time, managers can control information access based on functional roles or individual authorization to help protect sensitive information and prevent inappropriate or unintended modifications.

Step 2: Expand options for analysis, transportability, and dissemination

To turn information into actionable business intelligence, people must be able to extract and analyze the specific information they need, in the order they need it, and with the detail that addresses their interests. Tailored functionality is critical, both for customizing the solution to industry and organizational needs and for adapting operationally to the interests of diverse functional roles. Finally, the right solution can make it easier to share, present, and distribute the results of analysis, not only within the organization but also with trade partners. Therefore, solutions that incorporate Web services, portal compatibility, or other measures to ease communication across platforms provide a definite advantage.

Step 3: Integrate disconnected information and systems into the knowledge base

A strong BI system must be able to incorporate information from across the enterprise while also connecting with line-of-business applications, including document repositories, and the desktop productivity tools employees use every day. The ability to access and consolidate information from multiple production management and manufacturing control systems, warehouses, distribution channels, and companies or subsidiaries is also valuable for providing managers with comprehensive, enterprise-wide insight.

Step 4: Scale to fit changing business models and needs

A BI system is only good while it fits. Given the rate of change in today’s business environment, it’s imperative to find and implement a solution flexible enough to adapt to business growth, whether that growth comes through acquisitions, vertical integration, international expansion, or shifts into entirely new lines of business. To continue supporting personal, team, and organizational BI needs, solutions must be extensible to new users and locations as the company grows. Such scalable solutions, when they also accommodate add-on or tailored functionality, offer strong cost efficiency, consistency, service, and fit over time.

Step 5: Deploy cost-efficiently and with long-term adaptability for a low TCO

For a business solution to be implemented at all, it must be cost-efficient to license, deploy, and maintain, while remaining accessible across the organization. Ideal solutions give all people responsible for strategic, tactical, and operational decisions access to the information they need at a low total cost of ownership (TCO). An effective BI solution can quickly provide a strong return on investment while retaining the flexibility and scalability for future growth to provide long-term performance that maximizes your investment.

Microsoft Dynamics AX is an end-to-end business management solution for enterprise and mid-market organizations, including manufacturers, distributors, retailers, service organizations, and firms with diverse or vertically integrated operations across the global supply chain. An ERP system with an intuitive user interface, robust analytics, and flexible, familiar information delivery capabilities, Microsoft Dynamics AX serves a wide range of business intelligence needs right out of the box. And because it builds on the Microsoft technology stack, including Microsoft SQL Server® and SharePoint technologies, and is tightly integrated with Microsoft Office and other Microsoft desktop productivity solutions, it is uniquely positioned to help you solve today’s most pressing BI and performance management challenges.

Pharmaceutical Manufacturer Chooses MAXLife for Microsoft Dynamics AX

Merit Solutions, a leading provider of Life Sciences ERP software solutions, is proud to announce today that Ivancic i sinovi, a partner of Sopharma, has selected Merit Solutions’ MAXLife for Microsoft Dynamics AX to reduce costs and improve quality control. Ivancic i sinovi chose MAXLife from Merit Solutions because of our proven industry experience - and because MAXLife is a Certified for Microsoft Dynamics AX (CfMD) tested solution.

Ivancic i sinovi was founded in 1991 and manufactures and markets pharmaceutical medicines and dietary products - both in capsules and powder forms. The desire to provide consumers with high quality products, created by the latest in medical technologies, in packaging of contemporary design, yet available to everyone, inspired the idea to begin manufacturing.

Prior to selecting Merit Solutions’ MAXLife with Microsoft Dynamics AX, Ivancic i sinovi used a homegrown system that made it difficult to manage business processes across the organization. The system was not integrated with real-time information, which meant executives and managers were often making decisions based on outdated and incorrect data. Ivancic i sinovi also had industry-specific requirements that would not be met with an out-of-the-box solution. With their homegrown system, they could not track or understand the costs associated with quality control processes, which were time-consuming and people-intensive, and resulted in lost productivity, efficiency, and higher costs. And, with expansion and growth plans, the system could not support the expansion of a production plant.

For these reasons, Ivancic i sinovi began looking for a pharmaceutical quality management solution. In the end, Ivancic i sinovi chose Merit Solutions’ MAXLife with Microsoft Dynamics AX because it is simple to use and deploy, is a comprehensive ERP solution that connects all departments with real-time information, and gives them the flexibility to grow, expand, and adapt as needed.

With MAXLife, Ivancic i sinovi will utilize key quality control and compliance management features specific to pharmaceutical manufacturing. Quality incident and non-conformance management processes will be streamlined and automated with MAXLife’s Corrective Action Preventive Action (CAPA) capabilities, enabling Ivancic i sinovi to correct and prevent issues, measure outcomes, and continuously monitor the system. Ivancic i sinovi will also be able to track and analyze all of their costs related to performing quality processes with Cost of Quality Management, enabling them to reduce the cost of quality while maintaining product safety.

“We’re extremely happy that Ivancic i sinovi has chosen MAXLife from Merit Solutions to reduce costs, improve quality, and support their business growth,” commented Petar Miljkovic, Director - Europe, Merit Solutions. “With MAXLife, the company can continue providing high quality, innovative pharmaceutical products while reducing costs, improving efficiency and productivity, and providing safe products to their customers.”

About Merit Solutions:

Merit Solutions is a multinational organization that provides IT services and software solutions to help companies improve their business success. Our industry-specific solutions, MAXFood and MAXLife, along with our core Microsoft Dynamics ERP and SharePoint offerings, enable organizations to increase efficiency, reduce costs, and improve service - while maintaining profitable growth!

A Microsoft Gold Certified Partner, Merit Solutions is AMR Research Industry Certified in Process Manufacturing for Microsoft Dynamics AX. We have recently been recognized as one of Accounting Today's VAR 100, and had two products named in the Top 15 Add-ons for Microsoft Dynamics ERP. Merit Solutions is a Microsoft Excellence Partner for working successfully and collaboratively with customers and partners across the world.

New MAXFood ERP Website: Food Safety for Microsoft Dynamics AX

We are excited to announce the launch of our new MAXFood ERP website:

The new site provides a fresh new look and feel meant to enhance the overall user experience. It has been updated with new product information, demos, white papers, and deeper, more content-rich landing pages.

MAXFood Safety ERP streamlines how food companies operate according to the guidelines of the Food Safety Modernization Act, and according to Good Manufacturing Processes. MAXFood Safety provides more than just lot traceability and corrective actions; it enables you to identify, document, monitor and follow up on critical control points, thereby supporting compliance with even the most stringent regulations and reporting requirements, including GFSI and SQF protocols.

Learn more about MAXFood Safety:

  • Food Safety Portal: Increase control over operations, reduce the cost of compliance, and increase productivity with one integrated quality control and food safety document management solution for HACCP, Recalls, SOPs, Incidents, Audits, Complaints, GMPs and more.
  • Food Safety Incident Management: Quickly generate a Corrective Action or Preventive Action request that routes through review, root cause, corrective action taken, and verification stages. Generate multiple Food Safety Incident reports automatically, providing an effective mechanism for tracking the source and costs of problems.
  • Food Recall Management Workbench: Streamline and automate the recall process, enabling you to not only perform effective product recalls, but to provide concrete documentation and proof that you followed all FDA GMP mandated recall procedures.

With MAXFood for Microsoft Dynamics AX, food companies can minimize risk, maximize product safety, and deliver greater value to their customers. And with MAXFood Cloud ERP, you can also give your employees real-time visibility and anytime, anywhere access to the critical business data they need to be successful - without compromising functionality or security.

Respond to Changes with Agile ERP

Inflexible ERP systems hamper process change. In addition, implementation often involves large, multi-year projects that carry the risk that business processes and supporting IT systems will be obsolete by the time they come on stream. Expand business opportunities, modify processes, and differentiate your business with an ERP solution that provides unprecedented agility.

Here’s how Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 provides business agility:

  1. Adapt to changing process and regulatory requirements with model-driven methods: First, improve business visibility with virtually unlimited views on the business via financial dimensions that let you earmark transactions based on system and custom entities. When your business needs changes to business processes, you can configure these with a graphical workflow editor without heavy dependency of IT. In addition, improve product planning and execution flexibility by unifying process, discrete and lean manufacturing operations. And, foster innovation with a unified business process repository. Configure the capabilities supporting generic or industry-specific business processes that you need from a single repository. Lastly, the organizational model help you change your organization structure more easily. For example: a manufacturing organization can implement lean manufacturing for one of the product lines by simply configuring these processes while running the same solution for more classic process or discrete operations.
  2. Improve responsiveness to demand: The manufacturing capabilities include a range of capabilities that improve responsiveness to demand. For example: manage customer demand spikes by rapidly onboarding vendors. Or, increase utilization and responsiveness through flexible resource deployments across multiple routings. Fulfill customer demand with the constraints-based product configurator.
  3. Enable a green and efficient enterprise: Track waste, water usage, energy consumption, carbon footprint, and related costs with the Environmental Sustainability Dashboard. Gain efficiencies through the “5 R’s” (reduce, recover, reuse, recycle, and renew). Reduce waste and streamline production using lean manufacturing techniques.

Expand business opportunities, modify processes, and differentiate your business with comprehensive ERP software that provides unprecedented agility.

  • Natural modeling to continuously plan, visualize, and change your processes.
  • Flexible deployment options (such as two-tier ERP, or cloud deployment) that can change as you grow.
  • Agile technology that makes it easy to change and differentiate your business.

Learn more about Microsoft Dynamics AX.

Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012: Powerful Manufacturing ERP

Manufacturers are struggling to close the gap between their business requirements and the capabilities of their current business systems. In addition, many organizations lack the insight into their global operations due to the wide variety of legacy systems across the organization. The lack of a single system that grows with the business is evident. In addition, they’re challenged to give their people access to relevant information.

Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 will help you gain more value quickly with a single, powerful solution that supports industry-specific and operational demands across your global enterprise. Let me explain how:

  • Purposely built for the manufacturing industry: Meet your manufacturing business requirements with a solution purposely built for these needs. For example: improve production control through a variety of systems: make-to-order, make-to-stock, or engineer-to-order or enhance customer and vendor agreements with flexible contract structures. In addition you can support your organization end-to-end with rich core ERP capabilities, including finance, HR, and compliance management to streamline operations and increase efficiency across your global organizations. All with a single solution!
  • Scale your organization quickly with a global manufacturing solution: Run your organization and expand into new geographies using 36 country localizations built into one solution. Packaged localizations to meet local financial regulations in about 36 countries are included and maintained in Microsoft Dynamics AX helping organization meet the changing regulations in specific markets. In addition, it enables entities in your multisite organization to share data, business rules and processes in order to harmonize and streamline business processes. For example, Microsoft Dynamics AX enables global manufacturing planning with a unified operations resources models, or enhance operational efficiency with shared data for general ledger, relationships, and products; and common processes for intercompany trade and shared services. 
  • Gain immediate insight and unlock greater productivity with RoleTailored user experiences: Boost productivity with RoleTailored enhancements including new Role Centers, fact boxes, and enriched previews. Provide ad hoc, self-service business intelligence and reporting for key manufacturing operations, including pre-built reports from Microsoft SQL Server® Reporting Services. Provide business process context via notifications and alerts initiated by embedded workflows.

Reduce time to market and respond quickly to changing customer demands with Microsoft Dynamics AX Manufacturing. Real-time insight into business and supply chain information—including inventory, warehouse, and production—helps you optimize production flow by planning effectively, maximizing resource utilization, driving accurate delivery performance, and streamlining business processes.