Microsoft revamps UI with new Dynamics AX release

Microsoft Corp. released the latest version of its Dynamics 2012 enterprise resource planning software on Thursday, stressing major industry and role-specific user interface enhancements.

The ERP product aims to “break down the barriers” put up by legacy ERP systems, which include too much customization, complicated code, an unwieldy user experience and duplicated data structures.

Microsoft said one of the biggest new features to ship with the ERP platform is the “role-tailored user interface” functionality. The “messaging and collaboration” styled UI will be familiar to long-time Microsoft Office users and the software is fully interoperable with Excel and PowerPivot.

The revamped UI will also change based on the type of user.

Microsoft said it is offering 30 different “role-based” UIs aimed to meet the specific needs of anyone from the company’s CFO to a warehouse worker.

“If an accounts payable clerk logs into the system, the user experience is tailored to what they need,” said Henrik Gutle, the ERP leader for Microsoft Canada. “We’re moving away from typical ERP menus.”

Francois Arbique, the vice-president of information technology at Montreal-based Kinecor Inc., said his organization has been a beta customers of AX 2012 and were very impressed with the new UI.

“We believe we’re going to take advantage of the new look and feel,” he said, adding that AX 2012’s fast tabs and similarity to Office has improved sales order processing rates.

Another major additional to AX 2012 is its flexible underlying architecture that allows IT administrators to quickly change the ERP software to fit with new organization restructuring. Microsoft said that in many ERP systems, once a company defines their organizational structure, it is locked in and difficult to update.

Gutle said that as opposed to engaging in costly and time consuming customization work, IT shops will be able to use a graphical workflow management editor to drag and drop any changes that need to be made to the organization’s reporting structure.

“If you want to move a team from one department to another, you can set a date for when the change will take effect,” he said. The reporting structure and workflow approval process will automatically be changed in the system as well, Gutle added.

In addition to making changes to the reporting structure, administrators can support multiple hierarchies and set different purchase approval rules for different departments.

Rounding out the new features in AX 2012 include embedded BI and reporting functionality. The company cites over 800 Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services reports, 11 SQL Server Analytics Server data cubes and other framework enhancements.

The company has also added core ERP enhancements that cover finance, sales, marketing, procurement, project accounting, human capital management, supply chain management, inventory management and global risk and compliance.

Microsoft said the product will be offered as an on-premise solution or fully hosted on the company’s private cloud. Gutle said that while Microsoft is seeing more interest in the private cloud deployment model than in the past, the vast majority of deployments will be on-premise.

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