From Overlays to Extensions and onto AppSource

13 November 2017

Microsoft’s journey towards the Cloud over the last two years hasn’t been without its ups and downs. The move to Dynamics 365 and a Cloud-first strategy created a fair amount of market uncertainty, which in turn put the brakes on many businesses’ ERP spending plans. However, the light at the end of the tunnel has been reached and we are now seeing this reverse, with the market backing Microsoft’s strategy and embracing Cloud technology. Moving AX to the front of the product set and merging it with all other products in the Microsoft ecosystem is also now starting to prove what a great strategic move this was. This has revolutionised the ERP market, with other leading ERP systems struggling to compete.

The next milestone will be in spring, when Microsoft will seal its code, something we all realise they have to do in order to ensure quick, simple and stress-free upgrades, whilst at the same time ensuring compatibility going forward with all ISV and external partners. This process will see them lock the code so that integrations can only be built using extensions on the software and not overlaying the code – meaning that partners will not be overwriting Microsoft code and conflicting with the core of Dynamics but instead adding and extending the code to offer their vertical functions. Many ISVs are currently trying to ensure that this does not affect them and it is a long process to ensure that all the functions required for many ISV are available as extensions.

As we head towards spring release, and also prepare to push our connector up onto AppSource, we have seen first-hand here at Formpipe the effort involved and complications this delivers. Yes, we developed our code at the beginning by using overlaying just as everyone else did, this has now had to change and we have been quick to make sure that all extensions are available for the functionality we want to support. Whilst going through the code and looking in detail we found that most of the extensions were there that we wanted to use. We ported our code across and there were just 2 areas that were not available. This would see us having to remove some functionality where we can add extra fields to reports without using SSRS or creating any downtime / re-compile in the code and some reports (as they were using different AX code) were not compatible with extensions.

All things considered our development team, a group of dedicated AX developers who are renowned for their AX / Operations expertise, set off on a journey of “what if we could create our own extensions”. And that’s we did! This simply resulted in an amazing outcome where we can now ensure that there is no loss in functionality between AX2009 and Dynamics 365. Result!

Now that we are embracing the extensions functionality of Microsoft we have found many other advantages. Installation has now become very quick and simple where we can simply provide a package to our partners and customers that includes all the code and license, so they can deploy through LCS using standard Microsoft technology. We can guarantee there are now no code conflicts with other ISV partners that are running in Dynamics. We have seen a doubling of the speed of generating documents between our versions and, finally, it is compatible with all releases of Dynamics 365 without having to release different versions of our code.

All this ties into the AppSource compatibility where the same rules apply. No ISV can be on the AppSource if they are using overlaying as a method of integration. With our launch onto AppSource just around the corner our aim is to be the leading output management solution to use only extensions and also be on the AppSource. An amazing achievement in this fast-paced Microsoft world that we live in.

Watch this space as our leading output management solution for Dynamics integrates further and will soon be offering even more functionality across the whole Dynamics suite. simply visit: http://lasernetbyformpipe.com/ .