One of the most common cause of go-live issues is data. Data is not interesting or exciting, unless you get it wrong.
In fact, data migration and configuration management is one of the most significant challenges of any ERP implementation. However, It is often overlooked and left far too late in the program.
We believe it should be a priority from day 1. In this post we are looking at the past, present and future of Data Management for Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Operations (formerly AX).
After the Dynamics 365 Technical Conference it seems like a good time to talk about this subject!
History of Data Migration with Microsoft Dynamics AX
Traditionally with Microsoft Dynamics AX, there were no off the shelf tools to assist with Configuration Management and Data Migration.
It was necessary to utilise a variety of technical tools to import data, often bypassing business logic in the process. This process which was prone to errors, some of which may not have been discovered until after go-live.
Dynamics AX 2012 saw the introduction of the Dynamics Import/ Export Framework (DIXF) to allow you to import data to a staging area and validate it against business logic. However, there were a small number of data entities (such as customers and sales orders) available, meaning this did not give full coverage for data migration.
Through subsequent releases, the number of entities increased, but never reached full coverage.
Additionally the DIXF tools were cumbersome to use and offered little user feedback. We were still stuck in a world of using technical tools!
With the release of Dynamics 365 for Operations the management of your configurations and data migration has been greatly improved!
DIXF has been re-branded as the Data Management Framework (DMF) and been heavily re-engineered, to make it a tool to use not only for data migration, but also as a staging area for your integrations (more on integration in another post). A few key points:
· The vast majority of data entities (over 2,000) are covered as standard, with more being published all the time
· There is a workspace dedicated to its usage
· It’s far simpler to use
· It provides extensive logging capabilities
In addition to this, you can create and export data packages to move configuration data, and use Microsoft Dynamics Lifecycle Services to store this configuration for direct deployment to additional environments. This helps you ensure consistent configuration across all environments.
Perfection? Well, not quite! It is still difficult to ensure correct sequencing of data, and there are issues with circular references, self-referencing data, and external dependencies.
With what is coming in the sprint release though, configuration and data migration are about to get even simpler (and more exciting?).
Confusingly, the spring release is likely to fall in July. This is bringing further enhancements to Data Management, with more on the horizon.
First up with the spring release is a series of templates with correct sequencing. In addition, there is functionality to automate the sequencing – putting your entities in the correct sequence for you. We will also see some (limited) automation of the dependencies.
Additionally, the user interface is further improved to make the creation and management of templates easier.
Next up, we are promised rules based configuration – If I need customers then also import customer group configuration etc. This will mean you can re-deploy your configuration to only the entities you want to effect. Imagine the use for a phased implementation?
There are no firm dates on this, but hoping for the “fall” (autumn) release as this will give us all incredible flexibility in managing our migration and configuration.
Longer term, we will see further significant improvements to automation of dependencies through further auto-sequencing. Dynamics will also auto-sequence self-referencing entities (such as invoice customer/ customer), and deal with circular dependencies without the need to disable data validation (such as vendor needs a bank account needs a vendor).
Again, there are no firm dates on this but personally I think when it does come, Dynamics 365 for Operations will be the simplest ERP solution to manage your data with!
In summary, Microsoft is making great progress in simplifying data configuration and migration management which is great news for both Dynamics customers and partners!