When we talk to our customers about their business processes and how employees use enterprise resource planning (ERP) information in their daily work, we consistently hear two themes. The first is that work spans business applications and productivity tools. In your day-to-day work, you're constantly in transition between the operational and transactional systems that run the business and the programs that you use to communicate and collaborate with your customers and co-workers. The second theme is that people want to use the right tool for the job. You're most likely very comfortable using programs like Microsoft Excel, Microsoft SharePoint Server, Microsoft Word, and Microsoft Outlook to prepare documents, reports, budgets, correspondence, etc., and you'd like to stay in this comfort zone while you complete your daily tasks.

The Microsoft Dynamics AX development team kept both of these themes in mind as we looked for ways to simplify and speed the way work gets done-particularly for the tens of millions of people who use Microsoft Office every day. In this post, we'll take a look at some of the features of Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 that enable people to access real-time business information, use familiar tools to build documents and spreadsheets that include business data, and securely collect and share information without duplicating data and effort.

Use Familiar Tools

Our first goal was simple: give everyone access to the data they need in a tool that they're already familiar with. Our new add-ins for Word and Excel let users go beyond simply exporting data from the ERP system to the desktop. We've added a Microsoft Dynamics AX Tab to the Ribbons in both Excel and Word, which gives you the ability to enhance your worksheets or documents by pulling in additional information from Microsoft Dynamics AX.

When you're building a report or a budget model in Excel, for example, you can simply drag and drop relevant fields from Microsoft Dynamics AX directly into the spreadsheet. Then, you can use standard Excel features to sort, chart, filter, or otherwise manipulate your data to suit your purpose.


Caption:  The Microsoft Dynamics AX tab in Excel adds controls that let you work with ERP data within your worksheets

Build Documents Around Business Data

Another feature we're really proud of is the ability to build documents that include business data from Microsoft Dynamics AX. So for example, if your job includes writing project proposals or customer statements, you can create those documents in a familiar program, like Word or Excel, by combining unstructured information and text alongside business information that's extracted in real time from Microsoft Dynamics AX. You can also build and save document templates that are linked to Microsoft Dynamics AX and publish them to SharePoint Server so that they are available across the entire organization. Doing this helps ensure consistency and reduce duplication of effort for others who perform the same tasks.

Save Your Work to the ERP System

We've also added in some great features for people who spend more time interacting with data-planning and forecasting, editing budgets, and entering transactions-but who still want to work in Excel. You can work in Excel to do all the things you need to do with your business data, like crunch numbers, run models or what-if scenarios, and bulk edit. And then you can save this updated data where it needs to live in Microsoft Dynamics AX.

This is a really powerful capability for people who don't necessarily interact or don't want to interact with the ERP system on a regular basis. We think financial people will appreciate that we've married these two environments-the desktop and the back-end ERP system. In this fashion, they can run their models, make their changes, and pass the data seamlessly from Excel to Microsoft Dynamics AX, sometimes without even knowing that they're accessing the ERP system.

Maintain Security

We should probably note that we're able to do all of this-make business data available across the organization, in a variety of familiar tools-without compromising on the security of that data. Just like when they're using Microsoft Dynamics AX, people who are using the productivity tools see only the data that they're supposed to see, according to their roles. And we've made sure that any edits that they make to the data within those tools are also within their permissions, with the proper audit trails in place to maintain transaction integrity.

By bridging the gap between the ERP system and the desktop productivity realm, we believe Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 really does give our customers the best of both of worlds.

Share Your Thoughts

How many people in your organization interact with the ERP system on a daily basis? How many more could benefit from access to ERP data in a familiar, comfortable application?