Microsoft Dynamics AX ERP Goes Mobile
Mirroring the popularity of smartphones and tablets in the workplace, Dynamics AX, Microsoft's enterprise resource planning (ERP) software platform, is moving into a decidedly more mobile direction.
During Microsoft's Dynamics Convergence 2014 conference in Atlanta, the company showed off new mobile apps and tools that are designed to help businesses make the leap from the desktop to mobile touch-screens in Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 R3, which is scheduled for a May 1 release. In a March 4 blog post, Microsoft's Jaci Robbins, a senior product marketing manager, wrote that "some 30% of the global workforce rely on phones and tablets to get work done while on-the-go and more than 80% of workers have some tasks that are regularly done outside the office."
The new Dynamics AX mobile offerings are meant to give these workers the tools to get the job done without cracking open a laptop. These include "an app that lets machine operators report progress on production jobs with easy-to-use, standard touch-enabled Windows devices," wrote Robbins. "Also, we'll soon be offering a paystub app for the Windows Phone, so that employees can access this information whenever they need it."
In total, Dynamics AX offers the Time and Expenses App for iOS, Android and Windows Phone 8 and Business Analyzer for Windows Phone 8. These will soon be joined by new Mobile POS and Paystub apps. The Shop Floor Control app will be available on Windows devices, including tablets.
And if those apps don't cut it, Microsoft is encouraging businesses to roll their own with Project Siena.
Currently in beta, Project Siena is an easy-to-use app development environment aimed at non-coders. "Project Siena is for business experts, business analysts, consultants and other business users to conceive apps for today's mobile devices—no coding is required," Robbins wrote. Users can create apps in minutes "using little more than PowerPoint- and Excel-level skills," she said, adding that the tech can be used to "embed multiple [data sources] including Excel files, Rest, RSS feeds, SharePoint, and Azure Mobile services."
Increasingly, work is done outside the confines of the corporate firewall. To tackle these work styles, Microsoft unveiled a new framework that enables businesses to connect their apps to Dynamics AX securely. Dubbed the Application Integration framework, it "uses the cloud (Windows Azure) for communication between the mobile devices and Dynamics AX, with identity provider Microsoft ADFS." No separate middleware is required.
Customers of Microsoft's ERP suite for SMBs, Dynamics NAV, need not worry that the mobile revolution will pass them by. NAV is also set to receive new mobile-optimized experiences, albeit later. According to Microsoft, the apps will arrive in the fourth quarter following NAV's next major update.
Microsoft also announced that the company is leveraging its massive cloud infrastructure by adding Windows Azure infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) support to Dynamics AX 2012 R3. "This capability delivers high availability of data and disaster recovery data, as critical business data is stored in the cloud and can be retrieved by businesses virtually any time, anywhere," said the company in a statement.