The Evolution of Reporting in Microsoft Dynamics AX

Dynamics AX , ERP , Infrastructure , Reporting , SSRS Add comments

Author Steve Boccio

Microsoft Certified Business Intelligence Developer
Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist More ...

If you’ve been around reporting in Microsoft Dynamics AX for the past six years like I have, you’ve witnessed and accepted the gradual ascent of the report evolution from X++ reports to SSRS reports. Or you’ve done a good job avoiding it. If you categorize yourself into the latter half of that statement, you are running out of time…and options. In Dynamics AX v4.0, Microsoft introduced an acronym to the AX world in SSRS. In Dynamics AX 2012, SQL Server Reporting Services is now the mainstream reporting product, like it or not. I think you’ll like it.

For the purpose of this discussion, I’m going to concentrate on the Reporting services portion of the BI stack, specifically OLTP production reporting. We’ll cover OLAP and analytical reporting another time. Allow me to quote the following from a white paper on “Reporting and BI in Microsoft Dynamics AX”: The product strategy for Reporting and BI in Microsoft Dynamics AX is to integrate tightly with, and take advantage of, the richness, capabilities, and enhancements to the Microsoft BI Stack. Many significant steps have been taken in this direction in the latest release of Microsoft Dynamics AX (Microsoft Dynamics AX 4.0), and there is more to come in the future releases. If this statement sounds forward-thinking to you, that’s because it is. Reality has it that AX 4.0 did take significant steps to introduce the AX world to the SQL reporting world, but was limited in functional application due to lack of true integration. It mostly provided a way for AX users to build ad-hoc reports from report models that were built against the AX database through end-user designer called report builder. AX 4.0 also offered the option of writing SQL reports natively against the AX database with SQL report designer through secure database views for true production-based OLTP reports. Since that approach was limited at best for complex reports, and most AX report developers are accomplished X++ report developers already, they just continued developing reports in the skill-set they mastered: X++. But nonetheless, the groundwork was laid for the future of reporting in AX.

With the release of AX2009, SSRS integration to AX took another step forward. Microsoft gave the AX report developer the ability to integrate the AOT to the report design capabilities of Visual Studio. A developer could now source an AX production report from an AOT object called an AX query. You could use AX views in conjunction with AX queries to enhance your result set. Or you could write C# business logic in the report to execute queries or call static methods in the AOT to either source your report or more likely supplement your result set. But shortcomings still existed with integrating the two worlds. The report developer still did not have native access to logic in the AOT and X++ capabilities for developing the report. Report projects did not integrate directly to the AOT, thus causing two separate places to manage development objects. Many times, logic that already existed in the AOT was unavailable in its native state or could not be used effectively without rewriting routines for the report or knowing C# to get to it. In addition, performance of the report for the end-user decreased as the complexity of the report and the logic required to produce the report increased, putting too much burden on the .NET business connector. Certainly a functional report environment and a significant step forward, but some of the pieces were still missing.

Enter the third generation of the AX to SSRS reporting continuum. We now have full view of the AOT in Visual Studio. In addition to sourcing our reports from a more robust AX query object, we now have the ability to call a complete X++ logic based result set from an RDP class or special X++ class written specifically for reporting. We have the ability to reference display methods based upon tables and queries with ease right in the report development layer. Integration has taken a much needed step forward on the user-side as well. Report output now has hyperlinks built into them, allowing users the ability to view the corresponding AX forms from the report with a single click. Users now have the ability to enter their select criteria for the report in the same dialog as legacy X++ reports.

Have all of the idiosyncrasies of the AX reporting world been resolved? Certainly not. But Microsoft has taken great strides to provide AX report developers and users alike with one of the best of breed reporting tools in the industry. As a report developer, I’m excited by the functionality of the present as well as the possibilities of the future. You should be too.

Author Steve Boccio

Microsoft Certified Business Intelligence Developer
Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist More ...

Microsoft Dynamics AX is a robust ERP and Lean manufacturing enabler. The latest release, Dynamics AX 2012, combines the powerful planning and execution features required of comprehensive ERP integrated with the features of Lean to assist the "blended" manufacturer. Contact Agility Business Solutions, Inc. to learn more.

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