Use Power BI dataflow to decouple report design from ETL logic in an ERP upgrade project

A common requirement during an ERP upgrade project (e.g. from AX 2012 to D365 Finance) and transition phase is to include both systems in the BI or reporting environment. Because of its tight integration with Dynamics, in many cases PowerBI is the preferred reporting and BI platform. PowerBI is capable to combine different data sources like OData feeds from D365 and SQL connections via gateway. However, for the person developing reports, it will become complicated to integrate cloud and on-prem datasources. For example, to create a sales report, one would need to include the Customers, SalesInvoiceHeader and SalesInvoiceLine entities as well as the CustTable, DirPartyTable, CustInvoiceJour and CustInvoiceTrans tables.

Different data sources in one PowerBI report

One way to address this issue can be to separate ETL logic from report design. PowerBI supports this approach by using dataflows. By using dataflows you can place PowerQuery logic direct in the Microsoft cloud and offer reuseable data artefacts. People designing reports simply connect to the dataflow but are not concerned with the ETL logic required to combine data from the old AX installation and a new Dynamics 365 ERP cloud environment.

Use PowerBI dataflow to decouple ETL logic from report design

Example

From PowerBI workspace create a new entity using dataflow. Choose the OData feed for Dynamics 365 and provide the URL for the CustomersV3 entity.

OData feed for entities from Dynamcis 365 Finance

Clicking next will open the Power Query editor and load the customers from Dynamics 365 Finance. Remove all the fields you don’t need in your application. In this example I’m using the DataAreaId, Account, Name, Group, Address and Delivery mode + terms.

PowerBI dataflow based on Dynamics 365 Finance OData CustomerV3 entity

For an on-premises AX 2012 installation you need to install a data gateway, so PowerBI can access the local SQL database. If you already have a gateway, create a new dataflow in PowerBI and use the SQL connection. I’d recommend to create a view on the database instead of loading tables in PowerBi.

CREATE VIEW [dbo].[PBIX_Customer] AS
select
DataAreaId, DirPartyTable.NAME, ACCOUNTNUM, CUSTGROUP, TAXGROUP, LogisticsPostaladdress.ADDRESS, DlvTerm, DLVMODE
from CUSTTABLE
join DIRPARTYTABLE
on CUSTTABLE.PARTY = DIRPARTYTABLE.RECID
join DIRPARTYLOCATION on
DIRPARTYTABLE.RECID = DIRPARTYLOCATION.PARTY
join LOGISTICSPOSTALADDRESS
on DIRPARTYLOCATION.LOCATION = LOGISTICSPOSTALADDRESS.LOCATION
where
LOGISTICSPOSTALADDRESS.VALIDFROM <= GETDATE() and LOGISTICSPOSTALADDRESS.VALIDTO >= GETDATE()
GO

Choose SQL Server data source for PowerBI dataflow

Select the data gateway and provide a user to access the database

Connect a PowerBI dataflow to your on-premises AX 2012 database using a gateway

Select the view and load the AX 2012 data to PowerBI. Save the dataflow

Dynamics AX 2012 customer data via data gateway

After you have created both dataflows return to your workspace, go to your dataflows and refresh both to load the data.

Refresh dataflow from Dynamics 365 Finance and Dynamics AX 2012

Next, create a third dataflow to combine the data from the Dynamics 365 Finance and AX dataflow. This time choose to link entities from the other dataflows:

Link PowerBI entities via dataflow

Select both dataflows

Select PowerBI dataflows to merge

In the Power Query Online editor rename the fields in both dataflow entities so you can append both queries. Be aware that Power Query is case sensitive and dataAreaId is not the same as DATAAREAID. When you have done this, append both queries as new one.

Append queries in PowerBI

From the new query make sure to remove duplicate customers

Remove duplicates in Power Query Online

If your have a PowerBI Pro but not a Premium subscription, deactivate load of the underlying queries.

Deable load when using PowerBI Pro

Save and refresh the dataflow. From the settings schedule the refresh and endorse the dataflow as “Promoted” or “Certified”. This is not necessary but it adds a label to dataflow and your report designer users see that they can trust the datasource. In PowerBI Desktop open Get-Data and choose PowerBI dataflow as data source:

Get data from PowerBI dataflow

Select the merged Customer data source.

Promoted and certified PowerBI dataflows

You can use the dataflows in your PowerBI datamodel but dont have to worry about the logic behind

Linked dataflow sources in a PowerBI data model

Conclusion

Using dataflows has some advantages. It helps you to decouple ETL logic from design logic. Especially when working with older versions of Dynamics AX you have to have deeper knowledge about the data structure. Another advantage is the reuse of dataflows. Typically you are not creating 1 single report, but more reports that require the same dimensions e.g. customers. By using dataflows you don’t need to maintain the load and merge in multiple PowerBI files.

Start and open a specific record in Dynamics Ax 2012

At work we recently discussed ways to startup Dynamics AX 2012 and navigate to a specific record. The requirement was to open Dynamics AX from a DMS client that manages invoices and other documents.

There are different approaches to achieve this goal. One way is to use the Startup Command framework which is used to instruct Dynamics to execute several functionalities during startup e.g. compile, synchronize or navigate to a menu item. In order to startup a menu item, you provide an XML file which contains the menu item name and point to this file from the .axc Dynamics AX configuration file.

Startup Dynamics AX 2012 with an XML configuration file

Reference the record in the startup XML file

For many forms in Dynamics AX it is sufficient to call the corresponding menu item with an Args object that holds the record. To specify a record in Dynamics AX you need to provide at least the TableId and the RecId. For example the Customer “Adventure Works” can be defined by using TableId 77 (CustTable) and the RecId 22565422070. Add two additional attributes RecId and TableId to the XML file which is used to open the CustTable form. The XML file looks like this:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<AxaptaAutoRun 
 exitWhenDone="false"
 version="4.0"
 logFile="$HOME\axEXProd.log">
<Run 
 type="displayMenuItem" 
 name="CustTable" 
 RecId="22565422070" 
 TableId="77"/>
</AxaptaAutoRun>

Modify the SysAutoRun.execRun() method

At the SysAutoRun class, open the execRun() method. At the top declare the following variables:

RecId recId;
TableId tableId;
Args arg = new Args();
Common common;
DictTable dictTable;

At the bottom, find the place where a menu item is started. Before the if(mf) statement add the following code to read the RecId and TableId from the XML file and select the corresponding record:

recId = str2int64(this.getAttributeValue(_command,'RecId'));
tableId = str2int(this.getAttributeValue(_command,'TableId'));
if(recId != 0)
{
   dictTable = new DictTable(tableId);
   common = dictTable.makeRecord();
   select common where common.RecId == recId;
   arg.record(common);
}

Within the if(mf) block, add the Args object when the menu fuction is called to pass the record.

mf = new MenuFunction(name, menuItemType);
if (mf)
{
   this.logInfo(strfmt("@SYS101206", mf.object(), enum2str(mf.objectType())));
   mf.run(Arg);
   result = true;
}

Test your configuration

Now you can test your configuration. Create a new .axc file and point it to the XML file. Make sure the XML file has a valid TableId and Recid property. Start Dynamics AX using the .axc file and the defined menu item should open and view the record.

Video Training: Advanced Development for D365 F/SCM

In cooperation with Learn4D365 I’ve recorded another course on Dynamics 365 Finance and Supply Chain Management Development. This video training presents techniques to extend Dynamics 365 F/SCM and discusses the application frameworks. Please find the online course here:

Development II for Finance and Supply Chain Management 

If Sort-Field is empty sort by another field

At work we recently discussed a customer requirement regarding sorting of a SalesTable data set in Dynamics Ax. The requirement was to sort by ShippingDateConfirmed. If the order has no confirmation date yet, use the ShippingDateRequested instead.

If exists sort by Shipping Date Confirmed otherwise by Shipping Date Requested

There are several ways to implement this requirement. Depending on the technology you can use SQL code, computed columns in Dynamics Ax 2012+ or a union query in AX 2009.

SQL: Select CASE

The easiest way to achiev the goal is using pure SQL code where you can define a new column within the select statement and use it for sorting. Here is an example:

SELECT 
SalesId, SalesName, 
ShippingDateRequested, ShippingDateConfirmed, 
CASE 
WHEN ShippingDateConfirmed = '1900-01-01 00:00:00.000' 
THEN ShippingDateRequested 
ELSE ShippingDateConfirmed 
END 
AS ErpSortField
FROM SalesTable
WHERE DataAreaId = 'CEU'
ORDER BY ErpSortField

The result in SQL Server Management Studio for a Dynamics Ax 2009 database looks like this:

SELECT CASE WHEN .. THEN .. ELSE .. END in SQL
SELECT CASE WHEN .. THEN .. ELSE .. END in SQL

You may use such a SQL query as data source for an SSRS report

SSRS Report based on AX 2009 Sales Order
SSRS Report based on AX 2009 Sales Order

Dynamics 365 F/SCM: Computed Column

Since AX 2012 we can use computed columns in views. One way to address this requirement is to create a column that contains the same CASE – WHEN SQL Statement. To do so create a new view based on the SalesTable. Add a new static method:

private static server str compColShippingDate()
{
  #define.ViewName(MBSSalesTableView)
  #define.DataSourceName("SalesTable")
  #define.FieldConfirmed("ShippingDateConfirmed")
  #define.FieldRequested("ShippingDateRequested")
  str sReturn;
  str sRequested, sConfirmed;
  DictView dv = new DictView(tableNum(#ViewName));

  sRequested = dv.computedColumnString(
                   #DataSourceName,
                   #FieldRequested,
                   FieldNameGenerationMode::FieldList);
  sConfirmed = dv.computedColumnString(
                   #DataSourceName,
                   #FieldConfirmed,
                   FieldNameGenerationMode::FieldList);

  sReturn = "CASE WHEN " 
          + sConfirmed + " = '1900-01-01 00:00:00.000' THEN " 
          + sRequested + " ELSE " + sConfirmed + " END";

  return sReturn;
}

Add a computed column to the view and set the method as view method. Build and synchronize.

View with computed column in Dynamics 365 Finance
View with computed column in Dynamics 365 Finance

This will result in the following SQL definition in the AXDB:

Generated SQL view code in AxDB
Generated SQL view code in AxDB

Use the view as data source in form:

View in Dynamics 365 F/SCM form
View in Dynamics 365 F/SCM form

Dynamics AX 2009: Union Query

Older versions of Dynamics AX link 2009 computed columns were not supported. One workaround is to use a UNION Query.

First create a new view called ERPSalesTableConfirmed. Set the SalesTable as data source. Add a range based on the ShippingDateConfirmed field and set the range value to != ” (i.e. not empty). Add a view field based on the ShippingDateConfirmed and call it ERPSortField. This view will return all SalesTable records with a confirmed shipping date and a new field with the value in it.

SalesTable with confirmed shipping date
SalesTable with confirmed shipping date

Second, create a new view called ERPSalesTableRequested. Set the SalesTable as data source. Add a range based on the ShippingDateConfirmed and set the range value to = ” (i.e. empty). Add a view field based on the ShippingDateRequested and call it ERPSortField. This view will return all SalesTable records without a confirmed shipping data and use the ShippingDateRequested for the ERPSortField.

SalesTable with requested shipping date
SalesTable with requested shipping date

Next, create a query called ERPSalesTableSort. Set the query type to UNION. Add both views as data source. The execution of this query will return all SalesTable records. If the sales order was confirmed, the ERPSortField will contain the ShippingDateConfirmed value, otherwise the ERPSortField will contain the ShippingDateRequested.

UNION query in Dynamics AX 2009
UNION query in Dynamics AX 2009

Finally, create a new view called ERPSalesTableSort based on the query with the same name. Use all fields you like to see and the ERPSortField.

Dynamics AX 2009 view based on UNION query
Dynamics AX 2009 view based on UNION query

Open the view. The result is a SalesTable dataset that can be sorted on the confirmed shipping date, and if the confirmed date is not present sorted by the requested date.

Sort SalesTable in Dynamics AX 2009 by confirmed or requested shipping date
Sort SalesTable in Dynamics AX 2009 by confirmed or requested shipping date

Call an Azure Function from X++ in Dynamics 365 Finance / SCM

Create an Azure Function

Azure Functions are simple way to pack and provide business logic as web service without worrying about hosting a web server. Azure Functions can be implemented in different programming languages like C#, JavaScript, PHP, Java, etc. and can be hosted on Linux and Windows with different runtime environments that feed your need.

In the Azure Portal click + Create a resource and search for Function App:

Create a Azure Function App

In the next screen choose a subscription and create a resource group (or use an existing one if you like). Provide a useful name and choose code as Publish method. Select .NET Core 3.1 as runtime stack and a region that is near your location:

Configure the Azure Function App to use .NET Core 3.1

Click Review + Create to create the Azure Function. It takes a view minutes to provision all the required elements:

Deploy the Azure Function App

Click on Go to Resource. Next to the Functions group click + to create a new function and select In-Portal to edit the function code direct in the browser:

Create a new HTTP trigger

Choose the webhook + API to create a demo function that can be called via HTTP POST.

Use webhook for the Azure Function

This will create a function that takes a name as parameter and returns “Hello ” + the parameter name.

C# Azure Function code

You can test the function by using Test tab on the right. The function takes a JSON string with a name parameter and returns a simple string.

Test the Azure Function with a JSON string

Call the function from X++

In the azure portal get the function URL with a function key. Copy the URL with the key:

Copy the Azure Function URL with function key

In Visual Studio create an X++ class with a main method for testing. Use the System.Net.Http.HttpClient class to call the service. The content is a JSON string encoded in UTF-8 with a name parameter and value. In this example the name is Dynamics:

System.Net.Http.HttpClient httpClient = new System.Net.Http.HttpClient();
System.Net.Http.HttpContent content = new System.Net.Http.StringContent(
        "{\"name\":\"Dynamics\"}",
        System.Text.Encoding::UTF8,
        "application/json");

At the moment X++ does not support the await keyword for asynchronouse calls. The workaround is to use the Task.Wait() method. Call the service with your function URL async and get the content of the call:

var task = httpClient.PostAsync("https://<YOUR_FUNCTION_URL>",content);
task.Wait();
System.Net.Http.HttpResponseMessage msg = task.Result;

System.Net.Http.HttpContent ct = msg.Content;
var result = ct.ReadAsStringAsync();
result.Wait();
System.String s = result.Result;

info(s);

Start the class from Visual Studio. The result should look like this:

Call the Azure Function from Dynamics 365 Finance

Extend SalesTable2Line Framework (Dynamics 365 Finance / SCM)

This is an update to my older post how to extend the SalesTable 2 Line framework. The big difference is that in Dynamics 365 Finance and SCM overlaying is not supported and extensions and delegates need to be used. This post uses the same use case. A sales-notes field from the SalesTable needs to be updated in the SalesLines if it is configured so.

Download the sample source code: https://erpcoder.blog/source-code/

Extend the data model

Create a new string datatype and call it ERPSalesNote. Extend the SalesLine and add the ERPSalesNote datatype to the list of fields. Extend the SalesTable and add the ERPSalesNote to the fields. Also add the ERPSalesNote field to the field group HeaderToLineUpdate.

Extend the user interface

Extend the SalesTable form. Place the SalesTable.ERPSalesNote in the Delivery group of the HeaderView tab.

Add the SalesLine.ERPSalesNote field to the delivery group in the LineView tab.

Prepare the update-order-lines dialog

The dialog to choose if and which fields need to be updates at the lines is generated automatically based on the HeaderToLineUpdate field group. There is some code needed to show the fields name in the dialog. This is done by subscribing a custom method to the delegate SalesTable2LineField.lineUpdateDescriptionDelegate

Create a new class that returns a name for the ERPSalesNote field.

class ERPSalesTable2LineField
{
[SubscribesTo(classStr(SalesTable2LineField), delegateStr(SalesTable2LineField,lineUpdateDescriptionDelegate))]
public static void lineUpdateDescriptionDelegate(FieldId _fieldId, TableId _tableId, EventHandlerResult _result)
{
  if(_tableId == tableNum(SalesTable) &&
  _fieldId == fieldNum(SalesTable,ERPSalesNote))
  {
    _result.result("Sales Note");
  }
}
}

Open the Header to Line update dialog by clicking on Accounts receivable > Setup > Accounts receivable parameters > Tab update > update order lines

Extend the framework classes

Create an extension for the AxSalesTable class and create a parm method for the ERPSalesNote field

[ExtensionOf(classStr(AxSalesTable))]
final class AxSalesTable_Extension
{
public ERPSalesNote parmERPSalesNote(ERPSalesNote _salesNote = "")
{
  if (!prmisDefault(_salesNote))
  {
    this.setField(fieldNum(SalesTable, ERPSalesNote), _salesNote);
  }
  return salesTable.ERPSalesNote;
}
}

Create an extension for the AxSalesLine class. Implement a parm and set method. Use the chain of command pattern to extend the setTableFields method.

[ExtensionOf(classStr(AxSalesLine))]
final class AxSalesLine_Extension
{
public ERPSalesNote parmERPSalesNote(ERPSalesNote _salesNote = "")
{
  if (!prmisDefault(_salesNote))
  {
    this.setField(fieldNum(SalesLine, ERPSalesNote), _salesNote);
  }
  return salesLine.ERPSalesNote; 
} 
protected void setERPSalesNote() 
{ 
  if (this.isMethodExecuted(funcname(), fieldnum(SalesLine, ERPSalesNote))) 
  { 
  return; 
  } 
  this.setAxSalesTableFields(); 
  if (this.isAxSalesTableFieldsSet() || 
      this.axSalesTable().isFieldModified(fieldnum(SalesTable, ERPSalesNote))) 
  { 
  this.parmERPSalesNote(this.axSalesTable().parmERPSalesNote()); 
  }
} 
protected void setTableFields() 
{ 
  next setTableFields(); 
  this.setERPSalesNote(); 
}
}

Test your implementation

Make sure that the update method in the parameter is set to prompt. Open an existing sales order. Change to Header view and switch to edit mode. Change the notes in the delivery tab and save.

A dialog pops up and asks to update the lines. Click yes.

Check the sales note field in the sales line. The note field at the sales line should be updated with your text from the header.

Using SQL DDL Triggers to restore read Permissions programatically after Dynamics AX 2009 Synchronization

Recently, a customer using Dynamics AX 2009 implemeted a web service that access a view directly in SQL Server. Therefore they created a new SQL user login and gave the user read permissions on the view.

Read permission on a view

However, when synchronizing the data dictionary in Dynamics AX 2009, the views are droped and recreated and the permission on the object is lost. Therfore the webservice call fails.

One way to address this issue from a SQL perspective is to create a DDL trigger that sets the permissions on the view programmatically. Here is a small SQL script that sets read permissions for the user view_user on the the DIRPARTYVIEW after the view has been created again.

CREATE TRIGGER [VIEW_PERMISSION] 
ON DATABASE 
    FOR CREATE_VIEW
AS 
BEGIN
    DECLARE @name SYSNAME
    SELECT  @name = EVENTDATA().value('(/EVENT_INSTANCE/ObjectName)[1]','SYSNAME')

    if @name = 'DIRPARTYVIEW' begin
        GRANT SELECT ON [dbo].[DIRPARTYVIEW] TO [view_user]
    end
END
GO

ENABLE TRIGGER [VIEW_PERMISSION] ON DATABASE
GO

Object Detection with PowerApps AI Builder

Power Apps recently got the capability to create some computer vision AI models. One of the IMHO most popular ones is called object detection, which is used to detect (predefined) objects on images. For getting started you may use the free edtion of power apps.

Environment and CDM Entity

AI Builder is bound to a Power Apps environment and the Common Data Model. If you don’t have already created an environment, logon to https://web.powerapps.com and create a new environment.

Create new environment

To use the CDM entities you need a new database. In my case, I created a new one with USD and English as preferred language.

Create new database

It may take a while, and you may need to refersh your browser screen, but the AI Builder (Preview) option will appear on the left menu bar.

Create new Power Apps AI Builder Object Detection model

Next, go to Data > Entites and create a new entity for the type of objects you want to identify. In my case, I’m playing around with Nerf guns, therefore I created a new Nerfgun entity. It requires at least a useful name. Feel free to add more fields.

Select entity from Common Data Model

Provide entity data

In a next step you have to provide information about the different elements that shall be identified. In my cases, which Nerfs guns will be on fotos e.g. Rapidstrike, Slingfire, Cyclonshot, etc.

Entity in Common Data Model

There is an option to edit the entity via Excel. However, in my case the Excel addin is not working, and failing to authenticated 😦 If this happens to you, a workaround is to create a simple Power App and edit the entity via Power App.

Fill CDM entity with data using Power Apps

Create and train AI model

In Power Apps go to AI Builder and create a new model for object detection.

Create new AI model for object detection

Provide a name for the model and select the created entity for detection. From the records in the entity select those records that are relevant for detection.

Select object to detect using AI builder

Next comes the time consuming part, take pictures of your objects in different locations, lighting, quality, day time, etc. upload it to the power apps model. You need at least 15 pictures for each element you want to detect.

Upload images to Power Apps AI Builder

Tag each of the pictures with the corresponding object on the picture.

Tag object on images in Power App AI Builder

After uploading and tagging each picture, train the model. This may take a while and will result in a (not very usefull) quality estimation. Right now I didn’t see recall, precision, AUC, or any other more detailed information. If you are satisfied with the models estimated power, publish it so it can be used in your apps.

Train AI model for object detection

Use AI model in Power Apps

It’s easy to use the trained model in a Power Apps application e.g. on the smart phone. Create a new power app with empty layout. From the menu insert the object detection component.

Create a new PowerApps app with AI Builder

Select your object detection model for the component. Save and publish your app, load it on your phone and test it.

Test Power Apps AI Builder in real life

Dynamics 365 FO: Export Entity Store to Azure Data Lake

Since version 10 Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations supports the entity store export to Azure data lake. The main benefits are reduced costs because Azure Cloud storage is cheap and easy access for Business Intelligence tools like PowerBI.

If you are running a local development VM, the data connection tab in system parameters ist deactived by default. However, this can be actived using the SysFlighting table.

The configuration is pretty well documented by Microsoft. I’ve performed all the necessary steps and recorded a video:

Call REST Webservice with HTTP Basic Authentication from X++

Calling a web service with HTTP Basic Authentication is easy in C#. Here I’m using a REST service via HTTP GET which is secured via Basic Authentication.

C# Code

A HTTP GET webservice call using System.Net.WebRequest and System.Net.Webrespose in C#

string url = “http://yourhost.net/service”;
string user = “YourUserName”;
string pass = “YourPassWord”;

byte[] bytes = System.Text.Encoding.UTF8.GetBytes(user+”:”+ pass);
string base64  = System.Convert.ToBase64String(bytes);

WebRequest request = WebRequest.Create(url);
request.Headers.Add(“Authorization”, “Basic “+base64);
WebResponse response = request.GetResponse();
string wsResponse = new StreamReader(response.GetResponseStream())
.ReadToEnd();

Console.WriteLine(wsResponse);
Console.ReadKey();

X++ Code

Since Dynamics 365 FO does not support packages and some syntactic sugar from C# the code is more wordy.

str url = “http://yourhost.net/service”;
str user = “YourUserName”;
str pass = “YourPassword”;

System.Text.Encoding encoding = System.Text.Encoding::UTF8;
System.Byte[] bytes = encoding.GetBytes(user + “:” + pass);
System.String base64 = System.Convert::ToBase64String(bytes);

System.String headerKey = “Authorization”;
System.String headerValue = “Basic ” + base64;
System.Net.WebRequest request = System.Net.WebRequest::Create(url);       
System.Net.WebHeaderCollection headers = request.Headers;
headers.Add(headerKey,headerValue);

System.Net.WebResponse response = request.GetResponse();
System.IO.StreamReader reader = new System.IO.StreamReader(
response.GetResponseStream());
str wsResponse = reader.ReadToEnd();

info(wsResponse);