GP Tech Conference Day 2

Day 2 at the Dynamics GP Technical Conference in Fargo:  It was another long day, with a lot of information presented in the sessions.  On the weather side of things, it was quite a bit warmer today vs day 1, which I have come to learn was unseasonably cold for this time of year.  Great…. it reminds me of a trip I took to Sault Ste. Marie a few years ago in January where it was the coldest weather on record at the time (and still was the record low temps).  I must be blessed!  :)

I would say today there was not a lot of “new new” content provided, just more details on the same general functionality introduced in the prior day’s sessions, where it related to the upcoming R2 release.

Customization Tools

The first session I sat through was presented by David Musgrave and Mariano Gomez on Customization Tools.  It was a fabulous session looking at how to handle 3 similar customizations using three different tools.  First they used purely Dexterity, second was purely Modifier with VBA, and third was a hybrid using Visual Studio Tools for GP, with a little Dex and a modified window with Modifier.  It was a very neat way to remind us there are lots of options for customizations and no one tool is always the answer.

SSRS Reporting

Another session I sat through was a deeper dive into SSRS reporting for GP2010 R2.  The session covered the possible* new features and changes, most notably some of the following items:

  • Integrated deployment with Dynamics GP Utilities, instead of having some server tasks and some client tasks to complete.
  • Some refreshing of look & feel elements such as visual indicators where a drillback to GP exists and some style changes to reports to make them a little nicer presentation-wise.
  • Demos of new mapping functionality in Report Builder 3.0 that is used with SQL Server 2008 R2.  Imagine, sales reports by geography, visually showing high and low sales numbers on a map instead of just a graph or report.
  • Multi-company reports and how they have accomplished it, looking at some of the background stored procedures to combine data into one report across companies.

* the disclaimer is what we say is not final and the constant reminder to us all in attendance was until you see this in the final product, these features may change!  :)

GP2010 R2 Overview

I sat through another session with more of a general overview of the upcoming R2 release, not just the BI tools.  We got a chance to see in a little more detail how some of the following items are coming along (same disclaimer applies!):

  • A clean up of the Reporting Tools Setup window, less clunky and better organized data
  • Excel Builder will have multi-company abilities as well as an option to bulk-deploy excel reports
  • Navigation List performance (speed) improvements are coming - SIGNIFICANTLY improved load times!  Yay!
  • Email message setup changes, more in depth details of the ability to add data fields to message ID’s
  • Adding email options to the Report Options windows on any report, where users want to email a report to someone instead of printing (or printing to PDF and emailing manually).
  • More details on the Word Template Generator showing just how nice it will be to convert ANY Report Writer report to a Word Template.  Wow, am I ever looking forward to that functionality!
  • Smartlist Builder gets an upgrade with a column ordering tool, no more having to re-order columns in Smartlist afterwards, for default smartlists created by Smartlist Builder!
  • Extender gets a minor tweak with the ability to copy list values from one field’s list to another.

Management Reporter

Last was a session relating to Management Reporter.  I’ve seen it before but haven’t gotten really hands-on very much yet.  It was good to see the differences between MR and FRx, where the improvements are and what isn’t changed.  Here are the things I found interesting:

  • It’s now native 64bit, built on the .net platform and C# with the data stored in SQL.  No more G32 and F32 files!
  • User setup includes security more similar to GP Security - role based
  • The report viewer no longer uses the cheesy green drill icon!  Too bad really, there goes my one opportunity to have a little fun during training and make some jokes about the drill.
  • The row formats are purely dimension based, and from the looks of it, very easy to use and more flexible than in FRx.  It will list your segment descriptions, account categories and any AA dimensions and you can build a row GL link by entering data in any or multiple of those cells.
  • The column filtering feature uses the exact same functionality as the row format.  No more masking the entire GL account with “?” marks
  • Logos are now possible on the report defiinition level (aka catalog)
  • Another new feature in columns is the ability to specify a page break. If you’re familiar with FRx you know that it will not break naturally width-wise so if you have a wide set of columns, it will try to cram them all in on one page.  Eye chart anyone?!!?  So this isn’t fixed with MR but they threw us a bone - the ability to specify in the column where to page break.
  • Report groups are available, an improvement to the FRx chaining feature to print multiple reports together

We got a little bit of insight into the Feature Pack 2 release which will be later this calendar year as well as the roadmap.  More to come on those as we get closer.

The end of this session was an interesting discussion on domains being required to install Management Reporter.  I had asked the question initially, if that was ever going to change.  It turned into quite a hot topic and the end of the session morphed into discussions with the development team who were in the room.  The beauty of being at this conference is getting a chance to talk directly to the development team and the product team, with the opportunity to explain a requirement to them directly.

The Night Life!

After yesterday’s sessions, there was a reception and expo.  It was a great chance to meet others in a more social setting, and talk to more Microsoft folks as well as vendors who were present in an expo setting.

Of course, the Tim Tam Slam was also a featured event at David Musgrave’s table.  I chickened out completely - wearing a white sweater and trying to suck hot chocolate through a Tim Tam cookie before it disintegrates just didn’t seem like a good idea!  Keep your eyes on David Musgrave’s blog (link above at the top of this article) for more info on this.  I was watching him start a blog post with content of one of the participants in the event so I’m sure it will be up and online soon to watch.

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