How to be productive with SSRS and Dynamics AX 2009: A new approach

Over the past two years we’ve been getting feedback from  developers, customers, and partners about the integration of SSRS as a reporting platform for AX. Here’s what stands out from what we have learned.

People aren’t having great success in making the transition.

It’s difficult. it’s confusing. And these problems are experienced both by AX developers as well as IT. There are many factors that contribute to this, but the summary is that the the delta between being productive using the X++ reporting framework and the SSRS framework just too big at every level. We observe that the chief difficulty people are having is that there is not a clear prescriptive roadmap explaining how to be productive. Instead we have docs, blog posts, whitepapers - that while completely accurate – don’t help make the transition straightforward and obvious.

Today, I’m proud to announce the BI team is kicking off a new effort to address the fundamental problem of getting people productive with AX and SSRS. We are developing a Learning Roadmap for AX and SSRS. Roughly speaking, this is a structuring of the the key topics to master, each presented in a linear sequence, and each including a set of self-directed exercises. These topics build layer-by-layer the expertise developers and IT staff need to successfully integrate AX and SSRS.

The full roadmap is really a very large diagram that’s hard to reproduce here, so I’ll summarize it as involving 4 ordered phases

  1. PHASE 1 – Getting familiar with the SSRS Report Design and Layout features. This phase will get developers familiar with the core report design tools offered by Visual Studio and SSRS and in a simplified “SandBox” environment will teach you how to achieve great results for common report design scenarios. Phase 1 is something a developer using nothing more than Visual Studio 2008 can start with. No demo databases to load, no server infrastructure to deploy (AX or SSRS)
  2. PHASE 2 – Instead of a “SandBox” environment, this phase transitions developers to the use data located on external machines and the use of a SSRS report server (an AX server is still not used in this phase). Developers will take advantage of features that make sense in these topologies. This phase will also introduce the concepts needed by IT staff to be successful.
  3. PHASE 3 – Having mastered the first two phases we proceed to using those skills to access AX data. In this phase we will learn the conceptual differences between reporting as SSRS implements it and SSRS in AX. We will also explore the unique features offered by AX that support the large-scale development of SSRS reports.
  4. PHASE 4 – This final phase focuses on taking concepts in AX and ERP concepts and shows how to integrate them with SSRS

If you just want to learn about SSRS and don’t care about AX, then Phases 1 & 2 will be useful for you. If you are already familiar with the topics of Phase 1 & 2 then you will be interested more in the Phase 3 and 4 content.

We are developing PHASE 1 and PHASE 2 content this month.

To support these phases three things will happen:

  • A series of blog posts announcing the deliver of the new content will start. This is the first post.
  • A codeplex project will be published to host all related cod. This is the project available now:
    • Some of the content will take the form of documents, some will take the form of screencasts
    • If code is involved, it will be published to the codeplex project
    • If there is sufficient demand, we will offer a webcast on these topics

And again why should you care? I’ll repeat again: the future of AX Reporting is SSRS. Internalize that message. I cannot emphasize it enough. X++ will continue to see much less investment in the future. Becoming very familiar with SSRS is your best bet to stay productive with AX in the future.

-Saveen Reddy
Lead Program Manager
Dynamics AX Business Intelligence

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