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Dynamics GP Custom Development: Dexterity, eConnect, Extender, SQL, MS Visual Studio

First of all, please note, that if you used to contract Great Plains Dexterity programmer for virtually the majority of the industry verticals and horizontal GP business logic alterations, nowadays, when Great Plains is matured Corporate ERP application, there are tons of Dynamics GP ISV add-ons.

Having said that, we recommend you to first check with your Microsoft Dynamics GP Reseller if required custom module is available through the ISV network.  There might be situations, where either add-on doesn’t exist, or if it is too expensive and it is easier to replicate its small portion in Dexterity, Extender or MS Visual Studio Libraries for GP.  Also you might be in such complicated scenario, when you are on older Great Plains Dynamics (including the one on Pervasive SQL 2000 or Ctree) or eEnterprise version and you need to upgrade Dexterity customization to move you to the current version 2010/11.0 (as we are writing this paper in October 2010).  This scenario is often associated with disassembling parts of the Dex programmed modules and redeploying similar logic through ISV add-ons, available for version Dynamics GP 2010.  OK, after this introduction, let’s move on the paragraphs:

1. Dynamics GP Dexterity (referred also as Microsoft Dexterity).  This tool has top power in modifying GP and adding new logic and even developing independent application with the interface similar to Great Plains one.  The power, however requires the touch of the professional and even to say more, Dexterity developer with at least several years of expertise and doing Dexterity coding as his or her major working routine.  We do not really recommend you to send somebody from your IT staff to get Dexterity training and begin programming over the weekend, or in one month or even in half a year.  The best Dexterity coders could be found in Dynamics GP Technology Partners technical consulting teams or as independent Great Plains technology consultants (who typically got its long years of Dex exposure in one of the Great Plains technology consulting firms).  From the technology standpoint, Dexterity is a shell with its own programming language (Sanscript), this shell is programmed in C++ to provide better performance and be to some extent computer platform neutral (the last feature is not probably less actual, since Great Plains Software was acquired by Microsoft and GP is now available on MS Windows and SQL Server platform exclusively).  If you look at Dynamics GP user interface having programmer perspective, you can review Dynamics GP Dexterity based Forms, Fields and Tables if you follow this route: Dynamics GP -> Tools -> Resource Description, and then make your selection.  Dexterity custom packages (as well as Dynamics GP ISV products often coded in Dex) are distributed in the form of so-called Chink Files (with extension .cnk).  All you need to do is to copy the chunk file into Dynamics GP user workstation directory (in Program Files) and then launch GP client application, where you will get prompt to integrate new logic.  Let’s go ahead and review other tools

2. eConnect SDK and Technology layer.  This Software Development Kit with the password protected (encrypted) SQL stored procedures on the background was initially introduced for Great Plains Dynamics version 7.0 as the SDK to open GP objects and transactions for eCommerce programmers.  In eConnect you probably could see certain attempts to comply to object oriented programming code (where Dexterity is likely to be categorized as procedural programming language).  eConnect realm is actually a subset of the Dexterity realm.  For example, in eConnect you cannot manipulate posted transactions or change something, that is categorized as historical.  In fact eConnect fits rather to the Integration scenarios, as it cannot change Dynamics GP user interface on its own.  From the historical perspective, eConnect is probably a product of the so called Microsoft “Project Green”, where newly acquired Corporate ERP systems, such as Great Plains, Axapta, Solomon, Navision were suggested for universal modularization (GP is Microsoft Financials and HR, Solomon is Microsoft Project, etc.)  Project Green was later on transformed into Microsoft Dynamics project, where the goals of reprogramming ERP applications on something like .Net C# platform was reemphasized as rather Corporate ERP application set of products (Microsoft Dynamics family) to be complaint to Microsoft user interface (if you know who to work with Microsoft Outlook, you should be smart and experienced enough to do self-discovery in Dynamics GP or AX or SL or even NAV user interface)

3. Extender.  There are two flavors, one is the Extender coming from Microsoft Business Solutions, where you can do pretty much all of the Extender features, except Dexterity Sanscript scriplets.  Extender is definitely successful add-on coming from eOne (Australia based Dynamics GP ISV Partner), where the emphasis is made on abstracting Dexterity complexity and allowing non-Dexterity programmer (let’s say regular Dynamics GP functional consultant) to introduce custom logic to existing Dynamics GP screens.  There are versions of Extender available for Microsoft Small Business Financials (version 7.5 through 9.0, where the product line was terminated with the recommendation to migrate to Dynamics GP Business Essential)

4. SQL direct updates and inserts. Dynamics GP as well as its predecessor Great Plains eEnterprise are open for ad-hoc SQL data altering.  This might be a great news for experienced SQL DBA, who is comfortable to review Dynamics GP table structure, carefully test data flow and how records are distributed into GP tables.  But, if you are making first steps with Great Plains, we recommend you to stick to such business logic validation tools as GP Integration Manager

5. Microsoft Visual Studio Tools for Dynamics GP.  If you are C# or VB.Net software developer, you should check these out.  These tools should open Dynamics GP user workstation screens (similar as if you would do it via Dexterity programming).  On Microsoft Convergence tradeshow 2010 in Atlanta the author attended the seminar, where two Microsoft Dynamics GP programming gurus were introducing the tools, described in our publication.  One of them David Musgrave was kind of favoring Great Plains Dexterity and his opponent was presenting MS Visual Studio SDK for Dynamics GP.  MS VS can do the job in customizing or creating new screens in GP, but it was recommended to create new tables directly via Dexterity.   Let me give you also some feedback that I got from David Musgrave

6. Dynamics GP on the international market, especially in China, Korea, Japan.  Initial limitation of Great Plains Dexterity is its orientation on ASCII table and not supporting Unicode (where hieroglyph based alphabets are handled).  There are some advances on such international Corporate ERP markets as Saudi Arabia, France, Germany, Portugal, Spain, where Dynamics GP was translated (without being localized in the sense of tax code and industry reporting compliance)

7. Alba Spectrum specialization and Corporate ERP consulting market niche.  We are Microsoft Dynamics GP technology partner and reseller (VAR).  We are providing Great Plains Dynamics GP recovering services (second opinion as you would name it in healthcare).  We carry Dynamics GP Dexterity Software Development Factory in our Great Plains hub technical support office.  One of the favorite leads for GP is Great Plains implementation recovery and providing second opinion

8. We serve you USA and Canada nationwide via web sessions and phone conferences with required local visits onsite.  Local service (where we drive to your location from our regional hub or local office) is available in Michigan (Kalamazoo, St. Joseph, Benton Harbor, Battle Creek, Lansing, Ann  Arbor, Grand Rapids, Muskegon, Holland, Grand Haven). California (all of the Southern California are covered: LA, San Diego, Orange County), Illinois Chicagoland, Houston and Dallas areas of Texas, Northwestern Indiana (Gary, Michigan City, Valparaiso)

9. To request further support, please call us 1-866-528-0577, We need to discuss your cards in order to recommend you the best solutions, which is not contingent to our preferences.  We serve you USA/Canada nationwide via remote support (web sessions and phone/skype conferences).  Local service is available in Western Michigan, Chicagoland, Southern California (LA, Orange County, San Diego)Health Fitness Articles, Houston area of the state of Texas

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Andrew Karasev, Great Plains Dynamics GP and eEnterprise Certified Master, Microsoft MVP and consultant with 10 years and plus experience and expertise.  Alba Spectrum, 1-866-528-0577,  If you are thinking to implement Dynamics GP in challenging environment, we recommend you to give us a call.  Our information portal is Pegas Planet

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