Microsoft Great Plains is the definite stake for Microsoft Business Solutions for the US market. It has multiple customization/modification/reporting tools. Currently there is upgrade campaign to version 8.5 and 8.0 and due to the discontinuation of the technical support for Microsoft Great Plains Standard on Ctree and Pervasive SQL - we see substantial increase in migration needs: migration from ctree/Pervasive to MSDE/MS SQL Server. This in turn increases interest to customization and customization upgrade.
If you are developer who is asked: how do we customize Great Plains – read this and you will have the clues on where to look further.
Great Plains Dexterity – this is proprietary programming language and technology, designed back to earlier 1990th with the goal to build platform independent graphical accounting package – Great Plains Dynamics. Dexterity itself is written in C (following popular those days hope – that C will provide platform independence). You can install Dexterity from Great Plains 7.5 CD #2. Obviously it requires a lot of learning / training, but it allows your custom piece be seamlessly integrated with Great Plains interface. Nowadays, however – and this is a good thing – most of Great Plains installations are moved to SQL Server – so you can use Dexterity for custom forms drawing only and make the buttons run SQL stored procedures.
Modifier with VBA. Unfortunately you have to purchase this tool and get new registration keys. If you are familiar with VBA customization for Access or Excel – you have all the skills needed – then you just attach your scripts to the buttons and fields on GP forms (you can modify these forms with Modifier – or just tough them with it).
Continuum for VB/Delphi – we don’t recommend this tool, because it is using Great Plains as OLE server – and you probably don’t want to be trapped by old technology.
Crystal Reports. Great Plains has its own ReportWriter, but its functionality is limited – you can’t do cross modules reports (you can’t link Sales and Purchasing tables in one report, for example). So – you use Crystal. The GP tables structure is in Tools->Resource Description->Tables … and you are in control. Feel free to create views and stored procs directly in the companies databases – it doesn’t hurt the Dexterity engine
Direct web publishing from Great Plains SQL databases, using Visual Studio.net and your language of choice (VB.Net, C#, J#, etc). Plus you probably want to have several SQL stored procs.
eConnect – this tool is type of SDK with VB.net samples. It allows you to feed data into Great Plains and was primarily created for eCommerce developers.
Integration Manager – it is end-user tool for importing to GP, however if end-user meets some challenges in the integration – you as a developer can help with VBA scripts. IM validates 100% of business logic and uses hidden GP forms – so it maybe slow for big on-going integrations, when you have thousands records per day – in this case you rescue to eConnect or directly to SQL store procedures.
SQL queries - as a developer you have unlimited potential in using SQL queries, because the database in MS SQL Server. Be careful, it is kind of surgery - you can easily delete all your customers, by executing: DELETE RM00101
Andrew Karasev is Chief Technology Officer in Alba Spectrum Technologies – USA nationwide Great Plains, Microsoft CRM customization company, serving clients in Chicago, California, Arizona, Texas, Florida, Georgia, New York and having locations in multiple states and internationally ( http://www.albaspectrum.com ), he is Dexterity, SQL, C#.Net, Crystal Reports and Microsoft CRM SDK developer.