Dynamics GP Development in Dexterity, EConnect, VBA

Mid-market Corporate ERP applications typically have variety of the programming tools and methods. Great Plains is open for modifications via such tools, as Dexterity, Modifier with VBA, MS Visual Studio SDK, Extender. There are several tools, dedicated to the integrations: eConnect, Integration Manager and to certain extent you can use your skills in SQL stored procedures. The variety has the other side of the coin, where you need to be sure that you have clear understanding on what you plan to accomplish and that you select the appropriate tool. Let’s review each tool individually and try to help you in the selection process:

1. Dexterity. This is more than just a tool, this is the whole architecture of this application, where you define such objects, as fields, tables, forms, windows, buttons, constants and make them work together via Sanscript procedures, functions, triggers and the script associated with the fields. We are not providing detailed documentation here, and you may expect more objects to discover, we are just giving you’re the idea on what it is. Dexterity is good, if you plan to change user interface or add new tables to the company or Dynamics database. However, if you are planning on something like web programming, Dex might be not your first choice, as this technology was introduced in earlier 1990th, where we didn’t have such concepts as web service, Microsoft.Net, XML. Please, keep reading the next paragraph on eConnect.

2. eConnect SDK. We already mentioned above that it is rather integration tool, initially it was planned for ecommerce web developers to integrate shopping cart as Sales Order Processing Invoice with customer deposit. Well, that fact might look like a limitation, but imagine the following scenario. You are programming your web interface as the.Net project in Microsoft Visual Studio C# or VB. In this project you build your own web based buttons, fields, icons and you are including eConnect libraries in the project to reference GP transactions and master records. This scenario makes eConnect the champion in the tools selection for the ecommerce, customer, vendor, or employee self-service web based applications. As a C# programmer you might be excited at this point, be sure, that you already reviewed such web technology based tools as GP Business Portal, and various web add-ons for Great Plains.

3. VBA scripting. There are two tools, where VBA is open for you to deploy: Modifier and Integration Manager. Let’s make these two stops and review. Modifier does just what it name suggests – it allows you to modify existing forms, and other resources. Modification of the form means the possibility to change existing fields position and visibility as well as placing new fields on the forms and windows. New fields could be animated with VBA scripts, it is even possible to change associated table records via traditional Microsoft ADO (pre.Net). And the second tool is Integration Manager, where VBA scripts could intervene in the event handling logic. For example, you may introduce Before Integration VBA script, where you are loading text file into custom MS SQL Server table, and the following integration is based on the Advanced ODBC query to load new records directly from SQL View or newly created custom table.

4. Some cautions. So far all these tools look good and even pretty cool, don’t they? Please, consider some level of the conservatism. First of all Dexterity is semi proprietary and it commands long learning curve, if you have several years of Dexterity programming with your previous employer under your belt, then it might be a way to go. But for generic C#, VB programmer we do not really recommend to invest into Dex training and learning curve, especially when your customization project has moderate magnitude. Second caution – please try to stay away from direct SQL Insert and Update statements, as these clauses might lead to data compromising.

5. New customization tools. We also recommend you to keep your eye on such tools as Microsoft Visual Studio Tools for GP. Here you should be able to modify user interface in the manner, similar to Dexterity. We do not recommend this tool for large magnitude customization project, as it might require some work to be done in Dex, especially new tables creation.

6. Reporting. If you just need to open GP for reporting, we recommend you to take a look at traditional tools, such as Crystal Reports, MS Access, MS Excel, and new tools, such as Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services (often referred as SSRS). For pure financial reports, such as Balance Sheet, Profit and Loss Statement, consolidated reporting consider FRx as traditional tool or Microsoft Management Reporter as the alternative to FRx for newer versions 2010 and 10.0.

Author: Andrew Karasev