Face Data Integration With No Fear
Building a sure-footed Supply Chain Management (SCM) solution can be as challenging as a chess game. Yet, it is a mandatory part for dozens of businesses. Today, I want to take some time and dive into what we’ve done on that path.
Let’s imagine how many data flows are conducted before a product reaches a customer. You can see 5 different companies exchanging data on the picture below.
With many years of the business software evolution we end up in a wide range of systems, data formats, and databases. Every company has to deal with this diversity. Each time the important data has to be transmitted, the business faces lots of pitfalls. Data inconsistency, software discontinuance, and software incompatibility are only the most evident causes.
With this in mind, we found data integration to be one of the most challenging aspects to deal with while building a contemporary SCM.
Data integration is an important part of the SCM design
Many times, two separate companies or departments within one company should work as a whole, like the orchestra does. There are branch offices that are spread all over the world with the need to consider, for example, the locale settings while consuming data. Connecting heterogeneous data sources and conducting data transfers in between becomes crucial for maintaining business processes. Data quality turns out to be one of the main priorities, and human factor in such routine as data preparation and data transfer may hurt the budget badly due to just a slight mistype. Digging deeper unveils transmission failures caused by a wrong delimiter, date format, files encoding, and so on.
The abovementioned intricacy can be cured with robust procedures of data transfer, data validation, and data representation. That’s why alongside the data evolution we observe the evolution of data integration software.There are plenty of data integration solutions at the moment and there are several Dynamics AX integration tools that being a part of Axiopea Consulting team I have used over the years. Among the possible alternatives for Dynamics AX integration are Microsoft AIF (Application Integration Framework), Microsoft DIXF (Data import/export framework), To-Increase Connectivity Studio, and Columbus Galaxy module. Each of them interprets the object domain in its own way. Thus, the end-user always has pros and cons by choice, according to strong and weak sides of the specific software.
Experience with all of these solutions made us think there must be one more Dynamics AX integration solution with a strong accent on an open architecture. It would protect the user from the shallow learning curve, as each of the major versions of some of the above mentioned products reinvents the integration process once again. It requires the user to discover peculiarities again and again, fighting them with tricky tips. Some of the mentioned products are obsolete, which is also a threat. However, with an open architecture we strive to alleviate even such scenario. Another risk is a product with parts being black-boxed for commercial or other reasons. In this case, an open architecture is also meant as a relief.
Integration software comparison provided below had been used as a starting point to design a data integration solution for Dynamics AX that incorporates some strong sides of the existing solutions aand strengthens them with a developer-oriented architecture.
Next time, I’ll share details of the solution we’ve built for the Dynamics AX integration. Stay tuned.