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How to Successfully Build Intercompany Integration in Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance and Supply Chain Management
Monday, January 9, 2023
Reading time: 11 minutes
Many organizations that are still running Dynamics AX2012 are actively planning their migration to Dynamics 365 Finance and Supply Chain Management shortly. They may even have already had their current legacy codebase analyzed and relevant customizations evaluated to be moved to the newest version. However, there are technical challenges that need to be overcome in making the Dynamics AX2012 to Dynamics 365 Finance and Supply Chain Management intercompany integration flow work successfully, and overcoming those challenges requires significant effort.
Based on our extensive experience with Dynamics AX to Dynamics 365 Finance and Supply Chain Management migration projects, we’re going to share how to overcome relevant intercompany integration flow challenges while using recommended integration patterns and various Microsoft Azure Stack technologies.
Why Integrate Dynamics AX2012 and Dynamics 365 Finance and Supply Chain Management?
Typically, with migrations to Dynamics 365 (especially in the case of global organizations), you execute the migration company by company or region by region. If you have already rolled out Dynamics 365 in, for example, in Sweden, but the other companies are still on the AX2012, that creates a gap between those two systems. Dynamics AX2012 and Dynamics 365 F&SCM have a very effective intercompany process inside the application, so if both companies are in the same system, the Danish company can place a sales order or sell inventory which is in the Swedish company, and the system will take care of the necessary processes of sales order, inventory, invoicing – everything.
Now, let’s assume we’ve migrated Sweden to Dynamics 365, but Denmark, Norway, and Finland are still in the AX 2012. That intercompany link is now broken because companies are no longer in a single system and no connection between these companies can be made anymore. As we have helped our partners to solve this problem in multiple projects already, the most successful solution we’ve found is to build intermediate integration to mimic the standard intercompany process. In our proposed solution, the standard intercompany logic is used on both systems and integration is used to connect data flows between companies that are on AX2012 and Dynamics 365.
What are the specific Requirements for the integration?
If we are talking about intercompany integration, Dynamics 365 and AX2012 should be integrated in near real-time to avoid disruptions for users. Therefore, the system should take care of inventory and invoicing, and that should be in near real-time. Another requirement is that as we are building an intermediate solution that will be scrapped as soon as every company is on the new system, the integration should cost as little as possible, and should not add large subscription fees. Also, usability-wise, users should have as little impact as possible, but at the same time, the integration should be able to handle at least 10,000 sales orders per day, which is quite a volume.
Before we start digging into the challenges of integrating Dynamics AX and Dynamics 365 Finance and Supply Chain Management, let’s take a look at their main differences:
11 years old on-premise ERP system
Dynamics 365 F&SCM
The latest and greatest cloud-hosted ERP system
On the left side, we have AX2012 – the old on-premises ERP system, built to be hosted on local networks. On the other side, we have Dynamics 365 F&SCM – the latest and greatest cloud-hosted ERP system that’s designed to run with other applications using Azure authentication and the whole internet that’s available there.
What challenges did we face?
As we discovered, there are many different challenges to be solved. So how did we pick the right technologies to solve these problems?
Azure AD Application proxy
To make AX2012 available for Azure. This is the solution that might be helpful if you have to expose AX2012 for your modern applications (PowerApps, LogicApps or Dynamics 365 as in our case).
Custom AIF services
To build efficient APIs and for integration to be as efficient as possible.
To not make users wait. Whenever there’s no requirement for integration to be synchronous, you should use asynchronous integration patterns. Business events allow you to send messages and trigger integrations asynchronously – the user can continue his work while integrations work in the background.
Direct AX2012 AIF and Dynamics 365 custom service calls
To integrate synchronously between systems (when needed).
To have an efficient middleware solution and save costs. It allows you to build completely tailor-made middleware solutions. The code is straightforward as it’s just a proxy, so at the same time you can build code quite easily, and have a tailor-made middleware solution with little running costs.
- You must define integration flows very clearly. It’s important to figure out what type of information has to be exchanged in the integration before starting to build the integration itself.
- When you have integration flows defined, you should evaluate synchronous vs asynchronous patterns for every integration flow. Keep in mind that synchronous is usually more expensive, more difficult to build, and very sensitive to performance. Therefore, you should really think about whether you need a synchronous pattern in your scenario or whether you can resort to asynchronous integration patterns.
- Plan carefully, as with so many integration technologies in Dynamics 365 and Azure as it’s easy to get lost very quickly. It’s important to pick the right technology for the right integration and the right piece of the integration that you’re building to achieve the best result, both performance- and cost-wise.
Recommended Integration Patterns – Which One to Choose?
Let’s go through the Dynamics 365 integration patterns and look at the possibilities for Dynamics 365 to determine what pattern you should use where.
OData is usually used when we are talking about real-time integration (both read and write). Also, it is used when simplified business logic is needed on the integrating application. So, if you want to give similar information that you’re entering by hand in the system, OData is a good option as it has a similar business logic to validate data, create related data, etc. Another good reason to use OData is if you need to integrate standard data with Dynamics 365 F&O, such as vendors, customers, etc. There are more than 1500 OData entities already available in out-of-the-box solution and you don’t need to develop anything on Dynamics 365 to integrate such data. That saves you a lot of costs when building the integration.
Examples of when to use OData:
What needs to be considered before using OData is that OData tends to be slow. Keep that limitation in mind, especially if you have high-volume integration.
This one is my personal favorite, but of course, it has both drawbacks and advantages. Custom service is used when complex data processing is required (both to read and write). A good reason to choose custom service APIs is when the API must have extremely good performance. Building a custom service means writing the service code yourself, which gives the developer full control of the code that’s been executed. You can have extremely good performance if you build that code right. Another reason to choose custom service is if you have to build an API with the simplest parameters possible because you have full control of the parameters that are required to call service.
Examples of when to use custom service:
A clear disadvantage of custom service is development cost. When we’re talking about customizations & building it’s going to cost more, but usually it is worth it because your integration will work faster.
Keep in mind that if you are migrating from the AX2012 and you had custom APIs there, you can just copy-paste a code that’s going to run Dynamics 365 – in migration scenarios this approach is a major cost-saver.
Batch Data Integrations
If your integration scenario allows an asynchronous pattern, you should go with batch data APIs. So when should you choose batch data integration?
Generally, there are two major use cases. First, when large volumes of data are required to be transported in or out of Dynamics 365. Second, when Integrations are executed periodically and allow incremental updates. If, for example, you have an integration that needs incremental updates because it has changed tracking, and you want to synchronize only the customers that have changed since the last update, you’re doing incremental pushes every 15 minutes. That’s where batch data APIs shine.
Examples of when to use batch data integrations:
That’s a great pattern, and my advice is to use it as much as you can because it is quite efficient, and with some negotiating with business requirements, it’s usually possible to not have a real-time integration and only use data packages to push data in and out. That way you’re keeping the system optimized, you’re not overloading the system with synchronous calls, and at the same time, you’re able to process and integrate large volumes of data.
External services are used when Dynamics 365 is a driving force behind integration. Quite simply, this pattern is used when Dynamics 365 should call some external system.
Examples of when to use external services:
We hope this gives you some ideas to help solve any current challenges you have in your Dynamics projects.