Microsoft Dynamics GP, previously called Great Plains, offers small and midsize businesses a wealth of advanced, ready-made solutions for managing core areas such as finances, operations, human resources, and manufacturing. Because of its tight integration with key Microsoft technologies including Active Directory and Azure AD, SQL Server, SharePoint, plus Office and Office 365, and because its architecture is based on Microsoft's .NET Framework, Dynamics GP's out-of-the box functionality can be seamlessly incorporated into virtually any Microsoft-based IT environment to maximize the platform's business value.
For organizations who want to gain competitive advantage by building a business management system that goes outside the box, the open architecture of Dynamics GP offers ample support for custom application development. A broad range of development tools are available to create specialized applications and integrations for Dynamics GP. Progent's expert solution designers and software developers can help your business build enhancements to Dynamics GP that address the unique needs of your business while retaining the advantages of Windows integration and connectivity.
Overview of the Microsoft Dynamics GP Architecture
The Dynamics GP runtime engine was built with the Dexterity development tool, which was created with Microsoft Visual Studio. Microsoft's .NET Framework allows Dynamics GP to provide an enhanced Windows interface for users and offer .NET and VBA technologies for application developers and data integrators. Application data for Dynamics GP is stored and managed by Microsoft SQL Server, delivering advanced performance, login security, transaction integrity, job scheduling, and scalability. Dynamics GP 2015 R2 introduced a new Service Based Architecture (SBA) that provides a REST-style application programming interface (API) to replace the previous SOAP protocol for browser-based access to cloud-hosted Dynamic GP applications. The new SBA design provides more stable connections, better security including end-to-end SSL encryption, transparent scale out and multi-tenancy, plus support for HTML 5 https protocol to facilitate the creation of cross-platform applications for Windows, iOS and Android devices.
Dynamics GP's open architecture makes it easy for end users and system administrators to customize Windows layouts, forms, and reports while providing a familiar environment for programmers and third-party developers to add new functionality and connect with virtually any data source. Progent's Microsoft-certified software developers can help you enhance your Dynamics GP system by providing services that range from customizing management reports to creating powerful line-of-business applications that significantly extend the capability of Dynamics GP.
Tools Available for Customizing Dynamics GP
Development tools for Dynamics GP cover reporting, intranet portals, and integrations. Reporting tools available for Dynamics GP include Report Writer, Microsoft Dynamics GP Analysis Cubes for Excel, Microsoft Dynamics GP Analytical Accounting, Microsoft Enterprise Reporting, Crystal Reports Professional, Microsoft FRx Professional, Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) for Microsoft Dynamics GP, SmartList, and SmartList Builder. For a description of Progent's consulting services for creating custom Dynamics GP reports, see Microsoft Dynamics GP Reporting Services.
Business Portal for Microsoft Dynamics GP is a web-based application that allows you to create or extend your company intranet and provide users with safe and convenient access to Microsoft Dynamics GP information as well as to any other browser-based applications that use Business Portal. Many of the Business Portal's features including document libraries, lists, announcements, links, and alerts are provided by Windows SharePoint Services. Progent's Dynamics GP developers and SharePoint experts can help you use Business Portal to create custom queries and reports. For information about Progent's SharePoint consulting expertise, see SharePoint Consulting Services.
Progent can also provide expertise with a variety of development tools that can be used to create user-interface integrations and database integrations with Microsoft Dynamics GP. These integration tools include Dexterity, Modifier with VBA, Visual Studio Tools for Microsoft Dynamics GP, Continuum, Extender, eConnect, Web Services for Microsoft Dynamics GP, Integration Manager, and ODBC.
Tools for Developing Custom Integrations for Dynamics GP
Tools that can be used for Dynamics GP integrations allow you to carry out a variety of projects such as exchanging data with external databases, modifying the appearance of Dynamics GP windows or creating new ones, using specific .NET controls for a new window, integrating with Microsoft Dynamics GP navigation and lists, and synchronizing Microsoft Dynamics GP data with an external system. Some of the available tools can be used by non-programmers including authorized end users, while others require experience in developing applications within a Microsoft environment.
Progent can help you decide what integration tools are appropriate for your customization project, show you how to use relevant tools that are within your skill set, and provider application design and programming services for projects you do not wish to tackle with in-house resources.
Application Integration Tools for Dynamics GP
Multiple tools are available for end users and software developers to create application integrations for Dynamics GP. Progent offers consulting support for all these tools including Dexterity, Modifier with VBA, Visual Studio Tools for Microsoft Dynamics GP, Continuum, and Extender.
Data Integration Tools for Dynamics GP
Microsoft Dynamics GP was created with the Dexterity development environment. Integrations written with Dexterity work transparently with Dynamics GP and can use Dynamic GP's trigger system for event notification. Dexterity is the only development tool that can create integrations containing new commands for menus, toolbars, and actions in Dynamic GP's list action panes. Dexterity includes a graphical forms designer, a scripting language with an integrated debugger, a comprehensive function library, structured exception handling, COM support, integrated source code management with support for Microsoft Visual SourceSafe or Team Foundation Server (TFS), and a built-in Report Writer.
- Modifier with VBA
The Modifier with VBA, included with each Dynamics GP client, is a GUI environment that makes it easy and safe for end users to modify the Dynamics GP interface through customizations such as rearranging windows elements, hiding fields, or changing graphic images/ and message text. VBA in Microsoft Dynamics GP includes the familiar Visual Basic syntax used in Microsoft Office products and offers additional features that allow advanced users to create new windows, add business logic to windows and reports, and create VBA forms that add new capabilities to Dynamics GP. Integrations made with Modifier can be deployed via package files.
- Visual Studio Tools for Microsoft Dynamics GP
Visual Studio Tools for Dynamics GP offers software developers the managed code environment of Visual Studio and all the features of the .NET Framework to create integrations for Dynamics GP. Developers can create native .NET forms that have the look of standard Dynamic GP windows and can incorporate any available .NET control. Developers have access via .NET code to windows, fields, tables and other Dynamic GP application resources, including fields created by Modifier. Developers can also register for events occurring in windows, fields, and other resources so .NET code can be triggered by user actions. Integrations can be easily deployed by copying them to the Addins folder.
Continuum gives developers access to the COM interface for Dynamics GP and, as its name suggests, is useful for creating integrations with legacy applications created with older development tools such as early versions of Visual Basic. Limitations in the integration capabilities of Continuum/COM often require developers to use pass-through scripts with Dexterity's sanScript scripting language to provide the required functionality for integrations.
Extender is designed to make it easy for non-programmers to create new Dynamics GP windows for entering data into additional fields. The new windows created with Extender can feature lookups and shortcuts, have additional window types such as Notes and Inquiries, and can accept imported data. Extender also allows users to design views that combine Dynamic GP windows with Extender windows for creating reports with external reporting platforms such as SQL Server Reporting Services or Crystal Reports.
Dynamics GP offers a variety of technologies that can be used in parallel to import and export data managed by the Dynamics GP SQL Server. The key data integration tools for which Progent can supply support are eConnect, Web Services for Microsoft Dynamics GP, Integration Manager, and ODBC. The relationship of these integration technologies with the SQL Server is illustrated below:
Download Progent's Microsoft Dynamics GP/Great Plains Consulting Datasheet
eConnect, which is installed on the SQL Server used for managing Dynamics GP's data, is a set of stored procedures for reading, writing, and validating data in Dynamic GP's tables. eConnect can provide real-time back-office data to new or existing applications such as web storefronts or customer service software. eConnect uses XML documents with a defined schema for each class of document to be imported from or exported to Dynamics GP. The programming interfaces included with eConnect are BizTalk Adapter, eConnect .NET Assembly, Microsoft Message Queue (MSMQ), and directly accessible SQL Stored Procedures. Web Services for Microsoft Dynamics GP and Integration Manager both rely on eConnect as their data access platform.
- Web Services for Microsoft Dynamics GP
Web Services for Microsoft Dynamics GP is based on Windows Communication Foundation (WCF) and uses eConnect to provide real-time web-based access to Dynamics GP data via standard Internet transport protocols and XML-based document formats such as Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP). Web services allows applications integrated with Dynamics GP to retrieve, create, modify, remove, or void the system's primary documents, which include customers, vendors, purchase and sales documents, payables and receivables transactions, general ledger transactions, and accounts.
- Integration Manager
Integration Manager is a separately licensed, standalone graphical application designed to make it easy for non-programmers to import data into Dynamics GP from different sources such as Excel or text files. Features such as graphical data mapping, data validation, data defaulting, and batch imports simplify the task of importing external data into Dynamics GP objects such as a Sales Order Processing document. For power users, Integration Manager supports scripting with VBScript, which allows users to attach scripts to events that occur during the integration process to handle complex import tasks.
Dynamics GP data managed by SQL Server can be securely accessed via the industry-standard ODBC (Open Database Connectivity) interface, which is used by popular reporting applications such as Crystal Reports and Microsoft Query. Using the ODBC interface to write data to the Dynamics GP database requires in-depth knowledge of the Dynamics GP database and table structures because ODBC bypasses the eConnect interface and performs no data validation on its own.
To download a datasheet describing the consulting support available from Progent for Dynamics GP/Great Plains, click Download Microsoft Dynamics GP/Great Plains Consulting Datasheet (PDF file).
Contact Progent for Microsoft Dynamics GP Consulting and Programming Support
If you are looking for a Microsoft Dynamics GP/Great Plains application consultant, phone 1-800-993-9400 or visit Contact Progent.