Microsoft Dynamics SL: To Customize or Not to Customize?

Microsoft Dynamics SL is one of the most extendable and customizable solutions for the mid-market today. However, it's important to know when to customize and how to customize.

When to Customize

The first question that you need to ask when deciding whether or not to customize is: Can I accomplish my business goals functionally versus technically? If you can accomplish your goals functionally, it is preferable in that it reduces the overall complexity of maintaining your solution going forward. Furthermore, it will make rolling out a customization (really a configuration change) easier for the users.

How to Customize

If you determine that you can accomplish your goals through customized functionality, there are various levels of customization to understand.

Let's define these incrementally from the least amount of time required to the most.

Screen or Cosmetic Customization

A screen or cosmetic customization is taking a Dynamics SL Screen, such as Voucher and Adjustment, and making changes to the labels on the screen, the tab order of the fields or moving fields on the screen. This is a very basic element of customization and can be considered a baseline of customization effort.  However, don't take this type of customization too lightly as it is likely to be the most commonly touched/modified customization type due to user requests and/or changing screen needs.

Time Required: Typically, these customizations are measured in quarter-hour increments…but may need frequent touches.

Screen Plus VBA Scripting

A more sophisticated level of customization involves the Screen level of customization plus VBA Scripting for business logic validation. VBA Scripting allows the development team to perform If/Then/Else kind of logic or other validation throughout the screens as your users input data into the screen. This type of development utilizes the Dynamics SL Customization VBA API's to perform error checking and other routines.

Time Required: These customizations are measured in hours, and require more testing and validation of business logic.

New Screens

New screens can be written in Dynamics SL using the Dynamics SL Visual Toolset. Built on Microsoft.Net technologies, these screens can be custom written to include entirely new datasets and views of data.

Time Required: Typically this work is measured in a few days to a week or more per screen.

Mobile Screens

Web Services and Web Apps screens are an option for today's mobile user through Microsoft Web Services Framework. These device agnostic, HTML5, responsive, technology-oriented applications render well whether on a phone, tablet or browser.

Time Required: Typically, this work is measured in a few days per screen but may require a lot of maintenance going forward.

Remember the IPOs

Regardless of the customization type or model needed, it is important to remember the IPO (Input, Processing, Output) thumb rule of customization development. Customizations often shine on the input side—whether a screen customization or integration—and work well on the processing side such as with VBA/Business Logic. However, on the output side, it is common to forget not only the reporting requirements of the solution but also the further downstream use of the data such as in other modules or in Business Intelligence and Analytics Apps. Tribridge always has an eye on the IPO throughout the development process.

Overall, customizing or configuring your solution should simplify—not complicate—your business processes, and improve your solution's value. Let us help you define your needs and map out a customization plan that will add value to your SL solution without breaking the bank!

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