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Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) for Dynamics Ax

Application lifecycle management (ALM) can be described as an overall technique to provide and support a certain level of implementation, system and business qualities. For these qualities to reach a minimum level of satisfaction it requires a set of tools to ease the road to assur it.

Because a Dynamics Ax implementation environment has some gaps related to available tools supporting a high level of Dynamics Ax ALM, I want to describe here shortly the problems we face in my current project and others can face too and mention areas we are tackling with our own designed tools. With these tools and the standard available tools we try to support the enterprise in their attempt to setup a strong quality generating implementation methodolgy which incorporates ALM at a high level. 

ALM tools in Dynamics Ax

The domains through which ALM tries to reach quality are: Requirements management, Feature management, Architecture and Design modeling, Project Management, Change management, Configuration Management, Build management, Testing, Release Management, Software Deployment, Issue management, Monitoring and reporting, Workflow… (see for more Wikipedia)

For the Dynamics Ax application there is a nice ALM toolset to support the domains but they are still in its basic/essential phase. Currently the toolset contains:

  • Unit testing frame
  • Best practice validation frame
  • Version control frame (Team foundation server)

These tools and frames are mainly centered around the coding activity. Some others are:

  • Data upgrade script management
  • Reverse engineering (UML diagram generation)
  • Upgrade reports

which leave more the realm of coding but are still far from providing very valuable implementation, system or business qualities through application lifecyle management.

Tackling Dynamics Ax ALM tool gaps with Team System

Currently the big tool from Microsoft that tackles a lot of these areas is Team System. Aspects as Requirements management, Feature management, Project Management, Change management, Issue management and Version control from Team system can be easely combined with the ALM tools in Dynamics Ax. Companies that have a solution based on Dynamics Ax certainly have an intention to fill up the ALM gaps in Dynamics Ax and build sometimes some extra little tools or use the above mentioned aspects of Team System.

Standard ALM tool gaps for Dynamics Ax

With the current state of the art around Dynamics Ax we still face some ALM aspects that can’t be supported relatively directly with available tools.

One important aspect for every architect is the validation of the Architectural requirements like eg module dependencies. These are certainly important to manage when you are building a product line or your application is in an agile environment that constantly demands changes. Dynamics Ax has no build in architectural validation tool and neither Team system can help in this area.

When additions for the Dynamics Ax application are required, the development mostly happens inside Ax projects. These are a grouping of application elements which the developer changes or creates for providing a solution. When the task of the developer is done this project needs to be deployed on other environments. Dynamics Ax tools don’t exist to ease and trace this Software deployment aspect or follow up relatively safely/accurately related statuses like accepted or task closed. 

Traceability during the entire application implementation can help in providing quality on all levels. Traceability can be related to the evolution of the different Ax project builds that were deployed on all environments, to the application elements that were changed for a specific request, to the features or bug fixes that demand the development task… Standard Dynamics Ax tools don’t provide currently this level of Feature management, Change management and Issue management.

These gaps and others (Development task management, Application auditing/monitoring, Release management…) demand at my current project a solution. In the project we are setting up an agile development environment in which we try to provide an implementation base for the following years that incorporates a high level of ALM possibilities from the beginning.


One Comment

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  1. Petur Snaeland / Nov 11 2009 8:56 am

    Excellent blog! I drifted here because I see you are thinking about component architecture, AX models and how these relate. I think we have a common interest.

    Those soft thoughts make perfect sense and I think what you are asking for here is largely available already in the form of Development Studio from To-Increase. Please contact me if you are interested …

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