Upgrading Your Development Skills for Dynamics 365

By - September 19, 2018

Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations development is very different from what developers are using for Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 and Microsoft Dynamics AX 2009. Before starting with development for Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations, it is important that developers understand what has changed and what new tools are available. There are two major changes to keep in mind.

Visual Studio

One of the biggest changes for Dynamics 365 development is the fact that it does not use the AX MorphX IDE. In Dynamics 365 development, developers must use Visual Studio 2015. There are several benefits to this. First, developers each have their own environment for development rather than a “shared” box. Also, it is reasonable to assume that most developers have used Visual Studio and are familiar with the interface.

Because Dynamics 365 developers are now all working in their own development environment, Microsoft requires source control through Visual Studio Team Services, or VSTS. VSTS replaces what was previously known as Team Foundation Services (TFS). With VSTS, developers can use the Team Explorer tab in Visual Studio to check in code, merge code, create branches, view shelvesets and change sets, and more.


Overlayering or customization of base code is no longer acceptable in Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations development. In fact, Microsoft has completely locked down the ability to overlay base code. This means developers will now “customize” base code by using extensions. Developers can still use code and customization in Dynamics 365 in order to meet business needs. The difference is that developers cannot change Microsoft’s base code.

To understand the difference between overlayering and extensions, I like to use the analogy of an overhead projector.

Using overlayering, the base code would be is laid onto the projector like a clear project sheet with something written on it. To overlay code, you would write something on another clear sheet and lay it on top of the base code. The combination of the two clear sheets would be the modified code. After that, when Microsoft releases an update, another clear sheet containing Microsoft’s new base code is placed between the original base code and your second layer. Because the original sheet on which you based your modifications has changed, all of the code you wrote on top of Microsoft’s base code is now broken and must be fixed.

Let’s apply the same analogy to extensions. In this case, Microsoft’s base code is laid on the projector. Instead of changing the base and writing on top of Microsoft’s code, we lay our own sheet on top and write our code off on the side. When Microsoft applies updates or a new release and lays their sheet on top of ours, code is not broken.

By using extensions we are able to continue upgrading to new versions of Dynamics 365, development is much easier, and this massively reduces the cost of upgrades and maintenance.

Visual Studio and extensions are just two of many changes to developing for Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations. To learn more about development changes for Dynamics 365, check out the RSM Technology Academy course Upgrading Your Development Skills for Dynamics 365. Visit our website and make a free account at academy.rsmus.com to check when the class will be offered next! Also, don’t miss me at AXUG Summit where I will be instructing the entire 4-day course at the pre-conference academy in Phoenix!

By: Meghan McMullen

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