DynamicsCon preview: ALGuidelines project revives community design standards for Dynamics 365 Business Central

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MSDW is a media sponsor of the DynamicsCon 2022 virtual event, taking place live online March 15-17.

The effort to establish coding standards in the Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central developer community goes back more than a decade. In 2013, the effort gained momentum when members of Microsoft’s R&D team collaborated with experts from the NAV community to establish a library of design patterns that reflected both the wisdom of seasoned programmers who worked for NAV customers and the blessing of Microsoft.

As NAV gave way to Business Central and the architecture and customization model of the ERP solution changed, these older design patterns lost much of their usefulness. But the spirit of the project has endured and it is gaining new momentum under the ALGuidelines.Dev banner. A reference to the new AL language used for development with Business Central, the site was run by Eric Wauters (aka, Waldo)Jeremy Vyska, Arend-Jan Kauffmann and Henrik Helgesen and gained support from a growing number of other developers.

The team didn’t officially reveal ALGuidelines.Dev until November 2021. Waldo explained that he had already been thinking about design patterns for Business Central for some time, and his presentation at DynamicsCon 2020 sparked new interest in the project. “I realized that I really miss the NAV Design Patterns wiki,” he wrote. “The creativity, the conversations, the discussions…I missed it so much that – without having a single plan in mind – I announced that ‘I might revive this initiative’.”

The initiative has moved forward, and Waldo will present a new session on the project at DynamicsCon 2022 on Thursday, March 17. He told MSDW what event attendees can expect.

MSDW: ALGuidelines.Dev is alive and seems to be thriving. What do you want people attending your session to understand about the site and the project behind it?

Waldo: Well – I wouldn’t say it’s flourishing already. We have some contributions from the community, but more are always welcome. The intention of this session will be to introduce the initiative, explain a bit about what the intention is, how to contribute, and I will review the contributions already on the site to explain some of the new guidelines and templates.

I hope this somehow piques the interest of the community not only to know the guidelines, but also to contribute theirs or join the discussions.

Do you have any suggestions on how people might want to prepare before attending the session to get the most out of it?

Nothing. Sit back, relax and let me do the talking ;-). Obviously, reading about alguidelines.dev might give them a pretty good overview of what I’m going to talk about ;-).

What kind of feedback have you received from the community since you and others involved in the initiative started it?

What great feedback. It’s nice that even Microsoft jumped on board as well, resulting in the repository now being hosted on Microsoft’s github.

Microsoft’s support is obviously very important: whatever ‘best practice’ or ‘guideline’ will also pass through their eyes – so if it’s approved, it’s also approved by the people designing the product.

Additionally, Microsoft employees are also encouraged to contribute. There’s already quite a bit of feedback, input, discussion, and plans for future things to describe in best practices and templates.

Is the community effort for ALGuidelines.Dev related to Microsoft’s Universal Code initiative?

It is not – however – obvious that all new models we describe will be “universal code certified” (if that would be an expression at all).

Have you thought about the ideal future of this initiative in terms of participation or other means of measurement?

In the ideal world, the whole community will join the discussion and describe and improve models and best practices. It’s easy to contribute: it’s just a matter of forking/adding/pulling new stuff, or improving the description of current stuff… Or just joining the discussion forum to brainstorm new/better models practices, or simply comment on those that already exist.

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