Business processes provide the foundation on which work gets done within organizations. Business management software can provide significant value when it can help the business execute on these processes more efficiently and effectively.
We introduced workflow support in Microsoft Dynamics AX 2009 to help organizations automate their business processes for greater efficiency. In Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012, we’ve improved on these tools and introduced some powerful features that not only drive efficiency but also provide the flexibility to quickly model and change your business processes, giving your organization greater agility.
We built the workflow system in AX 2012 using the Microsoft .NET 4.0 Workflow Foundation, which provides both the graphical editor and the runtime environment. The graphical workflow editor in Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 is based upon the re-hostable workflow designer control from .NET 4.0 Workflow Foundation; we’ve added controls and custom workflow elements that reflect activities and tasks typically associated with ERP, so you can actually access the workflow design surface from the ERP client. When a workflow is submitted for processing, execution of the workflow instance is managed by the Application Object Server (AOS) using the .NET 4.0 Workflow Foundation runtime. Overall, the use of the Workflow Foundation gives us a powerful framework for executing workflows, while at the same time simplifying process modeling for business users, so we’re pretty excited to be able to take advantage of this Microsoft technology in Microsoft Dynamics AX!
Faster Process Modeling
Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 makes it much simpler for business users and people with limited programming skills to set up and automate some pretty sophisticated processes. This lets the people who understand the business and work with these processes on a daily basis define the conditions and business rules, assign tasks, and automate the flow of information through the organization.
- Visual Tools. To understand a business process, it’s easiest if you can look at it visually so that you can actually see what’s happening. Most people are familiar with flow charts as graphical representations of processes. One of the most exciting features of Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 is the new graphical workflow editor, which uses a similar paradigm to let a business user model a process and build the associated workflow that automates approvals, escalations, notifications, decision points, and all the other detailed tasks that happen along the way.
- Prebuilt Workflows. Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 will ship with around 60 workflow types, which help speed up the process of creating a workflow. You can pick one of the available workflow types, which are associated with specific business documents, and then model the resulting workflow to reflect your particular organization’s policies and procedures.
Faster, More Flexible Process Execution
We’ve also added features that help you design richer workflows, which reflect the way business is done in your particular organization and can speed up execution of specific processes.
- Assignment. A particularly powerful part of workflow is assignment. Every organization assigns tasks differently, so Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 supports a number of ways to do so, including assigning to an individual, group, or role, or defining an organizational hierarchy, with rules for escalation. Organizations can also assign tasks to work item queues, which can in turn be assigned and managed at an individual or team level. . Ultimately, we’ve provided as much flexibility as possible to get the work done.
- Conditions and decisions. We’ve also added the ability to create workflows that branch, based on specified conditions or decisions that people make as part of the process. Decisions can be conditional or manual, depending on the process and the rules or policies that govern it. Conditions can become a pretty powerful part of your workflow because they enable you to essentially automate your business rules or business policies.
- Time limits. The ability to set time limits on tasks, approvals, and manual decisions—and to define escalation policies when limits aren’t met—helps your organization complete tasks on time and avoid stagnating processes.
- Parallel activity. For processes that require multiple tasks to be executed at the same time, we’ve included parallel activity and the ability to call other workflows from within an existing workflow.
- Line items. We’ve seen a number of processes where a single document, for example an expense report or purchase order, contains multiple line items that need to be processed differently. We’ve built in features that enable workflows to be applied to a specific line item, rather than treating a document as a whole, which means more granular control.
Ultimately, workflow is about automating and standardizing business processes, leading to greater efficiency, while also making it quick and easy to change those processes, so your business maintains its agaility
Below Karl Tolgu, Sr. Program Manager, gives an update in the advances made in the workflow capability of MS Dynamics AX2012