When implementing ERP systems, one of the most common goals of the project is to reduce paperwork by putting more of the critical information required to coordinate the activities of workers into the system. Any ERP system is, by necessity, going to have some steps which are outside the system; yet too many times, not enough is done to move from a paper based work queue to an electronic work queue. A paper based work flow is problematic. What typically happens is that people have an “in-box” on their desk. They will not process the next order until the paper document hits their in-box. The user’s in-box becomes, in effect, their work queue. However, a paper hard-copy document can blow off a desktop and get thrown out by accident. What is worse, and that many people don’t think about, is that there is no visibility into the in-box paper work queues. A manager would have to walk around to everyone’s desk and physically count through each paper document stack to get a grip on the status of the work queues, in trying to identify bottlenecks in the work flow. On the contrary, with an electronic work queue, the manager can stay at his or her desk and query the work flow queues, using reports that indicate the number of documents in each person’s queue, and also how long the documents have been there. Also, the users can move documents from one queue to another without having to physically walk the document over to somebody else’s desk.
Adding a custom built application written in a software development tool such as Microsoft SharePoint is a “nice to have” for many small to mid-sized organizations. There are also many good work flow process add-on applications for Dynamics GP such as
As an alternative to these solutions, you can set up the off-the-shelf Dynamics GP product for electronic workflow, very easily and without any custom programming. I typically set up the work flow using the SmartList and the Sales Batch ID. This technique is most often employed by me for the Dynamics GP Sales Order Processing module, but it could be used for other modules as well, such as Project Accounting, Purchasing, or even General Ledger. The technique that I have used at dozens of clients is as follows:
- Make use of the Dynamics GP SmartList to create Work Flow Queues.
- Create SmartList favorites which act as the user’s work queues.
- The “Search” button on the SmartList is where you can define what is in the queue. Make the search criteria equal to the Batch Number field on a Sales TransactionsSmartList.
- Create several Sales Batches that will stand as permanent Batches that you will never post; a trick here is to set the Batch Posting Date to a date well into the past, such as 12/31/1900. You will get a warning message that the date is outside any of your company fiscal periods, but you can ignore this; what it will mean is that someone will not be able to post the batch accidentally.
- Save the SmartList favorites for each of permanent batches, and add them to the entire system so that all users can see them.
- For example, in a Sales Order Processing work flow, there can be the following SmartLists set up: Pending Orders, To Be Picked, To Be Packed, Ship Today, Urgent, Problem Orders, To Be Posted,
- Name the smart list by role or by document status (not by individual person who handles that process), as sometimes that person is out on vacation, or there is a change in personnel, so the person’s name can be confusing; example batch names are shown above.
- Assign one or more users to monitor each SmartList.
- SmartList favorites can be added to the Short-Cut bar for quick access.
- Train the users to view their assigned role based SmartLists to see their queue of outstanding items to process.
- As a document flows through the process, the user only needs to change the batch ID field on the SOP document header in order to “move” the document to the next queue.
- By use of a SmartList Queue and corresponding permanent Batch ID called “Urgent” high priority orders can be easily seen and acted upon, or problematic items can be “kicked back” to the previous step and highlighted for special attention.
- After changing the Batch Number field on the Sales Transaction Document header, the user will need to hit the Refresh Button to refresh the SmartList. The document will “move” to the queue.
Another feature in Dynamics GP that can be used to help control the work flow process of SOP (Sales Order Processing) documents is the SOP “Holds” feature. Holds are nice because they leave an audit trail of who put the hold on and on what date and then who released the hold, so you can see who was handling each order and when. The Hold feature can be used in conjunction with the SmartList technique shown above or separately. For example, you can place a document on hold if there is a discrepancy in the amount to be picked and what is actually on the shelf to pick. The document will be set aside until the discrepancy can be explained and appropriate adjustments made to inventory.
By: Ren Bellu, RSM McGladrey - Microsoft Dynamics Workflow Specialists