Managing After-Sales Services of your organization as a Profitable business in Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012

Managing After-Sales Services of your organization as a Profitable business in Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012

Manufacturing and Services Industries (Especially the Architecture, Engineering and Construction, and Large scale AV Integrators) often perform after-sales services, to retain maximum Customer satisfaction on the products and services they manufacture and sale. These after-sales services are basically classified as “Business to Business services”, rather than business to consumer servicers. It is very important that the Service Managers of these organization keep track of the exact costs and revenues on the hours, expenses and items consumed in a service function, to make sure the Service operations of the organization can run as profitable business.

Are you a Customer already implementing Microsoft Dynamics AX  ERP or actively looking for an all  inclusive ERP application to manage  the various aspects of after-sales services ? Look no further and explore how the Service Management Module of Microsoft Dynamics AX ERP can add value proposition to your business.

In today’s post, I will initiate an introduction to the overall architecture of the Service Management Module and then will discuss all the important functionalities  and the “How-To” to manage those in few of the subsequent posts.

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Let us now understand the various building blocks and important functionalities of the Service Management Module in AX 2012 R3.

A. SERVICE AGREEMENTS: Service agreements acts as the central element in the architecture of the service management module and holds the contractual details with the customer.

    • Defines what objects will be serviced(Service Objects), the tasks(Service Tasks) that will be performed and how these will be charged to the customers.
    • Defines when the services will be performed(Service Interval), Service Level Agreement(SLA), who will perform the service, how the costs and revenues will be managed.
    • Defines how service orders will be created (Automatically, Planned Service Orders/Manually).
    • The Service Management module in AX is integrated with the Project Management and Accounting module for posting the service orders back to Projects, to track the costs, revenues and also invoice the customer for the services performed.
    • This integration also takes advantage of the validations, ledger posting, pricing and other functionalities of the PMA module.

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B. SERVICE ORDERS: A Service Order in AX represents one instance of a scheduled/unscheduled service activity performed by service technician, at a customer site on the day of the visit.

  • Service orders can be automatically created based on the Tenure, Service interval, Time window and the “Line Combining options” specified on the Service agreement and service agreement lines. For example if the tenure of a service agreement is from 01/01/2014 to 12/31/2014 and Service Interval is “Monthly”, then, 12 planned Service orders, one for each month, can be automatically created directly from the Agreement.
  • AX also provides the option to create the planned service orders more efficiently by combining the orders “By Technician”, “By Service task and By service objects (What is being serviced) so that they can better planned and scheduled.
  • You can also utilize the “Time Window” functionality on the service agreement to optimize the scheduling of service orders.
  • Service orders can be created without a service agreement as well, and these can be used to perform One time , unscheduled service visits which might be requested by the customer on demand basis.
  • Service Orders typically consists of service order lines, which represents the details such as the “Hours of work performed by a service technician, related expenses, item consumptions, replacements, or repairs and any service fees, for the tasks performed on the various service objects.
  • Service orders can be created by the Services team of the organization or it can also be initiated by the Customer using the Customer Self service portal.
  • Once the Service orders are created and setup, they are processed through various service stages and the progress, performance, costs and revenues are tracked till the completion of the service.

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C. SERVICE LEVEL AGREEMENTS (SLA): Service Level Agreement allows the service organizations to record time to identify WHEN the service must be performed at the latest, from the time when the Service order was initiated by a Customer and it also allows the organizations to track the timing of the services given to the customers through out the Service Delivery process.

    • You can create as many SLAs you want based on your business needs. If you have grouped your service agreements by
    • When a SLA is attached to a Service Order and the service order is initiated, the TIME RECORDING starts automatically which can be Stopped, Restarted or even Cancelled at any time depending on the situation through out the duration of the service activity.
    • SLA can be associated with a Calendar in AX, which allows to control the automatic time recording to start. If the Service order was initiated on a non working day, then the Time recording will not start until the next working day.
    • You can link the SLA with Service Agreement groups, which allows to assign the SLA to the Service Orders automatically when you create a new Service Order belonging to that Service Agreement.

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D: SERVICE DISPATCH BOARD FOR DISPATCHERS: The Service dispatch board functionality enables the Service companies and their Service Customers to stay on top of their priories with regards to the on-going services. It Helps the Service dispatcher to schedule the work for the Service engineers and the service tasks/activities they will perform at the customer’s site.

  • Service Dispatcher gets to see an overview of the Service Operations using the Dispatch Board can make efficient and informed decisions about the actions needed at the right time to ensure high customer satisfaction.
  • Graphical display support for the Service Dispatch board.
  • Service dispatchers can view and manage on going service tasks by seeing COLOR coded overview details about the service orders.
  • The dispatcher can see daily activity logs on each Service orders which are entered by the service engineers/technicians.
  • Can create service dispatch teams and manage the service resources more effectively.

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The screenshot above does not show any data, as I have not created the data in the system. We will discuss more about the details of the Service dispatcher and other daily processes of the Service orders in the few subsequent posts and will learn how to use this module in greater detail and see the Dispatch board in action.

E. REPAIR & RETURNS: Service Companies often get the items or equipment back at their location for repair. Dynamics AX supports a decent level of repair management capabilities within the Service Management Module which can be used by companies for better repair management and optimize their efficiency of handling equipment returns and repairs.

  • Manage repair from the time it is initiated from the Customer till the resolution using repair stages, which you can configure the way your business needs it.
  • Track the resource consumptions on various repair tasks such as hours spent by the technician, Item replaced etc. and tie those back to the Service order which can be then accounted and billed to the Customer.
  • Create and Manage Symptom areas, diagnosis areas, repair conditions, resolutions for better reuse to optimize the repair process.
  • Do necessary reporting such as which items (objects) are repaired most frequently and how efficiently your technicians are able to finish the repairs etc.

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F: Service BOMs: Dynamics AX provide the functionality of creating and managing Service BOMs, which enables the service companies to track and store the changes performed to an object during the service. This can be specifically helpful for service organization who engineers their products/services by combining a set of different items on it.

  • It allows you to continuously track the service objects which are serviced a customer’s site  and then it allows to generate the complete audit trial of the object changes over a period of time and also the replacement history of the object.
  • All the changes to the Service BOM during the course of Service, are stored as a separate version as a history for future tracking.
  • Helps service companies to identify required parts on the service visits, so that they can arrange the availability of the parts at inventory and reserve to be consumed in the Service order.
  • It can help you determine any potential changes you might have to do to your Service BOM (Service Product) to manage reduce the number of services required in the future.

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G. SERVICE SUBSCRIPTIONS: If you are a Service company and provide services to clients at a fixed rate for a period, then you can make use the Service Subscriptions functionality of AX 2012 to manage all the accounting and financials management needs of the service subscription process. We will discuss in detail about each of the above processes in the next few subsequent posts.

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H. SELF-SERVICES PORTAL: Dynamics AX supports various Service Management processes on the enterprise portal. The Service customers and the Service team can collaborate effectively using the enterprise portal and the Customer self-service portal.

  • Customers can initiate the Service Orders using the Self- Services portal on enterprise portal which then can be reviewed  and processed further.
  • Customers can access readily available LIVE information about their past and current and future service orders, agreements anytime using the Self-service portal.
  • Technicians can access details such as her necessary information  such as service objects, tasks, repair etc. about the service calls/orders and even update the service orders at anytime.

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Well, stopping here todaySmile. In the next few posts, we will explore the above mentioned processes and functions individually, in greater details.

Till next time..!!

-Sandeep

Enhancements to the Project Resource Scheduling Functionality in AX 2012 R2 Cumulative Update 7

Enhancements to the Project Resource Scheduling Functionality in AX 2012 R2 Cumulative Update 7

Hello Everyone,

I hope all of you found my earlier post on “Enhancements to the project management functionality in CU7” useful. As mentioned in that post, today I will take some time to explain the new enhancements to the “Project Resource Scheduling” functionality in the latest release of AX 2012 R2, which is the CU7 release.

For a professional services firm, the workers of the organizations are the key assets and are also the key sources of revenue generation. When your organization grows in size and number of Projects you manage grows, you ill need effective tools to manage and schedule the workers on projects to ensure that the skilled and most available people are assigned to the project tasks, to ensure optimized cost management and realize better profits.

Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 R2 provides you with such functionalities under the Project Management & Accounting Module. Let us take look how this functionality has evolved over the last few releases of AX.

  1. Project Roles: The Project Managers can now create “Project Teams” for each project and include appropriate project roles to the team. The project roles/project role templates basically act as pre-defined roles, where you can specify the required competencies such as “Skills”, “Certifications” and ‘Education” for that role, which ultimately will help in the resource search operation for the project.image
  2. Create Project Teams: For today’s demonstration, I have created a sample Time and Material project for a Website development project. Let us now see how the project managers can create the project team by adding project roles. For this project, I will need one software architect,  one Java developer and a QA engineer.
    • Go to the project details screen and expand the Project team and scheduling fast tab.Specify the project start and end dates.
    • Note that these days might not be always accurate, but the PM can specify the approximate start and end dates.
    • Click Add roles button and select all the roles you will need in the project by creating new records. Note that you can specify how many workers you will need in each project role.
    • Reserve workers immediately : If you mark this check box, then system will open the resource reservation form as soon as you click OK button.image
    • See the screenshot below where I have added all the three roles I need in the sample project.image
  3. Reserve the workers for the project: The next step is to find, identify and reserve the most suitable workers for this project.
    • Click the “Reserve worker” button to open the Worker reservations main form.Note that the project manager has several options on this form such as editing the worker competency criteria, search workers by role, by name, department, legal entity.
    • Also they can view the worker’s availability in the specified duration of the project by Days, Weeks and Months. Additionally they get to see the worker’s availability statuses such as ‘Available’, ‘Partial available’, ‘Booked’, ‘Overbooked’, ‘Non-working day’ and ‘Soft booked’ in different colors, with an indicator of what each color means. Screenshot below highlights each of these options.
    • The worker search criteria (Competency) automatically populates from the roles selected, but the manager can always override them on this form.
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    • The ‘Display remaining capacity’ checkbox allows the project manager to see the available capacity of the worker in terms of Hours for each Day/Week/Month.
    • The PM can either hard book or soft book the appropriate workers for the project by selecting the required options on the Hard book > and Soft book > buttons.
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    • In my example I have reserved the software architect, java developer and the QA engineer to their full capacity in the full duration of the project. Below screenshot shows the results after the reservation. The #hours the workers are reserved for the project is now update in the Hours reserved column. Also, notice the color code of availability for the workers now have changed on the Worker reservations form.
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    • Notice that the Hours assigned column still shows ZERO as the PM has not yet assigned these workers to the project tasks or activities (WBS).
  4. Assign workers to the Individual tasks of the Project: The next step for the PM is to do the detailed assignment of the workers (Project team) to the individual tasks or activities of the project on the work breakdown structure form.
    • Go to Plan tab of the project detail screen and click Work breakdown structure button.
    • Select the workers for each of the tasks under the Worker column. The PM can select one or more worker for each of the tasks and assign them.image
    • Notice the Hours assigned column of the project details screen now. It automatically shows the #hours the worker is booked for the project by calculating it from the assignments done in the WBS screen.
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  5. New forms to show project resources and availability: Two new list pages are now available to help the project resource management function.
    • Project resources – This new form under now allows the project managers to see the project resources quickly without having the need to navigate to the HRM module.
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    • This form also allows to view/edit several worker related data such as cost price, sales price, assigned projects, categories, competencies etc.
    • The PMs can also initiate the hard/soft booking of the workers to projects by clicking Hard book or Soft book buttons.
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    • Resource availability: This list page shows one stop snapshot of the worker’s availability, everything at once :). This form also lets the PM to initiate the Hard/bookings for the resources.
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  6. Inquiries: At any time in the duration of the project, the PMs can see the detailed analysis of the resource assignments. Let us see it for one of the workers “Sandeep Chaudhury” whom we booked in the example above.
    • Navigate to PMA > Inquiries > Resource Scheduling > Resource assignment analysis –by worker.
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Well ! That was a pretty long write up !!! But it deserved it :) In my next post, I will explain all the new enhancements in the Project Timesheets functionality in the CU7 release.

I hope you all will find this post useful. keep reading !!

Regards,

Sandeep

Another Cumulative Update 6 For Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 R2

Another Cumulative Update 6 For Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 R2

Microsoft continues its commitment to customers success through regular release of cumulative updates.

CU 6 is now released which primarily introduces two types of enhancements and updates.

1. Business Processes.

2. Regulatory Updates.

CU7 is slated to be released during end of OCT, 2013.

Note: Note the change in numbering for the cumulative updates which will be released for AX 2012 R2 going forward.

Read the complete details of the enhancements and updates here on Microsoft Dynamics AX Product Team Blog.

Regards

Sandeep

Delta Airlines takes off with Microsoft Dynamics for Retail and Windows phone platform

Delta Airlines takes off with Microsoft Dynamics for Retail and Windows phone platform

Do not get surprised when you get to see “Microsoft Dynamics for retail” in ACTION in a Windows phone mobile device(Nokia Lumia 820) by the Customer service crew of Delta Airlines on the flight.

It is great to see the major technologies coming together to offer simple and high end platform for customers.

I am glad to be aware of this news and I am sure everyone in the Dynamics community will like this. Thanks to all the technology partners who worked together to make Microsoft Dynamics “LIVE” in the sky. :)

Read the complete news here on the Dynamics Community blog.

Integration of Microsoft Dynamics AX with Microsoft Office Word

Integration of Microsoft Dynamics AX with Microsoft Office Word

Microsoft Office , especially the excel, word and PowerPoint are the most popular office productivity  applications which everyone knows and works with today.

Imagine what if a Simple, scalable yet powerful ERP system integrates seamlessly with such  popular applications to exchange data so that users can spend more time on their favorite office applications and then easily push or pull data to or from the ERP without requiring any development effort.

As most of us know, with Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012, these all come Out-of-the-box.

There has been a lot of great posts and discussions about the Office excel add-in functionality which is heavily used by most of the implementation teams up to some extent.

In today’s post, I wanted to uncover and discuss the integration of Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 with Microsoft Office Word and demonstrate how these two applications share and exchange data effortlessly making the life of the end users a lot simpler and better.

Let us take an example where the sales manager of an organization has challenges in preparing different quotation/business proposal formats for different customers and still maintaining all the data inside the ERP system.

With Microsoft Dynamics AX  2012 and Microsoft Office, they can prepare as many number of proposal templates in MS word in any format they want for different customers/prospect, and then just upload them in the organization’s shared document library in the enterprise portal. AX 2012 can then sync those automatically within it to generate project proposals with data on to the templates without needing multiple development efforts. Let us now take look at the steps involved in accomplishing this in AX 2012.

Prepare the required project proposal templates and do the necessary data mapping within AX:

  • Open a Microsoft Word document and click on the Dynamics AX tab.
  • Connect to the Dynamics AX AOS server in the similar by which you connect the excel add in function.
  • Now, once you have your document source types configured in AX, you would see the table and data fields in the Add fields pane. In this case, I have already done the necessary configuration.

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Upload all your template documents on the shared document library of the enterprise:

  • After you have prepared all your required proposal templates, you can upload them in the shared document library in the portal.
  • This document can be shared, reviewed and managed as in normal SharePoint functionality.
  • Once these are finalized and ready, AX has in-built functionality to sync with these.

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Complete necessary setup in AX to automatically synchronize the documents into AX document types:

  • AX 2012 now automatically synchronizes with the share point portal and gets the document templates to create new document types in AX.

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Generate project proposals from proposal templates:

  • In Dynamics AX, you can create and store proposal templates for various customers or price groups.
  • Once you generate your new proposal either newly, or by copying from a template, the proposal is all set to be generated in the MS word formats which were created and designed outside AX, without needing any specific connection methodology. Thanks to the seamless integration of Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 and MS Office.

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Generate proposal templates in your desired format with just click of a button:

  • When you click on the Attachments button and create a new document, you will notice that the document template which we created and synced in AX appears automatically on the document handling options.

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  • Click New > Project Quotation Sample menu button. This will automatically attach the word document for the project proposal on to the proposal record and then generates and launches the document which the data automatically filled in from Dynamics AX which is ready for review and sending to Customers or prospects.

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Powerful, Simple and Agile ! Microsoft Dynamics AX.

Management Reporter now supports your global business in 36 languages

Management Reporter now supports your global business in 36 languages

Your financial reporting in AX 2012 is now even better with Management Reporter supporting 36 languages and several new capabilities.

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Few of the highlights of the enhancements are,

1. Now directly integrated with the General Ledger module of AX 2012.

2. Flexible consolidation options.

3. Transaction drill down even better.

4. Build custom reports with more data visibility options.

5. Schedule the automatic report delivery to those who need it.

6. Even available on the Web.

Read the complete post here to explore more.

Absence/Leave Management in Human Resources Management–Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012

Absence/Leave Management in Human Resources Management–Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012

I have been contacted by many of the readers requesting a post regarding the absence management functionality of AX 2012. In today’s post I will cover the key features and benefits of the absence management functionality along with the setups and processes involved in it.

Workers are the key assets for every professionals services firms and gaining control over the workers capacity cost and workers availability is always a key to success. Moreover managing employee leaves/absences is always a key aspect of Human resources operations for every organization. Organizations always looks for a flexible and effective leave management system, when they choose an ERP to implement.

The Human Resources Management module of AX 2012 provides a very effective absence management functionality which is simple to setup and use and also enables organizations to have their employees to use enterprise portal to submit and approve leave/absence requests.

Microsoft Dynamics AX-Powerfully Simple

Key features and Benefits:

Below few points represents the key features and benefits of Absence management functionality of AX 2012.

  • Simple to configure and easy to use.
  • Easily group absences and associate absence codes with them.
  • Register past absences.
  • Request for future absences.
  • Setup validation rules for absence types such as, employee’s cannot avail more than 3 casual leaves consecutively.
  • Option for absence administrators to register absence for multiple workers acting like a delegate.
  • Option for workers to request absences  and approvers to approve them in the Enterprise portal, when away from office/work.

Configuration and Absence management Process:

This section of the post will explain the necessary setup required to enable absence recording in AX 2012.

  1. Absence Groups: The first step is to create Absence Groups. The absence groups are used to group various absence types such Holidays, Sickness, Jury duty etc. Absence groups are mandatory information for setting up absence codes.
    • Navigate to HRM > Setup > Absence > Absence Groups.
    • Create new record and enter absence group id and a description.
    • Additionally enable Registration to enable absence recording in Time and Attendance process.

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2. Absence Codes: The absences codes represents the reasons for the employee absences. These are are the codes against which employees will register absences. Additionally several validation rules can be setup on the absence codes as per requirements. Example of absence codes are Sick, Injury, Jury, Vacation, Leave etc.

    • Navigate to HRM > Setup > Absence > Absence Codes.
    • Create new absence codes such as Jury, Sick, Illness etc.
    • You can also setup validation rules which will enable validation such as an employee can take only 3 days Funeral leave in a series etc..

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3. Absence Setup: It is required sometimes to have multiple absence administrators, multiple absence period frequencies, multiple working times(Hours, Days) for different groups of workers. The absence setup allows to accomplish this. The Person in charge is the Absence administrator who will review and approve/reject/cancel the absences.

    • Navigate to HRM > Setup > Absence > Absence Setup.
    • Create new records and setup Person In charge, Period unit( Month, Week, Month-Fixed and No Period), and Working time.
    • Absence setups are attached to workers to enable them for absence registrations.

4. Absence Setup for Worker: The Absence related parameters needs to be setup in the Worker details form as shown in screen below.

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We are now done with all the setups necessary for absence registrations. Let us not take quick look at how employees can register absences. In AX, employees can register absences both in rich client and Enterprise portal.

Recording Absences In AX Rich Client:

  • Before employees can register absences in a given absence period, the absence journals must be created by the absence administrators for that period. Absence journals can also be setup to be created in batch.
  • Navigate to HRM > Periodic > Absences > Create absence Journals to create the absence journals for workers.

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  • To register absences, go to Home > Absences > Register Absences.
  • Create new records and enter dates and absence code for each day.
  • You can also create a absence series such as Vacation for 5 days/10 days etc..
  • The Notes section will contain the notes from the absence registrar and absence approver if any.

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  • After creating the absences, Click Transfer to transfer the absences for approval. This will transfer the absence details to the approver for review and approval.
  • The Approver can go to Home > Absences > Approve Absence Requests.
  • Approver can click Approve/Reject button to approve or reject the absences.

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Using the absence management function, employees can also can request for future absences, and one absence admin can register absences for multiple workers as a delegate. I will not explain those all here in this post.

Recording Absences In AX 2012 Enterprise Portal:

Below is a quick video which I have prepared for the employee absence management in the enterprise portal of AX 2012.

That is it for this post. Please contact me in case you have any queries with regards to absences management in Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012.

Regards

Sandeep

Workflow Approvals via E-Mail in Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 R2

Workflow Approvals via E-Mail in Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 R2

!! Microsoft Dynamics AX has only been getting Stronger!!

Thanks to Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 R2 for its huge range of new exciting enhancements to the functionalities and capabilities.

Most of us have always been looking for the Microsoft dynamics AX workflows to have direct integration with the outlook email engine. I have come across many situations where customers wanted to have direct approval or rejection options integrated within the emails which they receive from Dynamics AX workflow engine regarding documents pending for their reviews in AX.

AX 2012

The R2 release of Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 makes it possible now.

Read the the white paper at the Microsoft Download Center to get detailed steps and Procedure.

Regards

Sandeep

Project Invoice Proposal Approvals in Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 R2

Project Invoice Proposal Approvals in Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 R2

Hello Everyone,

Here is a quick post on an update on the approval process of project invoice proposals in Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 R2 release.

In the AX 2012 feature pack release(Until Cumulative Update 4), the project invoice proposals were always forced or required to go through the workflow for approval.

I came across many situations where customers did not want their invoice proposals to go through the workflow approval process as it is not required as per their business policies and rather have them posted directly. But in AX 2012 feature pack release, there was no way to have the invoice proposals not go through workflow approval.

Microsoft has introduced a design change in AX 2012 R2 release, by which we can now have project invoice proposals not routed through the review and approval process in workflow.

If you unmark the “Enable processing invoice proposals in workflow checkbox”, then you can directly post the invoice proposals without having it to go through the workflow process.

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Pretty good and much needed change !!

Regards

Sandeep

Managerial Hierarchy based workflow configuration for Timesheets does not work as expected when Timesheet is submitted by a Delegate in AX 2012

Managerial Hierarchy based workflow configuration for Timesheets does not work as expected when Timesheet is submitted by a Delegate in AX 2012

Friends,

Hope everyone is doing well.

Just wanted to share a quick information about an issue which you may face while implementing Timesheets approval of workers based on a Managerial Hierarchy.

When you setup the Timesheet review workflow as “Hierarchy” based and setup appropriate reporting positions for the workers, you will notice that the timesheet when submitted “by a Delegate” for an employee, will get routed/assigned to the reporting manager of the delegate(who submits the timesheet), instead of getting assigned to the reporting manager of the actual employee.

This is a known issue in AX 2012 feature pack(until the CU4 release) and you will need to make a code correction by taking help of your developers.

However in the R2 release of AX 2012, this issue is taken care by the introduction of a small “Design change” in the workflow configuration. In the R2 release, you will be able to select “Worker” as the “Start from” location for the workflow. This will ensure that the timesheets even though submitted by a delegate, will get routed/assigned to the reporting manager of the timesheet worker/employee, but not to the reporting manager of the delegate. See screen below.

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Please shoot questions in case you have any in this regard.

Till next time !! Keep DAXING Smile