With Dynamics AX 2012 R3 we have shipped 147 new standard processes out of the box. In subsequent monthly releases we have shipped
following more

  • 124 processes for Retail Industry
  • 39 processes for Professional services library in following process groups

We will continue to add to these libraries in monthly releases.

Why are we doing this?

Earlier this year we conducted a survey to understand whether people like BPM tools, what they do with these and what more will they like from MS. We got 60 responses with overwhelming majority saying they love the tool, they will like us to ship more standard processes out of the box and that most people use these tools across various implementation project activities - analysis, design, test & training. The survey results are here.

Brief background on how we develop these will help you use them better, so here it is.

We have a cross-industry library that is based on APQC PCF. APQC has done work in the past to combine industry processes into a cross-industry process framework so we leverage this instead of building something new. APQC frameworks are widely used across industries in US & Europe. Then we have industry libraries for Manufacturing, Retail & professional services. Some of the processes here have already shipped while others will follow. These processes are inspired from APQC framework but most often they go deeper than four levels that APQC publishes. In industry libraries, as opposed to cross-industry library, we have chosen to depict AX processes in more detail than what APQC process will allow us to do, therefore think of these processes as extensions and variations to APQC PCFs.

APQC level definitions 

  • A process category is a category containing related process groups.
  • A process group is a group of related processes
  • A process is something that converts inputs into outputs 
  • A task is something that you do not want to decompose further. This is the lowest level. 
  • An activity is something that lies between process and task. So, it's usually a combination on
    tasks.

Default BPM levels correspond to APQC levels. But you are free to add/modify or create completely new levels in your own libraries.

APQC PCFs exist for several industries and one for cross-industry. APQC collects industry wide data and generalizes processes and creates its industry libraries and assigns unique IDs to these processes. It then regularly conducts a review and finds processes common across industries and promotes these to cross-industry library and assigns a unique ID to it.

We did some work to identify following

  • Unique process categories across all industries and for each industry
  • Unique process groups across all industries and for each industry
  • Unique processes across all industries and for each industry

If you would like to have this data and if your organization is an APQC member, send me the APQC member ID and I can send you this information.

Primary use cases

These are primary use cases for BPMs that we ship

  • Presales: show off a working product to a prospect at very initial deal stage 
  • POC: An AX consultant/team builds a POC  
  • Analysis: An AX consultant or implementation team is exploring AX capabilities
  • Design: Implementation team knows as-is processes and has chosen to build to-be processes in LCS/BPM
  • Test: Create test scenarios as part of a business process flow or create scenarios to record how a certain capability should always perform despite changes during development
  • Training: Keep a recorded library of to-be processes and use it to train users

If the BPMs we have published help you with any of the above, we think we have made a contribution. Ideally we would like the BPMs to be used to understand standard AX capabilities, take the guesswork out of what is possible & what is not in AX. We are aware that there are many variations and it is only in time that we will be able to show a decent subset of these out of the box. If you modify/extend the processes that we ship or decide to create your own processes that's even better. Modifying processes has been covered in other posts/documentation, it's basically a matter of choosing a control and dropping it in the diagram. If you want to create your own processes some of which use the ones that we publish you can copy these into your own model and add other processes in front or in back as separate nodes. In this manner you can think of what we provide as building blocks or pearls which you join to make a string of your own.

Some changes coming in the future will make working with these processes easier. We will implement tags on each node and capability to search through the tags and names of nodes. We will also put all processes into one big model so you can search instead of browsing as you do today. Once you find relevant nodes you can copy to your own model for further modifications.

Building your own libraries

If you decide to build your own libraries our experience has shown that it takes a bit of time to get used to the tools so please follow this iterative process

  • Import your model using TR template into Task recorder
  • See how your hierarchy looks in TR
  • Do a couple of recordings
  • See if you are happy with how auto generated artifacts turn out
  • Make the BPM package
  • Upload the BPM package
  • See if you are satisfied with how it looks in BPM tool

Once you have done a few trials like above, only then do the full exercise

Build an excel template like the one shown below with your own defined levels

Then build some formulae to convert this excel file into TR template shown below

Import the template into TR and start recording

Note:

  • Any nodes that you want to shift up or down or add new into hierarchy once hierarchy is in TR, only way to do that is manually inside TR which will take longer, so make sure you are pretty complete with your model before starting recording
  • Any nodes that have been recorded inside TR cannot be moved up or down without deleting associated artifacts
  • If you imported a .axbpm file into LCS, then modified an already recorded node in TR, and uploaded another .axbpm, no changes will be imported for this node into LCS
  • If you modified a process flow in LCS BPM tool, and imported a new .axbpm, the import/upload will ignore the node you manually changed
  • If you would like to add voice to your video, you can do this with third party tools, if you need more information please contact me

Known issues

  • When you start Dynamics AX, make sure you right click on the exe and select “Run as Admin”, otherwise sometimes there are issues with process flow diagram
  • Do the recording with Dynamics AX in EN-US only, foreign characters cause upload issues
  • Recordings don't show non AX metadata driven forms (EP, WPF controls, mobile warehouse, etc.)
  • More than 2 GB .axbpms cannot be uploaded, so do the uploads in much smaller chunks

If you are working on a customer project and will like to emulate as-is or to-be processes in LCS BPM, inquire if customer has a capability model or something similar. If they have, use it so you can speak customer language and so every "item" you create goes back into a customer capability, see my original post on this here. You can see how to upload custom business processes here.

A note on numbering of nodes

Prefixes

Numbers like 1.1, 3.2.1 etc. are prefixes that you see in node descriptions, these come from Task recorder templates when recordings (.axbpm) files are imported into LCS. The only purpose they serve is readability.

Suffixes

5 digit codes in the end on node descriptions are unique identifiers of the "item" on that node. APQC specifies these unique IDs. In cross-industry library all nodes are APQC identifiers. In industry libraries, since we have made extensions and variations to APQC processes, we have introduced our own unique identifiers for new "items" that don’t exist in APQC PCFs. If you create your own processes you could also choose to uniquely identify them, if you do so, remember these need to be on Task recorder.

Processes are recorded in Task recorder, download it here. You can find other LCS resources here.

Special thanks to many folks who have helped us come this far. Please keep the feedback coming.

Thanks.