Share

Dynamics 365 Lets Elves Visualize and Automate their North Pole Processes

I travel a lot in my role at Hitachi Solutions. During a recent visit to the North Pole, I checked in with Santa’s CEO (Chief of Elf Operations) to catch up. While she is under NDA and couldn’t disclose anything from Santa’s naughty/nice list, I was able to get some feedback on how her team uses the new visual process editor in Dynamics 365 to keep things running smoothly in the workshop. Why is she so excited?

The visual update greatly improves the way any business builds out its processes. The key driver here is to let a non-IT/non-technical person build out, maintain and modify business processes. This is the next step in the evolution of the business process engine. Now it’s easier than ever to manage the different branches of a process and establish the rules involved with progressing through the process flow. Santa’s chief elf also shared that when they do process reviews, they use the new export-to-image capability to get a nice visual to include in a slide or handout.

Figure 1 - The editing canvas for building out a process flow. This example is for a Business Process Flow; a similar canvas is used for creating Business Rules.
Figure 1 – The editing canvas for building out a process flow. This example is for a Business Process Flow; a similar canvas is used for creating Business Rules.

 

Each stage includes a summary icon that includes the Record Type (entity name), the stage name (your custom name), the number of steps that are in the stage and the number of associated workflows.

Figure 2 - Example of the Stage summary
Figure 2 – Example of the Stage summary

 

At first blush it’s easy to write off this update as a change to the user experience for the process flows but perhaps not much in the way of new functionality. Not true!

Attach workflows to stage changes

The most notable change is the addition of a feature to attach a workflow to run automatically when a stage changes. This improves upon the existing capability to attach a workflow to a specific field changing and can execute based on either entering or exiting the stage.

day4_image3
Figure 3 – Properties window for a Workflow that has been attached to a process Stage

 

All of the existing workflow capability is available. As an example, when the workflow begins to run, it is able to check several criteria before executing, waiting for a certain period of time, creating/updating records, sending email, and so forth.

Move, copy and paste process stages & steps

The visual editor allows for the stages to be dragged-and-dropped into a different order right within the editor window. While the moving of stages was previously possible, this makes the procedure more intuitive and flexible.

Figure 4 - The + symbols show where the Stage could be drag/dropped. Also note the Add, Cut, Copy and Paste actions above the canvas
Figure 4 – The + symbols show where the Stage could be drag/dropped. Also note the Add, Cut, Copy and Paste actions above the canvas

 

The editor also allows for entire stages to be copied/pasted. Previously, if you wanted a similar stage in the middle of two different logical branches, it was a hassle to build that out. The basic steps involved were to manually create it twice, which left the process susceptible to having discrepancies between how the stage and steps were configured. In the editor, we can now select a stage, click a copy button, then paste it elsewhere into the process flow.

Tips for working with the new visual editor

While this release is fairly new, the chief elf did have a few tips to share for when you start working with the new editor:

  • Set workflows to “on demand” to make them available as part of a process.
  • When taking a snapshot (image export) it doesn’t matter whether you’re zoomed in or out, it will export the full canvas.
  • When taking a snapshot, if you want to have one of the stages expanded, make sure it is expanded before taking the snapshot.
  • Always remember to click the “apply” button when modifying the properties for stages, conditions, steps and workflows. The system does not automatically force a save.

Have you tried working with the new visual process editor in Dynamics 365? If so, share your experience and tips in the comments section.   

Ready to start your Dynamics 365 journey? Contact us today to schedule a conversation.