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Dynamics AX How To: Use Purchase Approval Workflow for the Public Sector

Dynamics AX 2012 comes with a variety of Workflow Templates out of the box, across most modules within the system.  The Workflow Engine in Dynamics AX is basically a rule engine that routes a base document (a Purchase Order, a Vendor Invoice, a GL General Journal, etc) to the correct party for approval.  The rule engine allows you to route based on fields on the document itself (ie. if Purchase Order total above $10,000, if a buyer group = Purchasing, if delivery date > 90 days away).  In addition to the conditional rules you can use to assign the approval, there are also a variety of options to assign the approval to a specific user (or set of users):

  • Assign directly to one or multiple users
  • Assign to a user’s manager based on a position hierarchy within the system
  • Assign to a group of users or users with a specific security role
  • Assign to the owner of a specific Financial Dimension

In order to configure these rules within the system, you manage it through a visual editor that looks a lot like a process flow you would draw in Microsoft Visio.

dynamics-ax-workflow-example

A sample Purchase Requisition workflow delivered out of the box in Dynamics AX 2012.

A Typical Purchasing Scenario in the Public Sector

I’ve worked with two public sector type clients and they had virtually the same requirements in terms of their purchasing process and requirements around the approval process.

The City of Maple (not the real name) is a municipality with public sector requirements.  They have very specific needs around their purchasing process.  Each employee has a specific spending limit in which they are authorized to make purchases on behalf of the company.  If they wish to make a purchase that is above their spending limit, they must seek approval from a manager above them who has the authorization to spend that amount of money.  Only one approval is needed to authorize the purchase.

The jobs and associated spending limited within the organization are as follows:

Job Description Spending Limit Reports to
General Manager Unlimited Within Budget
Department Manager $50,000 General Manager
Supervisor $20,000 Department Manager
Foreman $10,000 Supervisor

This scenario is easily met within Dynamics AX using several out of the box capabilities.

What to Setup in Dynamics AX

There’s a number of settings that need to be configured in Dynamics AX to fulfill the above scenario.

  • Jobs & Position Hierarchy
  • Signing Limit Policy
  • Purchase Order Workflow
  • Purchase Order Parameters

Note that this will not be a step by step guide, but simply an overview of what needs to be configured within AX and why.  I will point to the appropriate TechNet article for step by step instructions.

Job & Position Hierarchy

For the above scenario, you need to create 4 jobs, create positions for each job, and hire new employees into each job, and associate the positions so they report to one another within the position hierarchy.  As well, ensure that the Worker record is associated to the appropriate user within the system.  Doing so gives you the hierarchy in which the workflow will escalate approvals based on the signing limits that we are going to configure below.

ax-2012-position-hierarchy

My completed position hierarchy.  Each of the workers have a user relation associated with them.

Signing Limit Policy

This setting is found in the Organization Administration module.  The signing limit policy can either be tied to compensation levels or the jobs of a particular worker.  In this example, I will associate the signing limit policy explicitly to the job.  The signing limit policy is date effective, and so you need to ensure that your signing limit policy is associated to the right company.  Within the signing limit screen itself, you need to assign a job, an amount, and a document type to the signing limit policy.  This aligns very closely to the table in the scenario.

ax-2012-signing-limit-policy-screen

Editing the signing limit policy.

ax-2012-signing-limits

The completed signing limit configuration.

Purchase Order Workflow

Really, the bulk of the work is to configure the scenario to ensure that the workflow is setup to match the business process.  Although a fairly simplistic scenario, there are a few key differences in some of the user assignment settings that are required so that your managerial hierarchy is used.

workflow-step-config

My completed workflow configuration.

In the assignment configuration itself, you want to select the Managerial Hierarchy type, which uses the position hierarchy you just setup.  In the Start From field, you want to choose Requester, so that the employee that is assigned to approve the purchase order is based on the original employee who requested the purchase order.  This field is typically filled in when the Purchase Order is generated from the Purchase Requisition, but not in this example.  Some other options for Hierarchy type include:

Assignment Type Setting Usage
User Group Participant Assign to a user group, that can contain a single or multiple named user
Security Role Participant Assign to a security role within the system
Expenditure Participant Assign to the owner of a Financial dimension (configured within another screen)
Users Assign to single or multiple named users directly

workflow-criteria

Assignment criteria for the workflow approval task.

In the hierarchy options tab, you finally want to pick the value, “Assign to Last User retrieved.”  This means that the last user selected will be assigned the Approval task, versus more than one user depending the other setting.

workflow-hierarchy-options

Hierarchy options settings for the workflow approval task.

Once that is done, you can save and activate the workflow.  One more step!

Purchase Order Parameters

Depending on your configuration, purchase orders do not necessarily have to go through an approval process.  You can configure this for all purchase orders, or selectively by vendor.  The “Activate Change Management” functionality ensures that workflow is enabled when you submit a purchase order.

purchase-order-parameters-ax-2012

Activate change management setting within the General Tab of the Procurement and Sourcing parameters.

How It Works in Practice

Here’s a walkthrough of all the configuration I listed above.

http://www.screencast.com/users/dforward/folders/Default/media/f189f58e-a108-46ac-bfdf-9ea6fc45df81/embed

Here’s a walkthrough of a working example.  In this instance, I’m going to submit a purchase order under the Foreman, Fred Flint, for $47,500, and the Purchase Order will be escalated to the Manager, Homer Simpson, directly.  After I approve the purchase order as Homer, the Purchase order status will change to approve, and Fred can confirm the purchase order as normal to proceed with his purchase.

http://www.screencast.com/users/dforward/folders/Camtasia Studio/media/34bfdbfa-8cc9-4038-a948-adccef67da2f/embed

Summary

The workflow engine is a quite powerful engine in Dynamics AX for an approval process for your public sector business, especially for purchasing documents such as a purchase order or purchase requisition.  I recommend exploring all the routing criteria you can use within the workflow configuration itself to be sure it works for your business process.  I’ve found for some criteria you might assume is there might not be!

Until next time!

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