The evolution of information society, globalisation has made great changes concerning the human-computer relationship. It creates such demands in economic life for which the decision-making mechanisms in a lot of companies are not prepared. The management of companies must keep step with the possibilities and threats appearing in market. The old planning and controlling concepts are no longer sufficient to drive companies successfully in a global and competitive environment. The flow of business processes should be continuous, and be able to be managed by an integrated information system. Effective economic decision making processes need not only a well-organized administration system, but also a modern computer aided information system.
The Microsoft Dynamics NAV ERP software collects the managerial functions and data into one integrated entrepreneurial resource planning system. Mobile technology gives new perspectives for the administration of enterprises and decision-making. Microsoft Dynamics NAV is not only a software capable to administer the various activities of a firm through desktop platforms, but the possibilities of the use of this ERP software can be broadened with workflows characterised with great distances between workplaces. Of course, there is a need for a properly developed user interface, which is optimised for mobile devices.
In this study I show how a field sales workflow can be modelled and managed by the software environment “NAV Anywhere Framework”. The survey gives a closer look at both a suggestible administrative process for an imagined workflow and its technical management on a mobile device. For my development creates specialised and dynamic web pages for a mobile device, it can be accessible from a lot of types of smart phones and tablet computers.
Keywords: business process management, ERP, controlling, Microsoft Dynamics, Dynamics Anywhere, To-Increase
An effective management system cannot be imagined without controlling. The opinion of experts concerning the meaningful corporate controlling functions is shared in the respect that they prefer to emphasize the role of management or accounting. Although controlling is understood as management control in the Anglo-American sense, the German approach also emphasises, that its main function is information management and co-ordination. (Becker W, Baltzer B, Ulrich 2011) Controlling is also important in structuring organisations. (Tóth-Zéman 2005)
Predicting our future it is likely, that network-economy will have a much more important role than now. Globalization, the networks of computers, information systems and their users will have a great influence on the management and administration of enterprises.
M. Porter’s value chain theory emphasizes the importance of business processes. A Porter’s value chain is a raw of activities or business units at firms. A business unit is the appropriate level for construction of a value chain, not at the divisional level or corporate level. Products pass through all activities of the chain in order, and at each activity the product gains some value. The chain of activities in a specific order gives the products more added value than the sum of added values of all activities.
The value chain categorizes the generic value-adding activities of an organization. The “primary activities” include: inbound logistics, operations (production), outbound logistics, marketing and sales (demand), and services (maintenance). The “support activities” include: administrative infrastructure management, human resource management, technology (R&D), and procurement. The costs and value drivers are identified for each value activity. (Porter 1985)
According to Davenport (1990) a business process is a set of logically related tasks performed to achieve a defined business outcome. A business process consists of the steps and procedures that govern how resources are used to create products and services that meet the needs of particular customers or markets. A properly structured ordering of work steps across time and place can guarantee the efficiency of a business process.
Organizations’ business processes are usually fragmented into sub-processes and tasks that are carried out by several specialized functional areas within the organization. Sometimes we don’t pay enough attention to a single decision maker, who is responsible for the overall performance of the entire process.
Business process management is a holistic management approach that promotes business effectiveness and efficiency while striving for innovation, flexibility, and integration with technology. (Smart, Maddern & Maull, 2008) Business process management makes us to improve processes continuously.
A business process is a network of value-added activities, performed by their relevant organizational units to achieve the common business goal. These processes could be critical to organizations. (Ryan 2009)
Although the original focus of Business Process Management was on the automation of mechanistic business processes, it has since been extended to integrate human-driven processes in which human interaction is connected to the mechanistic processes. In most workflow systems when individual steps in the business process require human interactions to be performed, these steps are assigned to appropriate members of the organization.
A workflow consists of a sequence of connected steps, and it is a chart of a sequence of operations, declared as work of a person, persons, one or more simple or complex mechanisms. A workflow may be seen as any abstraction of real activities, parts of a work in order. For control purposes, workflow may be a view on real work under a specific aspect, being a virtual representation of actual work. (Russell, Hofstede, Aalst, Mulyar)
One of the most influential contributors to modern concepts of management was Henri Fayol. He has proposed that there are five primary functions of management: (1) planning, (2) organizing, (3) commanding, (4) coordinating, and (5) controlling (Fayol, 1988) Fayol’s work has stood the test of time and has been shown to be relevant and appropriate to contemporary management. Fayol’s theories and ideas were ideally a result of his age and environment. In the post revolutionized France a bourgeois republic was emerging. He stressed the importance and the practice of forecasting and planning.
Although Fayol is described as the father of modern operational management theory, some experts associate him with Frederick Winslow Taylor. The primary difference between Fayol and Taylor was that Taylor viewed management processes from the bottom up, while Fayol viewed management processes from the top down. Taylor starts with the most elemental units of activity—the workers’ actions—then studies the effects of their actions on productivity, creates new methods for making them more efficient, and applies what he learns at lower levels to the hierarchy. Fayol criticized Taylor’s functional management: each workman, instead of coming in direct contact with the management at one point only receives his daily orders and help from the next different bosses: (1) route clerks, (2) instruction card men, (3) cost and time clerks, (4) gang bosses, (5) speed bosses, (6) inspectors, (7) repair bosses, and the (8) shop disciplinarian (Taylor 1911)
The difference between the views of Taylor and Fayol indicates, how important business processes are. A business process begins with the customers’ needs and ends with the customers’ needs fulfilled. A business process is a collection of interrelated or activities that require an input to create an output of a business requirement. An enterprise usually contains a great collection of business processes. Even in today’s technology driven world business processes can ultimately be performed by people. It is not only necessary but also beneficial, that technological assistance is utilized to complete the human activity.
The needs of the customers and providing for these needs within the business model should be the goal of business process improvement. To achieve this, companies should review their business concepts, business strategy and business model. (Sherry, Kenneth 2011)
Business process management makes us to improve processes continuously. A business process is a network of value-added activities, performed by their relevant organizational units to achieve the common business goal. Business processes can also be viewed as a series of events that bring together people (labor), technology and information (processes) in ways that create value added outputs (products and or services). Processes therefore determine the effectiveness of an organization’s operations, the quality of service as well as its success in carrying out its mission and goals and achieving financial success. (Burton, Edward 2012)
There are organizations making major commitments to develop enterprise-level business process tools and management systems to assure, that they have aligned all their business resources and functions to their value chains, and can manage those processes in something close to real time. There has been significant work done to integrate business process modeling techniques with business rules technologies. New software tools have made it possible to automate the day-to-day management of processes. (Harmon, Paul 2007)
Creative organizations are more flexible, move much faster and are much more competitive. That requires stripping away bureaucracy so that decisions for action can be made at every level in the IT function. As Bill Gates, the CEO of Microsoft wrote: “A rule of thumb is that a lousy process will consume ten times as many hours as the work itself requires.” “A good process will eliminate the wasted time.” (Gates 2000) Bureaucracy happens not all at once, but incrementally over time.
A business process can easily become bloated, leading to an ineffective, inefficient, and inflexible process.
The old planning and controlling concepts are no longer sufficient to drive companies successfully in a global, highly dynamic, and competitive environment. The Beyond Budgeting Model has inspired many companies in redesigning their controlling, planning and management systems.
Compared with the traditional management theories, Beyond Budgeting has important differences. The Beyond Budgeting model enables a more decentralized way of managing. In place of the traditional hierarchy and centralized leadership, it enables decision-making and performance accountability to be devolved to line managers and creates a self-managed working environment and a culture of personal responsibility. (Daum 2010)
The evolved organizational structures and business processes became so complicated, that management needs an effective help from information technology. The new controlling, planning and management ideas and methods also require new technical, mainly information technology, background. It is also a challenge for the famous software developing enterprises (e.g. Microsoft Co.) to create an appropriate administrative background.
Microsoft Dynamics NAV is designed specifically for medium-sized companies seeking one solution to help increase productivity without disrupting everyday business operations. The software is built from modules. If we make a data entry to one of the modules, the influence of it can be seen in every modules. Due to this opportunity, users can always work with the newest data from every sector of the enterprise. This modular structure gives the possibility to adjust the software’ feature flexibly to the request of the technology or the organization. (Microsoft Corporation 2007) Due to its modular structure the software can easily manage the following main business processes.
Supply Chain Management
It is possible to tailor workflow processes to meet specific needs and keep pace with competitive markets. We can improve inventory management, manage single- or multi-site warehouses, and handle order processing and demand planning throughout the flexible and easily manageable forms. With the software it is easy to optimize cash flow by streamlining accounts-receivable processes and tracking customer payments, and to help drive efficiency and maximize cash resources with flexible, integrated accounts-payable capabilities. It is a useful possibility to match the goods on hand with customer demand reducing inventory and distribution costs, to satisfy demand with multiple planning options and tracking of utilization and materials costs.
With this module in Microsoft Dynamics NAV, we can strengthen operational efficiency and manage production, using production orders, bills of material, supply planning, and capacity requirements planning. We can streamline the operations by automating manufacturing processes and gain greater visibility into a lot of aspects. The software increases the accuracy of promised orders so the users can respond quickly to customer queries about order status and delivery, and to changing customer demands with flexible manufacturing. Using a Web browser, vendors can manage catalogs, enter drop shipment orders, and maintain delivery dates.
Customer Relationship Management
The software enables automation of many day-to-day tasks for sales, customer service, and marketing professionals. We can manage customer records and sales histories, create and launch marketing campaigns, and track customer activity. It is manageable to forecast and track parts of consumption, proactively prepare contracts and service agreements, to automate routine sales, to use Microsoft Office Outlook and Employee Portal of Microsoft Dynamics NAV together to help the sales department team to work together more effectively.
The software provides accounting and finance solutions to help to track and analyze business information. We can manage the general ledger, payables, receivables, inventory, analytical accounting, fixed assets, and cash flow, financial processes across multiple currencies, locations, or companies, in addition to performing bank reconciliations and collections. Microsoft Dynamics NAV can help to control and manage the entire life cycle of fixed assets from acquisition to disposal, to monitor fiscal performance, to drive efficiency and maximize cash resources with flexible, integrated accounts payable capabilities, and to optimize cash flow by streamlining accounts receivable processes and tracking customer payments.
Business Intelligence and Reporting
The software can bring strategic insight into the business processes with sophisticated reporting, analysis, and budgeting solutions, it helps to improve and supports decision-making throughout the organization. It can give access to real-time, business-critical information and a wide range of analytical and reporting tools can help to manage budgets, create and consolidate reports, and look for trends and relationships. The software is built on industry-standard Microsoft technology and integrates with other business intelligence products and technologies: e.g. Microsoft Office and Microsoft Sharepoint.
The development of the versions of the Dynamics NAV software had a special trend towards the process-oriented use. The menu system, and thus the suggested usage, of the earlier versions of NAV were structured to follow and manage the information flow among and inside the entrepreneurial functional units at firms, which are the based on the generic value-adding activities (mentioned at Porter’s theories). The developers of it intended to customize the usage to be more oriented to the most frequently used parts of the software. Because of there are plenty of spheres of activity at firms, the outcome of customization became a new client type.
This is what Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2009’s Role Tailored User Experience does. It hides the 90 percent of the features the personnel doesn’t need to see. It promotes the actions and information that we do need, leaving us with an uncluttered window and an overview of upcoming tasks helping us to prioritize our tasks keeping the work productive and stimulating. (Microsoft Corporation 2009)
All this input went into creating the Microsoft Dynamics Customer Model. Microsoft defined 61 distinct “roles”, each representing a typical view of real people in real jobs covering essential business functions in the areas of finance, sales and marketing, IT, production, logistics, and customer service.
When we open Microsoft Dynamics NAV, there are 21 out-of-the-box Role Centers ready for action. Because most people have more than one ‘role’ in a company – especially if it’s quite a small organization, there is a possibility to combine different roles to make up each user profile, which becomes a modification of a Role Center.
To use Microsoft Dynamics NAV, employees log into a Role Center, to their own user profile and personal place in business management system. It displays the tasks and activities they need to perform, providing them with an overview of what they’ve done and what’s next in line. In short, it enables them to focus on their tasks and organize their time, the way that works best for the organization. (Cipan 2012)
Business management software has simplified business processes. But the Dynamics NAV Role Tailored experience takes one step further. It promotes simplified processes for the individuals at firms. For example, in the Role Center, the “Activities” tab displays each process a persona is involved in at that particular moment, giving a constant overview of the work in that process.
Microsoft delivers the software with several role centers, which cover the most important possible roles at a company. One of them, which has great commercial and logistical importance, is the “Shipping and Receiving” role center. (Fig.1.) Using this role center it will be measurable and controllable the quality of customer service and the level of inventory. For this role has a lot of activities, which are made often far away from the headquarters or warehouses, a mobile device aided process management can be extremely useful.
Figure.1.: The “Shipping and Receiving” Role Center of Dynamics NAV
Source: (Microsoft Corporation 2009)
The Dutch firm, formerly known “Dynamics Anywhere”, now it is “To-Increase” created the widespread and well-known software, called “NAV Anywhere – Mobile Solutions for Microsoft Dynamics NAV”. NAV Anywhere consists of the NAV Anywhere Framework and the NAV Anywhere Solutions (for the use with the framework).
The Dynamics Anywhere Framework (DAW) for Microsoft Dynamics NAV provides an integrated and reliable framework for creating real-time enterprise mobile applications. All Microsoft Dynamics NAV functions can easily be made available on mobile devices. Recognizing the need for a solution that is fully integrated into Dynamics NAV, the Dynamics Anywhere Framework is designed as an integrated tool.
Dynamics Anywhere applications are developed within the Dynamics NAV development environment. This means that no middleware is required, and no duplication of business logic should be needed. Utilizing the Dynamics Anywhere NAV Web service and Dynamics NAV Application Server technology to connect to Dynamics NAV, the Dynamics Anywhere Portal carries Dynamics NAV into the mobile world. The user interface is designed to make the most of the mobile device, providing a clutter free view of the application. (Dynamics Anywhere 2009)
The Framework in Dynamics NAV consists of a configurator that enables us to create a mobile user interface.
The Framework also possesses the logic to interpret and process the request from mobile users and create a response. This is used to interface with Dynamics NAV business logic, allowing the user to validate or query data, call Dynamics NAV objects to perform tasks.
User actions are received from the Portal through the Dynamics Anywhere NAV Web service. The event handler looks up the session that goes with the user/device (or instantiates a new one if the user is logging in), and passes the event on to the Application. The event handler then processes the request from the Portal, finds the next step in the process, creates a response and passes it to the Portal.
As the Framework exists in the Dynamics NAV Application tier, it can validate user input, register data, or call other NAV business logic. Users can use the configurator to create or modify the user interface of mobile processes for the Dynamics Anywhere Framework, and to design the behavior and navigation for the processes.
Figure 2. shows the overall architecture and the components that constitute the Dynamics Anywhere Mobile Business Solution.
Figure 3. shows how the different parts work together, and how the framework interacts with the rest of NAV.
Figure 2: The architecture and the components
Source: (Dynamics Anywhere 2011)
Figure 3: Dynamics Anywhere NAV 2009 processing diagram
Source: (Dynamics Anywhere 2011)
A process consists of activities. An activity translates to a screen on the mobile device. On the screen data, labels, and buttons are displayed. The data and labels are configured as controls. Each activity can contain several controls or buttons.
Parameters are used to store user import. Parameters can be defined on process or activity level. This means that the value of the parameter is maintained as long as the process respectively the activity is running.
A button can call a document and a post document processor. A document links parameters to fields in Dynamics NAV tables. When a document is executed it writes and validates the parameter values to these fields. The post document processor is a special code unit. When a post document processor is called the code unit is executed.
The processes workflow is configured in the process flow.
Expressions are used in several places in the configuration. The purpose of expressions is to return a value, and therefore can serve different purposes like data validation or defining conditions. (Dynamics Anywhere 2011)
The software aided process model developed by me could have a great importance in a field sales process e.g. for express agents, sales agents, travel agents, etc. The model can work on any mobile device, because only a browser is needed for the use.
Dynamics Anywhere has created a development framework to Microsoft Dynamics NAV. Using Dynamics Anywhere’s development framework we can modify the services given by the original Microsoft software. The point is not only to improve the user interface with a new menu item (Figure 4.), but the broadened flexibility penetrates the whole NAV instance.
My software model represents that process when an express agent faces the situation during the delivery in which a customer does want to receive the product, but does not want or can not pay for that, although earlier the agreement was on the cash payment method.
In such a situation the agent can be granted the right to change the immediate cash payment (on delivery) method e.g. to a delayed bank transfer payment method after checking if the customer has debt owed to the seller. Of course this decision on changing the payment method for this customer should be administered and sent to the central database of the seller company during the oral agreement or immediately after that.
Figure 4. shows the list of the activities of this process (which I named to “Customer Information”) as it appears on the user interface of the Dynamics Anywhere Development Framework. The expression “activity” means that workflow which can be shown and managed on the same screen of the mobile device. In Figure 5. we can find the codes of the first activity of the process. The name of this activity in my terms: “Get Customer”. This activity is shown on the mobile device as the figure 7. represents it on the browser based user interface of the mobile device.
Figure 4.: The activities of the developed process
Source: self research
Figure 5. shows the codes of the “controls” of the “Get Customer” activity. Controls are labels and textboxes in this model. Figure 6. represents the codes of the “buttons” of the “Get Customer” activity. Tapping these buttons on the browser based user interface of the mobile device will close the actual activity.
Figure 5.: The controls of the “Get Customer” activity
Source: self research
Figure 6.: The buttons of the “Get Customer” activity
Source: self research
Figure 7.: The “Get Customer” activity on a mobile device
Source: self research
On the figure 8. we can also see the browser based user interface of the mobile device. Here using the controls of the “Get Customer Payment Method” activity we can choose the “Bank transfer” value to replace the former value of “Cash” of the Payment Method Code field of the Customer card in the central database of Microsoft Dynamics NAV.
Figure 8.: The “Get Customer Payment Method” activity on a mobile device
Source: self research
If the activity is closed by tapping the “OK” button, this step brings us back to the “Get Customer” activity. Tapping the “OK” button on that activity we can approve our intention for the change, and this step will make the modification in the record of the central database of NAV.
The real benefit of this process is, that a database managed and protected by Microsoft Dynamics NAV and SQL Server can be modified safely from a big distance using the Internet, and this practice can strengthen even the customer relationships, and increase sales. Although the previous description is only a short abridgment of the whole technical background, but it might have given a foretaste, that with the help of the Dynamics Anywhere add-on how easy it is to modify and manage business processes in Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2009.
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