Stephen Smith's Blog

All things Sage ERP…

Sage Visual Process Flows

with 7 comments


Introduction

Sage ERP X3 has had a feature called “Visual Process Flows” for some time now. These process flows help users navigate the product to perform their daily tasks. They are fully customizable and you can create these for all the roles in your organization. Below is a picture of a process flow in the Sage ERP X3 desktop.

However, this visual process flow tool wasn’t just built into the Sage X3 desktop. It was actually developed as a standalone component that could be integrated into any product. Now we are in the process of integrating this into a number of other Sage ERP products starting with Sage 300 ERP 2012.

Notice that there is now a “Sage Visual Processes” top level menu item on the Sage 300 Desktop, which contains the list of process flows that have been assigned to a user. To assign flows to users there is an Administrative Services program for this purpose. The shown example isn’t complete yet, but when Sage 300 ERP 2012 ships it will include a number of stock process flows. We can then augment this collection as we go along using Sage Advisor Update. If you have the proper security rights, you can right click on the item in the tree and select edit from the context menu to edit the process flow. The Process Flows we ship with go in the program files area as templates, and then any customized one go in a separate area in shared data. This way we can freely update the templates without overwriting customized flows.

Process Flows

The primary goal of these Process Flows is to allow users to quickly find their tasks and launch screens without searching through the ERP’s giant tree of icons. Within the Process Flows, it is easy to include much more descriptive text of what needs to get done. Most small business products like Sage 50 ERP present the user with this model of navigation. However for mid-market ERP, having a number of static hard coded process flows is inadequate. With this tool you can customize Process Flows for all roles that a mid-market customer requires. You have the ability to add your own graphics and to be quite creative in the creation and look of these flows.

You could argue that Process Flows doesn’t give you anything new since you are still running the same old screens and after all you can customize the tree of icons to limit what a user sees to run. However from all our usability studies, we find that even with this, users still spend quite a lot of time searching for the correct screen to run, especially ones that they run very infrequently. Plus, I think the Process Flows are quite attractive and more appealing than just displaying a list of icons.

You can run one process flow from another, so using these you can construct wizards to step people through longer processes. A great use is to create Process Flow’s for our old setup checklists. Another thing you can do is have a master process flow that drills down into more detailed process flows, creating a more graphical representation of our tree of icons.

If you are familiar with Sage ERP X3 and its Process Flows, then you should feel right at home with the tool in Sage 300 ERP. You can even export a process flow from one product and import it into the other, then you just need to change the Sage ERP X3 screen codes to the Sage 300 ERP screen codes (rotoids like OE1100). The actual Process Flows are stored in JSON format, which is a text file format which is easy to deal with. Along the same lines if you have taken the Sage University course on working with Sage ERP X3 Process Flows then you already know how to work with Sage 300 ERP process flows.

Sage 100/500 ERP

These are being fitted into the Sage 300 ERP Desktop first, and then later they will be fitted into the Sage 100 ERP and Sage 500 ERP Desktops. Later we will also consider running these from our Sage 300 ERP Web Portal. For that matter we can look at other places to run the Process Flow tool, perhaps as a starting page for tablet applications for instance.

Sharing and Collaboration

I know partners like to charge for what they do, but it would be nice if there was a central place where Process Flows can be freely shared. I wonder if Sage started such a site; would many partners contribute to it? Would customers contribute to it? If there was a lot of contribution it could eventually provide a much larger library of Process Flows than anyone could develop individually. The stone soup approach has worked quite well in other areas, but I know when we tried this with Crystal Reports, it failed quite badly. Still crowd sourcing and open source techniques are a very effective manner to really build critical mass. Sage X3 ERP has over 150 process flows, the other Sage ERPs are starting from scratch but will leverage the X3 work to catch up. Hopefully with community participation we can exceed this by quite a bit.

Summary

Adding Visual Process Flows to all our products, not only makes them easier to learn and use, but it complements the various branding initiatives to start making all the various Sage ERPs become a family of related products. Plus this feature gives all our desktops a nice visual refresh to make them much more appealing and modern.

 

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7 Responses

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  1. l like this concept.

    The problem with crowd sourcing the sharing of processes could be the same as that of sharing Crystal Reports. To the extent that process work is tailored to specific companies – it becomes very difficult to share.

    There is also a huge risk with sharing that unless it’s “cookie cutter” that people vastly overestimate their skills in implementing and tailoring such a change without assistance. When the tool is free – they think (perhaps not incorrectly) that the help to get it running will be free too.

    One observation – this tool must become a frequently updated/enhanced component of the product(s). If partners/customers sense that it’s a “one and done” checklist type feature then they’re not going to spend much time crowd sourcing anything for it.

    By update I’m also implying that it’s something that doesn’t require user or consultant intervention. I’m quite certain customers aren’t looking for new features – that demo sexy but are a nightmare in $$ to upgrade.

    We’ve had Business insights Explorer and other “common” type tools that seemed to be designed as “glue” between products but were pushed out and declared “done”. Customers tried them. Found a few shortcomings — and when upgrades to functionality obviously weren’t on the horizon they stopped using the tool and consultants avoided recommending it.

    Wayne Schulz

    June 9, 2012 at 4:02 pm

  2. [...] youre looking at is a Visual Process  from Sage’s ERP X3 product courtesy of a blog post from Sage’s Stephen Smith. It’s essentially a visual representation of a menu. Rather than use confusing pull-down or [...]

  3. That is great to integrate this VPF, it is same concept like BPM. This function will make Sage 300 ERP powerful, awesome feature,

    Sochet

    June 12, 2012 at 11:53 pm

  4. [...] Sage 300 ERP Inquiry Queries for 2012 Value Added Application Features for Sage 300 ERP 2012 Sage Visual Process Flows What’s New in the Sage CRM Integration for Sage 300 ERP 2012 SageCRM 7.1 Released Sage 300 on [...]

  5. [...] release which is summarized here. Below shows the Sage 300 ERP Desktop driven by the Purchase Order Visual Process Flow rather than the usual tree of [...]

  6. Really good concept here. I agree that adding the Visual Process Flows to all products will make them easier to learn and use and the easier things are, the more people are willing to learn!

    Sage ERP X3 Software

    May 30, 2013 at 1:36 pm

  7. […] introduced Visual Process Flows with Sage 300 ERP 2012. This has been quite a popular feature since it lets you customize […]


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