Armanino Consulting

Supply Chain Collaboration and Vendor Portals in Dynamics AX 2012

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A big part of Microsoft’s $9+ billion dollar R&D budget is driving innovation in the business applications space. With the explosion of the consumer internet in the past decade, people have come to expect a seamless user experience, rich interactions and real-time access to self-service information online.

As business systems catch up with the fast pace of innovation in the consumer industries, the ability for companies to provide a consumerized information technology experience to their business partners is becoming more of a reality. Doing so amounts to more than just the strengthening of business relationships and partner satisfaction. It also has the potential to drive significant costs and latency out of a company’s supply chain.

So, how can companies running Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 take advantage of Microsoft’s latest innovations? Well, let’s start with the foundation of the portal itself, using SharePoint 2010, which represents a significant improvement in the overall user experience over previous versions of the SharePoint based portals. That leads to higher user adoption which is critical when we think about the success of deploying any level of technology either in house or extending it out to our partners.

The new enterprise portals in Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012, based on SharePoint 2010, extend your line of business applications to pave the way for forging stronger relationships with your business partners. Let’s take a look at some of the types of scenarios that can be enabled.

Vendor Onboarding – The process of vendor onboarding is something that is often overlooked. When dealing with a high number of vendors, companies tend to have fragmented responsibilities around collecting documentation like W-9, tax IDs, contacts, pricelists, catalogues of products or services, qualifications & capabilities. The onboarding process can take a prospective vendor through a workflow to streamline the process from an initial request to an established relationship with their vendor record in your ERP system. The vendor request workflows can also continue with the evolution of the relationship.

Interactive Transactions – Vendors that have been provisioned to access the portal have access to interactive data relevant to the vendor (restricted by security to ensure visibility only to their own data) including the ability to respond to RFQs, receive and print purchase orders, view receipts lists, and create vendor invoices. Depending on the level of security permissions provided, they can have full visibility into the status of documents such as whether a company has received the goods that have been shipped or put a hold on a payment against a vendor invoice. It also serves as a platform to share vendor performance reports to hold vendors accountable. By providing an open window of communication to your partners, it can greatly reduce the latency of communication and eliminate the time wasted on back and forth emails and phone calls for basic inquiries.

Moving further into the realm of collaboration, many companies are now adopting Lync, which is also part of Office 365. Microsoft Lync combines the best features of a consumer instant messaging with document sharing, screen sharing, and VoIP calling. Most valuable from a collaboration standpoint is that it allows partnering companies to “Federate” or gain real time visibility into the “presence” of their business partners to make connecting easier. In a nutshell, this takes the consumer technology of instant messaging and brings it into the secure and contextually relevant world of business-to-business communication.

One of the great things about Dynamics AX is its agility – to be able to adapt the solution to the specific business processes and workflows that make sense for your business. Beyond the basics, we see companies further supporting their business processes with some great enhancements. An example is allowing vendors to confirm delivery schedules with split shipments, which update the vendor confirmation dates on PO’s and improve master planning. Another example is through enabling vendor managed inventory, where vendors are tasked with tracking and monitoring consigned inventory levels through the portal and providing refills of materials to the company’s warehouse.

By pulling together many of these interactions into single portal, companies are seeing significant benefits around communication, collaboration and general cost savings. If you would like to learn more about Supply Chain Collaboration and Vendor Portals in Microsoft AX 2012, contact us.

By Armanino Consulting – the West Coast’s largest Gold Certified, Microsoft AX and GP Partner in Oregon, Washington, and California

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