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Workflow Automation
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9 November, 2021 by
Workflow Automation
Brian Lefler
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Introduction

So, you want process automation right? Look no further. Workflow Automation is one of my favorite tools within Global Shop. In this article, we are going to talk about what a "workflow" is in reference to Global Shop, how they work, and some practical examples. We will also go over how to get started with a workflow. 


Target Audience

This article is intended for process developers, and process owners that want to see one or more processes systemized. This could be anyone from supervisors, to engineers, to purchasing managers, all the way to the CEO and CFO. If there is a process that involves multiple departments' involvement, and multiple steps, dependencies, etc. and the team just can't seem to get aligned on timing and execution - you are in the right place.


Workflows explained:

To understand workflows in Global Shop, we need to break things down into 3 main sections. Templates, GAB, and the Queue.

Templates are the skeleton, or the framework in which we use to define our process. Templates are found under Business Intelligence > Administration > Workflow Templates. It is likely that this menu item is locked down to system administrators - so reach out to IT or your supervisor if you would like to learn more, or need to gain access. 


So, let's start with the basics. We can use the browser next to the ID to select a workflow template. Each template represents a core process. As an example, "New Customer". If this is a new workflow, we would just simply click "Create" and then type in "New Customer" into the "Title" field. 

Oh by the way, you can nest multiple workflows together - which is where the "Parent ID" field comes from. The status and type fields can be used at your discretion but are really just data points for ease of tracking. "Type" could be used as follows;

  • 1 = Sales Processes

  • 2 = Customer Service Processes

  • 3 = Production Planning/Scheduling Processes

  • 4 = Shop Floor Processes

  • 5 = Quality Processes

When it comes to the "Meta" data (button), you can enter relevant labels to that workflow. Since we are doing a New Customer workflow, we will want to capture the Customer # in the meta data of the workflow, and perhaps the salesman name. There is also a "Reference" tab that will allow you to track up to 10 different reference fields.


Alright, now we have the workflow header, Meta, and Reference fields defined. Let's get into the steps now. The first step always need to be the trigger step, and should always be some process that is done within Global Shop. An example would be "Create the Customer Master."


Now, we will define who the step is assigned to, and who is going to signoff on the step. Both of these can be done by user, or by group. It is recommend to create groups specific to workflow functionality. For example, WFSales would be for all users that were in the Sales Workflow groups. These Security Groups would be used only for Workflows, and not for permissions etc., though they could. The "notify" field can be set to determine whether or not to notify the assignee user/group or the sign off user/group when a step has reached their queue.

Next, we can define more information about the step. When you click on the "Edit" button within the line, you are prompted to enter more information like user fields, notes (which is a great place for the work instructions), and even relevant documents. More importantly, you can define dependency steps or parent workflows to prevent the process from moving forward. 

Continue this process for each of the steps in your workflow. 


Once you have all of the steps defined in your workflow click "save" at the bottom to save your lines. You can use the "Export" button to export your workflow, to send to us in the next step. Keep in mind, that we are happy to help you configure your workflow template, based on a work instruction, or a definition of the process.



It is important to understand that while the workflow template is the skeleton of the workflow, the GAB/custom side is the brains behind the operation. If you didn't already know, GAB is the custom SDK built into Global Shop for customization. If you need an example of how to build a workflow in GAB, you can check out ATG_WF_WORKORDER.gas and ATG_WF_GUI_WORKORDER.gas in the Plugins\GAB\GAS directory. Otherwise - we are happy to program your workflows for you. Once you have created your workflow template you can submit it to us below in the form.

During this phase, we need to determine how each step relates to the system. For instance - you want the workflow to automatically trigger once the "Save" button is pressed on a new customer, and that you don't want to be able to enter a sales order until the workflow is signed off. This part is why it is important to have the Customer Number in the meta data. Part of the GAB customization is going to fire on New Sales Order. This code will stop the user from creating a Sales Order where the workflow with the meta tag matching the customer number is not completed. If you choose to have us write the GAB workflow code for you, then we will work very closely with you on defining how the actions translate to triggers in Global Shop. 


The  Workflow Queue is the end-user's toolbox to keep track of the workflow items that are relevant to them. It gives our users the ability to easily see "what should I be doing" as it relates to processes that are in their court. While the "notify" functionality in the template will send them an email if desired, we all know that emails can become burdensome, and even be missed. For that reason and more, we have the workflow queue under Business Intelligence > Transactions. This screen has the ability to be filtered down, hide completed and show only those steps where dependencies are completed. There are more features of this screen, but you get the gist. From here, the users can go ahead and complete the signoffs, set the percentages completed, etc. We can even see all of the meta data/info from here as well. 


In Summary workflows are a magnificent tool, when applied in the right processes. We all have those pesky processes that seem to get lost along the way, or even slight mistakes in the configuration of items that will haunt us months or years later. By establishing proper processes, documenting them and systemizing them, we set ourselves up to scale as we grow. We all know that consistency is scalability. As always, we are happy to get involved in configuring your templates, programming the workflow, and deploying the change to your organization.


Best Practices

  • Focus on the highest risk processes. These processes either have the highest risk of failure, or they have the highest return for accuracy.

  • Start with a specific department, and roll out in phases. Get collective feedback so that you can develop each subsequent workflow based on learned knowledge.

  • Take the time to get feedback on steps from your users before developing the template. Use a process document as the starting point.

  • Start with a simple workflow to gauge success within your team.


Common Mistakes

  • Overdeveloped Lines: Do not mistake your lines for process steps. Keep in mind that each line requires a signoff which is a very deliberate process. Try focusing on core steps in the process, and using notes for specific details about the process.

  • Notification overload: Be sure that only the steps that require notification are enabled. Inundating users with more emails is likely to drive down adoption for this helpful tool.


References

  • Global Shop Help > Menu Topics > Business Intelligence > Administration > Workflow Template 


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If you are excited to implement workflows, and need some help, we are happy to assist you. Please fill out the form below. If you have already developed a template, send it over in the form below and we will get back to you as soon as possible. If you need help developing the template, please do still complete the form below and we will provide whatever assistance necessary.

Workflow Automation
Brian Lefler 9 November, 2021
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