By Ben Desmarais, vdR Group Senior Implementation Manager
I’ve been doing PLM solutions for nearly two decades now. Crafting workflow solutions are essential for most any implementation effort. I was recently involved in designing and configuring workflow processes for a project, and a couple of things occurred that prompted me to want to share some thoughts.
First, lifecycle stages go hand-in-hand with workflows. Think of workflows as moving a collection of items through a process. As an item moves through the process, it is likely to change states. For example, if an item is being changed, then once a change process is activated for that item, the lifecycle state might be assigned to “work-in-process” or WIP.
On top of that, there may be certain user roles and rights associated with an item and its various states.
For expediency sake, I like using a simple and fast modeling tool like Visio to lay out all the steps. You can use business process modeling techniques that incorporate “swim lanes” to help visualize the process as well. The important thing I have found is to refine the process with end users using something fast and simple.
My recommended steps for developing workflows are…
- identify all the items to be treated
- identify their possible lifecycle stages and access criteria
- use a simple and fast modeling tool to capture requirements and review with the customer
- start building the items and workflow in Aras Innovator
Nailing the process before configuring in Aras is key. Get feedback from all the participants early and upfront.
Normally, there is a lead person or a team that will do the initial requirements for workflow process. Sometimes it’s already documented in a procedure document. After you get an understanding of the process and model it, go back to each participant in the workflow and confirm the workflow will work for their needs. Some participants will not care about a specific activity or activities in the workflow process. That’s fine. Focus on the activities they will interact with. Make sure to document any task they will do when assigned to them. Ask them about any specific requirements they may have before or after their workflow activity is assigned to them or promoted to the next activity.
We use a form that goes out to the users that will be involved. We want to know the tasks, lifecycle, assignments, notifications and alerts, to name a few.
I’ll talk about methods in another post. But, the important thing here is a method can be connected to workflow processes. It is customer specific code that can be executed at different stages in the workflow process. For example, once a workflow is complete, a method can be used to update an external system (e.g., ERP) upon release.