The self-service portals within Dynamics AX are great features to take advantage of in order to help you collaborate more with your Vendors, and also to allow Customers to take care of a lot of the administrative queries that they would usually have your customer service group answer. They are made even more appealing because of two other features. The first is that there are no additional licenses required in order to give the customers and vendors access to the portals because they are free, and also because the self-service portals are included within the base software install kit for Dynamics AX, and all you need to do to get them up and running is to install them.
The Vendor Self Service Portal
The Vendor Self Service Portal is a great way to allow your vendors manage their profile, view all of the Purchase Orders that have been placed with them, and even enter in invoices that will be sent directly to the Payables department within Dynamics AX.
When the vendor logs in they will see a dashboard that will allow them to access all of the vendor based features. The functions that are shown on the portal are also restricted by the user security. When you set up the Vendor within Dynamics AX, you can tweak the roles that are assigned to the user to give them more or less access within the portal to features.
The vendor is not only allowed to view all of their profile details, they are also able to update the details themselves, taking the workload off the Payables group and also improving efficiencies when there are updates that need to be made on the vendor account. It’s so much easier just to get them to do it rather than having to transcribe information from e-mails or documents.
The Vendor Self Service Portal isn’t just for maintaining master data though on the vendor. The vendor can help you while they help themselves by creating transactions within Dynamics AX as well. An example of this is the ability of the vendor to create their own Invoices through the portal which will go straight to Payables for approval and payment. If they attach all of the documentation for the invoice then they completely eliminate the requirement to send an invoice, and also shortens the time to pay.
Another timesaver within the Vendor Self Service Portal is the ability for the vendor to review all of the Purchase Orders that have been sent to them, and also download any associated document that have been added to the Purchase Order as attachments. Rather than having the vendor harass the purchasing department for information they can just let their fingers do the walking.
An additional tool that you can let your vendor’s access through the Vendor Self Service Portal is the ability to track the receipt of products. This allows the vendors to see when the products were received, how much was received, and also create invoices based on the receipts, further reducing the lag time between shipping and invoicing. At any time, the vendor is also able to generate invoices for you within Dynamics AX for you based off the Purchase Order, or reported receipts. Again, these will not be posted until the Payables group have reviewed them, but it will save them time of re-entering in the transactions themselves.
One of the best ways to use the Vendor Self Service Portal for collaboration is to use it to manage Requests for Quotations. This feature allows you to create a quote template within Dynamics AX with all of the products that you need to have a vendor quote out, and then you can send it electronically to the vendor. They are then able to respond online through the portal with their best quote and return it to you. Then you can review all the quotes, choose the ones that you want to accept and they will be converted to Purchase Orders, Purchase Agreements, or even Requisitions without having to re-enter a single line. This is a great way to work with your vendors, and also because it is immediately published to the portal, allows you to increase the turnaround speed on quotations to almost instantly.
Vendor Onboarding through the Enterprise Portal
A slightly different feature that you can take advantage of with the Enterprise Portal is the ability to streamline the Vendor Onboarding process. Rather than having an informal process for accepting vendors to do business with the company, you can take advantage of the prospective vendor onboarding function that allows users to request vendors to be added to certain procurement categories, have them reviewed through workflow, and then collaborate with the prospective vendors to have them update their own information before they become approved vendors. Why not offload some of the onboarding work to the vendors themselves.
The first step in the process is to initiate a new vendor request. This may be done by any employee through the Employee Self Service Portal.
There are a lot of steps that you can automate within the vendor onboarding process, but they are all managed through the Procurement and Sourcing Workflows. So it makes sense to take a quick look at the workflows.
There is one additional feature that you can take advantage of with the Enterprise Portal is that you can invite the prospective vendors to update their details before they become approved vendors. Rather than going through an arduous task of gathering information from the vendor over multiple interviews and e-mails, you can just give them access to all of their information and have them update it online themselves.
The Customer Self Service Portal
Self Service is not just for the Vendors though. There is also a pre-configured self-service portal that has been specially designed for the Customers as well. This allows the customers to update their contact information, add additional contacts, view all of their transactions, and even place orders through the portal. If you want a quick way to allow your customers to access their information on-line then it’s a great option – especially since you have it already within your available products delivered with Dynamics AX.
The first feature of the Customer Self Service Portal that we will look at is the ability for the customer to update all of their contact information on line. So rather than having them call up customer service and asking them to change an address or update a phone number then they can do it themselves and Dynamics AX will always be up to date.
The customers can also help you help them by adding and updating the people that are associated with the customer as well by adding and updating Contacts and the customers can also view all of the related transactions as well like the Invoices.
Another feature that the customer is able to take advantage of is the creation of return orders directly from the Customer Self Service Portal. This warns you that the products are being returned, and also means that you don’t have to create the return order yourself.
One last feature that is available within the Customer Self Service Portal is the ability to publish out eCommerce catalogs that will be made available to the portal for customers to browse through and place orders using a shopping cart. Although it’s not as flashy as some eCommerce solutions, it does give you the ability to have customers place orders through a web page without buying additional software. In addition to being able to order products through the shopping cart, there is also a form style shopping cart for the customer that knows exactly what they are looking for.
Hopefully the examples that we have worked through within this document give you an overview of most of the features that are just sitting there and waiting for you to take advantage of to make it easier for your customers and vendors to work with you. Most importantly we have hoped to illustrate that the Customer and Vendor Self Service Portals are live links back to the Dynamics AX data without having to run any synchronization or batch jobs making it very easy to share information.
We didn’t explore all of the features and functions so keep in mind that there are still a lot of goodies that you can stumble within these features.
Remember, you have this already, you don’t need to buy any additional licenses for the customers and vendors, so what are you waiting for? Start using it already!
If you are looking for a more detailed walkthrough of all the features and functions then you can check out the Dynamics AX Companions site. Just click on the images below to find it.
About The Author:
Murray Fife is a Microsoft Dynamics AX MVP, Author of over 20 books on Microsoft Dynamics AX, and Solution Architect at I.B.I.S. Inc. with over 20 years of experience in the software industry. Like most people in his industry he has worked in many different roles during his career, including as a developer, an implementation consultant, and a trainer which gives him a great understanding of the requirements for both customers and partners. He is a regular contributor to the Dynamics AX community and in addition to hosting presentations for I.B.I.S. presents regularly for the AXUG and MS Dynamics World, has spoken at Microsoft Convergence and AXUG Summit conferences. If that was not enough, he works closely with Microsoft evaluating with their beta products and also is a Council Member on the Microsoft Dynamics Academic Alliance trying to help educate the new generation of consultants on Dynamics AX.