In my previous post I alluded to the fact that I am in the process of porting a cloud-based forms management system to Microsoft Dynamics AX 7. The goal is to produce a proper fully-integrated ISV module for AX that can be deployed from LCS, with as close to zero configuration required as possible.
The product is still currently in BETA, but I thought it might be a good time to showcase some of the functionality that will be available to AX users to gain some early feedback.
FormsBox, as I said, is a cloud-based forms management system with a load of really cool features. It is hosted in Azure and developed using C# and ASP.NET and utilizes numerous Azure functions such as blob storage and encryption.
The web version of FormsBox can be accessed here: www.formsbox.com
To ensure seamless integration with AX, I avoided requiring a dedicated workspace as much as possible by tying in with existing AX forms within ESS (Self-Service), HR and of course document attachments. It should be an extension of AX, not a replacement of what is already available.
A manager will typically get one additional tile added to their self-service workspace as shown below. Here they can get a snapshot of forms that have been sent to them for review and approval, new forms they have received, and any forms that have gone past their expiry date (contracts, for example).
They also have direct access to the FormsBox library containing over 400 document templates, and of course, they can also upload their own organizational forms for either public or internal-only consumption.
Keep in mind that FormsBox for AX provides a shell around the API and the backend cloud-based system. So all forms are physically stored in the FormsBox cloud, not within AX. So for example, when workers view their own forms, as shown below, these forms are in fact located in FormsBox, not AX. This means all actions performed in the AX version of FormsBox is instantly accessible outside of AX, using the standard FormsBox web platform.
Clicking the Attach button will however bring a copy of that form into AX, and store it in their document attachments, as a PDF document. These can be accessed, viewed and downloaded like any other AX document attachment:
Within AX the workflow functionality provided by FormsBox is fully supported. This allows forms to be sent from FormsBox to workers within the organization for completion and vice-versa. Forms can be approved or rejected with commentary, or escalated internally for further review.
The FormsBox library is accessible from within AX, allowing workers to browse hundreds of free document templates and distribute it internally or externally for completion and signing. Organizations can upload their own documents into the library, and either share these publicly (product disclosure statements as an example) or only internally.
A form sent for completion internally (in AX) is smart enough to extract all fields required for completion from the PDF, giving workers a guide for completion by merely doing data entry.
On devices supporting a pen or mouse (laptop, mobile, tablet) forms can be digitally signed as well, as shown below. This is fully supported in AX 7. Standard annotations in multiple pen colours are also supported.
For bulk document mail-merge and distribution, FormsBox offers several options including batch processing, where a CSV file extract can be uploaded with data, and FormsBox will capture these into the specified form and perform the bulk distribution automatically, with workflow.
The AX version of FormsBox includes a set of helper classes in X++ to allow developers to perform any API action; for example, a query can be built in X++ to link various pieces of data across AX into a dataset that is then used to batch populate forms for distribution.
Batch processing of forms takes place in the FormsBox cloud, moving the processing away from the AX production environment for minimal impact on regular users.
QR Codes are also supported, so instead of sending a lengthy form description, a QR Code can automatically refer an external party to a form stored in the FormsBox cloud application (external to AX), which they can then complete and sign, and this will be returned to the worker into the AX version.
There are a number of good use-cases for using FormsBox in AX, for example:
- Pay stubs and tax returns
- Insurance proof
- Employment contracts and reviews
- Training & certification copies
- Rental agreements
- Warranty details
- Expense claims
- Mail-merge / Bulk distribution
- Long-term electronic archiving
So if you are after an AX 7 document management system, do have a look at FormsBox and get in touch if you need more information. The FormsBox site contains more detailed screenshots and end to end use-cases.
As it is in BETA, there will be some look & feel changes and additional functionality. Pricing is not available yet, but on the plus side there is an option for an organisation to purchase a copy of the platform with source-code to manage and control hosting on their own (including custom site branding and using their own Azure instance for storage).