Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Framework, Format, Goose!

Okay, so maybe it's not a game of duck, duck, goose. But still, it seems like the discussion of account frameworks and formats is a circular one. First, lets talk definitions relative to Microsoft Dynamics GP.

What is an account framework?
The account framework is the largest that the account format may grow. This framework is defined when Dynamics GP is initially installed on the server (and the Dynamics database is created after logging in to Dynamics GP utilities). It is important to note that this happens during install, since sometimes installation may happen before discovery has been completed. Also, note, the framework is a limitation for ALL companies in the installation...so all companies must be considered. The framework is not easily changed once installation has been done (more on that later). Generally, you will hear that a framework can be no larger than 66 characters and 10 segments although there are further constraints regarding storage size that are discussed in the installation instructions for Dynamics GP.

What is account format?
The account format is defined per company, and is the number of characters and segments to be used for account numbers. The account formats for multiple companies can be different, although each account format must fit within the account framework defined during installation.

So, take the following example:
Company A has a format of 2-3-5
Company B has a format of 4-2-3-6

In this case, the minimum acceptable account framework would be 4-3-5-6, but of course, we would probably want something larger than that to allow for future growth in both the number of characters as well as the number of segments.

So, what about changing these?
Changing the account framework requires some work, either reinstalling (if no data has been entered) or using a tool to complete the reformatting by essentially transferring all data in to a new database with the new framework. Microsoft Dynamics Professional Services can handle the transfer, or you can purchase Corporate Renaissance Group's Re-Formatter tool and do it yourself. It is definitely an undertaking in either case, and not a lot of fun.

Changing the account format is a bit easier. If no data has been entered, you can just delete any account numbers that have been added and adjust the format as you wish (assuming it falls within the framework). If data has been entered, you have a few different options. At any point, you can increase the account format up to the framework. The only dilemma with this approach is that any existing accounts will automatically get spaces for the new characters and segments. So most likely, the users will not be happy with spaces on existing accounts and you will have to use (and purchase) either the Microsoft Dynamics Prof Services Tools Library Account Modifier tool or the Corporate Renaissance Group Changer tool to change the existing accounts to new account numbers. Either tool is really straightforward, easy to use, and economical (after a brief training, most clients/end-users can easily use it themselves).

But how about decreasing the account format? Well, that can be done as well, but then you are back to having to use a tool like Re-Formatter, as the standard Dynamics GP logic will not allow you to decrease the account format after accounts and activity have been added.

So, the lesson here?
When planning your implementation, make sure you consider not only current needs but future needs as well. This is particularly critical for the account framework. My personal approach is to make sure that the framework allows for at least 2 characters of growth in each segment that is currently used by any of the companies in the installation and at least 2-4 additional segments (based on the nature of the business) to allow for expansion of divisional reporting requirements in the general ledger. And, I always try to make sure that at least preliminary account format discussions are completed for all companies to be implemented prior to the installation being completed (this can be challenging in a time-sensitive implementation, but it can be key to success).


Felipe C said...

Great post ... I think so many people overlook the importance of the first decisions when setting up the system ....

What would be the drawback of just making the framework the max number allowed to support any future changes in the business other than getting users accustomed to dealing with many digits on their accounts

Steve Endow said...

You can definitely specify the maximum number of segments and / or maximum account length during the GP install process, which does give you flexibility for future account growth. This is a common choice when you don't know what types of GL account structures may be needed for future companies.

The only theoretical drawback that I'm aware of is a potential decrease in performance. Excess account segments and longer account length could potentially slow certain queries or processes, and if you specify the sort option on all account segments, my guess is that it results in more indexes. However, I've never tested performance for different configurations, so I can't say for sure if this would result in any noticeable performance difference--especially if the extra segments are not being used for a given company.

And regarding your concern about user's having to deal with long accounts, that should not be a concern. The account framework is a system-wide setting specified during the initial GP installation on the DB server, whereas the account format is specified for each company when it is created in GP Utilities, making the framework maximums invisible to users.

Hope that helps.

Christina Phillips and Steve Endow said...

Also, to add to what Steve said....the issue is that if you just accept the default maximums (66 and 10) you will not be able to have a segment greater than 6 characters in length. So even if you accept the max, you need to put some thought in to how the max is divided out over the segments.