Monday, March 27, 2017

Dynamics 365 Financials Training - Day 1: Navigation, Company Setup, and Posting Groups

By Steve Endow

Today I attended the first day of the Dynamics 365 Financials training class organized by Liberty Grove.

Each day I'll try and share a few observations from the training, primarily from the perspective of Dynamics 365 Financials vs. Dynamics GP.

Overall, the training was excellent.  There was a lot of content covered in four hours, but the trainer, Kerry Rosvold, was able to get through all of the content while answering dozens of questions along the way.

Here are my observations from Day 1:

1. Beautiful user interface.  The Dynamics 365 user interface just looks fantastic.  The look, feel and visual cues are really impressive.  There are definitely elements to the UI design that aren't obvious or intuitive, and have some complexity that you have to figure out (like any complex application), but I think the design is gorgeous, and it's really amazing how much functionality they were able to put into a web client.

So much functionality is at your fingertips right on the home page, which is highly configurable.

Color bars tell you which activities need your attention.

There are some really nice charts and graphs available as KPIs.

You can press the Esc key to exit out of windows as an alternative to clicking the X button, and when you drill several levels down, I think you will find this very useful to get back out of windows.

2. Integrated global window search and list search. As a long time Dynamics GP user, the lack of global search has been a big gap that most people don't realize they need.  In Dynamics 365 Financials, you don't click through 5 menus and sub-menus and option buttons to open a window--you just type something into the search box to find it and then click once.  The Dynamics GP Web Client does have a global window and report search feature, but since most customers are still using the full GP client, they aren't able to use it.

Once you search for something and get a result list, you can click on a list of "facets" or categories based on object type to narrow down the results.

When you are viewing a list, you can also use a search box on those windows to find or filter results.

And some wildcard searches are case sensitive.

3. Lots of potential complexity managed behind the scenes.  When you create a new company in Financials, you can use a very simple wizard that will ask you just a few questions, and then setup the new company for you, creating lots of default options.  It looks really easy and simple.  But behind the scenes, there are hundreds of options being configured and defaulted.  This is good for customers who can get up and running with the default options.  But if you were to create a blank company and configure it from scratch, we saw a very brief glimpse of the dozens of windows that you would need to review and configure, and as a new user it looked a bit overwhelming.  Perhaps those very familiar with NAV can navigate through all of those windows manually, but it looks like the wizard is a great way to get up and running quickly.

4. All grids have native sorting and filtering.  This seems obvious in the context of Excel, but with Dynamics GP scrolling windows, this functionality is like science fiction.  The only current limitation with the grids is that you can't change the order of the columns.  It isn't known whether column sorting will be added in the future.

5. Default reports. You cannot currently modify or customize the default reports, like AP Aging, Purchase Order, etc.  Some reports let you specify options to control content, but apparently no options for layout changes at this time.  I don't know if there are plans for any type of Report Writer tool to customize reports, or if 3rd party reporting tools would be required.

6. Security.  Security appears to be pretty comprehensive, with Permission Sets that roll up into Roles.  This appears similar in concept to GP security, and has the same challenges that exist with any complex application.  Security will likely be a hassle, just like GP and other ERP apps, so I suspect FastPath will be offering solutions and services to assist.

7. Automatic save at the field level.  This is a big difference from GP.  In D365 Financials, after you tab off of a field, any changes are saved.  There are generally no "Save" buttons--you simply exit the window, which performs a "Save and Close".  If you make changes on a window, you can't cancel the changes or exit without saving.  There are pros and cons to this approach, but that's the design.

8. Intercompany.  At this time, Dynamics 365 Financials does not support Intercompany transactions.  This will be a critical limitation for Dynamics GP customers who have dozens of companies.

9. User and company licensing.  During training, we were told that a user can have (or have access to?) up to 10 companies.  I have many Dynamics GP customers with dozens of companies, and have a few customers with several hundred companies.  I don't know how the D365 Financials licensing will handle such customers.

10.  Number Series.  You can define multiple "Number Series" records with start dates, start numbers, and end numbers.  I thought this was really cool.  While it may not be heavily used by many customers, I think such flexibility is nice, and makes the system more powerful than GP.

11. Posting Groups. This functionality, by far, is one of the biggest differences in core functionality between Dynamics 365 Financials and Dynamics GP that we covered in the first day of training.  I suspect it's 80% wrapping your brain around how Posting Groups work and adjusting to how they are used, and 20% actual changes in how users will need to use the system.  In short, Posting Groups dictate which GL accounts are used for all transactions.  Users cannot open a transaction Distributions window and change GL accounts during transaction entry.  All GL posting accounts must be defined in advance as part a posting group.  Overall, I think this is a good feature, as it should reduce incorrect or invalid GL account postings.  But it does require a little more planning and setup than what we are used to in Dynamics GP.

12. Timeout.  The D365 Financials web site will "time out" after a period of inactivity, displaying a dialog to ask you if you want to resume.  This is reasonable and a best practice for several reasons, but for those who are used to leaving GP open and running all day, this will be very annoying.  Every time you come back from a meeting or get off of a 20 minute call, you'll need to "Resume" and potentially log back in and 'relaunch' the web application.

Overall, I think Dynamics 365 Financials is very impressive.  At the moment, there are some missing features that might prevent some customers from migrating to D365, but I think the product is looking very good.

Update: Here is the link to a review of Day 2 of the training:

Steve Endow is a Microsoft MVP for Dynamics GP and a Dynamics GP Certified IT Professional in Los Angeles.  He is the owner of Precipio Services, which provides Dynamics GP integrations, customizations, and automation solutions.

You can also find him on Twitter, YouTube, and Google+

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