Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Dynamics 365 Financials Training - Day 2: Dimensions, more Setup, and Financial Reporting

By Steve Endow

Today I attended day 2 of the Dynamics 365 Financials training class organized by Liberty Grove.


Training day 2 summary: Brain overload

Here are my observations from Day 2:

1.  UI updates.  The user interface is nice, but the web interface does have a few minor quirks.  Sometimes the web site is very responsive, sometimes it pauses or lags when you perform an action, and other times there are multi-second delays.  And the responsiveness varies by user.  My UI was generally very responsive, but the instructor has had several 10-15 second delays on steps where I had no delay.  The inconsistency is strange, but I'm guessing Microsoft is doing tuning on the back end.

A few additional UI observations.

When you have multiple 'windows' open, you can only see the one on top.  You can click the X in the upper right to close the top window, or you can press the Esc key to close it.  Today I found that you can click anywhere on the gray bar on the left to close the top window.  So if you are a keyboard person, you can use Esc. If you are a mouse person, it's quicker and easier to click the gray bar than click on the X.  I am finding the gray bar to be the most convenient, as you can easily click multiple times to close several windows.

As I mentioned in my Day 1 notes, Dynamics 365 Financials saves data at the field level as soon as you tab off of a field.  When it is performing the save, you will sometimes see two arrows next to the field, indicating that the save is in progress.  Sometimes it saves so quickly you never see this symbol, while other times it takes a few seconds, and you will clearly see the arrows.  Sometimes you can move on to other fields during the save, while on other windows you may have to wait for it to save and refresh before you can move on.

2. Dimensions.  This is a big one.  Perhaps even bigger than posting groups.  For those in the GP world, you will have to open your mind, clear your thoughts about how GP works, and be receptive to a completely different design philosophy around how a chart of accounts and GL is designed.

With only a few hours of exposure to Dimensions so far, I am still trying to fully understand it, and I can't possibly cover it completely, but I'll try and describe it as best I can.  I intentionally don't want to compare the Dynamics 365 Financials Dimension feature to any GP features because I don't want you to make assumptions about how they work or what they are "like" in GP.  There are two obvious features in GP that you will likely compare this to, but for the time being, just assume there is no equivalent in GP and don't try and compare it directly to any GP features.

Imagine a pretty typical Dynamics GP "segmented" GL account structure.  The sample accounts aren't the best, but for convenience, let's use Fabrikam as an example: Division - Natural Account - Department with 3-4-2 account segment sizes.  This is a fairly conventional GL account design used by many systems.

Dynamics 365 Financials (NAV) takes a different approach to GL accounts.  The GL account is only the natural account segment.  Period.  The other segments are handled through Dimensions. So rather than using a full account string of 200-6170-00 for Repairs & Maintenance - Accounting, you would just have a natural account of 6170 in your GL COA.  That's it.  No segmented account string--just a single natural GL account.

This means that you can simplify your COA, as it only contains the natural account list, and you do not have to worry about all of the division and department permutations in the account list.

Now that you have your simple and clean COA, you can then separately define Dimensions to handle your Divisions and Departments, and anything else you need to track.  And when you define the Dimensions and Dimension Values, you can use alphanumeric labels instead of just the traditional numbers.  (Yes, GP can have alpha characters in the GL, but let's not go there...)

So I can create a dimension called Division, with Dimension Values of Administration, Accounting, Sales, Service, Consulting, etc.  And I can create a dimension called Department with whatever label values I want.

Once I have my Dimensions setup, I can then assign the Dimensions to customers, vendors, and items, and also specify a default value for each master record if desired.  Here I have assigned a Customer Group and Department to a customer record.

The idea is that when I enter a sales order, the order header can have one or more Dimensions default based on the Customer, while the order lines can have other Dimensions default based on the item.

I can also go into my GL accounts, and for each natural account, I can specify whether dimensions are required when that GL account is used.

This is a very fundamental feature of D365 Financials that will require quite a bit more time for me to learn and understand, but hopefully that at least described the concept.

3. Financial, Sales, and Purchasing Setup.  This was relatively straightforward, but there were a few things of note.

First, the GL setup window is where you control the valid posting dates.  Unlike Dynamics GP, where you open and close pre-defined fiscal periods, D365 Financials allows you to specify a date range that can be used for posting.

This seems like an interesting idea, as it lets you specify a range that might be slightly different than your fiscal period.  Say you wanted to allow posting to the last day of the prior month during closing.  Rather than keep the entire prior period open, you could set a date range of 2/28 to 3/31.  I suppose you could even set it from 2/28 to 3/15 to limit incorrect postings to future days of the month.

In addition to this flexibility, you can apparently specify different allowed posting dates at the USER level.  So the main GL Setup window could have allowed posting dates of 3/1 to 3/31 to limit most users, while just 2 people in accounting could have allowed posting dates of 2/26 - 3/31 so that they can post some final entries to the prior period during closing.  Seems like a neat idea.

UPDATE: See my update on D365 Financials Payment Terms here.  They are much more capable and flexible than I originally thought based on my first glance, described below.

Payment terms were surprisingly simple.  Given some of the other features of the application, I expected it to have a few of the fancier payment terms options or more configurability, but it's very basic.  I've had customers with odd payment terms, such as paying by the 5th of the month, and the current D365 terms won't handle those scenarios.

The Inventory Setup window raised some red flags for me.  There are only four options on the main Inventory Setup window, and not very many options at the Item level.

At the moment, D365 Financials apparently only supports FIFO valuation.  According to this forum post, average costing should be coming next, and BOMs were recently added.

4.  Financial Reporting.  D365 Financials has a relatively new financial reporting tool called "Account Schedules".  I don't know where the name came from, but it looks like a basic standard Row / Column style financial reporting tool.

Because it is new in NAV as well, adoption may be limited at this point.  I was told that the predominant financial reporting tool in NAV is JetReports, with the Account Schedules potentially being a distant second, and PowerBI having a small role.

I suspect that the Account Schedules reports may have some limitations, but the benefit appears to be the full integration of the reporting tool throughout D365.  You can easily modify, view, print, schedule, and drill down in the reports in D365.  It appears very seamless.

And those are the highlights from Day 2.

Update: Here is the link to a review of Day 3 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+


Mark said...

Hey Steve, great post!

Two minor things.

1. Payment terms on the 5th of the month is perfectly possible.

2. Account Schdedules have been in Navision for 20 years but for some reason not a lot of people use it.



Steve Endow said...

Hi Mark,

Thanks for the clarification.

Yes, on Day 3 or 4 we covered the payment terms options in more detail and I realized the calculation options allowed for quite a bit more flexibility than I realized at first glance.

Interesting that few people use Account Schedules--it sounds similar to the built-in financial reporting tool for Dynamics GP. I've only heard of one customer using it--most have used FRx or now Management Reporter. The instructor indicated that most NAV customers use Jet Reports, which is where I believe GP is headed as well.



Amanda said...

I think the piece of "New" functionality that was discussed was the Account Categories. While Account schedules have been around forever, the additional categorization of G/L Accounts, as well as the functionality to quickly update your account schedules because of them is new.

Amanda said...

I think the new functionality that was being discussed was the additional Account Categories for G/L Accounts and the ability to more quickly update the Account Schedules using them.

Mark said...

Makes more sense Amanda, thanks.