Hesam Seyed Mousavi, March 31, 2018
New features in the latest release of Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations present an exciting shift in functionality from what has been available. Here’s more detail on some of those features.
Embedded Analytics and Mobile Capability
Embedded analytics and mobile capability was the central theme of this year’s Microsoft Dynamics Tech Conference. Microsoft currently is focusing their energy on building analytical and cognitive reporting for the entire “Prospect to Cash” cycle, which includes parts of CRM.
Hence, we can look forward to some of the following features:
- CFO Workspace: One of the richest user interfaces that has been showcased, where a CFO can look-up any needed KPIs and drill down to the lowest level of detail.
- Customer Management: All customer-related information can be made available using workspaces – e.g. KPIs, drill downs into collection statuses, open invoices, aging reports, write-offs, open orders/quotes.
- Payables and Vendor Management: Purchasing managers can streamline their operations with vendor compliance reporting for payment terms, which helps manage cash flow with timely payments and invoice entry all through workspaces.
Mobile capability (or PowerApps) will now also be incrementally deployed for Dynamics 365 for Operations. The plumbing will be done via CDS, which will help synch not just data entities, but also workflows.
- Vendor Invoice Approval: Once the vendor enters their invoice using the new vendor collaboration portal (with edit capability), it gets submitted to the workflow. The workflow can be made to be processed through three-way match, look-up the needed accounting distribution (if applicable), and then ping the AP manager to approve the invoice. The mobile capability will also be available in an offline mode, which would later synch once online.
- Customer and Vendor Aging Reports: All customer and vendor aging reports can be made available using the mobile power app.
A catch to embedded analytics and mobile, however, is the heavy dependency on the Azure stack. The underlying constructs – Power BI, PowerApps, CDS, Azure service bus – are only available on the Azure stack.
The Power BI desktop application is available to use (which can be hooked up to legacy databases), but it won’t provide any template applications, nor will it be able to use the Common Data Model.
New Fix: Ability to Delete a Main Account and Dimension
A pain of Dynamics 365 for Operations and its previous version, Dynamics AX 2012 R3, has been the inability to delete a main account immediately after it was used.
For example, if the account was used in a posting profile and then immediately cleared, and not used ever again, the user would not be able to delete the account. Technically, this is as soon as a record is created in the DimnesionAttributeValue table using that specific account.
This spring, however, Microsoft will be releasing a fix for this and it will no longer be a problem.
Global Journal Entry
In the GL Journal line, if there is only one default relevant dimension value for an account, that dimension will automatically be populated on the ledger combination field. In addition, if any dimension value is inactivated, the same will not show up on any of the lookups, which helps prevent repeating steps that cause posting errors.
Cash Flow Forecasting
The process of cash flow forecasting thus far (up until Dynamics AX 2012) was known to be inconvenient; hence, Microsoft chose not to retain that functionality within Dynamics 365 for Operations. The current version of Dynamics 365 for Operations doesn’t have any of it.
As part of their spring release, Microsoft will be launching a single parameter screen for the setup of cash flow forecasting, where the user will have the ability to set-up parameters for all the following modules: General Ledger, Accounts Payable, Accounts Receivable, Budgets and Inventory.
The user will have the option to choose which transactions to include and exclude for cash flow reporting – like expected payments from your customers, previous payment, and receivable patterns. All cash flow reporting functionality will now be moved into a Power BI dashboard. The user will have the power to explore the same data by legal entity, financial dimension, currency, and bank account.
Intercompany Setup of Accounts: Now a Global Screen
In earlier versions of Dynamics AX, intercompany posting relationships between two companies depended on the source/destination entity. For instance, USMF and DEMF could be set-up by going to the USMF entity and then adding the accounts for the DEMF relationship. (And the same process would follow for any two legal entities.) In essence, the user would have to log-in to the specific entity to set-up that relationship. Once set-up, transactions could go either way, i.e. the user could go to either company, and set the transaction into the other company.
With the new release, a global interface is made available so that, regardless of company, you can see all intercompany relationships. Every company relationship configuration is viewable and editable. Reciprocal transactions are by default blocked, i.e. a USMF to DEMF relationship will only allow transactions originating in USMF to post in DEMF, but not the other way around. The system will need an explicit record for DEMF to USMF to create a transaction in the reverse order. A “create reciprocal relationship” button will soon be available to auto-create those records for the user.
The Ability to Review Vendor Invoices in Accounts Payable
A complaint about Dynamics 365 for Operations has been that it doesn’t allow companies to review the actual invoice from a vendor right before making the posting decision. That functionality is finally here.
With the spring release of Dynamics 365 for Operations, the user will be able to view the actual vendor invoice (that was previously attached) right through the posting screen. This is going to be made available on the invoice journal screen along with inquiries and the pending invoice screen. The user will be able to easily review the journal and invoice attachment side by side, without having to navigate to the document attachment window. This is limited, however, to the first attachment, with the assumption that most invoice lines come with a single attachment.
Generic Electronic Reporting (GER) and Printing Checks
Generic Electronic Reporting, or GER, is the new functionality that has been developed in Dynamics 365 for Operations that will help a lot of customers with their business requirements. While the core functionality is targeting localized reporting, it is being extended for use across the board wherever there are pre-specified formats for reports, as well as reports that are commonly used across regions.
Electronic reporting has two components: the data model and the format. The formats that are currently supported in Dynamics 365 for Operations are TXT, XML and worksheets. With the new release, Word documents will also now be supported, which will basically allow us to output a Word format of a report with predefined XML meta data tags at various points in the format.
In 2016, 160 configurable regulatory formats, with imports from txt, reports on doc and pdf, are all supported. But in 2017, Microsoft will support multiple versions, with import from XML, and offer the ability to use images in templates and format updates on Excel templates.
The same capability will also be extended to provide multiple check formats that are supported by banks. Historically, check printing has been (and still is) a pain with printer alignment issues. But now, check formatting will be made easier by using electronic reporting or Excel capabilities. Out-of-the-box templates will be provided to consume the same information and adhere to acceptable layouts.
Generic Tax Engine (GTE)
The Generic Tax Engine (GTE) is a brand new add-on that helps solve major tax issues where the sales tax calculation is complex. This tool is primarily targeted toward countries such India, Brazil, Russia, etc. In these countries, there isn’t an electronic format of tax data being published by the government, which can be absorbed into the system.
Most business accounting teams work very actively to stay on top of the tax setup so that every transaction is taxed with the correct rate. Localization patches thus far have made this a major challenge; but now with GTE, the whole tax combination can be configured to drive the formula for tax. The user can define various components of the tax, and define which taxes are meant for state sales, out-of-state sales, or international sales.
In addition, product category rules and conditions can be built into formulas. This functionality has very strong potential for most European countries, where taxation can be configured. Microsoft has very clearly stated that the bounds of this functionality is limited to providing the construct for building complex tax formulae and using it in transactions. There is no intention to have actual tax % values be updated into this from an external (government) source; the assumption is that the Dynamics 365 for Operations user will configure the rates manually.
The previous versions of Dynamics 365 for Operations saw the major change of consolidating value model and depreciation books into what is now called “Book”. On the book, the system can be configured to either post to GL or not. With the spring release, we are going to see some of the following:
- The ability to run depreciation as a single process across multiple companies from the fixed asset depreciation proposal screen: In previous versions, the user (as part of the month-end process) was expected to log into every legal entity and run depreciation. Now, they can execute it just once from any legal entity, as long as the default depreciation journals for every legal entity are configured for each legal entity. The “Post journal” toggle and batch processing functionality on the depreciation proposal helps auto-post all legal entities at one go. For users, this is now a one-step process for a period close.
- Valuations hub, with multi-book: We will now have the ability to see multiple books related to the same asset side-by-side. This is very similar to the FA balances inquiry against a book, but with the difference of having multiple books for comparison.
- Rows in the FA statement will now be configurable by FA group: Earlier, the user was expected to add every asset as and when acquired to the statement rows.
- Fixed asset roll forward report.
Some big modifications are coming into the Dynamics 365 for Operations financial reporting space. One such change is that Management Reporter’s functionality is being absorbed into the Dynamics 365 for Operations interface, providing users the ability to access the interfaces to construct Management Reporter building blocks, right out of Dynamics 365 for Operations.
Some additional changes that are on the way are:
- Users will be able to generate reports for any level of the hierarchy from the reports.
- The data mart will be deprecated and reports will run off the entity store, providing users the ability to manually refresh the data as needed, or sync in batches. This will help tremendously with any incremental upgrades in Dynamics 365 for Operations – consultants will not have to raise support tickets to ensure schemas between the data mart and Dynamics 365 are in synch.
Some features that will be launched further down the road are:
- The report designer will be moved into Dynamics 365 for Operations.
- Ability to import report definitions with tree functionality from Excel.
- Ability to publish reports onto SharePoint.
Data Migration: Copying Over a Legal Entity
A process that typically happens multiple times during an implementation cycle is copying configurations from one environment to another, or one legal entity to another. (A good example of the same is a gold configuration to UAT.) While this topic is not directly related to the financial modules, I’m bringing this up because GL, AR, AP, FA, Bank, and Budget configurations are a very big part of the snapshot to copy over. There is set-up involved to get a snapshot ready, which uses data entities as the underlying construct. A configuration template will need to be created, to which data entities/packages can be assigned. These templates can be exported and imported into another legal entity. This also works in conjunction with the data sharing framework – which means that one will need to be careful to update sharing policies accordingly.