Dimensions in Business Central: What are they, and how should you use them?

May 4, 2021 11:26 am Published by
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When anyone starts talking about Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central, don’t be surprised if one of the first things they mention is Dimensions. Then immediately afterwards how using them will help you to harness the power of Business Central’s data analysis and reporting capabilities. But, if you are not very technical, the term dimensions won’t mean a lot to you. In this Knowledge Leadership piece, we will take a deeper look into dimensions in Business Central – what they are, how you can set them up, and how TVision can you help you to harness their full power.

What are Dimensions?

According to Microsoft, Dimensions are “values that categorise entries so you can track and analyse them on documents, such as sales orders”. Essentially, they are data tags that you add to the financial entries in your system. They allow you to group, or categorise, data for the purpose of analysis. For example, your company’s Finance Manager may want to analyse the expenditure for each department. Instead of setting up separate general ledger accounts for each department, they can set up a dimension called Department.

For each dimension, there will be a number of dimension Values. These are the different possible values for any dimension that you can add to your financial entry. For example, here at TVision we have the dimension “Department” and our dimension Values are Central Services, Development, Implementation, Marketing, Sales, Technical, and Support.

Types of dimensions in Business Central?

In Business Central, there are two main types of dimensions: global dimensions and shortcut dimensions.

  1. Global Dimensions

These are your most important dimensions for your business. In Business Central, you can only have two global dimensions and they are located on the same table as your master records. They can be used as:

  • A filter on G/L entries
  • A filter on Account Schedules, Batch Jobs and Reports
  • An additional field on purchase and sales document headers.
  1. Shortcut Dimensions

There are then six additional analysis categories, called shortcut dimensions, which you can assign to other categories that are relevant to your business. These are mainly used as filters on journals and document lines.

In earlier versions of Business Central, shortcut dimensions could not be used as a filter on G/L entries, but this changed in January 2021 when Business Central was updated to allow shortcut dimensions to be specified on the General Ledger Setup page. With this change, you are now able to filter entries pages, such as G/L entries, customer or vendor ledger entries (and many others), by a shortcut dimension value.

You are limited to only six shortcut dimensions in total, but it is also important to note that when compiling Analysis Views, you can only use four shortcut dimensions per View.

Despite the fact that you can only have two global dimensions and six shortcut dimensions, when it comes to what these dimensions actually are, Business Central is completely flexible. It is up to you, as a business, to decide what your global dimensions will be. And when it comes to shortcut dimensions, six is the maximum you can have but you are not required to set up all six right away. If you only need three shortcut dimensions when you start out, you only need to set up three and you can add more when they are needed. It is also up to you to decide what they will be and how you will use them.

So, how do set up dimensions

When manually setting up dimensions for the first time or adding new Dimensions, there are a number of steps you need to follow. Here are some specific Microsoft resources you may wish to use:

  1. Set up your dimensions and dimension Values. For the detailed instructions for this step, click on https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/learn/modules/dimensions-dynamics-365-business-central/1-dimensions
  1. Set up global and shortcut dimensions. For the detailed instructions for this step, click on https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/learn/modules/dimensions-dynamics-365-business-central/3-global-shortcut
  1. Set up your default dimensions. This feature was improved in the 2021 Wave 1 release so as to allow more control over the default dimensions for a specific account or account type. Click on https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/learn/modules/dimensions-dynamics-365-business-central/4-default for detailed instructions on how to set these up.
  1. Set up your dimension combinations. Setting these up are important so that you are unable to post entries with contradictory or irrelevant dimensions. To find out how to set these up, click on https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/learn/modules/dimensions-dynamics-365-business-central/7-combinations

What is new with Dimensions in the 2021 Wave 1 release?

Two of the key Application updates in the 2021 Wave 1 release were related to Dimensions. These were:

  1. Dimension corrections (for G/L entries) – In earlier versions of Business Central, dimension mistakes in general ledger (G/L) entries could only be corrected by creating a manual journal which, for large transactions, was time-consuming and error prone.  With this new update (as from April 2021), you are now able can now correct dimensions in G/L entries. This is done with the ‘Correct Dimensions’ action on the General Ledger Entries page. This action lets you correct dimensions on posted entries by editing the dimension value, adding new dimensions, or removing them. Administrators can also lock dimensions for corrections, specify that corrections must respect closed accounting periods, and view a change log for a given G/L entry in order to revert the entry to its original value. This new functionality is something that users have been asking about for a long time and will help them ensure that their financial reporting gives them accurate insights without having to make notes of temporary data entry mistakes.
  2. More control over setting for Default DimensionsWith this feature, both managers and users have greater control over prerequisites for recording any transaction that must include dimension value attributes that will later be used in business analysis and reporting. Instead of allowing you to pick just any dimension value, when the dimension Value Posting is set to ‘Code Mandatory’ using ‘Allowed Dimension Values’ in the Default Dimensions page, you are now able to pick from a predefined list of allowed dimension values which are valid for particular master data, documents, or transaction posting in Business Central.

Watch our recent webinar, including a demo of these new features, on What’s New in Business Central – April 2021 update to find out more about these dimensions improvements in Business Central.

Keep an eye out for our follow-up blog where we will take an in depth look at examples of dimensional analysis and how to make the best use of them etc.

How can TVision help you?

TVision is one of the largest and most experienced providers of Business Central and NAV in the UK. If you want to know more about the capabilities of dimensions and Microsoft Business Central in general, please contact us to arrange a demo.