Using Dimensions with Business Central to improve your reporting

May 19, 2021 12:01 am Published by

In our last Knowledge Leadership piece we looked at Dimensions: what they are and how you should use them. Here, we are taking a look at how you can use dimensions with Business Central to improve your reporting.

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The benefits of using dimensions in reporting are four-fold:

  1. With dimensions you are able to slice and dice your data in many different ways.
  2. They increase your reporting flexibility as they allow you to report by department, by geographical area, by product line, etc.
  3. They simplify your Chart of Accounts.
  4. You can save time creating reports by combining Account Schedules (the default reports that sit behind the default balance sheet or income statement) with column layouts and Analysis Views.

Setting the rules before you start

Before you start using dimensions with Business Central to improve your reporting, make sure that all your dimensions are set up properly. By setting up rules and restrictions for your dimensions, you will ensure that all of your financial entries include the appropriate data tags. This, in turn, will ensure data consistency and accuracy throughout your ERP. Using rules and restrictions will help you maximise the benefits of using dimensions for reporting purposes.

There are three types of dimension rules and restrictions:

  1. Dimension restrictions – These are the dimension rules when posting to General Ledger (G/L) accounts. The choice of dimension rules are:
    • Code Mandatory – You must include a dimension value when you are posting, but any dimension value is acceptable.
    • Same Code – When posting, you can only use a particular value for a particular dimension when posting to a particular G/L account.
    • No Code – Dimension value codes cannot not be used with this G/L account.
  2. Default dimensions – Default dimensions are where you can add a dimension to a customer, vendor, job, or resource card. The benefit here is that whenever a particular card is used in a financial transaction, the dimension value is pre-populated with the dimension data from that card. This will ensure that all the financial transactions related to that particular customer, vendor, job, or resource have the correct dimension associated with it.
  3. Dimension combinations – You can block or limit specific combinations of two dimensions. A blocked dimension combination means that you cannot post both dimensions on the same entry regardless of what the dimension values are. A limited dimension combination lets you post both dimensions to the same entry, but only for certain combinations of dimension values. This is very helpful in avoiding posting entries with contradictory or irrelevant dimensions.

Once you have set up your dimension rules and restrictions, you are ready to create some reports.

Reporting with dimensions

There are three types of reporting capabilities using dimensions:

  1. Chart of Account filters
  2. Account Schedules
  3. Analysis Views

Chart of Accounts filters

  • Using filters on your Chart of Accounts allows you to filter by either a single dimension or multiple dimensions.
  • For example, if one of your global dimensions is Department, you can create departmental income or expenditure reports by using the following filters: date, income or expenditure, and then the dimension filter of Department.
  • This type of report will allow your management team to analyse what each department was spending (or earning) within a specific period. This will allow them to make effective and efficient business decisions going forward.

Account Schedules

  • These are the default reports that sit behind the default balance sheet or income statement.
  • Account Schedules are available in the standard version of Business Central and are the basis of the standard financial reports. You can, however, update the layout of these default reports in a number of ways. Firstly, you can edit the column layouts in order to define what columns should be included in the resulting report. For example, you can design a layout to compare net change and balance for the same period this year and last year. Secondly, you can add in dimension filters that will allow you to create a report for a particular dimension, such as Department.
  • Using Account Schedules alone when reporting with dimensions is, however, quite limiting. In order to compare dimension values, for example comparing the expenditure of two different departments, you would need to run the report twice.
  • Account Schedules will also only allow you to use the two global dimensions (link to first KL piece). To add more dimensions, you need to use Analysis Views.

Analysis Views

Using Analysis Views gives you the ability to go beyond the two global dimensions and into the full list of dimensions that your company uses. They allow you to combine any four dimensions you want and get a matrix view of your data.

When setting up an Analysis View, you can set it up so that you see your G/L accounts as rows and your selected dimensions as columns. You can also add in the total as a column. Using department as an example again, this will allow you to see an analysis of income and expenditure by department as well as how much each department contributed to the company total for the particular G/L account.

It is when using Analysis Views that your dimension restrictions become very important. If you have financial transactions that were not forced to have a dimension allocated to them, you could end up with the totals in the dimension columns not adding up to the company total at the end.

For advice on how to set up new Analysis Views, go to https://docs.microsoft.com/en-gb/dynamics365/business-central/bi-how-analyze-data-dimension#to-set-up-an-analysis-view.

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 how you can use dimensions with Business Central to improve your reporting, please contact us to arrange a demo.