If I had to pick only three basic elements to Microsoft Dynamics NAV account schedules, I’d have to choose row setups, column layouts and analysis views. Of course, row setups give you access to basic general ledger accounts and column layouts give you options on how to show that data in different time periods. So what do analysis views do for us? Analysis views give us the ability to reach into our dimensions, past the two globals, and into the list of shortcuts, allowing us to combine any four dimensions we want at a time in any account schedule.
For illustration, I’m showing you an account schedule from NAV2009 Classic, which shows the dimension filters on an account schedule where no analysis view has been applied. The two global dimensions for CRONUS USA (Department and Project) are available to be selected on the dimensions filter tab and the remaining options are greyed out, unable to be used.
By selecting a different analysis view on the account schedule name page, you will have expanded options. Perhaps you’d like to apply an entirely different set of dimensions filters to your account schedule or limit the dimensions filters to only two of your shortcut dimensions. Any combination of four dimensions is available to you through analysis views.
There are a few things you need to know about analysis views before you start using them:
You can add a default analysis view to any account schedule. If you always want a certain account schedule to filter on a selected group of dimensions, this is the best way to do this.
Analysis Views must be updated. You can do this at any frequency you wish. Some companies choose to update once a month, some companies update once a day. Be aware that the process of updating pulls in any transactions that have been posted since the last update to your analysis view. This means if you post some entries during your close process, you’ll need to update your analysis view in order to show the change on your account schedule.
Updating can be done manually or it can be automated. To manually update analysis views, just hit the update button. You’ll need to do each one separately. Alternatively, you can choose to schedule codeunit 410 Update Analysis View as a regularly scheduled maintenance item in order to automate this process.
When you set up an analysis view for the first time, it can take a long time to update. Depending on the size of your database, if you don’t limit how far back your update goes, it could take a long time to update initially. Be careful by trying this out in a test system first. This process, which will normally take seconds when run daily, will take many hours if you don’t limit it and will cause table locks for other users.
If you test out an update and are afraid it will take up too much processing time, you have a couple of options. First, you can limit the start date of your update. One reason you might need a new analysis view is because you’ve added a new dimension. In this case, you really don’t need to go back to the beginning of time on your update. Choose the date you started gathering data on your new dimension as your starting date. You can also choose date compression. By compressing your data by day, week, month, quarter, period, or year, you limit how much detail you can see when you drill down. If you use this option, you’ll need to remember that this is a compressed view if you change column layouts to different time frame than your compression setting. Choosing date compression of none will allow you to drill down to full transactional detail.
Avoid using the update on posting button. This option updates your analysis view every time you post something to your system. Every sales order, every sales tax entry, every cash receipt, etc. will update real time. I’ve seen one small company use this option and it brought their system performance to a crawl.
Remember to include your budgets. If you make any changes to your budgets, you need to update that information on your analysis views as well.
I use account schedules as the primary source of financial reporting at my company. With all the available choices out there, why do I use account schedules? I’ve got a whole list of reasons.
1) I can custom build all of my financial statements, exactly how I want to see them.
Especially when I talk with prospective NAV customers, I hear a lot of objections as to why NAV doesn’t come with “out of the box” financial statements. If you think about this for a bit, what part of your company’s financials might fit the definition of “out of the box”? Is your chart of accounts the same as someone else’s? What about the name of your accounts? Your numbering convention? Is the way you present your financial statements just like anyone else’s? If you built your financial statements using an out of the box solution, how long would it be before you began to customize them?
Why not build them the way you want them the first time and be able to customize them as your company changes?
2) Account schedules tie directly to the general ledger.
Someone told me once that reporting from the general ledger was the best way to get to the truth. Since my financial statements have got to be accurate and consistent above all else, I like this idea. I know, that without a doubt, my account schedules tie back to my trial balance and my detailed transactional postings. I can prove it out over and over. I can use my account schedules to debunk some of the untruths that come out of some of our other reporting sources. Knowing I can get to the truth makes me trust the results I get from account schedules and gives me confidence in deeming them as the place to get exactly the right answer.
3) Budgets integrate really well with account schedules.
I use the budgets area of NAV extensively. However, I only actually touch the budgets area once a year, when I populate them with our next years’ data. Budgets integrate to account schedules so fluidly that I have no reason to go back and forth between the two during the year as I track how we’re doing in comparison to budget or even as I look ahead to remind myself of what the plan was. I can get this information from account schedules and get all my financial information from one place.
4) Dimensions along with account schedules are a powerful combination.
Account schedules without dimensions are like James Bond without Q. James Bond can certainly hold his own without all the gadgets, but come on, the things that Q adds are really cool! Adding dimensions in almost as many combinations as you can think of gives you added power in your account schedules and lets you stretch beyond mere financial reporting and expand into operational reporting.
5) They export easily to Excel.
My monthly financial statement package is 18 pages, all produced out of account schedules. Each month, I export directly to Excel and produce reports that are consistently formatted and look the same every month. I’ve got good control over the process while still having the flexibility I need when we decide we want to make a change. All of this gets loaded up to SharePoint for the end users who use them, and no tree products are harmed in the production of our financials.
6) Account schedules can be built and maintained by finance folks without IT help.
This is, and always has been, the big seller for me. I’m a DIY kind of person. I do my own landscaping, I bake my own bread (not all the time), I can build a fire while camping, and I’m painting my own living room this spring. These same principles flow through to my business. I want to be able to do it myself. I love my IT colleagues, but goodness knows they have enough to do without having to produce my financials. Account schedules are easy enough to use that I don’t need to know a programming language, or how to accomplish a table join, in order to build them. All I need is knowledge of my chart of accounts, what the structure of my dimensions and budgets are, what the differences are between balance sheet and income statement accounts, and some simple formulas.