Setting up dimensions should not be something we exclusively do when we implement NAV for the first time at our businesses. Change is the norm in business, and I would be genuinely surprised to hear from anyone at this point that their business has not changed significantly in the last five years. So for finance and IT professionals, what changes when the business changes? Reporting requirements!
For NAV, that means opportunity for using dimensions differently or to add new dimensions. Hopefully you are happy with your global dimensions, the two most important dimensions for your company, and you’re ready to add some shortcut dimensions so you can expand your reporting capabilities. There are four main things you should keep in mind when adding a shortcut dimension.
1) Keep in mind timing and financial cutoff. If you choose to start collecting data on a new dimension today and today falls in the middle of a fiscal period, you’re going to create a disconnect in your financial data where you have data with the new dimension value and data with the blank dimension value in the same period. Don’t do it. Find out when the end of the fiscal period is, and start gathering the new data starting with the start of the new fiscal period. This doesn’t have to be the year-end, it could be a month, or whatever period you have at your company, but do take the time to plan this out, your finance department will thank you later.
2) Know that collecting a new dimension will not magically attach to your historic data. Assigning dimension data to your item or customer or vendor only begins the collection of that data on any new transactions generated since you assigned the dimension data. There is nothing out there that will magically attach this new requirement to old historic data. There are ways to go back and change the historic data, but this is generally beyond what you want to do manually. Involve someone experienced in SQL or call your partner for some help with this. And for goodness sakes, try this in a test system first. It’s always good to do a practice run on this kind of change, and should be mandatory if you’re planning to change a large amount of data. Remember that in many cases, it is perfectly ok to collect new data without catching up the history. Only you can decide what you need for your reporting.
3) Don’t abandon your pending data. Don’t forget there are things out there you created prior to assigning that new shortcut dimension. Sales orders, purchase orders, transfer orders and any other type of form that may be in process at the time you defined that new dimension will need to be caught up to the new requirements. If you forget this, NAV will remind you by throwing a dimension error when you, or your colleagues, try to post those documents to the system.
4) Consistency is the key. Make sure you set up this new dimension with the same level of consistency you’ve used with your other dimensions. Start with your master data, but follow through by adding the safety net of the chart of accounts, and remember to incorporate your choice of value postings.
Now that you know you can view dimensions on postings and in financial reporting though account schedules, let me show you how you can utilize dimensions in budgets. NAV budgets opens up a few more possibilities for you where dimensions are concerned. Take a look at this screen shot, using the classic client, that shows clearly what the available dimensions are in budgets.
If you look at the left side, you can see the persistent global dimensions of Department and Project which the test database for Cronus uses. Just like all areas of NAV, global dimensions are available everywhere, even in budgets. On the right hand side, you can actually see four more dimensions. These are shortcut dimensions and if you count, you can see you’ve got a total of six dimensions available with NAV budgets to use for your planning process. As long as you budget for a dimension then you can report actual versus budgeted against that dimension.
In addition, you can also see there is a field called business unit filter, which I’ve always counted on as a “bonus” dimension. This field becomes useful when you have multiple companies in NAV and use them to consolidate your financial statements. I’ve got a very simple setup where I have two companies and a consolidation company. When I consolidate my statements monthly, and when I load my budgets, I designate the business unit filter for each of the two companies so I can report on them individually as well as together, on a consolidated level. Because I use separate companies with the business unit filter I don’t need to use a dimension to designate company for my financial statements.
Keep reading this month as we continue our series, 15 Days of NAV Dimensions.
Inevitably, once you’ve dipped your toe into the world of dimensions, the next thing you’re going to want to know about is the difference between global and shortcut dimensions.
Global dimensions are the two most important dimensions you can choose because global dimensions are the most accessible from anywhere in NAV. They are posted with every transaction you have attached them to, right along side the data, and you can see them on every form as an available choice without having to do anything special. You can see them right along with all your other data in forms (like a sales order or purchase invoice), in journals, in posted history, and global dimensions are even available for selection in every canned NAV report.
A common misconception about global dimensions is that they must be department and project. This simply isn’t so, and in my opinion, is an old holdover from thousands and thousands of NAV demos that use the CRONUS database, where the globals they have used as their demo example are department and project.
The global dimensions your company chooses should be the two most important things your company needs to report on when looking at your financial data. If your company is very customer-centric, maybe one of those globals should be customer related. As an example, if your company groups their customers by wholesale or retail, and uses this designation as a major reporting category when looking at your sales each month (or each day!), you may want to choose this “customergroup” as one of your global dimensions.
If your company is very inventory-centric, maybe one of those globals should be item related. My company has a large number of SKUS, so we find it absolutely essential to relate our global dimensions to our inventory items in order to make sense out of our sales data. We’ve designated a global dimension called PGC or product group category to allow us to group our large list of items into smaller groupings that are easier to digest when we produce reports. In addition, we also use a global dimension called edition that has a one to one relationship with each item we sell. With these two global dimensions, we can look at our sales by large group of items as well as item by item. This comes in mighty handy when it’s time to evaluate gross margin. We can get a macro and a micro view of what’s going on with our gross margin without having to do a lot of digging into the data.
You may have an even different emphasis on what your company needs to monitor. I’ve seen lots of companies who depend heavily on their dimension reporting to allow them to monitor what is going on per salesperson or territory or region. Spend a good amount of time talking this over with your company stakeholders. What really matters? What should you be looking at? Remember too, that just because you are reporting on one measure right now doesn’t mean it’s the right measure to be reporting on in the future. Figure out what those two most important things are, and designate them as your global dimensions.
Shortcut dimensions are what you’ll begin to use once you realize that two dimensions simply aren’t enough! The single largest limitation to shortcut dimensions is that they are not as readily available as global dimensions. They do not have those two designated always there fields that the globals hold. Technically, you can have an unlimited number of dimensions in total, but shortcut dimensions are special because they are more reachable. By designating a dimension as a shortcut dimension, you are making that dimension available as a choice on your forms ((like a sales order or purchase invoice), in journals, in posted history, and in every canned NAV report. The trick is that they don’t show up automatically, and you’ll need to go to the show column area on your forms and purposefully choose them for use the first time.
When you’re looking at posted history, you’ll need to use a new trick to see shortcut dimensions. As an example, choose some transactions from your chart of accounts. You’ll be on the general ledger entry table. Now choose entry and g/l dimension overview. You’ll now get a view that looks like what I’ve pasted below, showing all your shortcut dimensions as well as the global dimensions.
Another perspective on shortcut dimensions is one of efficiency. You will always want to set up a dimension as a shortcut if your end users need to access the field in order to enter or change data on a regular basis. An example of this from my company is our shortcut dimension, team. For all expense accounts, we designate a team in order to track who incurred that expense. My accounts payable person must enter that information for every expense related invoice because the computer simply can’t be trained to make all the decisions she must make in order to determine whose team gets the expense. Team is a shortcut dimension for us because she can set that field up on every form she uses so it is available for her to use for data entry right on the form, keeping her from having to go anywhere else to enter that information.
Keep reading this month as we continue our series, 15 Days of NAV Dimensions.