Dimensions in Dynamics 365 Business Central

Dimensions in Dynamics 365 Business Central make it simpler to perform all kinds of analysis and reporting in your business. This blog defines the terms Dimension and Dimension Value, explains how to best set up your Dimensions, and shows how to use them for insights in reports.

We’ll also explain some best practices and common pitfalls for this important feature of Business Central.

Table of Contents

What Is a Dimension?

Dimensions in Business Central are used to group, or categorize, data for the purpose of analysis. A Dimension is the term used in Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central to define attributes and values that label entries so you can track and analyze them. Dimensions consist of Dimension Values: a “subcategory” or a “tag” attached to data. A Dimension can consist of any amount of Dimension Values.

For example, if a company sells products to different countries, an example of a Dimension would be “Area,” and the Dimension Values could be “Canada,” “Cuba,” “France,” etc. Another example of a Dimension would be “Product” and its Dimension Values could be “Fresh vegetables,” “Frozen vegetables,” “Fresh fruits,” “Frozen fruits,” “Dried fruits,” and so on.

Example dimensions listed in Business Central: Area, Customer Group, and Department

The basic structure of Dimensions and Dimension Values is like this:

Dimension 1

  • Dimension Value A
  • Dimension Value B
  • Dimension Value C

Dimension 2

  • Dimension Value D
  • Dimension Value E
  • Dimension Value F
  • Dimension Value G

Dimension 3

  • Dimension Value H
  • Dimension Value I
  • …etc.

Types of Dimensions in Dynamics 365 Business Central

There are two principal types of Dimensions in D365 Business Central: Global and Shortcut. Each of these Dimension types are explained below.

Global Dimensions

Global Dimensions are the two most important Dimensions for a company. Global Dimensions are located in the same database table as your master records. This means that they are viewable for use to make reporting easier throughout the entire system (i.e., Financial Reports, Batch Jobs, and GL entries). Global Dimensions can also be used to report on critical data for Customers, Vendors, Items, Resources, and Jobs, along with being used as additional fields on purchase and sales documents.

You can only have 2 Global Dimensions, so it’s important to carefully consider which ones you’ll use, and get input from your Dynamics Partner during the implementation process.

Example of a Global Dimension

If a company sells fruits and vegetables, an example of two Global Dimensions could be as mentioned above:

  • Product (e.g., Fresh vegetables, Frozen vegetables, Fresh fruits, Frozen fruits)
  • Area (e.g., North, South, East, West)

These Global Dimensions would allow that company’s staff to use a quick filter on the Chart of Accounts to break down an amount by Product and/or by Area.

Shortcut Dimensions

Shortcut Dimensions are categories which facilitate financial, inventory, production, and other analyses. Unlike Global Dimensions, Shortcut Dimensions are not as easily viewable for reporting. However, they are only a few clicks away, and they can be assigned directly to journals, sales/purchase lines, or even to master data (e.g., Customers, Vendors, Items).

Something to keep in mind is that certain areas of Business Central will only allow a limited number of Dimensions at the same time. For example, only 4 Shortcut Dimensions can be used per Analysis View — to use another Dimensions you would have to create another Analysis View.

The total number of Shortcut Dimensions you can have is unlimited. However, the more Dimensions you have, the more convoluted the analysis process gets. The recommended maximum number of Shortcut Dimensions is 6.

Example of a Shortcut Dimension

If a company sells fruits and vegetables, there may be other data points you want to track besides product type and area. For instance:

  • Sale (e.g., Retail, Wholesale, Direct-to-Consumer)
  • Brand (e.g., ACME Foods, Contoso Fresh Market)

Dimensions Are Flexible

It is important to note that Dimensions are flexible. How many Shortcut Dimensions to create, what they should be, and which Dimensions to assign as Global are up to each individual company. It is possible to create new Shortcut Dimensions at any time and to add more (or remove/block existing) Dimension Values. Global Dimensions can be changed too; however, depending on the size of a database, this operation can take a long time to complete and will slow down the system while the change is being made.

The rules regarding when to create and use Dimensions and Dimension Values are set by individual companies depending on their business needs. However, it may be best to talk to an experienced Dynamics Partner before making major changes to a large database.

How to Create Dimensions

Search “Dimensions” and select the related link.

In the ribbon, click “New.”

Enter your Code and the remaining fields will populate accordingly. You can change the Name to provide a better description of what the Code stands for if needed. For example, the Code could be DEPT and the Name could be Department.

To assign Values to that Dimension, make sure you click on the line of the Dimension you want to view/create values for, then, in the ribbon, click Dimension > Dimension Values.

To make your Dimensions more in depth for reporting purposes, you can even select different “Value Types,” similar to the Chart of Accounts. To keep the reporting simple, select Standard for them all.

Values and Value Types for the Area Dimension in Business Central

Assigning Global and Shortcut Dimensions

Search “General Ledger Setup” and select the related link. In the ribbon, click on Home → Change Global Dimensions. This is where you can select the two Global Dimensions that you would like to be the main Dimensions for your company. Remember, Global Dimensions are more available/viewable on many different pages and documents – Shortcut Dimensions can still be utilized, but they are not as easily accessible.

On the General Ledger Setup page, there is a Dimension Fast Tab section where you can select up to 6 of your Shortcut Dimensions. Again, the number of Dimensions varies for each individual company and their business.

The Dimension Fast Tab, showing Global and Shortcut Dimensions selected

Set Default Dimensions Within Existing Accounts

Dimensions can be manually selected, or you can set up one, or multiple, default Dimensions within an Item Card, Customer Card, or the Chart of Accounts. For instance, every time you sell a product or create an invoice for a particular customer, it will automatically be related to the Dimension and/or Dimension Value you applied to it.

For this example, we’ll set up a default Dimension in a Customer Card. Within the Customer Card, in the ribbon, click on Customer > Dimensions. Select the Dimension Code you want to associate with the customer and follow the rules below to complete the default Dimension setup.

The dropdown on the Value Posting column, showing the options Code Mandatory, Same Code, and No Code
  • Blank: Indicates there are no restrictions on what can or cannot be selected.
  • Code Mandatory: Requires a value, but you will leave the Dimension Value Code column blank. This allows the user to input what value they want at the time of the entry.
    • You could create a subset of certain Dimension Values that the user can choose from by entering the options in the Allowed Values Filter column.
  • Same Code: A value is entered in the Dimension Value Code column and that value will always be the one assigned.
  • No Code: Blocks the value entered in the Dimension Value Code column from being used.

Dimensions for the Chart of Accounts

Dimensions can be especially helpful when used in the Chart of Accounts to help streamline a company’s accounts and reduce the need to set up or maintain separate accounts for different departments or projects. Within the Chart of Accounts, you can set up Dimensions with the same rules and logic as shown above. However, unlike Items or Customers where you set up default Dimensions within the Cards, you will set up Dimensions in individual accounts.

On the Chart of Accounts page, in the case of Expenses, you may want to look at all spending via the Department Dimension. So you would require every entry that gets posted to an expense account to have some department applied.

To set up multiple lines at once, highlight all Expense accounts. In the Navigation Pane, click Account > Dimensions – Multiple. You will then select “DEPT” as the ‘Dimension Code’ and “Code Mandatory” as the ‘Value Posting’.

Tip: You can set up multiple lines by highlighting and selecting Dimensions – Multiple in the ribbon on any list page that you want to have the same Dimension(s) for.

Using “Code Mandatory” means that, when someone tries to post anything under an Expense account for instance, they will not be able to post unless a Dimension Value is selected; in this case, they would need to choose a department. We often recommend having a Mandatory Dimension like “Department,” because it makes for cleaner financial statements across the company.

Set Default Dimensions for Future Accounts

Let’s say you have set up all the Dimensions with your current accounts, such as your Items or Customers, but what about the new accounts you’ll create later? You can plan ahead at the time of implementation, and set up a default Dimension requirement, making it mandatory to have a Dimension Value when trying to post a certain type of account.

To do this, search “Dimensions” and select the related link. Click on the Dimension line that you want to set up. In the ribbon, click Dimension > Account Type Default Dim. Select the three dots in the Table ID field; this will open a page where you will need to select the Table ID for the list of pages (aka tables) that are valid for use with the Default Dimension function. Once a Table ID is selected, it will direct you back to the Account Type Default Dim page where you can also select the Dimension Value Code.

You should only enter a Value Code here if you know that every post with this account should be of that specific value. Otherwise, you should leave this field blank for the user to choose on a case-by-case basis. In that case, though, we should usually select Code Mandatory under the Value Posting column. This will require that a Dimension Value be selected before posting, but which Value will be at the user’s discretion.

Reporting With Dimensions

Analyzing data by Dimensions can give you greater insight into your business. It allows you to evaluate information and the progress of your company, such as how well your business is operating, where it is thriving, and where it is not. The more Dimensions you use, the more complex of an analysis you can create.

Below are a few helpful reports you can view based on your Dimensions. Search the name of the report for the results you’re wanting to see:

Trial Balance, per Global Dimension

  • Select the Global Dimension you want to report on.
  • Select the columns/toggles you’re interested in.
  • Add a date filter.
  • This shows each of the Dimension Values in the top left corner and the results with all transactions associated to that Dimension Value.
The Administration, Production, and Sales Trial Balances

Trial Balance, Spread by Global Dimension:

  • Select the Global Dimension you want.
  • Select the columns/toggles you’re interested in.
  • Add a date filter.
  • This shows the transactional data comparison between each Dimension Value in separate columns, on the same page.

One thing to note is that these columns won’t necessarily add up to the total, because there may be transactions that don’t have one of the dimensions associated with that entry.

Read more on Trial Balances in Business Central.

The Department Trial Balance

Analysis Views

  • In this report, you have the ability to drill down into the information.
  • Select the line of the view you want to run.
  • In the ribbon, select Analysis by Dimensions.
  • In the General Fast Tab, the Show as Columns field can be changed to the dimension you want to see.
  • In the Filters Fast Tab – You can select a specific Dimension Value that you want to see.
    • If you want to view them all at once, just leave the field blank.
  • In the ribbon, click Show Matrix.
    • This shows the account values spread out by Dimension and has the ability for you to drill down and see the underlying transactions.

Read more on setting up Analysis View in Business Central.

Block or Limit Dimension Combinations

Certain Dimension combinations may be contradictory or irrelevant, depending on your business. Business Central allows you to block or limit specific combinations of Dimensions to help avoid those.

To do this, search “Dimension Combination” and select the related link. There are rows and columns of your Dimensions, providing all possibilities that could potentially be selected. Click on the line under the row and column of Dimensions you want to limit or block. If you choose “Limited,” click on the word link and it will bring you to a page where you can specify the Dimension Value combinations you want limitations on.

Tip: Depending on how you set up your Dimension and Dimension Value Codes, it may be helpful to enable the Show Column Name toggle so you can view the full code name

Learning More about Dimensions

As you can see, there are many ways to utilize Dimensions in Dynamics 365 Business Central. The actions highlighted above are just a few ways Dimensions can enrich your experience for reporting and data analysis within your company. For more information, you may find these resources helpful.

Watch this recorded webinar for a complete walkthrough on how to use and set up dimensions in Dynamics 365 Business Central:

For Dynamics 365 advice, support, and implementations tailored to your specific needs, please feel free to contact us.

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