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It’s the Little Things: Small Enhancements to the User Experience in Dynamics 365 Business Central

This article will not take you through a list of snazzy new features that are going to be introduced as part of the 2020 wave 2 release for Dynamics 365 Business Central. That is going to be tackled by my colleague Teagen Boll over in this article. Think of my piece here as the Robin, the overenthusiastic sidekick, to Teagen’s Batman.  I will instead get you just as excited I am about these three quality of life (cough minor cough) improvements. This is an ode to Microsoft’s continued attention to detail, the little things in life.

1. Intuitive Menu Bar Labelling

When I first got my hands-on Business Central, I was perplexed by the word Navigate popping up in many different places on the menu bar of pages.  It seemed like a full-on Navigation-ception.

All pages in Business Central have a menu bar that have buttons and actions specific to the objects on the page. The menu bar is divided into 2 sections:


  1. Promoted action menus
  2. Action bar

For example, the customer card page currently has two Navigate buttons. The first Navigate in the promoted section has a subset of the buttons that exist in the Navigate in the Action Bar. That is true for all menu buttons in the promoted section.

1st Navigate button compared to the 2nd Navigate button

It gets even more confusing on posted document pages. Let’s look the at the Posted Sales Invoice menu bar.

The difference between what the different Navigate buttons allow you to do are:

  1. 1st Navigate – Navigate to the related customer card
  2. 2nd Navigate – Navigate to other information related to that specific posted invoice. For example, this is how you will go to the statistics page and the comments page.
  3. 3rd Navigate – Takes you to the page linking the general ledger entries, customer subledger entries related to the posted sales invoice.

You get the drift. Navigate, navigate, navigate. Ironically, labelling the buttons with the same word repeatedly does not make for intuitive navigation in and around Business Central. End-users and consultants alike have been vocal about this to Microsoft and the company have heeded the critiques.

With the coming of the 2020 wave 2 release, the action menus have gotten a facelift, a Navigate-lift.

The equivalency is:

At the end of the day, any kind of change, especially the kind that involves migrating onto a new ERP system, can have a steep learning curve. I am positive that this simple labelling change on the menu bar will get new users climbing that steep curve and get to improving business efficiency sooner than before.

2. Longer Item References

Item references have been around for a while in Business Central. It is there for the simple fact that the items that your customers and vendors use to reference the items that you transact with have different IDs in someone else’s system. If you had setup an item reference for your vendor, purchase documents with that item will show the vendor’s item reference number as well. This is one of the many ways in which Business Central speaks seamlessly with your partner’s information system.

So, what has changed here? After the 2020 wave 2 release, you will be able to setup longer, much longer, texts as item reference numbers. The character limit is increasing from 20 to 50, including spaces and special characters. It is a whole new world (ala Aladdin and Jasmine singing on a magic carpet).

This improvement was introduced since there is an increasing trend for the Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) system to use barcode IDs longer than 20 characters.

Let’s look at this upgrade in action. Firstly, navigate to the Items list page.

From here, click on Item > Item References button.

This will take you the Item Reference Entries page for this Item. I already have a Vendor’s ID for the item setup as a Reference No.

Let’s zoom into each of these fields on the page one-by-one.

1. Reference Type: A pre-defined dropdown field that defines the who or the what of the reference number you want to setup.

2. Reference Type No: Depending on which option you choose in Reference Type, this field will show you different options. Having chosen Vendor as the Type, I see the list of vendors as options to choose from

3. Reference No: The star of the show! This is the text field that you will enter the ID that vendor 10000 uses for this Item in their system.

4. Variant Code

We are getting a bit more granular here. The end-users can set up different variants for the item, based on color or size of the traded item. I have setup SMALL and LARGE as variants for this item. You can add a new variant here by clicking New in the dropdown.

5. Description

This is a free-form text field where you define the item’s description specific to the reference no. Here I am using the default value, which is the description of the item.

6. Discontinue Bar Code

A checkbox that lets the system know to deprecate a Bar Code reference no.

Let’s see how this behaves on a document page. Navigate the Purchase Orders list page. Click New.

  1. On the Purchase Order document card page, select the Vendor we created our item reference no. for.
  2. On the lines, choose the Item that we created a reference no for.
  3. Click on the 3 dots in the Item Reference No. column cell.

This will take you to the Item Reference List for the Vendor. At the very top, we see the one that we just created. Select it and click OK.

Now back at the document page, click on the Print/Send button of the menu bar and select Print.

The dialog on the left will pop-up. Go with these default values and click Preview.

Voila! The long item reference no. for the Armless swivel chair order shows up on the PO printout that we can physically send our vendor.

3. Track Packages on More Sales Documents

With each upgrade, Microsoft gets us closer us to a more complete view of our business activities in one place. With this upgrade, we can now track our packages directly from more posted sales documents, including posted sales invoices, credit memos and return receipts.

Let’s first set up the URLs for the shipping agents we use to ship packages. Navigate to the Shipping Agents page by Clicking on the Search icon on the top right corner. Then type in Shipping Agents in the search bar.

Fill in the following fields.

Click on Related > Line > Shipping Agent Services. On this page, you can set up the different services that the agent offers.

To track the package from a posted sales invoice, we must fill out some fields on a sales invoice document page. On a sales invoice page, fill out the necessary fields on the header and lines.

Then scroll down to the Shipping and Billing FastTab.

Fill out the fields in the Shipment Method section. Now you are ready to post the sucker. From the menu bar at the very top of the page, click Posting > Post. Click Yes on the pop-up dialog asking if you want to open the posted document.

On the posted sales invoice page, click on Process > Track Package.

Clicking the button will take us to the FedEx package tracking website. Unfortunately, it will not automatically fill in the tracking number. You can copy and paste your Package Tracking Number from the field on the posted invoice to the FedEx webpage.

I want to conclude our journey through these quality of life improvements to be released as part of the 2020 wave 2 upgrade by talking about the Ideas forum. It is a community forum where users, analysts and admins can freely submit ideas for product improvements for the Business Central application (and many other Microsoft applications as well).

Microsoft’s incorporation of community ideas for product improvement is often one of the lesser known and talked about benefits of being a user of Business Central. All three of the upgrades highlighted in this article come from some sort of user feedback. The tracking packages on more sales documents improvement came from an Idea submitted by a user and it only had 8 votes!

The forum and Microsoft’s responsiveness to the forum reflects their product management and design philosophy deeply rooted in human design and end-user satisfaction. It provides me and my clients with the confidence that Business Central will continue to evolve to an even more intuitive and a powerful solution.

Got questions about Business Central? Contact us directly and one of our ERP experts will get back to you.

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