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Part 1: What are Dimensions in Business Central and How Should You Use Them?

Everyone who looks into Business Central or works with Business Central has heard the term ‘Dimensions’. That doesn’t mean they make sense.

Along with The Chart of Accounts and Posting Groups, Dimensions could be considered part of the backbone of this ERP system. They are a huge feature, with fantastic capabilities and one of the biggest reasons some of our clients chose to go for Business Central. But what are they?

For me, the simplest way to explain Dimensions is that they are a categorization or data tag that can be associated with your financial entries in the system. Yet, their uses and benefits expand so much further than that. In this blog I will try to make sense of the basics for you. Things like what Dimensions look like, how to set them up and how to use them. Stay with me as this one will be a little more basic and functional and I will follow this up with additional blogs on some of the expanded uses which are where the real benefits of Dimensions come in to play. This will go into things like how to use Dimensions to restrict and control postings in Business Central, as well as how using Dimensions hugely enhances your reporting capabilities.

Deciding on your Dimensions is the most important and first step. This comes down to how you want to break down and categorize your financial data. The key to this is you can apply multiple Dimensions to an entry. Common Dimensions are Department, Division, Event, Season, Region and the list goes on.

Once you decide on this, you can then create Dimension Values to go with each Dimension. Dimension Values are the sub categorization of the Dimension. For example, the actual Departments, like Admin, Operations etc.

Let’s put some context to this to keep everyone interested. In this example, we are working with an event company. They have Dimensions of Department, Region and Event Type. Each of these Dimensions have several Dimension Values that go with these. From here, we’ll say we get a Purchase Invoice from a Vendor for setup costs. When we input this Purchase Invoice into Business Central, we can now specify that this type of Invoice is related to Operations (Dimension Value under Department), we can specify that these setup costs were for a Concert (Dimension Value under Event Type) and we can specify that the event took place in BC (Dimension Value under Region).

Now that we have gone through what Dimensions are, the rest of this piece will be a more functional. Below is further information on how to set up Dimensions, Dimensions Values and how to enter these Dimensions on entries.

To set up Dimensions:

• Open the Search function (ALT + Q or magnifying glass in the top right) and type ‘Dimensions’.
• Once the Page below opens, enter your desired Dimensions on each line and fill out the relevant details to the right.

Once you have your Dimensions set up, you can add the Dimension Values to these.

To do this:

• From the Dimensions page mentioned above, select the Dimension you want to create a Dimension Value for.
• Click dimension then click ‘Dimension Values’.
• Once the Dimension Values page opens, add your desired Dimension Values to each line, just as we did when creating the Dimensions above.

The last configuration step is to add the Dimensions to our General Ledger Setup.

• Search ‘General Ledger Entries’
• On the Menu, click ‘General’ and then click ‘Change Global Dimensions’.
• On this page, enter your main two Dimensions.
• Click Sequential, then click ‘Start’.

Once you have set the Global Dimensions:

• Click back to the General Ledger Setup page.
• Scroll down to the Dimensions fast tab.
• In the Shortcut Dimension cells, enter the remaining key Dimensions.

Finally, let’s enter the Purchase Invoice we used as an example above.

• Search (or use the Purchasing menu on your Role Centre) for ‘Purchase Invoices’.
• Click ‘New’
• Fill out the appropriate vendor details.
• On the purchase line, we will enter the G/L Account or Service Item number for ‘Setup Costs’.
• Now, enter your purchase line details (Qty, Amount, Tax etc).
• As you scroll left, you will now see your Dimension columns showing up on the far right of the purchase lines. Here you can now select the Appropriate Dimension Values to go with this entry.

Now, this information is going to flow through Business Central with the financial data of this entry. The next steps of what we do with this information is where the benefit to business insight comes in. Follow along in the next blog to see where we go from here!

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