In today’s business echo system businesses must collect & aggregate tera bytes of data, run analyses, and use reporting to monitor their critical success factors (CSFs) and key performance indicators (KPIs). Identifying data collection points and data entities that truly reflect CSFs or KPIs is crucial for generating meaningful insights for informed decision making. Modern ERP systems have built-in artificially intelligent (AI) routines which can unveil intelligent insights and uncover the unknown-unknowns when applied to aggregated data.

For example, Inventory management is a trade-off between customer service and managing the cost of a business. On one hand, a low inventory requires less working capital, but, on the other hand, stock-outs potentially lead to missed sales. The Sales and Inventory Forecast extension in the cloud version of MS Dynamics 365 Business Central ERP uses Azure AI service, is configurable,  and predicts potential sales using historical data and gives a clear overview of expected stock-outs. Based on the forecast, the extension helps create replenishment requests to vendors and saves the time for the company.


Similarly, the Intelligent Cloud Insights page in the Business Central ERP shows key points of interest for most businesses i.e.:

  • Cash availability
  • Sales profitability
  • Net income
  • Inventory value

Next to the KPI charts, one can get insights into potential areas of concern, including overdue payments. Selecting each insight allows to drill into the data. The page also connects to Power BI for even more insightsand optionally, can connect to Azure AI for even more intelligent insights.

In case one prefers to use business intelligence tools that are not embedded in Business Central, they can analyse data with their own Power BI resource, analyse financial statements with Excel, export data to a data warehouse or a data lake, or read Business Central data using it’s API from other applications

Using Dimensions for Financial Business Intelligence:

As discussed above businesses capture a tremendous amount of data during daily activities, which include an organization’s sales figures, purchases, operational expenses, employee salaries, and budgets which represents valuable information for decision makers. Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central ERP contains many features to help gather, analyse, and share a company’s data for actionable insights and one such functionality is the use of ‘Dimensions’.

The Dimensions functionality plays an important role in business intelligence. Dimensions are values that categorize entries so one can track and analyze them on documents, such as sales orders. Dimensions can, for example, indicate the project or department from which an entry came from. Therefore, instead of setting up separate general ledger accounts for each department and project, one can use dimensions as a basis for analysis and avoid a complicated chart of accounts.

An example is to set up a dimension called Department, then use that dimension when a sales document is posted. This way, one can use business intelligence tools to see which department sold which items.

The more dimensions are used, the more detailed are the reports and hence better informed business decisions. As an example, a single sales entry can include information from multiple dimensions, such as:

  • The account the item sale was posted to.
  • Where the item was sold.
  • Who sold it.
  • Which customer bought it.

Business Central allows setting two types of dimensions i.e., Global and Shortcut dimensions. There can be up to two global dimensions therefore most often used dimensions shall be selected as global dimensions. There can be up to eight global dimensions which when set, can be used on journals, document lines and ledger entries.

Dimensions can be set for customers, vendors, and other accounts, they can have default values, made mandatory, blocked for certain combinations, and have priority assigned. This article on Microsoft’s learning website explains working with dimensions in detail.  

Credits: This blog post is created using materials published by Microsoft® for marketing and training purposes. 

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