Diving into Microsoft Dynamics GP 2018: 6 areas of community-driven enhancements

February 12 2018

Microsoft Dynamics GP 2018 RTM was released in December 2017 and from December onwards I have been writing a series taking an in depth hands on look at the new features introduced by Microsoft in the Feature of the Day posts from November.

One thing that has caught my eye in Dynamics GP 2018 (and other recent versions) is how much of the new functionality has been driven by customers and partners requests via the (now retired and migrated) Microsoft Connect website. This site allowed users and partners to log suggestions for improvement. Over the years I've logged a number of suggestions with Microsoft which have been included in the next update, and this time was no different. I can lay claim to a couple of the Workflow enhancements (copying Workflow steps and the new POP Invoice workflow).

What's especially good is that Microsoft is taking the suggestions and putting some thought into how the functionality can be improved from the basic suggestion. For example, in the original suggestion I logged on MS Connect, I asked for the ability to copy a Workflow step; Microsoft took this suggestion and extended it further. Not only does the copy function copy the selected step, but it also copies all of the child steps as well. This goes much further than my original suggestion, but makes the enhancement so much better.

Improvements in Dynamics GP 2018 RTM can be broken down into several key groupings that will be explored in this article:

  1. Document Attachment
  2. Workflow
  3. Purchase Order Processing
  4. Payment Runs
  5. User Interface
  6. Reporting

DocAttach

The Document Attachment (DocAttach) function was first introduced in Microsoft Dynamics GP 2013 and then replaced OLE Notes throughout Dynamics GP in 2013 R2 and has continued to see additional improvements in versions since (including integration with Workflow in Dynamics GP 2015 R2).

Dynamics GP 2018 RTM has seen a number of Doc Attach improvements which include the introduction of DocAttach on the action pane of seven additional windows:

  1. General Ledger Transaction Entry
  2. Receivables Transaction Entry
  3. Asset General Information
  4. Employee Entry
  5. I-9 Form (Payroll)
  6. Journal Entry Inquiry
  7. Payables Transaction Entry Zoom
  8. Receivables Transaction Entry Zoom

In the case of the inquiry windows, it isn't just the ability to view attachments which is new, but you can also add attachments via the inquiry windows (provided you enable the function in Document Attachment Setup).

I do like the ability to add new attachments to posted transactions via the inquiry windows, but I don't really see the benefit to the separate security. None of the clients I have spoken to would not want the function enabled and none see the need to have a password set to restrict the ability.

Workflow

Workflow is one of my favourite parts of Microsoft Dynamics GP and one I am always delighted to see enhanced; especially when the enhancement is the introduction of new workflow types.

Dynamics GP 2018 RTM has seen the introduction of three new workflow types:

  1. General Ledger Account Approval
  2. Receivings Transaction Approval
  3. Purchasing Invoice Approval

Most clients have their systems locked down so that access to the Account Maintenance window is restricted only to those who are allowed to create accounts, so the General Ledger Account workflow is going to be of limited utility (that said we did create a custom approval for account changes for a client a year or so ago so there is a need), but the two new Purchase Order Processing workflows have been asked for by several clients and prospects.

The creation of workflow processes can be quite involved and sometimes very repetitive; one of the other enhancements to workflow, is the ability to copy workflow steps. This is one of my MS Connect suggestions to Microsoft for improvements to workflow; my suggestion was only for the ability to copy a step, but Microsoft took this suggestion to the next level and included functionality to copy all child steps of the selected step as well. This makes the copy so much more useful.

For one client, we had to create over 30 first level steps for a purchase order approval workflow where the step condition included the cost centre segment of the account string, and each of these first level steps then had several child steps with value checks which controlled which level of management would need to approve the transaction. This was a long manual job, but this copy function will allow the first level step to be copied, renamed and amended quickly and easily.

To improve usability for users, workflow reminder emails have been added; these reminders can be configured with a time before they will be sent to the approver. For example, if a document is submitted and has an 8 hour approval time, you could set the reminder email to be sent after 6 hours. In addition, additional fields have been made available.

Two of the workflow types have had extra fields added where they available in both the Workflow Condition Editor and Message Setup windows allowing you to build workflow steps and notification emails with them:

Two other workflow types have had the Account Description made available at the line level. These two workflow types are:

  • Purchase Order
  • Purchase Requisition

While it is good to see the additional fields made available, it would have been better if Microsoft had added functionality which allowed users to determine for themselves which fields were available on the notification emails.

The final improvement to workflow is the introduction of a Workflow History report which can be filtered by the following fields:

  • Workflow type
  • Workflow approvers
  • Workflow status
  • Approval date

I've created a fair few workflow reports since the feature was launched, but, while it is good to see any report available for Workflow History, it would have been nice to see this report as a SmartList, refreshable Excel or Reporting Services report, as I know that clients will want to export it to Excel and standard reports aren;t very good for this.

Purchase Order Processing

The Purchase Order Processing (POP) module is very closely related to the workflow module, to the extent it is a rare POP project which doesn't see approval workflows being created, so it is nice to see that POP has received its share of enhancements in Dynamics GP 2018.

The first of the enhancements is the display of the Purchase Order Transactions navigation list when a purchase requisition is purchased. While this does improve visibility, it would be nice to able to switch this off, as not all clients allow the requisitioner to view or interact with purchase orders so won't benefit from seeing this navigation list.

The second POP enhancement is an update to the Requisitions List on the Procurement section of the Dynamics GP home page, which now has a Purchase Order column allowing the requisitioner to see at a glance which requisitions have had a purchase order generated.

The third amendment to POP, is the ability to print a purchase requisition. I have somewhat mixed feelings on this one. Yes, it is good that users can print the requisition to see that it has been created correctly, but it looks too much like a purchase order and I have some concerns that it is too similar.

Everyone I know who uses purchase requisitions also has a requisition workflow; giving users access to a report for requisitions, which looks so similar to a PO, is dangerous.

Payment Runs

In contrary to my feelings on the enhancements in POP, the enhancements to Payables Management are all very welcome.

The most welcome enhancement is the renaming of the payment run windows (a change requested by MVP Mariano Gomez).

Select Checks (or Cheques in the UK and other non-US countries) has become Build Payment Batch, Post Checks has become Post Payments and so on. EFT are very much the majority of my clients with very, very, few of them still printing checks.

In addition to this, Build Payment Batch has seen two further enhancements. Firstly, you can now save a Payment Option; this is a set of restrictions applied to the build process. Allowing you to save this, can speed the time it takes to build the payment run.

For example, if you build a payment batch using a restriction on Payment Priority and Vendor Class, you can now save this restriction. It would be nice if the Due Date could be a relative rather than specific date; being able to set Third Thursday of the month for example instead of setting it to 15th February.

The second setting which impacts on Build Payment Batch is the ability to make one payment per vendor or invoice setting on the Vendor Maintenance card. Dynamics GP always had the ability to select to make one payment per vendor or invoice, but this was selected when building the batch and was for all vendors in the batch. The new option has been added as the default and is to use the new setting on the Vendor Maintenance card.

Microsoft have also added the ability to sort some of the inquiry windows:

  • Payables Transaction Inquiry - Vendor
  • Payables Transaction Inquiry - Document
  • Receivables Transaction Inquiry - Customer
  • Receivables Transaction Inquiry - Document
  • Select Bank Transactions

This is a well overdue feature which clients have been calling out for now for a long time. A few fields, such as Date, are now available in a drop down for the user to select from and they can also set Ascending or Descending so it is now very easy to get a chronological listing of the transactions.

User Interface

If you've ever done setup of security in Dynamics GP with a system password set, then you're going to love this next feature. The system password is now remembered for the session. That's right, once you've entered the system password once, it is remembered until you log out of Microsoft Dynamics GP; this will save so much so much effort typing the password in as you switch between security maintenance windows.

The web client has seen three enhancements to the user interface to make it easier to use:

  1. A new SmartList button has been added next to the User Date in the top right corner of the window; so instead of digging down into the Administration area page, you can simply flick your mouse to the top of the screen and click SmartList.
  2. Autocomplete functionality has been made available to the web client in the same way it is in the desktop client.
  3. The Select Bank transactions window has been updated to maximize vertically to make as many transactions as possible visible.

Reporting

The final area of Dynamics GP which has seen enhancements is the reporting, with two improvements.

I'll start with the one I am most disappointed with: the ability to "email" a single customer statement. When the feature of the day was announced, I said I'd wait to see how it worked as the screenshot didn't show an Email button, but a Print button. Unfortunately, my skepticism has been justified. Rather than allowing the email of a Word template version of the report, the print button launches the old standard report version of the statement. The email is done using a MAPI connection and sends what is usually a rough looking standard report rather than a shiny Word template.

Secondly, there has been a change to the SmartList password protection released in Dynamics GP 2016 R2. When this functionality was announced, I said I didn't think it was usable as it was one password for all SmartList Favourites. I wasn't the only one with this opinion and, once again, Microsoft listened to the community and has improved this feature further.

In Dynamics GP 2018, the SmartList Favourite password protection is now on a per favourite basis. When a favourite is saved, the user can set their own password; they can choose to share this password with other users or keep it only to themselves ensuring no-one else can amend or delete their SmartList.

I've had some harsh words in parts of this post, but overall I am pleased with the new functionality added in Dynamics GP 2018 and I look forward to continuing to work with it going forward. And, as always, I am interested to see how the product continues to develop. Based on words from Microsoft, much of the development will be targeted to those areas where the partner and customer base want to see improvements.

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About Ian Grieve

Ian is a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional for Microsoft Dynamics GP and is a senior consultant for Perfect Image Limited in the United Kingdom. Ian has worked with Dynamics GP sine 2003 and has dealt with all aspects of the product from pre-sales, implementation, technical and functional training, go-lives, support, upgrades and continual process improvement reviews. He has written several books on Dynamics GP and runs the azurecurve | Ramblings of a Dynamics GP Consultant blog.

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