DynamicsCon is just 2 weeks away, happening March 16-18.
What is DynamicsCon?
DynamicsCon is the #1 Free, Virtual, Super-hero themed D365 conference in the world. Over three days, Microsoft Dynamics & Power Platform professionals across the globe will connect to learn, share ideas, and develop new skills.
There are three reasons why I am participating in DynamicsCon:
Community – The D365 community is great. It is fun to meet and interact with the other D365 and Power Platform professionals. I’m grateful to the others who have helped me learn and apply new technologies and I’d like to be a part of improving the experiences of others.
Video – I have written on this blog for a couple years, but video is a new medium for me. DynamicsCon presentations involve 40 minutes of recorded video – committing to present stretched me out of my comfort zone, but this is a good thing. I hope to create more video content in the future.
Fun – DynamicsCon is fun. Just look at the super-awesome super-hero masks they made for Calvin and me! And don’t just take my word for it – check out this avid endorsement from Grammy award winning musical artist Kenny G
Why should you participate in DynamicsCon?
If you are a super-hero and/or Kenny G fan, I think the reasoning is self-evident. It is a harder sell if you are not, but the value is still there. DynamicsCon is a great opportunity to meet new people and learn new things around Microsoft’s D365 and Power Platform technologies. Even if you are unable attend the live event, it is worth signing up and watching the recordings afterwards.
Longtime readers of this blog know I’m a big fan of Workspaces. I’m such a fan, I gave an entire Workspace Presentation at last year’s User Group Summit.
Here is my pitch for Workspaces:
If bookmarking the D365 Default Dashboard, in order to perform an action you need to 1) Open your browser 2) Go to D365 Default Dashboard and then 3) Goto the D365 form where you will perform your action.
Bookmarking specific workspaces, utilizing the workspace’s tiles, listpages and links gets you straight to the action you want to perform. Your steps are now 1) Open your browser and 2) Go to the D365 form where you will perform your action.
Advancing this concept, Edge makes it easy to pin a workspace to your taskbar. If I click on the purple finance and operations logo on the far right of my taskbar, the vendor invoice entry workspace opens immediately.
The steps are now 1) Go to the D365 form where you want to perform your action and 2)…profit!
How to Pin Workspace to Taskbar
The Edge browser makes this easy. Go to your desired workspace and click the ellipsis on the top right of the Edge Browser. Select more tools, and then click pin to taskbar,
Pin Vendor invoice entry workspace to taskbar
If you add “&limitednav=true” to the end of your workspace URL, the menu item on the left disappears (zoom into the two Vendor invoice entry workspace screenshots above and look at the urls to see the difference). This gives you a few more pixels to work with (a small benefit), but also cuts down on distractions in the workspace (a larger benefit, possibly).
I like using this limited navigation with the pinned workspace because makes the D365 workspace feel more like a desktop application.
If you hold shift and click on the pinned shortcut in your taskbar, you can select properties to change the icon (the pinned website’s favicon is the shortcut’s default icon). This can be helpful if you want to pin multiple shortcuts to your taskbar and easily distinguish between them. The new icon image must be in .ico format – fortunately there are multiple sites that make it easy to convert standard jpg or png images to ico.
You currently have the ability to startup a trial of D365 Sales, Customer Service, Field Service, Project Service Automation, Business Central, Human Resources, Retail, and (of course) Finance and Operations.
Agree to the terms and conditions, and decide whether or not to opt into marketing messaging.
Kudos to the restraint of the marketing team leaving the opt-in checkbox unselected by default. If your organization belongs to a Microsoft 365 tenant, you can proceed straight to spinning up your trial environment. The process may take up to 30 minutes from here. If your organization does not have a Microsoft 365 tenant, there will be a few more steps.
Once the environment is created, you will receive an email from Lifecycle Services.
The “Click here to start” link will take you to your new trial environment.
The environment will come preconfigured with D365’s legendary Contoso default data. Congratulations! You are now the proud owner user of a 30-day trial environment. Have any questions about what to do from here? Ping me in the comments:)
Remembering our initial diagram, project category data don’t exist on a single table, but are on a set of related tables. To manually create a Project category, you need to
Configure a Category group
Configure a Shared category
Create a Project category
Update Expense or Cost category details (if necessary)
The same holds true when uploading project categories through the data management workspace. We will need to upload data through multiple data entities to successfully build our project categories.
Data management workspace
A quick refresher on the Data management workspace – The Data management workspace relies on data entities to pass data in and out of D365. An Import project can be created to pass data into D365. An Export project can be created to pass data out of D365. When examining data in an existing system, it can sometimes help to create an Export project to view the available data.
Above is an export project with the data entities related to project categories
Project category group
Clicking export processes the data in these entities so they can be downloaded in a package. Refresh the following screen until the completed checkbox appears – you can now click Download package.
The downloaded package is a zip file containing excel files for your data entities as well as two .xml files – Manifest.xml and PackageHeader.xml. You can extract the contents of the zip file to examine the contents of the project category data. The xml files will be helpful when we make changes or additions to the project category data and are ready to import those changes back into D365. As we will see in the next post, the xml files tell the Data management workspace what data entities we want to upload and the order in which we want to upload them.
“How many project categories do I need?” is a common D365 implementation question. Remembering the rules from our initial project categories post, a project category can be of only one transaction type – so you will need at least one project category group for each transaction type used and at least one project category within each project category group.
Below is a survey of places where project categories are used in D365 for Finance and Operations. The list is not exhaustive, and project categories are not the only drivers of the below (for instance, there are many attributes that can be used to drive sales prices), but the below can be a good starting point for thinking about how granularly an organization’s project categories ought to be defined.
Ledger Posting Setup
Project and category relationships are the two main drivers of both cost and revenue account posting profiles in the Project management and accounting module.
Hour, Expense, and Fee transaction types all have their own sales price tables. Sales prices for items are set through trade agreements. Project category is one of many attributes that can be used to drive sales prices.
While it is more common for cost prices to be driven at the resource or role level, specific cost prices can also be set at the project category level.
Line property defaults
Line property default behaviors are configured on the project/group line properties table. For some organizations, it makes sense to have billable and non-billable expense categories instead of having users directly select the line property on their expense report lines.
Expense category attributes
Different expense types have different attributes – for instance, an expense type of mileage requires a number of miles to be entered on the expense report, calculating a reimbursement amount, instead of allowing the user to directly enter their mileage expense reimbursement amount.
Different company expense policies can be applied specifically to project categories of certain expense types.
If using indirect costing, indirect cost components need to be associated to an indirect cost project category. Less frequently used, project categories can be used to drive whether indirect costs are applied through the Indirect cost component group assignment rules configuration.
Item sales tax groups
Different sales tax codes apply to different goods and services. In D365, this sales tax configuration is applied through the item sales tax group on the project category.
Posted transaction reporting
Whether viewing posted transactions in D365 or an external reporting solution, project category can be an important reporting dimension. In the image above, the hours transactions form is grouped by project category.
Project forecast reporting
As with posted transactions, project categories can be a useful dimension for project forecast reporting. Sometimes forecasting is done at a more general level of project category than those anticipated for posting. (For example, an “Expense forecast” project category may be used to estimate all the different expense postings anticipated on a project)
Project invoice document
Project categories display on the project invoice document – which makes sense especially if sales prices are being driven by project categories. That being the case, it is worth considering what customers would like to see related to the project categories displayed.
Do you see an important project category function missing from the list above? Call it out in the comments!
Fun fact: Aristotle thought there were ten categories. Possibly related fact: Aristotle never used the D365 Projects Module.
Project categories are not a new concept in D365. A quick search will show that categories date back at least to AX2012, and perhaps even time immemorial. The latest project category documentation (see here, here, or here) is 5+ years old – more ancient than Aristotle in tech-years.
Why do I think I can explain an old topic any better than it’s already been explained? Aristotle would call this Hubris.
What Are Project Categories?
Understanding project categories requires knowing a few D365 projects module rules:
Cost or revenue associated with a project must be defined by a project category.
A project category can only be of one transaction type (Hour, Expense, Item, Fee).
A project category can only be used within its own legal entity.
To work with the Expense module, a Project category needs to be setup as an Expense category.
To work with the production module, a Project category needs to be setup as a Cost category.
These rules lead to a D365 category table structure that looks like this:
Why so complicated? The complexity comes from the rules…let’s examine.
1) Category group
Category groups…groups categories! Project categories can only have one transaction type, and the category group is where the category’s transaction type is defined. All project categories in the same category group will be of the same transaction type.
2) Shared category
Because a project category can be used only within its own legal entity, the concept of a global “shared category” exists in D365 to link project categories across different legal entities. The shared category is also where the category’s identity as a “Project category” for use in the Project management and accounting module is defined. The Shared category is also where a category’s use in the Production or Expense management modules is defined if applicable.
3) Project category
Once a category group and shared category have been setup, the project category can be created. When creating a new project category on the project category form, the category ID dropdown will show all shared categories not yet associated to project categories in the current legal entity. Notice that Category group is a required field for the project category, and that selecting the category group sets the project category’s transaction type.
4) Production category
When “Use in production” is enabled on the Shared category, the associated Project category is also setup as a Cost category. An additional fastab related to Production attributes is displayed on the project category (this additional production information is stored on the Cost Category table). The category is also visible in the production module. This is the same category record information, just viewed from a filtered list of categories used in production.
5) Expense category
When “Use in expense” is enabled on the Shared category, the associated Project category is also setup as an Expense category. Two additional fastabs related to expense attributes are displayed on the project category (this additional information is stored on the expense category table), and the category is also visible in the Expense management module. Like the Cost category, the Expense category record in Expense management displays its same record information as in the Project category list.
As you can see, setting up a new Project category is as easy as 1, 2, 3 (configurations for Category groups, Shared categories, and Project categories)…and possibly 4 or 5 (additional configurations for Cost categories or Expense categories, if applicable). In a future post, I plan to look at different results that can be driven by Project categories, as well as how to efficiently upload Project categories through data management.
I think these two features should be more widely utilized. D365 forms are designed for multiple personas / business processes. Decluttering forms for specific personas by moving less frequently used fields farther down the form or hiding them completely is an easy way to increase day-to-day efficiency, as well as simplify the training/change-management process.
Move a Field
Open the personalization toolbar Ctrl+Shift+P and select the Move button. Click on the Field, Field Group, or FastTab to be moved. From there, drag with the cursor or use the Arrow Keys to indicate where the form element should go. I find using the arrows a bit easier to control. An orange indicator line displays where the form indicator will go, and Enter will set the field in its new location. Close the personalization toolbar to view the result.
Moving the Responsible field group to the end of the General FastTab. Note the highlighted indicator line.
Result after closing the personalization toolbar.
Move can also be used to adjust the column order on a listpage.
Hide a Field
The hide feature works similar to the move feature. Hide can be applied to Fields, Field Groups, or FastTabs, as well as Tabs, Groups, or Buttons in the form’s header ribbon. It can be done through the personalization toolbar, or by right-clicking, selecting personalize, and then selecting Hide for the desired form element.
Right-click, Personalize, and Hide the Project team and scheduling FastTab.
In 1955, Bernard Heuvelmans created a new field: Cryptozoology – the study of imaginary animals.
Create a New Field
As mentioned previously, when adding a field through personalization users also have the option to create a new field. After opening the personalization toolbar, selecting Add a field, and choosing the desired location for the added field, users are prompted to select from an existing field or Create new field.
In the Create new field area, users can define
The table where the new field should be added
The new field’s prefix (all fields added through personalization end in _Custom)
The field’s data type (Text, Number, Decimal, DateTime, Date, Picklist, Checkbox)
The field’s help text (what displays when the hovering the cursor over the field)
Example of new Picklist field creation
Example of new Checkbox field creation
Example of new Example fields displayed on Customer form
In a few clicks, a new field can be created and added to a form – saving hours of developer time, code promotion, and testing over the standard approach of doing this through development. That’s good. But with the ease of creating a new field, don’t neglect thinking through the below – which could save headaches associated with implementing any new field – whether through personalization or development.
Who needs to see or edit the new field? From what forms? Personalization can add the new field to the saved view, but the new view(s) will need to be published to the desired users or roles.
How will the current data for this field be loaded in D365? Who will do it? In System administration, there is a form to manage Custom fields. Here, a custom field can be added to a data entity for data migration. The Custom fields form is also where field values like picklist options or the length of a text field can be updated.
Does this custom field need to be added to any reports? It is easy to add a custom field to a listpage using personalizations. Visibility on the listpage is frequently enough, and Ctrl+Shift+E can be used to quickly export listpages to excel.
Custom Example field on Customer Listpage
If the new field needs to be added to a formatted report, or to a data model for consumption in PowerBI or another reporting solution, you may need additional developer assistance.
One last thought about creating a new field through personalization – it doesn’t follow the standard QA->UAT->Production path of regular code promotion. A new field can be created as a test in a test environment, but at showtime a user has to create the new field directly in the production environment. This is probably fine for fields that are “just extra attributes”, but probably not fine for fields related to a company’s core business. If additional methods or logic need to be applied to a field, it is probably better the field be created through development.
“When he went out to plough his fields…his heart would fill with joy.”
How Much Land Does a Man Need? | Leo Tolstoy
D365 contains thousands of related tables with an almost innumerable number of fields – some say D365 has almost as many fields as this blog has fans. But sometimes a user just needs one more field.
Users access this table data through forms. Frequently, a form’s standard view will not contain every single field of related table data. Did you know the customer table (CustTable) has 203 different fields?Add a field allows additional table information to be presented on a form.
Add a Field
Use Ctrl+Shift+P to bring up the Personalization Toolbar and click on Add a field. Once Add a field is selected, click on the part of the form where the new field should go.
A new “Add columns” area will pop up on the right allowing the user to select which field (or fields) to bring into the form. Did you know that 3 of the 203 fields on the Customer Table are notes fields?
The selected field(s) will now display on the form.
If the field isn’t positioned quite where intended, the Move button ca be used to fine-tune the location of the new field.
Add a Field, Again!
It is generally bad database design to represent the same field twice on the same table, but not necessarily bad form design. For example, it may make sense to have customer currency in the sales demographics FastTab, and terms of payment in the Payment defaults FastTab. It might also be helpful to have this information closer to the top of the form. Add a field could be used to bring those fields onto the general FastTab in addition to their standard locations.
Add a Custom Field
Observant readers will notice the “Add columns” area also includes a “Create new field” button. Links below are included to outline that functionality – I’ll add my own opinions on the pros and cons of adding custom fields through personalization in a later post.
The ‘Loch Ness Monster’ is not that kind of ‘Lock’. Regardless, you want to lock monsters from ruining your system with bad data entry.
In personalization, Lock allows users to view fields, but not change their values. To lock a field, right click, select personalize, and then check the lock button.
As with all personalization features, these locked fields can be distributed to other users as published saved views.
Can’t This Be Done Through Security?
Yes. Without personalization, controlling who can see or edit what fields is managed through security. If you click on security diagnostics for the Vendor form, you can see there are two security privileges: one to view vendors and one to maintain (edit) vendor data.
To lock down a subset of fields through security, a system administrator would need to create a new security privilege (or modified copy of the maintain vendors privilege) and assign it to the desired duties or roles.
An advantage of locking fields through personalization is that it is easier to see which fields are being locked through the UI. Also, users can have multiple views – It’s possible have a default view where the data is not editable, but allow the user to toggle to another view where the data can be edited. This would be a more difficult proposition to manage through security. Pro tip – if you care very much about tracking edits to a particular field, consider enabling database logging on that field.
Lock Many Fields
Personalizations can be applied to individual fields, as well as Field Groups or FastTabs. If you want to lock lots of fields on a form, the easiest way to do this is by opening the personalization toolbar, clicking Lock and then clicking on the desired Field Group or FastTab.
Clicking on the Payment group controls all fields in the Payment group
Clicking on the Payment FastTab controls all fields in the Payment FastTab
That’s pretty much the whole concept – Lock, Stock, and Barrel.