Guide to Microsoft Dynamics for Finance Teams
Out of the abundance of enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, Microsoft Dynamics continues to hold its share of market dominance, partly because of customer familiarity with Microsoft Office, but largely because they are a trusted and innovative solution. The Dynamics platform is a powerhouse that breaks down silos and empowers AR professionals to drive business growth for financial operations.
Microsoft Dynamics and its power apps integrations deliver a secure and easily automated solution for thousands of overworked accounting professionals in an era of increasing regulatory risk and remote global finance operations.
This guide covers how this ERP can truly revolutionize your financial operations, including how to distinguish Dynamics 365 from its predecessors, and the significant features this ERP offers.
Microsoft Dynamics 101
The Microsoft Dynamics suite is an all-inclusive software that offers a robust ERP system. Within this business software powerhouse, users can connect marketing, sales, finance, and other key departments to break down silos and offer a better customer experience. For Finance teams, this can be a game-changer.
More than three-fourths of CFOs believe that unifying data is key to business success, and investing in an ERP system that seamlessly links with other business processes will make this far easier.
Dynamics 365 delivers the finance department with the ability to collaborate across an organization. Other areas Dynamics supports are:
- Business intelligence and reporting
- Human resource management
- Procurement and sourcing
- Project management
- Sales and marketing
- Service management
- Supply chain management
This simplifies collaboration across finance teams and other departments, taking the pain out of accounting processes between overlapping departments . For example, you can generate quotes for the sales team based on customer and project data sourced from Dynamics; or, the additional modules related to procurement can help with vendor sourcing and payments.
While this guide primarily focuses on Microsoft Dynamics 365 for finance teams, this robust platform goes far beyond financial reporting and management. There are many other benefits, including streamlining and potentially automating financial operations. But before we dive into the core of this expansive financial management software, let's look at the difference between Dynamics 365 and its earlier iterations.
Dynamics vs. Dynamics 365
In 2016, Microsoft decided to replace Dynamics with the newer Microsoft Dynamics 365. But that doesn't mean that everyone migrated from Dynamics CRM, GP, AX, or NAV. For the full breakdown of users per Microsoft software:
- Microsoft Dynamics 365 - 36,150
- Microsoft Dynamics - 47, 263
- Microsoft Dynamics GP - 21, 367
- Microsoft Dynamics AX - 20, 248
- Microsoft Dynamics NAV - 32, 527
Each independent edition takes a slightly different approach to financial management. But the introduction of 365 as an update to the Microsoft Dynamics ERP essentially makes integration with other Microsoft products and add-ons easier, as well as providing more user-friendly payment options. For example, Dynamics 365 is hosted entirely in the cloud, compared to NAV and AX, which were on-premises. The use of cloud-based technology over on-premise licensing significantly reduces long-term costs for companies that would spend thousands updating infrastructure.
Microsoft Dynamics, usually referred to as Microsoft Dynamics CRM, was originally more geared toward sales. However, within the Dynamics 365 Business Central, users can leverage both the CRM and financial operations from the same software.
Ultimately, Dynamics 365 provides more flexibility in payment and infrastructure making it easier to sync products.
With that said, most integrations still work with earlier Microsoft products. But it may be worth it to consider migrating if you plan to scale.
Microsoft Dynamics for Finance Teams
Microsoft Dynamics provides everything a finance department needs for nuanced reporting and managing cash flow. The financial data captured within the ERP system provides detailed information for more accurate forecasting, pricing, and budgeting. But the thousands of integrations available also make it a cinch to refine and automate financial operations within the ERP.
One thing to consider is that Dynamics is made up of numerous modules that help finance teams with financial management.
As the essential, top-level module, General Ledger has multiple functions. From this single feature, users can convert currencies, process closing transactions, create electronic documents for pre-closing reports, consolidate transactions, monitor cash flow, and close the books, among other things.
Cash and Bank management
From this module, users can manage letters of credit, cross-border sales, bank reconciliation, deposit and transfer bank funds, cancel wrong deposits, maintain bank balances, define check formats, and forecast cash flow.
Taxes and VAT
From Sales Tax to VAT and GST, users can set their tax requirements, calculate estimated taxes, and generate reports for the relevant tax authorities.
Equipment, software, buildings, and other company-owned assets can be added to the platform for a comprehensive view. This can be used to calculate depreciation, as well as transferring, lending, and disposing of these fixed assets.
As the backbone of maintaining a positive cash flow, a streamlined AR process is critical to business success. Some of the features Microsoft Dynamics 365 offers are:
- Generating invoices from sales orders or packing slips.
- Receiving various payments, including cash, checks, credit cards, and electronic payments, such as ACH.
- Save payment credit card data securely and capture payments
- Manage recurring invoices and subscriptions
- Set up a Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) mandate
- Settle multiple invoices
- Reimburse customers
- Setup, waive, or reverse interest fees
- Accept Partial payments
- Schedule invoices
- Prioritize specific payments from a customer
If you can invoice more conveniently, you can get paid faster. Electronic invoicing makes it easier than ever to track and receive payments. Some of the features Dynamics 365 has built around electronic invoicing include:
- Country/region-specific requirements
- Easily adjustable configurations that don't require code changes
- Simple customizations
- Export and import processing of e-invoice documents
- Automate invoicing through integrations
Credit and Collections
Dynamics makes it easy to visualize and track delinquent payments and even bring in collection agents to further support the AR team.
The AP team is a cornerstone of any finance team. A company can maintain good relationships with vendors through timely payments and potentially capture early payment discounts.
With Microsoft Dynamics, users can, among other tasks:
- Enter and approve invoices
- Ensure invoices meet company policies through invoice matching
- Define vendor payment terms and fees
- Pay vendors
- Credit vendors with a partial amount
- Prepare prepayments for invoices
5 tips for using Microsoft Dynamics
1. Minimize administrator roles
One way to secure your Dynamics account against intentional and unintentional fraud is to limit the system administrator to one person. Likewise, it’s a common best practice to monitor users carefully and restrict their access to sensitive data whenever possible.
2. Use quick access
Instead of manually navigating the many modules in Microsoft Dynamics, you can quickly pull up any action by using the shortcut ‘ALT’ + ‘Q.’
3. Create a default for everything
Rather than start from scratch for every task, fine-tuning the defaults to meet your common use cases can significantly reduce time on manual tasks.
4. Limit account and dimension combinations
It’s not uncommon for finance professionals to have to go back and reconcile journals due to incorrect account and dimension combinations. Setting up limitations early can eliminate this mindlessly boring task from your docket.
5. Create report dashboards
One way to convince other shareholders of your proposed financial strategy or highlight current trends is to create an exciting, colorful report. With Dynamics, it’s possible to create an interactive dashboard from a report, which you can then share.
To create a dashboard from a report:
- Copy the report URL
- Edit a custom dashboard
- Add an iframe and paste the report URL
- Save and enjoy your custom report dashboard
How to Optimize Microsoft Dynamics 365
As powerful as Microsoft Dynamics 365 is on its own, the real star of the show is the thousands of integrations that can further streamline and automate financial operations. From gathering financial data to custom payment portals and unique fee structures, the right payment integration can transform your financial management software into a powerhouse for business growth.
A repetitive, manual task should be automated — end of story. The margin of human error is high, with over 118 mistakes per person per year on average, and the total cost of data error in 2016 hit $3.1 trillion in damages. Manual processes are also an easy entryway for fraud. Whether it's a local company with a small finance department or a multinational conglomerate with global financial operations, it's difficult to scale when the cost of invoice processing is high and the resources to do so are higher.
Automation significantly reduces both the cost and time required to manually process payments. In fact, 88% of companies that implement financial automation have experienced shorter DSO cycles. What it translates to for AR teams is a combination of electronic-only payments and automation integration. An automation integration solution for your financial management software should include:
- "Pay Now" functionality for lower DSO and a better customer experience
- Automated, verified receipts for transactions
- Tap into real-time analytics with rich financial data
There are two primary concerns when it comes to automation: Security and customer service. Any solution that saves customer payment data should have a secure way of storing that information to mitigate the risk of fraud or data leaks. Furthermore, the chosen automation software should be easy to use by both the finance team and your customers. If the workflow isn't streamlined, then those faster payments are less likely to materialize.
Another consideration is payment fees. One of the most popular methods of B2B payments is credit cards. For AR, this means seeing a chunk of every payment disappear in hefty credit card processing fees.
The right payments integration can help businesses offset this by providing the option to shift this burden to the customer as a convenience fee. This strategy hits two birds with one stone. Not only can you de-incentivize the use of credit cards, but in the case that a customer prefers this payment method, the company no longer has to shoulder the payment.
It is also possible to encourage alternate forms of payment, such as bank-to-bank transfer, ACH, and eChecks, through absorbing the fee. As a result, these payment methods appear to have a "Zero-Fee" on the client-side, making them far more appealing than paying a convenience fee.
Setting strategic fees is another way to reduce costs and get paid faster while maintaining compliance.
Enhanced Financial Data
The Microsoft Dynamics ERP collects a considerable amount of data. But integrations that interact with consumers beyond the ERP system can enhance reporting and provide 100% visibility. Additionally, high-quality financial data lends itself to improved decisions about the overall business process and how to power business growth in the long term.
With enhanced data garnered from automation integrations, it's possible to sway stakeholders towards preferential budgets and highlight realistic objectives. In other words, it brings out the vital capabilities of the finance team and turns AR into a major influencer in the company's future.
When it comes to functionality, the best payment integrations provide more than a flashy dashboard. You should also be able to port data and use it in any other program. But data should also be handled compliantly. This includes compliance with PCI-DSS standards, AML Laws, MTL Rules, Fraud Monitoring, Bank KYC Underwriting requirements, and 1099K's, among others.
Interested in learning more about how to optimize your finance team? Check out this article on the current landscape of B2B payments.