Generic Electronic Reporting (GER) aka Electronic Reporting (ER) is a tool that can be used to configure formats for both incoming and outgoing electronic documents in accordance with the legal requirements of various countries/regions. ER lets you manage these formats during their lifecycle. For example, you can adopt new regulatory requirements, and generate business documents in the required format to electronically exchange information with government bodies, banks, and other parties.
The ER engine is targeted at business users instead of developers. Because you configure formats instead of code, the processes for creating and adjusting formats for electronic documents are faster and easier. Anyone who has implemented Dynamics AX knows that many forms like the Vendor Check, Customer Sales Invoice, and Customer Purchase Order need to be modified to meet client needs and that usually involves a developer. But no longer!
ER currently supports the TEXT, XML, Microsoft Word document, and OPENXML worksheet formats. However, an extension interface provides support for additional formats.
The ER engine has the following capabilities:
- It represents a single shared tool for electronic reporting in different domains and replaces more than 20 different engines that do some type of electronic reporting for Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations.
- It makes a report's format insulated from the current Finance and Operations implementation. In other words, the format is applicable for different versions of Finance and Operations.
- It supports the creation of a custom format that is based on an original format. It also includes capabilities for automatically upgrading the customized format when the original format is changed because of localization/customization requirements.
- It becomes the primary standard tool to support localization requirements in electronic reporting, both for Microsoft and for Microsoft partners.
- It supports the ability to distribute formats to partners and customers through Microsoft Dynamics Lifecycle Services (LCS).
The advantages of using the ER tool in Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations are many:
- Formulae (think Microsoft Excel) are used for any data transformation.
- All changes are done via visual editors instead of coding integrated development environments (IDEs).
- You can maintain different versions of configurations.
- Lifecycle Services is leveraged in an asset library to move the configurations done in one environment to a different environment.
To make it easier for the end users to be able to configure the documents, the Electronic reporting developer and Electronic reporting functional consultant roles are provided out of the box in Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations. Therefore, a user does not need to have access to the IDE to configure the reports; instead, once the person(s) in the organization are identified with the ability to configure the documents, only the roles will need to be assigned to them and the users can create the ER documents on their own.
An ER repository stores ER configurations. Two types of ER repositories are currently supported, Operations resources and LCS project.
- An Operations resources repository provides access to the list of configurations that Microsoft, as an ER configuration provider, releases as part of the Finance and Operations solution. Those configurations can be imported into the current Finance and Operations instance and used for electronic reporting.
- An LCS project repository provides access to the list of configurations of a specific LCS project (LCS project assets library) that was selected at the repository registration stage. ER lets you upload shared configurations from the current Finance and Operations instance to a specific LCS project repository. You can also import configurations from an LCS project repository into the current Finance and Operations instance.
How to Download Configurations from Lifecycle Services
There are many templates provided by Microsoft to begin using the ER tool. These imported templates are used as a starting point to help configure any of the ER documents as required. To get the repository from Lifecycle Services, follow the below steps.
Go to Organization administration > Electronic reporting.
In the Configuration providers section, select the Microsoft tile.
On the Microsoft tile, click Repositories.
- On the Configuration repositories page, in the grid, select the existing repository of the LCS type. If this repository doesn't appear in the grid, follow these steps:
- Click Add to add a new repository.
- Select LCS as the repository type.
- Click Create repository.
- If prompted, follow the authorization instructions.
- Enter a name and description for the repository.
- Click OK to confirm the new repository entry.
- In the grid, select the new repository of the LCS type.
- Click Open to view the list of ER configurations for the selected repository.
- In the configurations tree in the left pane, select the ER configuration that you require.
- On the Versions FastTab, select the required version of the selected ER configuration.
- Click Import to download the selected version from LCS to the current Finance and Operations instance.
The Structure of the ER Tool
The ER tool has two components associated with it.
Data Model: This is an abstract representation of a data structure, used in describing business area, translated into reporting requirements. Data model further contains the following parts:
- A data model, as a set of domain-specific business entities and structured definition of relations between them.
- A single data model can contain several structurally organized data entities, which represent a specific domain area/business area. For example, the data model for Payment can support:
- Company to Vendor payments in AP.
- Customer to Company payments in AR.
- A model mapping which links selected Finance and Operation data sources to individual elements of a data model. At run time, the data flow and business rules applied to the data model component.
A model mapping has the following capabilities:
- It can leverage different data types as data sources for a data model. For example, it can use tables, data entities, methods, queries or enums.
- Supports input parameters from the users for a data model for data that must be specified at run time.
- Supports transformation of data into required groups. Allows you to filter, sort and sum data, and append logical calculated fields designed through formulas that are like Microsoft Excel formulas.
Format components for outgoing electronic documents
Format: The format component defines the scheme or structure of the reporting output. It consists of the below elements.
- Format defines the structure and content of the outgoing electronic document generated at run time.
- Format mapping, as a set of bindings of format data sources that have individual elements of a format that specific, at run time, the data flow and rules for format output generation.
- Format validation, as a set of configurable rules that control report generation at run time, depending on the context. For example, there could be a rule that prevents the generation of a vendor payment file by throwing an exception when, let's say, if the method of payment is missing on the payment journal.
Below is a high-level representation of incoming and outgoing data flows for the formats.
To run a single ER format configuration to import data from an incoming electronic document, you must identify the desired mapping of a format configuration, and the integration point of a model mapping. You can use the same model mapping and destinations together with different formats for different type of incoming documents.
An ER configuration is the wrapper of a particular ER component. That component can be either a data model or format component and can include different versions of an ER component. Each configuration is marked as owned by a specific configuration provider. The ER provider is the party identifier that is used to indicate the author (owner) of each ER configuration. The Draft version of a component of a configuration can be edited when the owner of the configuration has been selected as an active provider in the ER settings in Finance and Operations.
Each model configuration contains a data model component. A new format configuration can be derived from a specific data model configuration. The format configuration that is created contains a format component. The data model component of the original model configuration is automatically inserted into the format component of the child format configuration as a default data source. The ER configuration is shared for Finance and Operations companies.
Uploading Electronic reporting configurations
ER configurations that are designed in the development environment can be uploaded to the test environment for the configuration evaluation, such as, proper process integration, correctness of results, and performance as well as, and quality assurance, such as correctness of role-driven access rights and segregation of duties. Finally, proven ER configurations can be uploaded either to LCS, where they can be shared with service subscribers, or to the production environment for internal use, such as shown in the following illustration.
Importing Electronic reporting configurations
You can download ER configurations from Microsoft Dynamics Lifecycle Services (LCS) to a local business data application.
1. Sign in to your local business data application by using one of the following roles:
- Electronic reporting developer
- Electronic reporting functional consultant
- System administrator
2. Go to Organization administration > Electronic reporting.
3. In the Configuration providers section, select the card for the ER provider that is associated with your company.
4. On the selected tile, click Repositories.
5. On the Configuration repositories page, in the grid, select the existing repository of the File system type. If the repository doesn't appear in the grid, follow these steps:
- Click Add to add a new repository.
- Select FILE SYSTEM as the repository type.
- Click Create repository.
- Enter a name and description for the repository.
- Enter the path of the working directory for this repository. This path should point to a folder of the local file system where the ER configurations that belong to the repository will be stored.
- Click OK to confirm and save the new repository.
- In the grid, select the new repository of the File system type.
6. In your browser, open another tab, and sign in to LCS.
7. In the Shared asset library, select the GER Configuration asset type, and then click Download all. All the ER configurations will be put into a zip file for download.
8. Open the file, select all the ER configurations, and then copy them to the working directory for the repository of the File system type.
9. On the ER repositories page, on the Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations tab, click Open to view the list of ER configurations for the selected repository.
10. In the Configurations tree in the left pane, select an ER configuration.
11. On the Versions FastTab, select the required version of the ER configuration.
12. Click Import to download the selected version from this repository to the current instance.
Depending on the ER settings, configurations are validated after they are imported. You might be notified about inconsistencies or issues that are discovered. You'll have to resolve these inconsistencies or issues before you can use the imported configuration version.
In summary, Electronic Reporting makes it easier to control and modify your own reports at the business user level without needing the assistance of a developer providing for a more efficient process to meet your needs. Now get out there and start practicing on modifying these forms!
For more blogs about Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations, check here.
Happy Dynamics 365'ing!