Want to speed up your work processes in Dynamics SL? These tips can help you learn the product better and customize where needed so that it works smarter and faster for your specific needs. This week we are sharing the first two in a series of 10 tips to help you improve efficiency in Dynamics SL:
Tip 1: Keep your software in a supported version.
The vast majority of our clients keep their Dynamics products in a version that is supported by Microsoft. Not only does this provide insurance that Microsoft will assist should a technical issue arise in the product, but it also reduces the support time that our staff consumes in assisting with a support issue. Microsoft has invested a lot to continue to make their Dynamics products feature-rich and stable.
Not keeping up on these product releases can be risky for clients. Not keeping the Dynamics SL product current can prevent updating of the underlying server technology (SQL Server and Windows Server). This can cause efficiency problems (poor performance) and security issues as the server-based software becomes out of date.
Tip 2: Use CustomerSource, Microsoft’s portal for their Business Software user community.
Microsoft continues to update and add content to this already feature-rich website for customers who stay current on software maintenance. Besides offering a knowledge base of how-to’s and support information, CustomerSource also offers customers free Dynamics SL online training and access to downloadable training manuals. We frequently use this resource to stay current on product functionality.
Tip 3: Use the built-in help system and user guides.
We have seen many times over the years that clients do not effectively leverage the information that’s readily available on the use of the product they own. Microsoft has replaced the old hard-copy user manuals with PDF-based user guides. These files are included on the installation media, but they do need to be installed and users need to know where to find the files. The “F1 help available” is especially helpful for new users.
Tip 4: Learn the many keyboard shortcuts available in Dynamics SL to speed data entry.
Each year at our client events, we share several keyboard shortcuts that are available in Dynamics SL. When we work with users who know these helpful functions it is amazing how fast they can navigate and enter data. Dynamics SL has keyboard-based shortcuts for most, if not all, of the menu options within a particular screen.
Many users already know that the function key “F3” is used to look up possible values, but few know what other function keys and shortcuts can do. The best place to find all of the possible functions is in the user guide titled “QuickReferenceGuide.pdf,” which can be found either on the installation media or in the Dynamics SL installation folder under the “User Guides” folder.
Tip 5: Learn the ad-hoc reporting/query tool “Quick Query.”
This addition to Dynamics SL is a game changer for getting data back out of the system. It is easy to create favorites from the base queries, and new queries can be added to the tool to show data such as user fields and even customized table data.
This tool also allows for quick navigation from the list of records shown to various related Dynamics SL data entry applications that relate to the type of record that is being viewed.
Tip 6: Use the template feature to easily filter reports.
While templates are available both for reports and data entry screens, most of the usefulness of templates lies in the area of reporting. A template for a report allows the user to save additional filter criteria (like “customer equals”) as well as modify sorting and output options. Once a template is set up to filter data for a report, that template can be used repeatedly, eliminating the need to know what field or fields to choose from the data tables that the report is using.
Please note: It is best to save the specific filter value in the “Select” tab with values that obviously need to be replaced (i.e. use ‘XXXXX’ for the customer’s ID rather than an actual/real customer ID)
Tip 7: Configure menus within Dynamics SL to fit the needs of your users.
Starting with version 7, Dynamics SL allows for the creation of role-tailored menus. The menu system is also security driven so a user never sees menu items for applications or reports that they do not have permission to access. Older versions of Dynamics SL would have large complex menus for the typical user, which had the tendency to confuse new users.
Tip 8: Create customized report templates to make future reports work the way you need.
Every report that exists within Dynamics SL is fully modifiable by the end user. Dynamics SL has provided convenient ways to change a filter and sort a report at run time without modifying the underlying Crystal Report format. Sometimes it is necessary to modify the standard report to make changes in the look and feel of the report or to make significant changes in the data used in the report. This sounds like another one of those scary customizations, but it usually is quite simple, and the modified reports tend to upgrade from version to version very simply.
Dynamics SL facilitates customized reports by having a special folder on the server for holding customized versions of reports. When the report is chosen from the menu, Dynamics SL first checks this special user reports folder (“usr_rpts”) for a customized version of the report. If no customized version is found, then the standard version of the report is run. Taking the time to make a report work and look the way you want can save time — and paper — in the long run.
Tip 9: Use sensible customizations to tailor Dynamics SL to your business process.
Many software packages require source code modifications to change the look or behavior of standard windows/screens. Within Dynamics SL, all screen customizations are stored within the system database so can be readily migrated to new product releases as they become available.
For example, the ability to quickly hide unused fields is something that clients use frequently to streamline data entry processes. This is one of the easiest, most upgradeable customizations that can be done.
Tip 10: Leverage the SL toolset to create software add-ons for your needs.
The Dynamics SL Software Development Kit (SDK) allows for rapid screen creation to fill functional gaps within the software. By leveraging the Dynamics SL toolset, users can create screens to track custom business information that the base product does not contain.
Investing in small add-ons can frequently improve the overall capabilities of Dynamics SL, particularly fitting SL to the specific needs of a particular business type or industry. This same toolset can be licensed by end-user organizations too. Some of our larger clients have been able to leverage this same toolset to develop their own operational software. The programs they create are seamlessly integrated with Dynamics SL.