Archive for December, 2008

2009 payroll tax update for Dynamics GP 8.0

For those slackers still on Dynamics Great Plains 8.0 and are using payroll here is a procedure to apply the 2009 tax tables before you run your first payroll of the year. You probably don’t need to worry about the tax update for 2008 as no form changes have been made. You should do the payroll year end procedure (tech doc # 850663) as usual but when it comes to applying the 2009 tax update you will have to do something like this.

Here is the 2009 payroll tax update script. It is for 10.0 but I tested on my 9.0 system and it completed successfully. I would recommend this procedure for applying the tax tables for 8.0:

1. Verify current tax numbers that are currently setup in payroll tax tables. Tools>>setup>>system>>payroll tax. Also note what date is listed for Last Tax Update (use in step 4)
2. Back up the Dynamics and company database
3. Run the script in SQL
4. Look at same tables as step 1 and verify changes have been made. Also verify last tax update is now listed as 12/19/2008
5. Run a payroll in a test company to verify the numbers are correct
6. Run payroll in production company and verify numbers are correct

Hope that helps you remaining 8.0 folks. Need to consider upgrading soon.

How do you install a large number of workstation after an upgrade efficiently?

Recently we have discussed best practices about upgrades in our company. One of the big challenges in an upgrade is installing a large number of Dynamics workstations at the appropriate time with minimal user interruption as possible. Installing Dynamics has always been a pain. MBS has approached fixing this issue with their mass deployment tools but they never work and it usually ends up easier to do the installation manually. Depending on the installation you could spend 15 mins – 40 mins per workstation. Launching the installs simultaniously (3 at a time in the same area for example) may cut time a bit but still a huge pain.

This led to a series of responses by our technical team. Here is a summary from one of our team member Jason Young. Summary of response below:

One of the tricks I have used many times to minimize downtime for large rollouts is to leverage imaging tools like Acronis True Image. This tool lets you take a picture of a server or servers and redeploy them in a virtualized environment or dissimilar physical hardware. In essence, you can take the customers environment back to the office for the test upgrade without risk of downtime or impacting day to day production of the customer.

Imaging gives you some big advantages:

  1. You don’t change the state of the customers environment until testing is successful and you are ready for the production rollout. This gives you huge kudos in the eyes of local IT staff.
  2. You always have a clean rollback image.
  3. You don’t have to bother local IT staff because you are working with an image offsite.
  4. You can couple this type of test upgrade with a Terminal Server (which we have and is easy to build) and now you can do your user acceptance testing via web. Again, no customer impact.

To do the production rollout it is always optimal to do a parallel installation, but the obvious drawback is the cost of hardware. For customer without additional server resources, there is another trick that can minimize downtime and customer impact. For customers with a single backend server (single SQL server), you install a name instance of SQL and restore production data to the new named instance.

Here are the advantages;

1. A named instance of SQL means you have to use a different DSN name than the default instance. This means you can pre-install workstations with the new version and point them at the new instance without worry of an accidental upgrade.
2. The current state is not affected so you have a rollback in the event of an upgrade failure. You don’t have to do any type of restore because you never changed the data in the default instance of SQL.
3. You are basically taking a single server and doing a parallel application upgrade. So, it’s an in-place upgrade in terms of hardware but parallel in terms of the application and data.

End of summary.

Discussion: I like the seperate instance of SQL approach. I do this with different versions of Dynamics. I have 9.0 on one instance and 10.0 on another. You’d have to be careful that users do not launch and continue working in the older version instead of the newer version but that can be overcome with training or simply stopping the older instance of SQL when the time is right (probably need to set the older instance to manually start in case of a server reboot).

Anything you do to make this task easier?

Are test upgrades really that important?

I’ve struggled with this question throughout the years. I started my GP life in an organization that did it the blood and guts way. Here was a typical upgrade strategy:

  1. Get the OK from a customer that they’d approve our estimate on the upgrade
  2. Schedule the day with the customer – usually later in the day Friday to kick off the upgrade of data. (Sometimes the customer could be without a day in their system so we’d do this on a Thursday so we wouldn’t have to charge weekend rates.)
  3. Spend Saturday installing workstations, verifying data, cleaning up any issues. This gave us a day in case upgrade failed etc. so the customer wasn’t out of the system for two days in a row
  4. Leave Monday as an office day to work through any outstanding issues with the upgradee
  5. Sometimes provide training on new version. What’s new type of thing.

A few points to mention about this strategy:

  1. Usually the customer was a smaller shop. Total users from 5 to 15 workstations
  2. The customer usually didn’t want to spend money on a test upgrade – if we were going to do the upgrade might as well do it once and get it over with
  3. Most of the clients we had done upgrades on before. We kind of knew what issues we had in the past
  4. Not too customized. Very little mods to windows, VB code, etc. Customized reports were the main issue

The organization I’m employed with now is a much more process oriented firm in regards to upgrades. It would be unheard of to simply show up and do an upgrade. Our typical procedure is something like this:

  1. Perform an infrasture review before any upgrade procedures are recommended. This includes hardware/network analysis
  2. Perform a test upgrade to uncover any issues. Test on workstations identified as potential problems (older workstations, operating system outdated etc)
  3. Training on new version done as client verifies test upgrade
  4. After test upgrade, discuss upgrade procedure with client. Determine schedule that provides best timing with customer. Schedule resources from client needed to accomplish tasks for upgrade. (Often IT departement involved to install workstations etc.) Go over issues found in test upgrade and resolve if possible a head of time.
  5. Perform upgrade. Install workstations
  6. Post upgrade validation from client
  7. Client sign off

A few points to mention:

  1. This process is used on install bases of 5 to 100+ users
  2. Customers often have many customizations to their system with various 3rd parties tying into Dynamics.
  3. Process is somewhat customized to meet the clients needs. Not all customers will pay for extensive pre-upgrade discovery. We do require a test upgrade of the data however
  4. We still have upgrade issues when we get to the production system but have most of the issues worked out from testing phase. This has increased customer satisfaction overall and I don’t hear from nearly as many grumpy people like I used to

Back to the original question. Are test upgrades really that important? I’m still of the opinion that the correct answer is “It Depends”. If you don’t mind a little bit of blood along the way and the customer is a relatively small shop there can be a lot less planning involved as there is must less risk on all accounts.

But if the customer is similar to the description above, dividends will be paid for proper due diligence. I believe most of the cost of pre-upgrade discovery/testing will be returned and more when the production upgrade is performed without a hitch.

So what do you think? Are test upgrades really that important? Do you have any other procedures you employ in your upgrade process?

Report writer reports to excel

Getting report writer reports to Excel has never been that easy. Usually it entails sending the report out to a CSV file and then cleaning up the mess. One thing that seems to help a bit is to put the following line in the dex.ini file.

ExportOneLineBody=TRUE

If you then save the report to a tab delimited file and open it with Excel it seems to come over a little better. Try doing this.

  1. Put ExportOneLineBody=TRUE in your dex.ini file
  2. Open Dynamics and run a AR trial balance with options. Make the file destination Tab delimited
  3. Open the file with Excel and it should look something like this:

(Click on image to see a better shot of the report)

You may need to add the customer name in the body (data section) of the report then sort by customer number but it’s a reasonable mod that could get you a somewhat usuable report in excel.

Instead of like this:

So don’t give up hope on report writer reports before going straight to smartlist or crystal.

***Authors note: This trick (ExportOneLineBody=TRUE ) has worked since version 6.0. I only figured this out recently…..OK, well acutally, I didn’t figure it out. Truth be told another GP person told me about it after seeing a tech doc on it. We were both astounded that we are on version 10.0 and this is the first time we’ve seen this trick. Thanks David G.

Done with QuickBooks or Peachtree?

Microsoft has a refreshingly simple web page to give a prospective Dynamics client a brief exposure to the offering. The page includes customer testimonials and links to product demos.

The page is easy to navigate and the content is lean and focused.

Take a look.

What’s a User to Do?

So you’re stuck with a situation with your accounting system, and you don’t know what to do. I am working with a few prospects now who own systems that are so antiquated they have almost no support resources or systems that are being abandoned by the developer. If you use Dynamics you have many options. Here’s a few:

  • Call us. We love this stuff.
  • Contact Microsoft. They make the stuff.
  • Read this blog. Subscribe to an RSS feed.
  • Read the blogs of others; just a few of which are highlighted to the right. >>
  • Read and ask questions at the Dynamics Newsgroups.
  • Go to Customer Source for tutorials and training manuals.
  • All the user guides are available on Customer Source, or on your client install.
  • Login to the sample company, Fabrikam, and play.

Reconciling the Corporate Credit Cards

I recently had a client call me wondering if there was some easier way to reconcile his corporate credit cards. Sales people had one credit card (Visa) and the executives used another (American Express.) A total of 16 people using two cards – reconciling monthly was giving him a headache. I shared with him, what I consider, the easiest solution to this monthly migraine:

  • Set up a Checkbook for every credit card along with a corresponding GL control account
  • Setup a GL Credit Card Clearing Account
  • Enter all purchases through Bank Transaction Entry (Transactions > Financial>Bank Transactions as a decrease adjustment to post the expense
  • Enter the Credit Card Statement through Account Payable (Transactions > Purchasing > Transaction Entry) and post the statement payment to the Credit Card clearing Account.
  • Pay the credit card statement as normal, hitting your cash account and AP.
  • Enter the payment as a decrease adjustment in the Credit Card Checkbook hitting the credit card clearing account. This will post the payment to the bank account allowing for reconciliation and zero out the clearing account.

Reconciling through Bank Managment has made his monthly credit card reconciliations much quicker and is a whole lost easier then using an excel spreadsheet.

Introduction to RoseASP

I wanted to post this article as a way of introduction to an extraordinary team. Though I don’t work for Rose ASP, I work with the people that operate the service. Hosting Dynamics GP requires a high level of technical expertise, administrative efficiency, and dedication. Linda, Doug, Jason, Tony, and others make it work 24/7.

Steve

RoseASP is the Industry Leader in Microsoft Great Plains Hosting. We’ve been doing it since the year 2000 – longer than any other existing Microsoft Partner or Application Hosting Provider. Our success and tenure can be attributed to three key advantages:

We Know GP. Unlike many other Hosted Application Service Providers, our
Support Staff and IT Engineers are uniquely trained on the GP application itself. This means that when we are servicing your systems, they are fully qualified and sensitive to your ERP application and data.

We Keep It Simple. RoseASP is a highly homogeneous environment in that our primary focus is to provide Microsoft Dynamics GP hosting. We will also host other Microsoft solutions as add-ons for our clients. We are a highly recognized and sought after Microsoft Gold Certified Partner and a Microsoft Business Solutions Partner.

We Are Committed, Competent and SOX Compliant. RoseASP operates through a complete SOX Policy Library to ensure compliance, documentation, and audit trail documentation for our clients. RoseASP has successfully assisted multiple customers pass their SOX Audit requirements. Additionally, we work very closely with Microsoft to maintain our staff’s awareness and certification/competency with current technology. Our Datacenter partners maintain SAS 70 Type II Compliancy with full redundancy of power and network and multiple failover systems to minimize any interruption of your hosted solution resulting in a 99.5% uptime for our clients.

RoseASP Scope of Services

RoseASP provides both Dedicated and Shared Hosting Services for Microsoft Dynamics GP. Additionally, we can further customize your hosted environment to include Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Microsoft SharePoint, Microsoft SQL and Microsoft Exchange – enabling your business with a full suite of Back Office services in one easily accessible, outsourced, and fully redundant Hosted Environment. RoseASP is a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner and Microsoft Business Solutions Partner through our parent company, Rose Business Solutions, Inc. We are among the highest tier of Microsoft Partners and are widely known and respected across the nation.

1099 edit list for 10.0

Was in Los Angeles all last week. Nice to visit several clients that I have not been on site with for over 4 years. Spent time with Frances, Kerry and Brian from our L.A. office. Great people and a joy to be around.

Had someone call about 1099′s for the first time this year. They were already preparing for that stressful time of year and noticed their edit list had no balances for any 1099 vendor. Found tech doc #944888 saying this is a know issue for 10.0 and was resolved in service pack 2. Also had someone schedule their payroll year end close with me. First one of the season.

Must mean it’s time for Christmas tree’s and presents when I start thinking of 1099′s.

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