February 12, 2024

Accounting Dimensions and Their Crucial Role in AP Teams

by The Ottimate Editorial Team

Modern accounting practices require meticulous tracking of expenses across multiple dimensions. For AP teams, this means accurately capturing and allocating costs related to projects, departments, locations, and other attributes that drive financial reporting and analysis.

What are these accounting dimensions? Accounting dimensions, also known as financial dimensions, are key elements in accounting and financial management that provide a structured way to categorize and analyze financial transactions within an organization.

We’ll explore the significance of accounting dimensions for finance leaders and showcase how Ottimate’s innovative Enhanced Dimensions (ED) feature takes expense management to the next level.

Common accounting dimensions and their role in AP teams:

  1. Cost Centers:
    • Cost centers are specific areas, departments, or units within an organization that incur costs. AP teams use cost centers to allocate and track expenses associated with different parts of the business. This helps in budgeting, performance analysis, and resource allocation.
  2. Profit Centers:
    • Profit centers are segments of the organization that generate revenue. AP teams may use profit centers to link expenses with revenue-generating activities, providing insights into the profitability of different business units or product lines.
  3. Projects:
    • For organizations involved in project-based work (such as construction), tracking expenses by project and task is essential. AP teams assign expenses to specific projects to monitor project costs, ensure budget compliance, and evaluate the financial success of each project.
  4. Locations:
    • Multi-location organizations use location dimensions to track expenses and financial activities at various sites. This is crucial for understanding regional variations in costs, compliance with local regulations, and optimizing financial processes for different locations.
  5. Departments:
    • Similar to cost centers, departments are organizational units that may span multiple cost centers. AP teams can use department dimensions to categorize expenses by the functional areas of the organization, making it easier to analyze and manage costs at a higher level.
  6. General Ledger Accounts:
    • GL Accounts refer to different types of financial transactions (e.g., accounts payable, travel expenses). This dimension helps AP teams organize expenses by their nature, ensuring accurate financial reporting and compliance. 
  7. Custom Dimensions:
    • Organizations may introduce custom dimensions based on specific business needs. These could include customer segments, product lines, or any other dimension that provides additional insights into financial performance.
Cost Centers
Profit Centers
General Ledger Accounts
Custom Dimensions

The Need for Dimensional Tracking in Business Finance

Why is granular tracking of expenses so important in the first place? Here are some key reasons:

Greater Customization for Specific Needs

Dimensions allow customization of the financial chart of accounts based on an organization’s unique structure and cost allocation requirements. For example, a construction firm may track expenses by project, phase, cost code, vendor, etc. while a retailer may categorize spending by store, region, product line, and so on.

Enhanced Visibility Through Additional Layers

Dimensions complement the traditional general ledger structure, providing sub-categories that can be attributed to transactions for enriched reporting. Expenses carry contextual metadata like location, department, contract, and other flags that aid analysis.

Insight at the Transaction Level

Unlike general ledger accounts, which classify expenses by type, dimensions fragment and tag each line item with multiple attributes. This transaction-level detail is invaluable, especially when there are thousands of expenses flowing through the system daily.

Sophisticated Reporting and Intelligence

Granular data accumulated in dimensions powers advanced analytics around budgets, project/department costs, operational performance, vendor spending and more. Being able to slice and dice financial information along key business drivers is hugely beneficial.

Greater Customization for Specific Needs
Enhanced Visibility Through Additional Layers
Insight at the Transaction Level
Sophisticated Reporting and Intelligence

Consolidation Across Business Units

In large, multi-entity organizations, dimensions enable roll-up of accounting data at any required level — by geography, division, product, profit center etc. This facilitates consolidation and unified reporting across the enterprise.

As evident, the rationale behind using multiple accounting dimensions is compelling. But tracking expenses at scale across a proliferating set of dimensions poses a key challenge.

Manually allocating costs by project code or location is hugely cumbersome, especially when AP teams handle hundreds of multi-line invoices daily. Further, as business needs evolve, new dimensions get added continually, exacerbating complexity for finance leaders.

This is where purpose-built solutions like Ottimate come in with game-changing capabilities.

Ottimate Enhanced Dimensions: Next-Gen Expense Tracking

Ottimate’s Enhanced Dimensions takes expense allocation to the next level by allowing dynamic import of all accounting dimensions supported in the underlying ERP system.

This means AP automation recognizes the full breadth of dimensions used by the organization and brings them into the invoice coding process automatically through integration APIs.

Unlimited Custom Dimensions with Total Flexibility

Enhanced Dimensions provides astounding flexibility to finance leaders in several ways:

  • Support unlimited number of accounting dimensions without restrictions
  • Decide names, display order, and conventions for dimensions
  • Configure dimensions as mandatory or optional
  • Set header vs line-item level visibility
  • Customize header/line-item behavior for different document types
  • Automated Coding for Faster Processing

Manually allocating expenses against multiple dimensions across hundreds of invoices can be extremely tedious. But Enhanced Dimensions makes the process exponentially efficient through rule-based automated coding.

Users can define rules to map invoice line items to appropriate values from configured accounting dimensions. Once set up, the system applies coding automatically based on rules eliminating the need for repetitive manual work.

For example, invoices from ‘ABC Construction Supplies’ can be auto-coded with relevant project and cost center values through pre-defined rules. Any dimensions left uncoded can also be allocated easily in a single-step.

Powerful Integrations for Seamless Tracking

A key aspect of unlimited custom dimensions is deep integration with leading ERP platforms like Acumatica, Microsoft Dynamics, and SAP Business One that are popular in capital-intensive industries.

This allows seamless transfer of accounting dimensions from the financial system into automation, maintaining continuity in expense coding practices. Centralized changes in ERP master data also get consistently reflected across the integrations.

Extensive and insightful tracking of expenses by location, project phase, cost type, title and other attributes becomes a breeze with Enhanced Dimensions.

Use Cases Showcasing the Power of Unlimited Custom Dimensions

Leading construction firms and retailers are already seeing massive benefits from Ottimate’s unlimited custom dimensions capability:

Construction Industry Client

A heavy engineering construction firm had nearly 25 different project codes and cost centers driving their cost management needs. Manual allocation of invoices against these codes was a hugely frustrating exercise.

With unlimited custom dimensions integrated into their Deltek ERP, the entire coding structure was imported into automation. Rule-based mapping streamlined the invoice processing work for AP teams while finance leaders gained sharper project cost analysis.

Retail Industry Client

A national pharmacy chain tracked expenses by store location, warehouse as well as expense category (facilities, inventory, marketing etc.) for analyzing operational costs. Configuring over 15 dimensions in automation and creating rules for automated mapping brought massive productivity upside. Regional finance teams gained precise oversight of store spending and optimized their budget controls.

Ottimate’s Enhanced Dimensions have had amazing efficiency gains, proven by client case studies.

By mirroring the entire spectrum of dimensions used across the business, it empowers accurate tracking of expense distribution and quicker decisions.

Moreover, the feature’s flexibility allows customization as business needs evolve instead of finance teams feeling constrained by limitations of traditional automation tools.

It’s Time to Ottimate Business Spend Management

In today’s dynamic business landscape, finance leaders need intelligent tools that can match the sophistication of their planning needs and unlock strategic value.

Ottimate’s Enhanced Dimensions delivers this capability for multi-dimensional expense analysis like no other platform. Uniquely designed for complex and fast-scaling use cases, it removes blind spots across business spend; turning data into actionable insights.

By combining automation, customization, integration and actionability in one game changing feature, unlimited custom dimensions will redefine what’s possible with expense management. It’s time businesses prepare for the next frontier powered by Ottimate.

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