Dynamics 365: The Return of Virtual Companies! (sort of)

Cross-Company Data Sharing

For all previous versions of Dynamics AX, Virtual Companies have been a boon for installations spread out over many legal entities. Such installations could leverage Virtual Companies to share tables across the organizations, easing data management requirements and maintaining data integrity between entities. With the initial release of Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations, Microsoft retired the functionality and has now replaced it with a new feature called Cross-Company Data Sharing. Though conceptually similar, the initial feature did not support master tables, and could only be used to share data across code tables. This meant that previous configurations which shared their customer or other master data could utilize the same feature in Dynamics 365.

However, in the April version 8.0 release of Dynamics 365, Microsoft has added limited data sharing support for master tables, starting with customers and vendors. This support is not enabled by default, but if your use case and database state supports it, Microsoft can enable this functionality in your Dynamics 365 environment. Once enabled, your companies can reap the benefits of shared customer and vendor masters! Let’s dive in and take a look at what this new feature provides.

Sharing Master Tables Across Legal Entities

Let say that my companies WDGT and GZMO make widgets and gizmos, respectively, and are set up as separate legal entities. WDGT and GZMO both sell their widgets and gizmos to the same customers that use the parts to assemble gadgets for use in the aerospace industry. By the nature of the business, customers that buy widgets are likely going to buy gizmos as well. I would like to set up my Dynamics 365 environment to allow WDGT and GZMO to share their customer masters, so their users do not have to both perform maintenance on each customer. I will accomplish this by creating a Data Sharing Policy and adding the applicable tables and legal entities.

1. Create a New Data Sharing Policy

First follow to the “Configure cross-company data sharing” page located under System administration > Setup > Configure cross company data sharing. Please make sure you are running at least the Dynamics 365 8.0 spring release (D365 8.1 is available now) and that the feature has been enabled by Microsoft for your Azure Tenant. Otherwise, the system will error when trying to add the customer table to the sharing policy.

  • Please click “New” in the ribbon and give our sharing policy a name, then click save.
  • Then click “Add” under “Tables and fields to share” and type in CustTable followed by “Add table”.

configure cross-company data sharing

  • Since my companies will also need the same customer groups when creating customers, the steps must be repeated for the CustGroup table.
  • These tables must be expanded by clicking the arrow next to the table names. This lets me see the fields that will be replicated across companies. I will leave the default fields checked, but in your case it is important to examine the fields individually and only replicate fields that are necessary. Note that the “InventSite” field is unchecked, this is the sales order site default field. Our companies have their own inventory dimension setup so this is an example of a field that should not be copied from one to the other.

cross-company data sharing in dynamics 365

  • Next I will add my GZMO and WDGT companies to the policy by pressing “Add” under “Companies which share the records in these tables”.

2. Enable the Data Sharing Policy

  • Once I have ensured that the tables, fields, and companies are correct, I will press “Save” and then “Enable”.
  • I will click yes at the prompt to copy existing data.
  • The system will now copy existing records for both companies to the other, and enable the policy.

enable cross-company data sharing

copy all existing data across all shared companies

3. Test the Data Sharing Policy

  • I will first create a customer group under WDGT for our new customers to use.
  • I will then create a customer, also under WDGT.

test sharing policy

  • Upon switching companies to GZMO, I can see that both my customer group and the customer I created have been replicated with the same values.

customer group and customer replicated

  • However, if I modify the Inventory Site field for a customer under GZMO, the value is not copied to WDGT since my data policy dictates that field should not be replicated.

virtual companies dynamics 365

all customers

  • Finally, viewing the created records in SQL, the data sharing feature copies the records to each Legal Entity. It does not create a separate legal entity for the sharing like the old Virtual Company feature did.

created records in SQL

Now that the data is shared, my companies can get back to making widgets and gizmos, and don’t have to fuss with maintaining records across multiple entities. In my example, the Legal Entities were new and did not have records in them. When creating or enabling a data sharing policy for existing companies, there will be additional considerations for setting the precedence for duplicate existing records. It is important to explore data sharing as part of your implementation to avoid testing overhead after your data is populated.

If this seems like a feature that can help you simplify your data management in Dynamics 365 environment, contact your solution provider, who can analyze whether your environment is a good fit for master data sharing, and work  with Microsoft to turn on the functionality for you.


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