Microsoft Dynamics 365 upgrade

Continuous evolution of business requirements changes expectations for existing software implementations. Software developed several years ago might not be a right solution for problems organisations are facing today. The question many organisations are trying to find an answer for is whether existing Dynamics implementation brings value or is holding the business back.

Why upgrade to Dynamics 365?

Dynamics 365 is a software as a service, there is no need to worry about infrastructure, security or patching. Microsoft provides 99.9% money backed SLA.

How easy is to upgrade?

Dynamics 365 requires customers to upgrade at least once per year, this widens the gap between Dynamics 365 online and on-premise legacy implementations of Dynamics. The differences between Microsoft Dynamics 365 online makes upgrading a difficult task. It requires careful planning and a good level of understanding and experience. Before starting on an upgrade journey every organisation must understand:

· Which part of the system to upgrade and what can be replaced with new standard functionality.

· What to do with the existing data and how much of this data to migrate into Dynamics.

· What are the associated costs. These should include not only upgrade related costs but all additional tasks like data cleansing, data migration, additional infrastructure, storage, hosting, etc.

· Upgrades must go through all intermediate versions of Dynamics CRM, which requires new environment just to support an upgrade process.

When these questions are answered the next problem is how to upgrade and test

Upgrade or reimplement?

There are two main strategies to upgrade to Dynamics 365: upgrade or reimplementation.

Upgrade can bring data and customisations (given they are still supported) to the latest version. If existing implementation is based on Dynamics CRM 2013 or above, most of the functionality will work the same way. Implementations of Dynamics CRM before 2013 would require training to simplify user adoption but a potential candidate for complete refactoring.

Reimplementation starts fresh from a new implementation of Dynamics 365. To re-evaluate requirements, to revisit business processes, to realign business and technology. Redeployment can be a very significant undertaking that can impact every aspect of existing customisations, reports or data.

Even new implementations can contain features that are now deprecated (dialogs are an obvious example) or rely on 3rd party solutions that can be replaced with new platform features or unsupported on Dynamics 365. Each implementation is unique and there is no universal answer.

What to keep in mind

Dynamics 365 today is different from Dynamics CRM few years ago. If the upgrade strategy is understood there are still other areas to consider:

· Licencing model changed when Microsoft rebranded the product to Dynamics 365

· All customisations must be reviewed for compatibility with Dynamics 365, unsupported customisations must be removed

· All reports must be reviewed. Only FetchXML reports are natively supported. Data Export Service or Power BI can become a solution.

· Existing integration points must be scrutinised, some may become obsolete and some may not work with Dynamics 365

· 3rd party applications must be assessed for compatibility and related business value

· Client environment including existing end user software, hardware specification, internet connectivity, firewall restrictions

Do I need help?

For some organisations it is possible to upgrade using internal expertise or utilising partnership with Microsoft. FastTrack from Microsoft is designed to help organisations to move to the cloud faster and easier.

For others the idea of performing an upgrade themselves is daunting. There is no easy way to identify unsupported customisations; integration needs are complex; data migration can be time consuming and challenging. It is easy to miss parts of the upgrade process. For these organisations bringing external partner to evaluate existing implementation, to provide recommendations, to speed-up and simplify the whole process can be an answer.

How to go about an upgrade?

Planning and preparation are vital for a successful upgrade.

Following stages can bring the structure to the whole process.

Analysis

• Identify new business requirements and evaluate them with respect to the new version.

• Determine the technical and functional approaches to the upgrade.

Design

• Define how the upgrade will be implemented and establish the required steps for the upgrade.

• Review the existing implementation including integrations, customisations, and interfaces to determine any potential design impact.

Development

• Perform the upgrade, modify customisations, integrations, interfaces and data.

• Perform regression testing

Deployment

  • Deliver user training, user acceptance testing, prepare upgraded production environment and perform the actual cutover.

Evaluate the existing implementation to ensure good understanding of complexity

  • Forms
  • SDK Processing Steps (plugins)
  • Processes (workflows, actions, dialogs, business rules)
  • Reports
  • Web resources (JavaScript, HTML)
  • Integration requirements
  • External dependencies
  • Licences, users, security roles
  • Entities relationship
  • Data volume
  • Security implementation

During upgrade consider the following steps

SSRS Reports

· Rewrite FetchXML

· Configure Data Export Service

· Convert to Power BI

Integration

· Validate accessibility

· Upgrade authentication

· Refactor integration architecture

· Remove dependency on SOAP endpoint

Documents\Files

· Transform to SharePoint or OneDrive

· Plan SharePoint transition

Data Migration

· Bespoke data migration

· SSIS and KingswaySoft

Summary

· Dynamics 365 upgrade is difficult

· Recent implementation does not mean painless upgrade

· Re-implementation can be faster, less expensive and in general better option

· There are many factors to consider

· You are not alone!

Picture from Tom Ashworth