You take your car in for regular oil changes and scheduled maintenance every 15,000 miles. Your CRM requires a similar check every year to make sure it too is firing on all cylinders. Last month Microsoft not only announced its commitment to a twice-yearly online upgrade schedule for Dynamics 365 CE (Customer Engagement), but also added strict deadlines for upgrading to the latest version. This policy change adds new urgency to reviewing how well your CRM is running, addressing the impact of changes in the new version and examining how best to leverage the enhanced system capabilities for your organization.
If your organization has Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement online or Dynamics CRM 2016, time is running short to upgrade to version 9.0, the latest major version. Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement Version 9 was introduced in October 2017 and has been available as an upgrade since the first quarter of 2018 for most current customers.
You may have received an email message from Microsoft recently about upgrading, if your organization is not running version 9. The gist of the message is before mid-August you need to schedule your upgrade or else Microsoft will automatically schedule the upgrade for you. It is unclear what re-scheduling flexibility you will have after mid-August. However, it is very clear that all upgrades must be completed by January 31, 2019. According to the “Manage Updates” page for Dynamics 365 CE on Microsoft’s web site, “From February 1, 2019, onwards, we will only support the latest generally available version.”
It is not time to panic, but a few steps need to be taken right away:
- Go to the Dynamics 365 CE portal and determine if there are updates available for your online environments. See what the range of dates are currently available for upgrading for your production instance.
- Assess the best date and time to upgrade Dynamics 365 CE production based on the available choices. Schedule the date for your production upgrade. If you are currently unsure of the impact of version 9 on your system you may wish to push out the date as far as possible to give you some time to analyze the differences with your current version.
- If you do not have a Sandbox instance in addition to your production instance, contact Microsoft or your software reseller about getting a Sandbox instance. Sandbox instances are no longer “nice to have,” but form the foundation for an orderly and well managed upgrade experience.
- Contact the ISVs that publish any software you use that connect to or are installed in Dynamics 365. Determine if there are updates needed to get their software to be compatible with Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement version 9.
Once you have locked in the upgrade schedule with Microsoft, it is time to step back and plan for a more measured and intentional analysis.
When analyzing Dynamics 365 CE, you need to consider:
- How closely the current production system matches the vision of how Dynamics 365 CE is to deliver value to the organization? Where is it falling short? Are there features that are not being used which, with better adoption, could deliver significant value? What fields are being used ineffectively or inconsistently?
- What are the new features that will be available with the upgrade which seem promising? What features are being eliminated with the upgrade that are heavily used currently?
- Looking at the information managed by the system, how might the information be managed better? What other areas of the business use this information that currently do not use Dynamics 365 CE, but might benefit these other areas (and the whole organization)? How might bringing new information into Dynamics 365 CE enhance the value of the system to users and more completely provide a 360-degree view of the business?
With these answers in hand, you will want to plan out the necessary tasks before the upgrade to your Sandbox instance, between the Sandbox and production upgrade and after the upgrade. Keep in mind that Microsoft will be offering upgrades in April and October and will generally insist that you upgrade in six months or less from the new software being available. This can be your incentive to regularly re-evaluate the direction and perform needed changes along with testing, training, communication, and documentation. Now, more than ever, it is time to pay attention to that maintenance light that just went “on” for your Dynamics 365 system.
Velosio has broad experiencing in helping our clients with upgrades for both on premise and on-line hosting as well as transitioning between on-premise and on-line, replacement of legacy CRM systems, enhancements, customizations and advanced configuration, integration and data warehousing. If you have questions about upgrading or transitioning your system, send our experts an email and ensure success for your project.