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An Overview of Microsoft Dynamics Lifecycle Services

Per Microsoft, Lifecycle Services (LCS) improves quality & predictability of F&O implementations. It’s designed to provide the right information to the right people at the right time.

Inside, you’ll find a suite of tools to help you manage, monitor, and upgrade F&O, identify known issues, and provide access to external partners and collaborators. In this article, we’ll break down the basics of Microsoft Lifecycle Services and how it guides new F&O users through the implementation process.

What, Exactly, Is Microsoft Lifecycle Services?

Lifecycle Services is a collaboration portal that provides a cloud-based environment, along with a comprehensive set of tools and services for managing the entire lifecycle of all D365 F&O apps & implementations.

“On the surface, LCS allows you to model & maintain key business processes, manage support requests & environments, and automate testing—in one central location. But the effect of all this is, you’re then able to refine & enrich the way your ERP system is used—and as a result, get more value from it.” – Lawrence Edwards, Sr. Client Sales Manager

To understand the value it brings to the table, it helps to consider that LCS was designed to support four key roles:

  • Project managers. Project managers can use LCS to manage implementation projects, track progress, and invite collaborators from both inside and outside of the organization.
  • Business analysts. LCS allows analysts to integrate their company’s goals, differentiators, and processes into all stages of the implementation from gathering requirements and modeling processes to leveraging new functionality toward improved outcomes.
  • Developers. Development teams can use LCS automations and tools to customize applications & processes, streamline upgrades, and maximize uptime.
  • IT admins. Admins can proactively manage the organization’s systems, solve problems faster, and improve uptime.

Lifecycle Services Tools

In these next few sections, we’ve outlined the main tools you’ll find inside your LCS toolkit, as well as their role in the implementation process.

Projects and Methodologies

Projects and Methodologies go hand-in-hand, so it probably makes more sense to explain them as a pair.

So, Projects are the main organizational tool in the LCS suite. They’re based on a series of predefined implementation methodologies and used to provide control and direction throughout the entire project cycle.

Methodologies are step-by-step requirements that guide each phase of a Dynamics 365 implementation from beginning to end. Each LCS Project follows a specific Methodology, which determines the default phases and tasks included in a specific type of project. You’ll need to follow the steps outlined in the methodology, but you can edit/update phases and tasks.

Implementations typically break into four phases:

  • Business analysis
  • Design & development
  • Testing
  • Deployment & operations

Within each of those phases, there are specific tasks you’ll need to complete before moving to the next level. As you work through the tasks outlined in each phase, you can mark them as complete.

You can mark “locked” tasks as complete after completing the associated prerequisites. Simply click the lock icon and you’ll receive a list of prerequisites. This ensures that the project moves forward without skipping any essential steps.

As you progress, you’ll unlock different cloud-based environments you can configure to support the next phase. Think–development or testing environments. While it might sound restrictive, Microsoft says these parameters speed up the implementation process and allow non-technical users to complete tasks without messing anything up.

Using Methodologies, you’ll start with a documented list of tasks for each stage.

As the project progresses, you can go back in and make changes. Maybe you’ve encountered an issue in one of your processes. Or, maybe new information prompts you to update business requirements.

Whatever changes you make, this tool helps you document the latest best practices and use them in future projects.

The platform comes with several pre-made methodologies you can use as templates. You’ll also have the option to upload your own. Either way, Methodologies makes it easy to track progress toward critical milestones, define project phases & tasks, make changes, and invite collaborators.

It enables teams to follow replicable processes and ensures that projects deliver predictable outcomes. And–it reduces the chances of making a mistake that could undermine your entire system. For example, configuration errors might prevent users from accessing critical data.

Or, create an opening for hackers to enter your system and cause serious damage.

Cloud-Hosted Environments

Cloud-hosted environments allow you to deploy Dynamics 365 environments to Azure.

To get started, you’ll choose from a few different environments: development/testing, production, or demo, depending on where you are in your implementation journey.

LCS then serves up the right amount of virtual machines (VMs)–which come pre-loaded with the components and configurations needed to support the environment you selected.

Business Process Modeler

The Business Process Modeler (BPM) is a tool that allows you to design, preview, and edit business process libraries and flowcharts. It’s critical for standardizing and aligning processes to match your strategy and user requirements. It also allows you to identify performance gaps and enforce regulatory requirements and industry best practices.

Task Recorder

The Task Recorder goes hand-in-hand with the BPM. It’s used to record processes and upload them to the BPM library. Recordings can be used across a number of use cases:

Essentially, they help you understand how users interact with proposed changes — and find ways to improve. You can create task guides, save them to LCS, and replay them.

Customization Analysis

Customization analysis is an automated tool that analyzes any planned and existing customizations by validating your model files against known best practices for tables, forms, classes, and enums. Once the analysis is complete, it generates an Excel report that contains a list of issues that need to be addressed before migrating customizations into the new system.

Issue Search

The Issue search tool is exactly what it sounds like–it helps users search for known issues with Dynamics 365 products. It’ll tell you which issues have been resolved, remain open, or can’t be fixed. The benefit is, issue search allows you to avoid preventable issues and identify workarounds before you run into trouble.

This tool also allows you to search for regulatory features that are currently available or slated for a future release. Additionally, you can look for things like certifications, registrations, and white papers.

System Diagnostics

System diagnostics helps IT admins manage AX environments and take action when needed.

This tool can be used to perform the following tasks:

  • Discovering on-prem AX environments
  • Collecting data from those environments
  • Running rules on the data you’ve collected
  • Reporting rule violations
  • Generating reports

Updates

Updates is a list of available updates for a specific D365 environment. The benefit here is, it makes it easier to keep track of updates, learn about new capabilities, and understand the impact new features/functionality will have on an environment and its associated processes, customizations, and workflows.

This tool also helps users plan tests and simulations–which is critical when you’re preparing for significant changes.

Upgrade Analysis

The upgrade analysis tool helps you plan your upgrade to the most recent version of Dynamics F&O. If you’re starting from an older on-prem system like AX 4.0, 2009, or 2012 — the tool analyzes code artifacts from your current system. From there, it automatically serves up a report detailing what migrating from AX to F&O entails and what you’ll need to do to prepare for the big move.

It’s also useful for determining whether migration even makes sense or if you’re better off with a full reimplementation.

Usage Profiler

The Usage profiler helps stakeholders understand the plans for the upcoming implementation.

You can import business process data from BPM,

License Sizing Estimator

License sizing estimator is designed to give you an idea of how many seats you’ll need to support your entire workforce. LCS offers a shared workspace for modeling default and custom user roles and automatically calculates the amount of client access licenses, or CALs you’ll need to get started.

Infrastructure Estimator

Infrastructure estimator is a tool that gives users a general idea of what hardware you’ll need to support the new system.

This tool allows you to create estimates for environments hosted on-prem and in the cloud–though according to Microsoft, it’s not meant to replace the in-depth manual estimates you’d perform ahead of an implementation. Rather, it’s designed to give you a baseline for understanding what to include in your budget/project plan.

To generate an infrastructure estimate, you’ll first need to create a usage profile. Infrastructure estimates use that data to match usage and role requirements with a set of servers of predefined size.

Environments

  • Development
  • Production
  • Testing
  • Training

Server roles

  • AOSviirt
  • SQL Server
  • Enterprise Portal
  • Terminal Services
  • AOS for Enterprise Portal
  • SQL Server Reporting Services
  • SQL Server Analysis Services
  • Help Server

Final Thoughts

LCS provides a powerful set of tools that, when used correctly, support a smooth transition to Dynamics Finance & Operations–and help new users lay the groundwork for achieving critical business objectives.

But, you’re not limited to the “out-of-the-box” functionality. Many implementation partners have developed solutions that extend the value of LCS to better serve individual business needs.

Velosio offers AXIO, a framework that builds on the automation capabilities offered through F&O. It eliminates manual processes that drive up costs and complexity of implementations and updates–so you can reap the returns of your investment ASAP.

As Sam Miller puts it, “LCS becomes even more useful when we use what we deliver in AXIO.”

To learn more about what that means for your business, book a consultation today.


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