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Ryan Plourde, Crowe Horwath

8 Proven Steps for a Smooth Microsoft Dynamics CRM Upgrade

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The next time you do a Microsoft Dynamics CRM upgrade, you will likely transition to Microsoft Dynamics 365. But you will still be doing an upgrade.

So it is good to be clear on the steps involved to make sure it is a successful upgrade.

An upgrade is a finite project. There are milestones to complete and testing is very important. Based on our experience of doing hundreds of Microsoft Dynamics CRM upgrades over the years, this is the process we feel works the best.

1. Development

First we make sure that we understand the customer’s current environment and the version you will be upgrading to. We take a copy of the customer's database and set it up in our development environment. We go through the upgrade and then focus on any scripting or functionality that has been deprecated in the previous versions. We will rewrite those and then go through another round of quality assurance and testing.

2. Our Staging

Once we feel pretty good about that we will set up another server called “staging” and bring the completed development upgrade over to the staging environment. We provide our customer with access to our staging server, do a walkthrough of the upgraded CRM system and solicit feedback.

We will ask:

  • As far as you can see, are there any bugs?
  • Is the functionality working as expected?
  • Different versions of CRM have different form layouts, so how do the forms look?
  • Sometimes we need to retrofit the fields into a logical format within the new version, do you feel comfortable with the user interface?

3. Your Staging

Once we get to a point where the customer is comfortable that everything is working as expected, we strongly suggest that the customer also has a staging environment. By doing this extra step to stage in your environment you will see exactly what it is going to be like in production.

We may be able to identify pieces of the upgrade that worked in OUR environment but do not work the same in YOUR environment. For example, third-party integrations such as integration with your ERP system. We would want to recreate that integration within your staging environment and test it. Or at the very least, test a limited amount of information going back and forth. Without this step, you would just be crossing your fingers and hoping that the integration works after the upgrade. It is better for everyone if it has been proved to work in advance.

So our best practice recommendation will be to deploy the database to your staging environment and go through the upgrade process.

4. User Acceptance Testing

The next step is for the customer to go through UAT, or user acceptance testing. This is where you involve more people in the design and functionality review process within your environment. Then we go through the same process of collecting feedback.

Using these steps we still have a consistent process and we advise the customer not to make changes in your staging environment.  You document what changes need to be made so we can continue our more regimented process of deploying those changes.

5.  Repeat

At this point we will work through a process to define any changes then actually make the changes in our development environment.  Then we go through the steps again.  We will deploy it to our staging environment, the customer will review and approve or provide more feedback and then we deploy it to your staging environment.

6. Go Live

When we have confirmation and are in agreement that everything looks good within your staging environment, we schedule a “Go Live” date with a corresponding black out period.  For example, we like to do our upgrades over a weekend. So we may say the blackout period for entering new information would start Friday at 6:00 p.m. At that point no one should enter any information, although they can still view it.

Over the weekend we will perform an in-place upgrade within your existing production environment and deploy all the customizations and changes that we made. The customer will go live Monday morning.

7. Training

At this point we have already scheduled a training session with end users and the CRM administrator at the customer site. As part of that we would deploy the Outlook for CRM client, if you are using it. Plus, we typically provide instructions for someone in IT to go through that process or provide the instructions to the end users.

It is important to have this user training as soon as the upgrade is complete. It is also important to make sure that there is buy in from the users and that they feel their feedback is important.

8. Feedback & Completion

We know that within the first couple of weeks after the Go Live there will always be end user feedback.  We identify someone at the client’s site as the point person that will capture the feedback and we go through the same process. This way we can gather all the information and quickly identify which issues we want to work on first and show the users that we are taking their feedback seriously and rectifying any bugs. We will go back and forth with the customer until things are running smoothly and we both consider the upgrade complete.

Performing upgrades is a skill. You will be more successful if you work with a company that has a specific methodology and proven success.

When you are ready for your next Microsoft Dynamics CRM/Microsoft Dynamics 365 upgrade, contact AbleBridge (now a Crowe Horwath company) at 877-600-2253 or [email protected]

By AbleBridge, Microsoft Dynamics CRM Gold Partner, now a Crowe Horwath company.

www.CroweCRM.com 

Follow us on Twitter: @CroweCRM

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