Maintaining Your Microsoft Dynamics CRM to Realize Its Full Potential

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I’m guessing you regularly service your car, changing the oil and performing a maintenance check when it’s recommended by the manufacturer. Neglecting regular maintenance could mean a shorter and more troublesome life for your vehicle.
The same principle apples to your CRM software solution. It’s not based on mileage, but your CRM should be checked at least once a year to make sure it’s running at peak efficiency.

Microsoft is committed to twice-yearly online upgrade schedules for Dynamics 365 CE (Customer Engagement). They have now added strict deadlines for performing upgrades to the latest versions. The new policy emphasizes the benefit of keeping your CRM solution in top condition. As you address the impact of any changes in the new version, you’ll want to determine how best to leverage the system’s enhanced capabilities within your organization.

If your business runs Dynamics 365 CE online or Dynamics CRM 2016, you may realize that 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. Time is running out for you to upgrade to version 9.0, the latest major version.

Microsoft sent out email messages urging this upgrade if you are not already using version 9. You’ll need to schedule an upgrade before the middle of August or Microsoft will schedule it automatically for you. After the middle of this month, you may lose any flexibility in the upgrade schedule. What is certain is that your upgrade must be completed before the last day of January 2019, because according to Microsoft’s website, after February 1, 2019, they will support only the latest version.

This post is not intended to make you panic. But we do urge you to take action.

Go to the Dynamics 365 CE portal and check to see if updates are available for your online environments. Determine the dates currently available for upgrading for your production instance.
Choose the optimum time and date for performing your upgrade. Go ahead and schedule a date for your production upgrade. If you have familiarized yourself with the changes inherent in the update, schedule your update sooner rather than later. However, if you need time to analyze the impact of the version 9 update on your solution and your business, you may want to schedule the update later to give you more time.

A sandbox instance will allow you to preview changes before upgrading. If you do not have a sandbox instance in addition to your production instance, your Microsoft Dynamics partner can help you set one up. Sandboxes are no longer a frill, but a necessary component of an orderly and well-managed upgrade experience.

You’ll want your sandbox upgrade scheduled at least two weeks before that of your production instance. Plan to copy your production configuration to the sandbox before the sandbox upgrade. That way you’ll be able to run through various scenarios or perform complete regression testing. Use the interval between the sandbox upgrade and the production upgrade to test and resolve any issues raised. If your system relies on heavy customization using plug-ins or JavaScript, you may require more time between the sandbox and production upgrades.

Contact the ISVs about their software that you are running with your Dynamics 365. Find out if there are updates required to bring their software into line with Dynamics 365 CE version 9.
After you have scheduled your upgrade with Microsoft, it is time to step back and plan for a more measured and intentional analysis.

What to consider when analyzing Dynamics 365 CE:

Does the current production system match the vision of how you want Dynamics 365 CE to deliver value to your business? If not, where does it fall short? Are there unused features that might increase your solution’s capabilities and value? Are there fields that could be used more consistently and effectively.

What new features of the upgrade will be the most beneficial? Are there features on which you currently rely that will be eliminated?

What technical debt have you built up since the system went live or since the last major overhaul? This includes built but outdated, obsolete, or unused automation (including workflows and JavaScript). Where have users implemented “work arounds” because the current system fails to support their needs?

What about the information managed by the system; could it be managed better? What other areas of the business use this information that currently do not use Dynamics 365 CE? 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 your business?

The answers to these questions will help you plan out necessary tasks required before the upgrade to your sandbox instance, between the sandbox and production upgrades, 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. These updates can be your incentive to regularly re-evaluate the direction of your business 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 online hosting as well as transitioning between on premise and online, replacement of legacy CRM systems, enhancements, customizations and advanced configuration, integration, and data warehousing. If you have questions about upgrading or transitioning your system, contact our experts and let us help you ensure the success of your project.

By Velosio,

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