Since Dynamics 365 stormed onto the market in the wake of AX 2012, there have been significant changes and upgrades to implementation processes. From Lifecycle Services to task recordings, going live with a new system has been made as stress-free as possible by Microsoft.

Here are my top ten tips for managing your Dynamics 365 project:

  1. Ensure business processes have been outlined before the project starts

Too often, projects are started in earnest with a strong idea of the end-result at a high-level, but find themselves swiftly blocked due to a lack of mapped detailed business processes. Map out your business scenarios and systems architecture before you start – it’ll save you a lot of time, money and messiness later down the road.

  1. Look out for licencing

Make sure you do your research on how the Dynamics 365 stack licencing works – you can get better deals by creating packages of your choosing. From Finance to Operations to CE (Customer Engagement) to PowerApps to HR, the options are endless. Try and think ahead to the bigger picture of your business systems architecture – what areas of the ERP system do you want to utilise?

  1. Arrange the right resource and governance

I have seen too many projects run predominantly by IT teams, where a lack of business stakeholder presence in the design and implementation causes serious problems. Ensure you have the right stakeholders across the business who can dedicate real time to the project, and their roles are backfilled if required. It is also integral to set up regular steering boards with C-level stakeholder attendance and support, to ensure the project is on track and hitting milestones.

  1. Use the right communication platforms

Ensure your project team has access to communication platforms with screen-sharing functionality such as Microsoft Teams to establish easy channels of talking to each other. In a world where remote working is becoming the norm, this is ever more important.

  1. Explore Lifecycle Services

Lifecycle Services (LCS) is Microsoft’s Azure-based collaboration portal. The home screen upon login features the methodology recommended by Microsoft, with the key tasks and milestones you should achieve in your project before moving onto the next phase. This is a great tool for knowing what the deliverables are and tracking progress. LCS is also your door into setting up environments and users, uploading task recordings, and submitting the subscription estimator so Microsoft can ensure your Production environment is sized properly.

  1. Utilise Azure DevOps

Learn how to use Azure DevOps to manage your project, keeping all information in one place. Here you can house your business requirements, design decisions, risks, actions, development tasks, issues, bugs and more, in one database; you can then report on this using personalised queries. You can also create dashboards, add documents to the Wiki, and upload test plans. You can even apply extensions with various functionality – a personal favourite of mine is Retrospectives, which is great for running lessons learnt sessions.

  1. Manage your environments

Cultivate a list of all environments on the project, including their purpose, platform, auto turn on/off times if applicable, etc. and keep it somewhere accessible to the project team, such as DevOps. Also, ensure your team understands how Microsoft’s evergreen strategy works: every month, ‘platform updates’ are released with new fixes and/or functionality, which are applied to your Production environment. You can delay these under special circumstances such as post go-live periods, which are managed through LCS. You must make sure that all environments are aligned on the same platform during your project, otherwise it may cause numerous problems with code and configuration.

  1. Create a library of task recordings

Recordings of processes in Dynamics 365 can be recorded, saved and uploaded to LCS to help train your business users on how to use the system before go-live. These guides are very useful hands-on reference materials, and I recommend taking time to cultivate an expansive library of each of your business area’s processes.

  1. Don’t forget the non-functional areas

Often, the focus during projects in the analysis phase is on each department’s business functional requirements. Thus, sometimes other areas get missed until too late in the project, such as data migration, reporting, roles and permissions, performance testing, and hardware and Wi-Fi requirements if you’re doing a retail point-of-sale implementation. Start these workshops or discussions as early as you can so you can plan your project accordingly.

  1. Run lessons learnt after each phase of the project

It’s important to know what went wrong – as well as what went well. Make time with your project team to get their feedback at the end of each phase. This group meeting is also a good platform to bring people together and set expectations, as well as gain an understanding of deliverables for the next phase of the project. As previously mentioned, Retrospectives in DevOps is a great interactive tool for people to provide feedback together, discuss how to improve and feel positively reinforced by what has been achieved.

Vivien Chung, Project Manager, HSO