Dynamics Matters Podcast: How to manage Microsoft Dynamics 365 updates

Episode 53: With special guest Mark Carey, Head of Optimisation, HSO

✔ When to update existing Dynamics 365 business applications

✔ How to update existing Dynamics 365 business applications

✔ And why it's important to manage these updates

Transcript

Welcome everyone to episode 53 of the HSO Dynamics matters podcast.

Your regular sonic dive into the world of Microsoft technology related matters and much more besides.

I’m your host Michael Lonnon and my guest for this episode is someone who has spent 25 years knee deep in the world of ERP and so knows a thing or two about how to get value from it.

Mark Carey – HSOs Head of Optimisation – joins me for a chin wag about how organisations can adopt the latest releases, upgrades, and innovations without disrupting operations.

It’s something that every organisation with enterprise software will need to go through, so grab a brew, sit back, relax, and wrap your ears around some golden advice.

Michael Lonnon

Failure is not an option or take the learnings and move on?

Mark Carey

Take the learnings and move on, definitely. I’ve been in the ERP business for 25 years now and I’ve definitely made some mistakes. You learn for them that’s the one of the main things that you need to do is learn from your mistakes and move on and not make the same one’s next time.

Michael Lonnon

Fix or replace?

Mark Carey

Good question, you’ve got me stumped me on that one. These days, obviously, being in a world where it’s all about sustainability, I think we should all try and fix stuff rather than buy from scratch again. So, if it’s possible to fix something we should, if it is impossible, then sometimes you’ve got to replace.

Michael Lonnon

I agree, so along the line in terms of fix and replacing. There’s still a lot of organisations out there using platforms like Microsoft Dynamics AX and other on-premise platforms. Now they’re not behind the times or anything like that, but could you describe why it might benefit those organisations that are on premise platforms to perhaps move on to a cloud environment?

Mark Carey

Cloud environments, a few years ago when they first started coming in, there were a lot of people that were sceptical about it, myself included. There’s a lot of old-fashioned MD, CEO, CFOs that really want to keep data and technology fully under their control. With the technology and advancements that have been made in recent years with regard to speed, security, reliability, if you don’t keep your data in the cloud these days, in your ERP systems, you’re losing out, you’re behind the times on legislative updates, bug fixes, if you’re only doing updates once or twice a year, well, probably once every two years was the old fashioned way of doing Dynamics AX updates, you’re just way behind with all the fixes and new features that are being implemented and introduced by Microsoft.

Michael Lonnon

This makes it sound obvious that you would want to move on. So why wouldn’t an organisation necessarily do so?

Mark Carey

Again, there is an old-fashioned feeling that some customers want to keep it fully under their control. From a security point of view, from a data point of view, they know where the data is, they know where it’s stored. The problem is, if you do that, you’re not getting value from Microsoft contracts. You’re always going to have delayed fixes to Microsoft code. A big thing these days is ISV solutions, where you’ve got all the vendors with other solutions and if you don’t constantly keep on top of their updates as well, because they keep their systems in the cloud these days, so if yours isn’t, you’re going to fall behind and you’re going to have a lot of issues, keeping up to date with them. Basically, one of the big things if you don’t keep your system up to date as quickly as possible these days, it can very quickly become out of date and non-compliant with legal and country specific requirements.

Michael Lonnon

Okay, so the organisation has made that decision to move on to a cloud platform, and obviously the benefits of a cloud platform is you benefit from the continuous innovation that the vendor is putting into the platform that you’re now sat on but there’s still a bit of reticence in bringing in the new releases for fear of it mucking up other applications that are connected onto the platform and those sorts of things and security as well is a big thing. So how can organisations manage those releases better?

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Mark Carey

The way Microsoft do it, they deliver two major updates each year, April wave one and October wave two, but they also have ongoing regular minor updates as well. They do allowed cert to you to defer a certain amount of time as well, but the process is effectively when these updates are due, you’ll get an email from Microsoft telling you it’s due, you’ll be able to defer it or plan when it gets automatically updated into your sandbox environment. Obviously once it’s there, there is a case of being a of testing it and that’s the big thing. Whenever these updates are automatically updated into your environments testing is a real key to make sure that your standard and your key procedures effectively are not affected.

Michael Lonnon

Do you think there’s a bit of a Selling job in terms of an organisation getting the releases poured into the system still?

Mark Carey

There’s two major parts we see with these releases or the platform updates, there is the technical update, which is the bug fixes that go in and we do find that the majority of our customers that are in a stable system now want to adopt these platform updates and want to get the latest release on there. If a company is still in an implementation phase, for example, they may delay it because they may be in analysis and design/development phase and having new releases and they don’t necessarily want to interrupt it. When we do have customers that do want to put these updates in, we have a thing called our foundation services agreement at a basic level that will include so many PU updates a year. What it does also include is extra additional features, like performance reviews, and licence analysis and one thing that we call the functional impact analysis as well. What happens now is a lot of customers historically, since this PU system has gone in, they’ve accepted the technical update and they know they’re getting that for the bug fixes. The functional updates can sometimes have 40/50 different functional features per release and customers don’t have the time to look at that. So, the problem is they’re falling behind on functional advances in the software that we’re that they may use. What we do with a functional impact analysis is that we will collate every single one of these functional changes that’s going into a new release and come up with a summary document detailing what area of the system they are, we can then work with the customer and consultants who have worked with that customer before. So, it could be solution architects that helped with the original implementation, finance or retail consultants that help to put it in as well or it could just even be support staff for optimizations consultants who work for HSO, who know the customer system. What we will do is run through all of the options on the new functional release and do an impact analysis. So initially, we’ll have a look to see if these new functional features will have an impact. For example, if you’ve got a business that solely based in the UK, and there’s a new piece of functionality, that is Mexican VAT, there’s no impact, you just do your put a tick through it straightaway. If there’s a new feature that is better reporting on the UK, making touch digital, for example, you will want to look at it. We’ll go through all of these features will do an impact analysis, whether there’s no impact, or high, medium, or low impact will also then look at the benefit analysis as well. It may be some of these features will have a benefit in the future have sort of a small benefit, but it could be that some of these features, if it’s a big change in the way warehousing module works, and that’s the primary focus of your business, it could be a high benefit. We’ll come up with a report that so shows for example, 50 new features, there might be 20, we recommend that you enable straightaway, 20 that you ignore because they’re nothing to do with you but 10 that need more detailed investigation. At the end of the day, it’s always down to the customer as to whether they accept these new features or not. They’re always available in feature management and at any point in the future, they can still turn them on and use them if they need to.

Michael Lonnon

The purpose of the assessment is to make it easy, make it clear, make the journey from where you are to pulling the new release in as simple as possible, and as beneficial as possible.

Mark Carey

There is a lot of benefits if you look at the past three, four releases, one of the problems we’ve had is that if we do this, for every release that comes out, or at least the two major ones a year, you’ve got a small list of features, we are a recent customer had not updated for four of these. So instead of 50 features to look at, we had about 200 to go through. When we went through, we found quite a lot of features that the customer went I wished I’d known about that earlier.

Michael Lonnon

Would you say the best advice in terms of the best first step in taking advantage of these features that are coming through is that perhaps run something along the lines of an impact assessment to work out what’s right for you and what you should bring in?

Mark Carey

Absolutely, a simple thing that we can do is on any customer’s environment, you can look at the Feature Management module, and it’ll tell you which features are currently enabled and which aren’t and it’s a very quick way that anyone with a Dynamics 365 environment can look down and see how many features are not enabled and from that they can take, they can take a very quick view and they may only be one or two that need to investigate or they may want to do a full impact analysis of everything that’s on the current system, and everything that’s coming in the next release as well to see what is worth taking or not.

Summary

Following a prescribed upgrade path isn’t always the right thing to do.

There may be times where the learning curve is too great for that point in time, or resources too stretched on other projects. And that’s fine.

But adopting the latest technology releases is essential. At some point.

If you don’t then you place your organisation at a greater security risk. And without the latest updates you risk falling behind your competitors that have brought on board.

Leaving upgrades to pile up also increases the complexity of bringing them in, raising the risk of something going wrong.

Upgrades are design to protect your organisation. And to give you the latest tools that enable you to be more successful. If done in the right way that is.

I hope you enjoyed this episode. Keep your ears out for more chats at www.hso.com/dynamics-matters

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