Scoping and Planning an Upgrade to Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Operations

By Steve Mortland | August 29, 2017

Your company has decided to investigate whether now is the time to upgrade to the current version of Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations - Enterprise Edition (D365 for Operations). You have been given the job to figure out how much the upgrade will cost and how long it will take to complete the upgrade. If your company is like most who are running an older version of Dynamics AX, your company has made more customizations to the software than you can count. In fact, you might not be able to even identify some of the customizations or you might not even know who is still using some of the reports that were written. You also know that you can’t take years to complete the upgrade and that if the project doesn’t go well, it probably will cost you your job. So how do you approach this daunting task?

The Dynamics AX upgrade to Dynamics 365 for Operations project can be divided into three phases: Scoping, Planning, and Execution. This blog will focus on the Scoping and Planning phases. If these two phases are done successfully, the execution phase will take care of itself.

Scoping Phase of Upgrade to Dynamics 365 for Operations

The scoping phase is about discovering how your users are using the current system and what will be included in the upgrade project and what will wait for future projects. This includes identifying customizations to Dynamics AX, understanding what users are doing outside Dynamics AX to get their jobs done, and identifying new functionality in D365 for Operations that could either replace existing customizations or external systems or could add value to your organization.

Sounds easy, but how do you make sure nothing is being missed? The answer is to use a process-centric approach. Stoneridge Software has developed a process catalog that we use to help break down a business’ operations into smaller, more manageable pieces. The first task is to use the process catalog to perform an Enterprise Process Review. The review goes through every process in the catalog and determines whether the process is currently being utilized by the business. This helps to draw the boundaries around the project, what will be considered in-scope versus out of scope. For example, currently, your company doesn’t utilize Dynamics AX for your fixed asset accounting. This might be a feature that in the future your company would like to implement, but for the upgrade project, fixed assets will be out of scope.

The second step is to conduct interviews with the process users for every process that was identified to be in-scope during the Enterprise Process Review. The goal is to better understand how the company uses the process and to determine customizations to Dynamics AX. Important questions to ask when a customization is identified are how often to you use this customization and what would be the impact if the customization was not completed before going live with D365 for Operations. It can be extremely helpful to have someone who has implemented D365 for Operations to assist in determining whether customizations can be eliminated based on new functionality in D365 for Operations.

Additional steps include:

  • Obtaining a list of objects that have been customized:
    • Tables
    • Menus
    • Forms
    • Reports
  • Review integrations with other systems
  • Discuss data migration requirements

Planning Phase for Upgrade to Dynamics 365 for Operations

Once you have gathered the information in the Scoping Phase, it’s time to develop the plan for the upgrade. If your company has a significant amount of customization, one of the most challenging tasks will be to figure out which customizations must be upgraded before go-live of D365 for Operations and which customizations could potentially be done after go-live. In many cases, if you wait until all customizations have been converted to the new system, it might take years to implement the new version. I saw a post about projects that said: “Delivered is better than perfect.” Sometimes the benefits of starting to use the new system outweigh waiting until everything works perfectly.

Your implementation plan should include these five tracks:

  • Environment/Configuration
  • Data Migration
  • Integrations
  • Customizations
  • User Training

Don’t overlook the importance of the User Training. I would suggest that user training is accomplished using Joint Process Design Sessions (JPD). During the JPD, the team reviews each process (like Manage Customer Master or Create Sales Order) to determine how the system needs to be configured to achieve the required functionality in D365 for Operations. Multiple iterations of JPDs may be required to work through every business case that the team identifies. When the team can successfully process every business case that was identified without errors, the team would prepare documentation used for training additional users. Once all JPDs for a process group have been completed, end-to-end testing should be completed utilizing Conference Room Pilots (CRP). Conference Room Pilots are an organized method of testing the configuration of the software to ensure that all business testing cases that have been identified perform as expected.

These tracks will run concurrently and, once completed, will be followed by full User Acceptance Testing (UAT) and Go-Live activities.

If you're considering an upgrade to Dynamics 365 for Operations check out our Upgrade Assessment package to help prepare you for the course ahead.

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