Planning your Microsoft Dynamics ERP (AX 2012) upgrade?

Planning your Microsoft Dynamics ERP (AX 2012) upgrade?

Are you planning your Microsoft Dynamics ERP (AX 2012/ AKA AXAPTA) platform upgrade? Like most organizations you likely want to leverage the new Dynamics 365 Finance & Operations (F&O) feature sets available; as well as plan for the impending end of mainstream support for your existing on-premise AX platform.

Microsoft has made it abundantly clear that the Dynamics platform future will be in the cloud, this should be no surprise as most modern software vendors are doing the same.  Moving to the cloud is something your organization will need to come to terms with sooner or later.  This may be dictated by the Microsoft end of support life-cycle dates (link), announced late last year. Or by some key feature sets you wont have access to if you stay on-premise.

You might be thinking “ok, sure I need to upgrade, but how do I upgrade and what are the key factors?”.  Having run many ERP implementations and upgrades, here are my top 10 considerations to guide your journey:

  • Timing is a key factor, you don’t want to upgrade or make major changes to your ERP platform (Dynamics or otherwise) during a critical audit or fiscal year end.  Upgrading to the cloud will take a minimum of 3 months for smaller simple environments, 6 months for intermediate size environments and anything from 9-12 months onwards for complex larger sized environments.  Best to plan accordingly.

  • Moving your ERP platform up to the cloud will very likely change your overall IT ecosystem.  Careful thought needs to go into your integration layers and data transfer to and from the cloud.  Your current integration logic, authentication mechanisms and tools will need to be carefully and critically evaluated as latency and connection timeouts will need to be planned and tested for. You will also need to determine if there are additional benefits of moving the other integrated systems to the Azure cloud to mitigate these effects.

  • Many AX implementations leverage 1 or more ISV (Independent Software Vendor) add-on solutions. You will want to ensure these add-on's work with your new F&O  platform.  Contact your ISV solution provider(s) as one of your first steps to ensure compatibility, you may also view Microsoft App Source site to see if your ISV solution is already certified.  Note that your ISV's might be busy, so looping them into your project may take several months.  Get your project onto their schedule ASAP.

  • Take some time to review the latest features of F&O.  Microsoft has been investing a lot of effort into enhancing the platform.  Compare the enhancements you have made and ISV solutions you are using with the new out-of-the-box (OOTB) features.  Determine if you can move away from some of your custom built or ISV solutions and leverage the new OOTB functionality.  Note that this will very likely increase the complexity, and therefore risk, of your data migration approach, however it will also help reduce maintenance in the long run.  To review Microsoft's recent enhancements and road-map for F&O head over to Dynamics.Microsoft.com

  • Pay particular attention to the legacy deprecated and removed features sets as outlined on Docs.Microsoft.com.

  • Ensure you have all of your processes, business requirements and use cases fully documented.  Leverage these when creating your regression tests and consider the effort required to update your automation tools / scripts if required.

  • Have your team, or MS partner (such as Aria Consulting), run the compatibility and deprecated toolkit upgrade analyzer.  Then refactor any alerts relating to your overlay customization's as extensions.

  • A great way to prepare for your upgrade is to sign up for a Microsoft Dynamics Lifecycle Services (LCS trial or partner project.  This enables you to deploy your own new F&O environment and evaluate the updated feature sets.  It also provides access to the tools in LCS that are used to evaluate your AX 2012 environment and your existing custom code. Go to Trials.Microsoft.com to get started.

  • If you have a large user footprint (over 150 users) you may qualify for Microsoft FastTrack support (FastTrack FAQ).  Note that access to FastTrack does not replace the need for partner involvement or for you to mobilize your own team.  They do, however, have the ability to provide some background telemetry regarding your cloud environment and performance.  They can also review your proposed architecture and highlight areas that may deviate from the best practices that have been established.

  • Once you have moved to the cloud, you will be on a regular upgrade / release cadence.  Microsoft will be providing monthly fixes and major updates every April and October.  You will need to plan around these updates and align your testing ad roll-out strategy accordingly.  Microsoft currently allows that you are able to push off an update for a month, however you won't be able to be more than two months behind according to current MS policy. For more details review Microsoft's One Version service updates overview.

To recap in brief, plan accordingly, give yourself breathing room and leave time for testing and training.  Don’t forget performance testing as moving to the cloud does impact your data transfer and processing times. And get a partner like Aria Consulting to work with you.

Follow these guidelines and your upgrade from AX to F&O  should be a success!

 

by Lorne Rogers Comment