Adoption of cloud solutions is spreading far and wide. Many businesses have turned to cloud ERP systems to reduce human capital costs, others to increase efficiency and flexibility – all valuable benefits amid ongoing disruption.
However, continuous cloud updates are not a ‘fix-all’ solution to ensure ongoing operations. Thorough release management of updates and implementation of sound testing strategy must be used to ensure consistent operational functionality and security.
Countless benefits – and a few new challenges
Today, Microsoft Dynamics 365 customers have constant access to the latest technology and functionality, errors are corrected much faster and the solution is constantly in line with the latest legislation. Together with a more modular platform structure, this provides significant improvements in a wide range of fields.
But there is no such thing as a free lunch. New challenges have arisen and need to be addressed. For example, it is necessary to:
- Familiarize yourself very thoroughly with how upcoming updates will precisely affect the company’s solution and processes
- Test updates in advance and ensure that they are fully compatible with the company’s solution, data and any add-ons.
These are concerns we hear from many companies, and they are fully justified. That is why Columbus Care has assembled a team of specialists to help companies deal with these and other challenges: all with the aim of maximizing the value of the ERP investment and minimizing the risk of problems with stability and functionality.
Step 1: Make sure you have a well-planned release management strategy in place
Another cause of irritation is keeping abreast of what each update contains. Which functions will be added and which will be phased out? Are there any changes that might present challenges?
That’s easier said than done. Admittedly, twice a year Microsoft releases so-called ‘Wave Release Notes’ with information about upcoming changes in Dynamics 365. However, although these documents - each 700-800 pages long - are pretty comprehensive, they do not specify when particular changes will be made. You have to keep your eye on a flood of PDFs, emails and other messages to gain and retain an overview. It is – dare I say! – relatively demanding to keep up with, while decoding the documentation calls for special competence.
In this context, we offer an overview in the form of a so-called ‘Release Note Assessment’, which provides information about what each individual update contains, and about which parts of the update a particular organization needs to be aware of. Each customer is assigned a permanent release manager, who knows the company, and discusses with them what has changed, what new features and fixes have been introduced, and the options they provide.
Step 2: Test updates before implementation. It is crucial.
After all, when it comes to new updates, things do not automatically go smoothly. For example, Dynamics 365 updates may mean that suddenly you cannot control the purchase of raw materials, that some employees cannot log in, and that others run the risk of working with old data. But situations like these are not due to Microsoft or the company’s IT department having nodded off.
Of course, Microsoft tests all updates and tackles most bugs before the code is released. But they can only test on the platform itself – not in each company’s business system, which, as we all know, integrates with many other solution elements both inside and outside the company’s control.
So, Microsoft cannot test (or guarantee) whether a company’s Dynamics 365 is acting flawlessly in any configuration. This is especially true when 3rd-party software is involved.
One of the major challenges is limiting the risk associated with putting new code in a business-critical system into operation. This calls for a comprehensive test management, and even better – automated test setup. Very few companies can handle this – at least not entirely alone.
In this context, we help as much as is needed, and this varies from company to company. In any case, we can contribute knowledge from a large number of other organizations in exactly the same situation, thereby pinpointing more easily the places where problems most often arise.
Get equipped to establish an update strategy
This discussion also helps to provide a really good basis for establishing an actual update strategy. Some companies may find it a good idea to implement all updates as they come out, while others may choose to postpone each update for a month or two – for example, to make extra time for testing. Others prefer to stockpile and only update twice, or three or four times a year, as more frequent updates put the organisation under too much pressure.
In short, there are almost as many approaches as there are companies.
We can help by supporting at the technical level, keeping you updated with knowledge of upcoming changes, providing input for establishing an actual update strategy, and helping ensure that your solution runs smoothly.
Would you like to find out more? We have compiled lots of good tips about Microsoft’s ongoing updates of Dynamics 365 in an e-book.