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Regular updating of Dynamics 365 provides many benefits, but can also bring a company to a standstill, if you don’t watch out. Be prepared.

For many years, companies were used to a vast period of time between major updates to business systems like Microsoft NAV and AX. When new code finally arrived, it was so cumbersome and costly to implement that many generally did not bother.

“The philosophy was: If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it! It was not uncommon to work with business solutions that did not change significantly throughout their entire service life,” says Emmi Gesler Durig, Senior Release Manager at Columbus A/S.

That is no longer the case.

Mandatory updates increase the risk of errors

In 2019, Microsoft radically changed course and began to release new updates much more frequently. Currently, there are eight annual updates to the Dynamics 365 solutions and, although there is some freedom of choice, Microsoft has made it mandatory to update at least twice a year so that the solutions do not lag behind technically. This poses various challenges for companies.

The cloud-based Microsoft Dynamics solutions are constantly changing. Errors are corrected quickly, security is updated and solutions are constantly expanded with new functionality. This is a great advantage for companies

“The cloud-based Microsoft Dynamics solutions are constantly changing. Errors are corrected quickly, security is updated and solutions are constantly expanded with new functionality. This is a great advantage for companies,” says Emmi Gesler Durig.

But the frequent changes also increase the risk of crashes or disruptions to business: for example, if an update conflicts with an integration or a 3rd-party solution you opted for.

Nip problems in the bud with testing and validation

“If an update results in complications, it can create major problems. After all, the Dynamics solution is the nervous system of a company. Maybe performance deteriorates drastically. Maybe a key feature suddenly doesn’t work. Maybe, as a result of changes in the underlying application, an optional module doesn’t work properly. All sorts of things can go wrong. Customers frequently call, somewhat desperate because an update has made their business system almost unfit for use,” says Emmi Gesler Durig.

That is why it is crucial to introduce a structured, tried-and-tested, transparent process for testing, validating and implementing updates: both technically and functionally. This includes planning service windows so that business operations are minimally affected.

“It is obviously necessary to identify complications beforehand, so you can either find a solution here and now, or decide to postpone the update,” says Emmi Gesler Durig.

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Thorough research reduces risk and increases value

But you also need to do your homework and keep abreast of Microsoft’s extensive universe of blogs and release notes. That is a not undemanding task.

“This is something we take care of for a number of customers. An ongoing Release Notes Assessment provides secure knowledge of what the next update will contain. What features are in the pipeline that are worth activating for a specific company, and what features should you definitely avoid? You also really need to know about any new bugfixes that will solve a specific problem your company may be suffering from. Then, if necessary, you can make the implementation of that particular update a priority,” says Emmi Gesler Durig.

She emphasises that Microsoft’s Evergreen programme (which features continuous updates) helps make Dynamics 365 platforms stronger, more flexible and more secure than their on-premise-based predecessors.

But there’s no avoiding the fact that frequent, mandatory updating of complex code – cloud-based or not! – can lead to inconveniences, and in the worst case scenario this can hamper an organisation in the short or long term

“But there’s no avoiding the fact that frequent, mandatory updating of complex code – cloud-based or not! – can lead to inconveniences, and in the worst case scenario this can hamper an organisation in the short or long term,” she says.

“That’s why it’s essential to have processes in place for testing and identifying problems, before implementing the updates in the production system. In addition, either the company itself or a partner must keep their eyes and ears open, thereby minimising the actual risk present. You also want to ensure that you take maximum advantage of all the ongoing improvements that are made to the business system,” Emmi Gesler Durig emphasises.

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